2020-11-01 Nibbana For our Challenged World
7:09PM Nov 1, 2020
So again, greetings. I'm just coming to the end of teaching a week long retreat, which was quite nice for me. So a little bit the retreat energy, I think or feeling in me. And I'm also very aware of in here in the United States, in just a couple of days, we have this big event of the election that has many people anxious and agitated. And so, with all this in mind, thinking about what to I might talk about this morning, I'll talk about something which is a response to, or is a maybe response to what's happening in the wider world. That is one of the core responses Buddhism has. And that is to talk about the ultimate goal of Buddhism, which is usually called Nibbana. In English, it's Nirvana.
So very different topic, which are usually talked about before a national election. Usually, for the last seven national elections, presidential elections, I've talked about the 10 qualities of a Dhammaraja. A ruler, who rules by the Dharma, the Dharma, who rules with justice. So today, I don't think I want to do this, it seems like that'd be very topical. There is in Buddhism often considered to be a divide. Or maybe it's healthier to say a distinction between the world of governing in politics and the world of spiritual freedom. And that divide is sometimes way too big, the gap between them and involves a kind of a pulling away too far from being involved in the world. But there's still that distinction is there. And that distinction arises, not because Buddhists are pulling away from the world, but rather because the world is pulling away from freedom from peace. And that what Buddhism as at its center is a capacity or potential to discover a kind of, ultimate piece, a phenomenal piece, deep down inside deep within. And it's a potential we all have. But it's seldom discovered. Because the mind is often too active. Often that activity of the mind is to run after thoughts, ideas, desires, to be pushed around by aversions and things we don't like. And in Buddhism, this is called a cyclic existence. And sometimes it's considered cyclic in terms of multiple lives. I don't think so much about multiple lives, but I do think about in just in a day, how many how the mind can cycle through and kind of spin and be caught up in kind of a loop of wanting and not wanting, that feeds itself. of if we're worried about something and thinking a lot something, it makes us feel not so good. golfing kind of self alienation happens if we spend too much time being concerned and worried about things around us. And that self alienation makes for discomfort. And then that discomfort gives birth to greater or more continuous caution and fear and anxiety. Or Same thing with desire, if too much desire, pursuing what we want and getting, getting control of things and holding everything at bay and getting things just right and also leads to kind of self alienation that makes us feel off. And one response to feeling off is to reach out for something that's going to comfort us to do something good for us. And then more, we go out side for happiness outside and focus around us.
The less we're in touch with what's here for us, the less we're in touched, the more some people out of habit of being uncomfortable, will go out blame other things. want other things happen have a have a cautionary eye up all the time, but what's going around to protect us. And, and so this in Buddhism is understood sometimes to be a cyclic phenomena that self reinforces itself. And sometimes if we think if I just have that thing, then I'll be okay. And then we get the thing, and we find out we're not quite satisfied. And some people get get to middle age or old age, and realize, you know, all these things I've been pursuing. They were good. In some way, they've been important in some ways. But they didn't really satisfy some deeper yearning, some deeper feeling of connection to something much more important. And something's left out. And so this Nibbana is this coming, to touch in to what's being left out, to touch into that place, where there can be not the caught up in the loops and the cycles of existence and of the mind wanting and not wanting, but a place where the mind can feel deeply safe, deeply, contented, deeply at peace, and you're said, rest in itself. And not to pull away from the world. But then to be in the world in a whole different way, a radically different way. And it's hard to understand that, sometimes we have to step back from the world to for a while to do this deep inner work. So we can return in a whole different way, in a way that Buddhism sometimes says it's kind of a rebirth. So it's kind of like, you know, as simple as, you know, we sometimes will take a shower to make ourselves much more pleasant for other people to be around. And so we withdraw and go into the bathroom into the shower, get ourselves clean, and then we come back out. And most people don't complain that we've gone off, take a shower, to be showered in Nibbana, to be showered in Nirvana to be showered in this piece, is a cleansing process. And it cleanses us so that we can come back to the world cleaner, and in so being more beneficial for the people around us. So Nibbana, Nirvana is a is defined in the teachings of the Buddha as the ending of something and kind of a definitive ending. And, and most specifically, it's the ending of all things that are motivated by compulsive desire, usually called greed, sometimes called passion or lust, but it's compulsive desire, all things that are motivated by hostility, sometimes called hate, kind of pushing things away and rejecting things. And all things that are somehow rooted in delusion, being confused about things, having ideas which are not really true and projecting them onto others on the world and on ourselves. And so the ending of projections, the ending of hostility, the ending of, of compulsive desire, is a possibility. And Nibbana is defined as the definitive end of those. And it doesn't necessarily mean that it's there, it's finished forever. There can be a provisional Nirvana, where for a short period of time person has this very definitive, clear experience that these things have stopped, it's possible to have a mind that's really stopped. And that's different than just them being paused or being distracted for them or going someplace and sitting under an oak tree and a park and just everything kind of becomes peaceful and calm. That's all very nice. And you can say, oh, there's no greed, hate and delusion. But the bond is something that happens where it's like, almost takes your breath away, like oh, this has really come to an end it stopped. And so it The highest goal in Buddhism is the ending of something.
