Nirvana is a term used to describe the profound peace of mind that is acquired with liberation. It is the state of being free from suffering.
The word literally means "blown out" (as in a candle) and refers, in the Buddhist context, to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished. (loosely quoting Wikipedia here...)
So...I'm curious if you all believe that Atheists as a general rule are able to reach this level of liberation? Do you think it's possible for Theists to do so? Do you believe that all/most Atheists reach Nirvana? How do you know when you've reached it? Once you've reached it how do you know you'll be able to stay there? Is it just in your mind or is there more to it? What could be a scientific explanation for the state of Nirvana?....Do you believe that Nirvana is attached to any kind of religious dogma since it's roots are found in Buddhism? Isn't Buddhism a religion? If not, then why not. If you believe Nirvana is rubbish, then tell me why.
"perfect awareness and perfect love."
Yes, providing the the love has no object, because then it's an attachment. The way to achieve perfect awareness is to stop thinking (through meditation).
IMO nirvana is a chemical state of the brain that results once you, by releasing all attachment, become just another lump in the pudding.
My objective in life is to emulate my dog. He "thinks" ONLY of making others happy. He carries no resentment - EVER. If I'm happy, he's in heaven. His second priority (after me) is playing.
"Yes, providing the the love has no object, because then it's an attachment."
So - you're saying we shouldn't love anybody? That's a fallacy that many Buddhists seem to fall into (I'm not saying you're a Buddhist). Everything hinges on the words in systems like this, and each word can have several meanings. So everything gets confused. To say that non-attachment trumps love is a tragic mistake. You end up like this guy. As I understand it, the true sense of non-attached love is unselfish love.
I believe the Zen Buddhists say that thinking is not the same as awareness, in the same way that reading a book about something is not the same as experiencing that thing. This makes sense. But we don't just go into Nirvana when we're meditating. How lame would that be? It should be an everyday way of living your life - by taming the ego and putting it in its proper place. I believe "mindfulness" may be useful here.
Even your dog has an ego, super-ego and id. What if he was terribly abused as a puppy? Then he would be a nasty dog, or maybe a terrified one. His id would be horribly wounded, he would feel constantly threatened, and his ego would be on high alert all the time. The ultimate challenge would be to straighten out the id. I believe the best way is to "reap what you sow" - there's no other solution.
"So - you're saying we shouldn't love anybody?"
Yes, sort of - if you follow "the way" - I don't. Being "in love" means you love one more than another (or all).
"That's a fallacy that many Buddhists seem to fall into (I'm not saying you're a Buddhist)."
Not a fallacy, IMO. That WHY many Buddhists fall that way. For me it's a contradiction. If you want perfect happiness, follow the way. I don't. Perhaps I'm just too lazy. (I mean who the hell wants perfect happiness anyway, eh?) :-)
"Everything hinges on the words in systems like this, and each word can have several meanings. So everything gets confused."
"To say that non-attachment trumps love is a tragic mistake."
Did I say that? (Not saying I didn't; it just doesn't sound familiar.)
"You end up like this guy."
I believe his second strategy, "Attach to Nothing", is closest to "The Way". I certainly don't do that, but I try to be aware of and limit attachments.
"As I understand it, the true sense of non-attached love is unselfish love."
Disagree. Well, it's unselfish, sure, but not attached to any individual My Dao Master has been trying to get me to drop things like romantic love and physical pleasures like surfing for 12 years. I frustrate her.
"I believe the Zen Buddhists say that thinking is not the same as awareness,"
I'm pretty sure I didn't say THAT. IMO the opposite is closer to the truth. Thinking get in the way of awareness. Awareness is experiential The more thinking you do about an experience, the farther it gets from "real".
"But we don't just go into Nirvana when we're meditating. How lame would that be?"
Words, damn 'em. I thought Nirvana WAS just the result of meditating. It is not The Way. Rather in this state we can SEE The Way which we can then go out and live. With LOTS of practice Nirvana can extend into your daily life, but I think only Masters can do that. Bodhisattvas, if I'm not mistaken, LIVE in the state of Nirvana.
"I believe "mindfulness" may be useful here."
I agree but perhaps from a different reason. Mindfulness is part of self-refection (maybe the same thing). For meditation, and thence Nirvana, mind is to be avoided. Eventually they become one, but I'm certainly too lazy to chase that.
"If you want perfect happiness, follow the way. I don't."
They can call it The Way, they can call themselves Tao Masters, but they're still vague and confused on some points. This stuff doesn't entirely work, as given, and crucial parts are glossed over, which is why hardly anyone understands it.
"unselfish, sure, but not attached to any individual..."
This is a philosophical problem which they haven't got to grips with, and maybe nobody else has. I haven't come up with an exact formula either. I hope to in due course.
This stuff about not preferring one person over another is crap. Of course we have compassion for all living things, and especially human beings (see? it falls down already), but one person in particular can command my loyalty in a way that nobody else does. That's fine, it's good, fuck what anybody else thinks.
" If you want perfect happiness, follow the way. "
Perfect happiness is SELFISH. For the sake of love we should be prepared to suffer. I am attached, and I am proud of that. At the same time, I am willing to let go any time. As Judge Judy says, "suck it up".
