The Jedi Way and Buddhism - Part 6

14 years 8 months ago #21294 by Garm
The third fact of life; Liberation (nirvana)

The third fact of life looks even deeper, toward the end of the whole affair. Since we bring pain onto ourselves, we can end it as well. The candle that has us so hypnotized is held in our own hands. We can blow out the flame and step out into the light of day by our own efforts. It’s a matter of choice. Period. We can stop trying to hang onto life and happiness as if they were things, we can end such delusions.

We can’t end sickness, old age, or death. But we can stop setting ourselves up for a fall. We can stop investing in an unrealistic outlook on them. We can face the fact that we won’t live forever. Accumulating more and more stuff we won’t prevent that final day when we’ll have to give it all up.

The only place we have in which we can live is now. The present is the only place that’s ever available to us – and it contains within it everything, if we let go and live it fully. Reality is staring us in the face, only we’re too busy chasing rainbows to see it.

The Buddha likened our delusion to a small child, home alone, playing with toys while the house burns down. He invites us to stop and see the source of the fire and extinguish it, rather than feed it by clinging. Blowing out the candle of clinging to illusory concepts and seeing reality directly is called nirvana.

Rather than playing with sandcastles, we can face our pain, realize its needlessness, and also forgive ourselves for having clung to it anyway, then move on.

Nirvana is a difficult subject to address due to the number of misconceptions of it floating around. Many believe nirvana is a blessed-out mental state that one enters to rise above the world. Some consider it to be beyond this life, almost like Heaven. Another common error is the notion that nirvana is something one ‘attains,’ perhaps after sitting cross-legged at the top of the Jedi Temple for years.

Some of the confusion comes from the diversity of its definitions. Nirvana has been described as ‘the getting rid of craving,’ ‘the stopping of becoming,’ ‘the calming of all conditioned things,’ ‘detachment,’ that which is ‘devoid of desire and passion,’ and many others…This wide range of characterization is due to the very nature of nirvana itself. The difficulty is that nirvana is beyond all concepts and ideas, and trying to describe it with mere words always ends up lacking.

Nirvana is the very absence of ideas and concepts. It is beyond notions of “good” and “bad,” “birth” and “death,” “happy” and “sad.” It cannot be classified as “this” in relation to “that.” This is because nirvana is what IS. It is reality in its purest form free from ideas and classifications.

One of the Buddha’s most famous teachings, the Flower Sermon, where the Buddha most eloquently expressed nirvana by simply holding up a lotus flower. He said not a word, he just stood, lotus in hand. Just this. There is no clearer way to express nirvana.

Nirvana literally means ‘extinction.’ In the time of the Buddha a common metaphor for suffering was the burning of fire. The Buddha remarked “All is burning” with the fire of suffering. When this fire is extinguished, nirvana is revealed. The fire of suffering is extinguished when identification with and attachment to desire is put to an end.

When we say nirvana “IS” we mean that it is everything and everywhere. It is within us, around us, on us, in the air, the sea, you, me, the tree, the rock… It is the Emperor’s greed, Padme’s love, Jabba’s villainy, and Luke’s compassion. At the same time it is none of the these things because it is beyond all notions of duality and relativity. Nirvana is unchanging and undying, it transcends birth and death, past, present, and future. It is the pervasive ground of all being.

Obi-wan describes the force as an energy field created by all living things “It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Yoda echoes this with “Life creates the force, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us…You…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere! Yoda says the force is here and everywhere. No matter where Yoda, Luke, or even Han Solo find themselves – the force is there. The same is true nirvana. It is everywhere, within us and around us in this very moment.

We hear of becoming “one with” the force or “entering” into nirvana. Based on our interpretation of the force we cannot exist outside of it because it penetrates us and we in turn penetrate it. We and the force exist in perpetual interpenetration. Likewise, nirvana is not something we enter into. Nirvana is not found outside of us – we are nirvana, right here, right now. We arise from nirvana, we live our lives as nirvana, and we return to nirvana having never left it. Just as a wave’s nature is water our nature is nirvana. Therefore we can’t enter or attain nirvana. A wave cannot attain water because it is water.

So nirvana means extinction – but not the extinction of suffering; it is also the extinction of dualistic thinking. In the swap on Degobah we learned that the rock Luke lifted and his submerged X-wing were only different in Luke’s mind. Nirvana is the destroyer of dualistic thinking, of concepts, of ideas, and of all barriers. Nirvana destroys the ideas of self and other, one and many, birth and death, existence and nonexistence. Investigating life with mindfulness and effort we can also destroy these barriers that exist only in the mind. Looking deeply we can see that we are part of all life.

The Buddha’s way does not produce nirvana; it merely helps us remove the shroud of the dark side, the veil of ignorance, so we can recognize it. A person who can live every moment with equanimity, in constant mindfulness of life, of the living force, watching the rise and fall of phenomena with detachment, unswayed by craving, is truly beyond the grasp of the dark side of suffering.

On the surface, it may appear that the force is divided. There is the good side of the Jedi and the dark side of the Sith. But from our deep looking, we see that the two cannot exist independently; they need each other. The good side is defined by the dark, and vice versa. Without the dark side there would be no frame of reference for the good side. Good would have no definition, no meaning without evil. In Buddhist terms you cannot have nirvana without samsara. Samsara is the suffering in life, It is the perpetual cycle of craving, attainment, loss, and sorrow that we are bound up in.

It is common to think that nirvana and samsara are opposites. One is the cessation of suffering, and the other is bondage to suffering. Like the dual aspects of the force, nirvana and samsara interpenetrate one another.

The lesson we learn from understanding the nature of nirvana can free us from the dark path of suffering. A person seeking to release himself from his suffering, if he is wise, will not reject his suffering. He need not escape suffering to discover nirvana. It is through embracing his suffering that he discovers transcendence from it.

The Buddha said, “Observing life deeply, it is possible to clearly see all that is. Not enslaved by anything, it is possible to put aside all craving, resulting in a life of peace and joy.” – Nirvana.

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