Sometimes the language is that of freedom becoming free of something, freedom from bondage, or freedom from, from attachment and clinging and grasping, freedom from over identification with anything. And freedom from anxiety. And all these things desire, greed, anxiety, delusion, have this quality of being self perpetuating. There's a kind of authority in them, sometimes a desperation sometimes a, a drive, that, here's where the answer is, this is what has to be done. Of course, I have to be, will get what I want, of course, I'm not going to be safe until I get I won't be successful until I get, of course, I should push things away a post, things should be blamed and be critical, because only then will the world behave and something. Of course, I should be anxious because it's a frightening world to live in. Of course, my projections are true with all my opinions are true. And everyone should know it. I don't know if any of this characterizes you. But there's this kind of a sense of completing the compulsion, sense of authority a sense of it has to be now it has to be this is important, and it overrides anything else. And what it overrides is something which is very, sometimes the tradition calls very subtle. And sometimes Cisco calls it very hard to see. And that is the ending of those things, the cessation of greed, hatred and delusion, the cessation of anxiety. And why it's hard to see and why it's subtle, is because it's not a thing, in the usual sense of things. It's not something you can clearly touch. It's not something you can clearly see and focus your eyes on. Not something you can hear. It's an absence. It's in the release, in the another word that's used for this Nibbana, the release of attachments and clinging and compulsions in that release. There's the absence of greed, hate and delusion. But you can't quite see that. But you can feel a difference in the language of the Buddha, greed, hate and delusion are the metaphor for them are fires. And they burn and fires hurt. And they burn us. And so these fires are burning, and the release, the calming the quieting, the going out of the fires, is the very things that hurt hurt us. And this is one of the also difficult things to understand and take some mindfulness, that strong compulsive desire compulsive hatred, projections, delusion, kind of as is stressful to have, it's kind of a self inflicted suffering and harm even. And so we start seeing that when we start meditating and get calm enough, and we're calm and settled, and we feel how the arising of of aversion, hostility, criticalness, the arising of wanting something different, it feels like there's a loss, there's a loss of intimacy, a loss of being deeply connected to ourselves, there's a loss to something lost loss of peace. So, so the quieting of the fires, is sometimes called peace. But it's hard sometimes to appreciate that peace is important. Sometimes it can feel like it's selfish. And sometimes it can feel like you know, and then I'm going to abandon the world and not take care of it. It's just about my peace. Hopefully, it's the opposite. They'll talk about that. But the, with the, the. So the metaphor for the greed, hate and delusion is, is fire. The metaphor for metaphor for an awakened mind is light. And illumination. And the thing about light is that a light it doesn't hurt, usually, unless it's a bit too intense, I guess, looking at the sun, but it's the the particular light that's most often used as a metaphor for the awakening is moonlight The light of the full moon, sometimes referred to as a cool, light, glow, it's often very pleasant and enjoyable and peaceful to look at the full moon, hanging there peacefully in the sky.
