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Nirvana Now - Ajahn Sumedho

Nirvana Now - Ajahn Sumedho

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Published by Dhamma Thought
Ajahn Sumedho's practical insight on the view and aspiration of the attainment of it.
Ajahn Sumedho's practical insight on the view and aspiration of the attainment of it.

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Published by: Dhamma Thought on Jul 17, 2013
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10/14/2013

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Nirvana Now
Nirvana, says
Ajah Sumedho
, is no som ar-o goal ha canonly b aaind hrough yars o or. I is a sa o bing you can raliza any momn onc you l go o grasping.
 
 
25
 
Spring
2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly
A
 
diculty with the word
nibbana
is that its mean-ing is beyond the power o words to describe. Itis, essentially, undenable.Another diculty is that many Buddhists see nibbana (San-skrit: nirvana) as something unobtainable—as so high and soremote that we’re not worthy enough to try or it. Or we seenibbana as a goal, as an unknown, undened something thatwe should somehow try to attain.Most o us are conditioned in this way. We want to achieveor attain something that we don’t have. So nibbana is lookedat as something that i you work hard, keep the
sila
(moralprecepts), meditate diligently, become a monastic, devote yourlie to practice, then your reward might be that eventually youattain nibbana—even though you’re not sure what it is.Ajahn Chah would use the words “the reality o non-grasping” as the denition or nibbana: realizing the realityo nongrasping. That helps to put it in a context, becausethe emphasis is on awakening to how we grasp and hold oneven to words like “nibbana” or “Buddhism” or “practice”or “sila” or whatever.It’s oten said that the Buddhist way is not to grasp. Butthat can become just another statement that we grasp andhold on to. It’s a Catch-22: no matter how hard you try tomake sense out o it, you end up in total conusion becauseo the limitation o language and perception. You have to gobeyond language and perception. And the only way to gobeyond thinking and emotional habit is through awareness—awareness o thought and awareness o emotion. “The islandthat you cannot go beyond” is the metaphor or this state o 
being 
awake and aware, as opposed to the concept o 
becom-ing 
awake and aware.In meditation classes, people oten start with a basic delu-sion that they never challenge: the idea that “I’m someonewho grasps and has a lot o desires, and I have to practice inorder to get rid o these desires and stop grasping and cling-ing to things. I shouldn’t cling to anything.” That’s oten theposition we start rom. So we start our practice rom thisbasis and, many times, the result is disillusionment and dis-appointment, because our practice is based on the graspingo an idea.Eventually, we realize that no matter how much we tryto get rid o desire and not grasp anything, no matter whatwe do—become a monk, an ascetic, sit or hours and hours,attend retreats over and over again, do all the things webelieve will get rid o these grasping tendencies—we end upeeling disappointed because the basic delusion has never beenrecognized.This is why the metaphor o the island that you cannot gobeyond is so powerul, because it points to the principle o an awareness that you can’t get beyond. It’s very simple, verydirect, and you can’t conceive it. You have to trust it. You haveto trust this simple ability that we all have to be ully presentand ully awake, and begin to recognize the grasping, andthe ideas we have taken on about ourselves, about the worldaround us, about our thoughts and perceptions and eelings.The way o mindulness is the way o recognizing condi-tions just as they are. We simply recognize and acknowledgetheir presence, without blaming them or judging them, with-out criticizing them or praising them. We allow them to be,both the positive and the negative. And, as we trust in thisway o mindulness more and more, we begin to realize thereality o the island that you cannot go beyond.When I started practicing meditation I elt I was somebodywho was very conused, and I wanted to get out o this conu-sion and get rid o my problems and become someone whowas a clear thinker and might one day become enlightened.That’s what got me going in the direction o Buddhist medita-tion and monastic lie.But then, refecting on this position that “I am somebodywho needs to do something,” I began to see it as a createdcondition—it was an assumption that I had created. And i Ioperated rom that assumption, although I might develop all
   (   f   a   c   I   N   g    p   a   g   e   )   d   o   r   o   t   h   É   e   r   o   s   e   N
 
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly
Spring
2010
 
26
kinds o skills and live a lie that was praiseworthy and goodand benecial to mysel and to others, at the end o the day,I might eel quite disappointed that I did not attain the goalo nibbana.Fortunately, in monastic lie everything is directed at thepresent. You’re always learning to challenge and see throughyour assumptions about yoursel. One o the major challengesis the assumption that “I am somebody who needs to do some-thing in order to become enlightened in the uture.” Just byrecognizing this as an assumption I created, that which isaware knows it is something created out o ignorance, or notunderstanding. When we see and recognize this ully, then westop creating the assumptions.Awareness is not about making value judgments about ourthoughts or emotions or actions or speech. Awareness is aboutknowing these things ully—that they are what they are, atthis moment. So what I ound very helpul was learning to beaware o conditions without judging them. In this way, theresultant karma o past actions and speech as it arises in thepresent is ully recognized without compounding it, withoutmaking it into a problem. It is what it is. What arises ceases.As we recognize that and allow things to cease according totheir nature, the realization o cessation gives us an increas-ing amount o aith in the practice o nonattachment andletting go.The attachments that we have, even to good things likeBuddhism, can also be seen as attachments that blind us. Thatdoesn’t mean we need to get rid o Buddhism. We merelyrecognize attachment as attachment and see that we createit ourselves out o ignorance. As we keep refecting on this,the tendency toward attachment alls away, and the realityo nonattachment, o nongrasping, reveals itsel in what wemay call nibbana.I we look at it in this way, nibbana is here and now. It’s notan attainment in the uture. The reality is here and now. It isso very simple, but beyond description. It can’t be bestowedor even conveyed, it can only be known by each person orthemselves.As one begins to realize or to recognize nongrasping as theWay, then emotionally one can eel quite rightened by it. It canseem like a kind o annihilation is taking place: all that I thinkI am in the world, all that I regard as stable and real, startsalling apart and that can be rightening. But i we have theaith to continue bearing these emotional reactions and allowthings that arise to cease, to appear and disappear accordingto their nature, then we nd our stability, not in achievementor attaining, but in being—being awake, being aware.Many years ago, in William James’ book
The Varieties of Religious Experience
, I ound a poem by A. Charles Swinburne.In spite o having what some have described as a degeneratemind, Swinburne produced some very powerul refections:
Here begins the sea that ends not till the world’s end.Where we stand,Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond thesewaves that gleam,We should know what never man hath known,nor eye of man hath scanned...Ah, but here man’s heart leaps, yearning towards the gloom with venturous glee,From the shore that hath no shore beyond it,set in all the sea.~
From “On the Verge,” in
A Midsummer Vacation
Ajahn Chah dened nibanna as the “reality o nongrasping,”putting the emphasis on awakening to how we grasp and hold on even to wordslike nibanna” or “Buddhism” or “practice.

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