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.
Well, the way I've heard of this "full attention to a given object" is a technique in some forms of meditation sometimes called single-point focus or 'concentration' where all your attention is absorbed into a single object. It could be a simple concept, your breath, a mantra, etc. Once you've managed that, then of course, the goal is to let go of that which is "focusing" on this single object. Easier said than done for most people.
Another similar technique is Ramana Maharshi's "Self-Enquiry" method.
The thought “who am I?” will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.
It only becomes a possibility when mentation, mental activity can cease briefly to allow this to occur. Now, that may sound like an anti-intellectual pastime, but most people who've spent their entire lives living through the assumption of the ego, who've spent their lives analyzing life and the universe will find this endeavor especially and seemingly quite difficult.
So, I agree, Simon, while the definition of nirvana may be vague, but it's not because our lack of understanding or the Buddhists' lack of translating its meaning. It's due to the fact that it resides in an experience, a transformation of ordinary consciousness, and this experience, in a way, transcends all concepts. Because if you were going to say something about it, you'd have to say something like, "You are every what, you are everywhere, you are every when, and every what, when, and where is you," which is just a fancy way of saying that you come to feel yourself as a seamless totality or "one with the universe/multiverse", etc. which of course, to most people, will make no sense.
So, the point is the experience, and you see, as long as you don't have this experience, you're always going to have questions about it, you're going to have misconceptions, you're going to continue to attempt to mull it over as a set of concepts, but that which is attempting to conceptualize is the very thing you must let go of and any concept placed over it, only seems to create a pale reflection of only one of its many facets.
Anyway, I'll post a video by Alan Watts that sort of goes over this stuff.
"the definition of nirvana may be vague," - it's just not very well understood. It's not rigorous. It has huge gaps in it where we are left scratching our heads over what the reality is.
Well, like I said before, it's not a concept to scratch your head about, it's an experience. As long as you don't have the experience, you will continue to scratch your head. And the irony within it is that scratching is the very thing keeping you from having the experience! It's kind of like Angelica from The Rugrats once said, "If you have to ask, you'll never know."
However, if you're persistent with your inquiry, perhaps this can help...
Alan Watts can ... my ... .
Well that was gracious.
RE: "It's kind of like Angelica from The Rugrats once said, "If you have to ask, you'll never know." - I confess to being no great connoisseur of "The Rug Rats," I've led a very sheltered life, but that statement was said by Louis Armstrong, when asked, "What is jazz?" long before Angelica finished with her first Pamper. No offense intended, for what must surely be an award-winning production, but credit, where credit is due.
Haha! Well, thanks for pointing out that to me. It's obvious there's many instances where quotations make it into The Rugrats' script, but nevertheless, I thought it'd do very will in this Buddhistic context. "If you have to ask, you'll never know." Obviously, maybe Armstrong meant it's a sound that by intuition, you will know as Jazz, without having to examine it and intellectually probe the sound to constitute it as Jazz.
In the Buddhistic context I was trying to use, I meant that if have to intellectualize, if you're going to conceptualize "nirvana," then you're missing the point. Hence, "If you have to ask, you'll never know."
Oh, I understood completely what you were trying to say, and meant no disrespect to your message, but being a greater fan of Mr. Armstrong, than Miss Angelica, I just wanted to apply proper credit.
But for every experience, we can talk about that experience and its surrounding causes, circumstances, other parts of reality within which it fits. We can talk about the structure of what happened. For Nirvana, we don't have anything like that.
The Buddha once said, "The amount of people who will have this experience can be counted on the fingers of one hand." I wouldn't take that metaphor literally, as I'm sure what he was getting at was that this is a very rare experience for people to have.
If you've ever read the Bhagavad-Gita, it's a kind of dialogue between disciple and sage. The sage is the person who has had this experience, and the disciple is the person who has questions about it. But the goal is not for the disciple to have a conceptual model of this experience, but to ultimately have this experience, you see.
And I don't want to imply that there is nothing to say about this experience, but even the most articulate people the world has ever produced have had trouble speaking about it, and words can easily lead you astray. Did you click any of the links I left? I'm assuming if you did, they didn't help much.
I wouldn't restrict your reading, if you're going to study this stuff, to nirvana alone. Samadhi, moksha, satori, zen, the Beatific vision, shekhina, ego death, etc. It's possible that all these terms share a single commonality, they may be at their root, synonymous. It might be that all these terms point to this phenomenon in consciousness that is truly nameless, but of course, being creatures of memes and ideas, we've, over the ages, come to give it these various names. And so, there may be plenty out there on "nirvana," if you're paying attention.
However, I want to add something. If you somehow manage to build a self-satisfying conceptual model of "nirvana" with thoughts, I think one of those concepts would have to include the fact that the conceptual model is not "nirvana." Another reason I think you may believe there's not "a lot" out there, is because perhaps there's many things you may have overlooked.
As a trivial example, it's like a virgin who's never experienced an orgasm wanting an "idea" of how "it feels like." And you can basically come up with any extravagant definition that you'd like, you can say, "It feels like your genitals are sneezing," you know. But any definition you conjure, no matter how articulate, will fall short of the splendor of the experience itself. Don't take this example too seriously, because an orgasm, as we all know is more easily achieved than this state of mind we call "nirvana," and everyone can relate to it once they've had it. Nirvana, on the other hand, is something quite different.
It's not rare at all. Many people have this experience. The most well-informed are the "informal" ones, as well as a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk whom I know, in my experience.
"one of those concepts would have to include the fact that the conceptual model is not "nirvana.""
- perhaps a part of the conceptual model is the idea that perceptions and conscious thoughts, ideas and reasoning are all distorted, restricted, second-hand versions of reality. The closest we get to reality is mindful attention. Our emotions and thoughts about an object are more insubstantial, fluid, and transitory than that object.