And so illumination, big mind what the fires of greed and delusion are replaced by the light of wisdom, the light of freedom, the light of peace, the light of awareness that's free. And so that can be felt. But sometimes, it's really that subtle, because without any drive, to hold on to anything to hold on to ideas, you can't quite touch this freedom can't quite touch this piece. It's really a radical feeling of absence. And an absence is a hard to appreciate. However, I think that it doesn't take a lot of reflection, to realize that our lives are filled with beneficial absence, where something is not there, and we realize, Oh, that's good. An example that I talked yesterday was that if you're late for a very important appointment, and there's a lot of traffic you're driving, there's a lot of hot, and a lot of smoke, smoke and smog. You're stuck in gridlock traffic, you can watch the time ticking by and you see what clearly you're going to be late for a meeting, you're not going to make it you're honking your horn, you're trying to zigzag around. A lot of stress, a lot of this is so important, this means you can't not be there. And then because you're stuck in traffic, and can't move at all, you decide to look at your calendar on your smartwatch smart smartphone. And look at the calendar in your lo and behold, you have the week wrong. The meeting is next week. And the meeting that you're waiting to have the meeting that you were expecting to go to for for this day doesn't exist, its absence, it's gone. It's nowhere. It's not a thing. But boy, the absence of that thing, the non existence of that meeting is like the best news you heard all day. Everything relaxes, everything softens you like go all the stress and tension that built up. And it's kind of becomes kind of an amazing thing to realize that all this tension arose around something which actually didn't exist, it was a fantasy of your mind through the confusion about the dates, the absence of the meeting was really significant for your well being. So the absence of greed, hate and delusion or something like that, as well. Sometimes what we have greed, hatred and delusion about doesn't really exist, or the promise, the guarantee of what they're going to do for us doesn't really exist. And, and many people have gotten what they want, and then say, Well, that was nice, but you know, now I want more something different. But a brother, sometimes what we want is beneficial. And this is one of the difficult kind of issues is that healthy things to want healthy things to want to change and get rid of the way in which we want it the way in which we push it away is not healthy. The compulsion, that contraction, the tightening up the stress involved in wanting and not wanting, even something that's appropriate to want to not want is deleterious as we learn to let go of compulsive desire compulsive hostility, compulsive anxiety, and have this absence, then we can learn how to also then to pursue healthy desires in a healthy way. healthy things too, that should be stopped and pushed away in a healthy way. And there's no reason not to be energetically engaged and making the world a better place, if that's appropriate for you. But to do it from this place, absence of compulsion. And for some people, that means x absence of living in expectations, expectations even for being successful. Of course you do something and if it doesn't work out, then you take care of the next situation or address that and figure out what to do next. But we do the best we can.
So we sit in Buddhism, ultimately to begin discovering the benefits of an absence and it's possible through meditation to begin becoming a tuned to absences rather than to presences. If we're always looking at what's present, and what's present to always be just right, then we're always adjusting and looking and we're always dependent on things being a certain way. And things will change, and they're not the way that we thought they should be. And so it's sometimes an ever, never ending phenomena of adjusting and changing the deck chairs on the Titanic just to get everything just right. But then absence is not a thing. And in the absence, in a kind of way, is undestructible, or is you can lose touch with it. But it's not something we create. And it's not something that can be destroyed, or change or become something else unless we get pulled into some other thing. But the absence itself is more like the space. In a large, large, maybe studio, in which a dancer is free to move in that space that you the dancer could not do away in a closet. The absence in the mind, the absence in the heart of greed, hate and delusion is freedom is where freedom resides. It allows for a lot of movement, a breath of fresh air, but it's a place of absence. And so to be in tuning in and noticing, whenever there's an absence, whether you feel like you're breathing room, ah, this is good. It turns out there might be more absence in your life, healthy Nibbana like absence, absence of freedom, much more than you realize, and they realize we don't realize it. The recent reason we don't realize it is because the mind has a strong tendency to go on to the next thing, next thought idea, desire aversion, always grabbing onto something. But to begin appreciating the how things are absent. How right now there's an absence of strong desire, absence of desire, absence of aversion, maybe absence of projection, oh, this is nice, let's not quickly go into the next thought and idea. Let's kind of feel this and take it in. Especially as meditation gets more and more quiet and still, at it's like having an open door and the heart or the mind to start feeling these absences. And is like going into those open doors into the greater and greater spaciousness of absence of stillness of silence of freedom is really a great. So Nibbana the ultimate kind of kind of destination for Buddhist practice. leesman point of view of the Buddha is a often called the ending of greed, hate and delusion. And that kind of, sometimes it's the word Nibbana is translated as quenching or extinguishing. And that's also doesn't sound very inspiring. It's often refers to the quenching or the extinguishing of the fire that's burning, burning us. But I want to end this talk with a list. And then I want to say something about a list of 33 synonyms for Nibbana. And then I want to say something about this distinction between Nibbana the pursuit of Nirvana and the pursuit of politics and governing, with all this and kind of in a context of our this week. So it's often this list is often described as 33 synonyms for Nibbana. It's actually not synonyms of Nibbana. But it's synonyms of the ending of greed, hate and delusion. There's a teaching that has all the passages all the text is exactly the same. And then, and it's each of them is substitute one of these words and so once give you one example of a sentence, it says, What is the uncreated it is the ending of greed, hatred and delusion. What is Nirvana? It's the ending of greed, hate and delusion. So, all these words are substitutes, that are explaining that are explained by the just the ending of greed, hatred and delusion so.