"Is it simply the willingness to part with anything that circumstance/life events would happen to take away?"
Absolutely. This is for the reason, "if you love something, let it go." The Dalai Lama himself says that grasping onto the loved object is a form of selfishness, a form of harm. It's also for the reason that we shouldn't look to ultimately fulfill our happiness from external means: either it's shallow (in the case of material goods or achievements) or a burden to others (in the case of people). Something along those lines, anyway. It's also true that it's impossible to be happy without other people, since we're social creatures. It's also true from the point of view of the ego. We can stay locked away in our lonely house with just our mirrors, our possessions, our beliefs, our status, etc. - or we can break free to become love and reality. Sorry that's not all nice and neat, but that's life, is it not?
"I thought Nirvana WAS just the result of meditating."
Maybe it is sometimes, but all in all it doesn't have a high success rate. There are other routes. If people weren't so busy reading books and listening to monks, they might make more progress. The real problem is the thorough lack of understanding.
"My Dao Master has been trying to get me to drop things like romantic love and physical pleasures like surfing for 12 years." -
This just proves my point.
"I agree but perhaps from a different reason. Mindfulness is part of self-refection (maybe the same thing). For meditation, and thence Nirvana, mind is to be avoided."
Hey, you could be right.
"This just proves my point."
That was my intention.
Simon Paynton & @Belle Rose
I think I have reached the end of my knowledge. There is little from Simon with which I can disagree.
I am not a serious student of these (or any) philosophies (although some friends are). This discussion did, however, get me chasing some links on the subject. Rather than paste links galore or worse, cut&paste text, I encourage you to take your own journey, surf you own wave, and learn from people who know a lot more than I.
At the same time, if you do come across edifying material, I'd love for you to share it.
Well, I respect your humility. I haven't figured it all out yet but I hope to, and I'll be sure to share it with everyone. It really isn't that hard, although it is MINDBLOWING. I couldn't see straight for a few days when I first got hold of it.
Hey Mike, when you say:
nirvana is a chemical state of the brain that results once you, by releasing all attachment
This is intriguing to me. When you say attachment you mean like my attachment to my child, or family or friends, like an emotional attachment? Is it simply the willingness to part with anything that circumstance/life events would happen to take away? For example as a Christian we were always taught that we should, "hold our hands open to anything that God may provide or take away..." I'm taking a wild stab that that is NOT what you mean, so I'm trying to understand what you mean. It's one thing to be willing to lose everything. But to release attachment to things or people? I just need clarification...sorry...new Atheist here, LOL.
Belle - you make a very good point. You seem to have a talent for asking the right questions.
Ideas are simple but life is messy and complicated. However, I firmly believe in the mathematical idea (nerd alert!) that a few simple rules underlie most of the complexity we see. I find that this idea works well in real life. After all, when we're thinking through a situation or problem we tend to pull together a few simple rules, for the sake of clarity and precision. Real life is precise, not vague, from moment to moment.
So yes, the area of relationships is complicated and difficult, of course. Enlightenment, liberation, transformation etc. is a gradual process of degrees, not necessarily a blinding flash, although there are decisive turning points. I agree it's much easier to be work with somebody who is a perfect gentleman/lady.
A social aspect to Nirvana? Well, you put your finger on it again. The Buddhist philosophers have done an excellent job, but they don't live like the rest of us. They can leave all these ragged loose ends, thinking their job is done. The real challenge is how to bring this stuff into normal life. I'm working on a project, I don't know if you'd like to join me as a contributor. It's got to be not like this shouting match, rather, more like these interesting discourses. I've got ideas of my own, I'm not just studying other people's.
"This kind of love is only possible if the person you love also loves unselfishly otherwise it's none other than dysfuntion. This then is dependent on another person," -
coming from the other side, I don't think you could call that love, or at least, morality. From my perspective, it breaks all the rules.
believe that Atheists as a general rule are able to reach this level of liberation?
I believe it is possible to calm ones mind through discipline, reflection, and breathing slowly. If buddhists do it, I don't see why anyone couldn't.
Do you think it's possible for Theists to do so?
As a subset of people, yes. However buddhists are not necessarily theists.
Do you believe that all/most Atheists reach Nirvana?
No. See above re: discipline, reflection, and breathing.
How do you know when you've reached it?
If you think you have reached it (present tense), you haven't reached it. I think it might be the kind of thing where you only realise you were there after it is all over.
Once you've reached it how do you know you'll be able to stay there?
What? Are we talking about the same thing here? It's not somewhere you can stay.
Is it just in your mind or is there more to it?
Since we have no evidence of there being more to it, I'm guessing it is purely in one's mind.
What could be a scientific explanation for the state of Nirvana?
Calming one's mind to the point of the breakdown of self and consiousness perhaps.
Do you believe that Nirvana is attached to any kind of religious dogma since it's roots are found in Buddhism?
I think my previous statements have already answered this if you read between the lines.
Isn't Buddhism a religion?
Of course it is, it was right there with Christianity on the recent Australian census in the "What is your religion?" quesiton.
Calming one's mind to the point of the breakdown of self and consciousness perhaps.
That's a deep one to ponder...When you say breakdown what do you mean?