So it's interesting that you know, listen to the emotion, feel the emotional associations may be or the inner feelings that come with each of these words if you allow them to kind of receive them and hear them kind of deeply and Maybe even putting aside everything I've said so far just to hear each word. So, the uncreated the unbowed that taint free truth, the other shore subtle, very difficult to see on aging stable not disintegrating without attributes undifferentiated, peaceful, not dying. sublime, happy, tranquil. The ending of craving, wonderful, amazing. Health, healthy Nibbana. Without hostility, this passion, purity, freedom, non clinging, the island, safety, shelter, refuge, the destination. So some of those are very positive concepts, ideas, feelings. Nibbana is understood to be one of the greatest happiness and greatest experience of peace, a human being can experience. And this, you know, to have this to fulfill this potential we have to end suffering. That is what this divine is all about. It's ending the causes of suffering, it's ending the things that that bring us suffering and the ways in which we harm ourselves from the inside out the ways in which we burn ourselves. It's a phenomenal thing, to discover this, discover this potential for a radical deep sense of peace and happiness. And to be free of suffering. I believe that it's important that some people do this work work, to find the end of hostility, the end of the drive for power, the greed for power, the end of endless desires for consumption, the end of all the delusions or projections and bias and racism and prejudice that exists in our world, to really discover that fully these things can be put to rest. And to know that this is a kind of a birthright we all have, it's all potential we all have. Otherwise, we'll think that we just have to constantly be bumping into each other, my desire against your desire, my version against your aversion, and you know, kind of this always then something that we're always trying to some conflict that we're trying to deal with. Is it possible, it is possible to come to a place where we can live in the world without conflict without being the source of conflict. And to know that it's possible to be deeply, deeply free of suffering. And I think in some ways, that's what most people want. People are looking for happiness, looking not to suffer, looking to be safe, looking for refuge, looking for peace. And to really to have some people really discover a das this can be found inside is important for everyone to understand. And it creates a very different context for our political life, their public life.
And I hope that as this nation, the United States goes through whatever it goes through over the next weeks, months, years, that we can respond wisely and caringly and supportively for the people around us for the country as a whole Where we never take recourse to hostility, we never take recourse to the lust for power. We never take recourse to delusions about other people and projections of self versus other that are so endemic and painful in their society now. May we really drop deep down inside, to have enough experience of freedom from greed, freedom from hostility, and freedom from delusion, that we can engage in our civic job, work and our civic responsibilities, without those three things, motivating how we behave, and in doing so, to be able to also work in this world for a better world without anxiety. What a gift we will be to others. If we can work for a better world, and at the same time, show people it's possible to be happy. It's possible to live without anxiety, without hostility, and without greed. This is probably the greatest benefit we can give another person more than any material gain for many people, or more than many other things that could happen maybe should happen. But to discover this infinite freedom, infinite peace inside, this is the great thing. So Nibbana Nibbana for this world, they have freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion. So thank you very much. And I hope you give some thought to this talk and to the message I'm making about the possibility of being involved with civic work could make us a better world, without anxiety and without hostility. And may that be contagious? may that be what spreads across the lens?