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.
I agree with Jimmy in most of this conversation, but even he misses what I believe to be the CENTRAL position:
"the definition of nirvana may be vague"
Of course! That's because it's a WORD and words, by their very nature, are abstractions. Complicate it more by "defining" this WORD using more WORDS getting deeper into contradiction and further from the "goal". Your "mind", your "me" are abstractions born, essentially, of words and of the ego emanating from these abstractions.
The easiest starting point (after you're fully relaxed) is to put yourself into the brain of your dog. He doesn't have a word for "nirvana", but he hears everything. He doesn't understand the words "pay attention", but he spends every waking moment doing just that. He doesn't have a mantra - mantra is just one tool for defeating words - he doesn't need any tools for that.
Listen! Pay attention! It sounds (and is) natural, but, because of words, it's not all that easy.
Well, yes, I was trying to emphasize the experience of "nirvana" rather than attempting to think about it and imagine it. As in meditation, one rids of thoughts, a word is also a thought. So, you'd think words would go on the list of things to rid of, but I agree that some people need this pointed out to them. I remember there was this one person in prison who went into meditation with the mantra, "Die! Die! Die!"
In other words, you cannot rid of the ego with your ego. If you think you have an ego to get rid of, and then you fight against it, nothing strengthens the illusion that it exists more than that.
You're right, I didn't emphasize the colossal distraction words can become in meditation, I only implied it modestly. It's definitely worth highlighting in huge bold letters, as I think it could give people a better idea of what is involved in meditation. Language is heavily involved in our rumination, we tend to judge things quickly in language, we think in language, words, symbols, etc.
There's this clip of Watts titled "The Sound of Rain Needs No Translation." When we hear the sound of rain, we don't stop and say, "Oh, what is the rain trying to say today?" or "What does it mean?"
So, what does the rain say? It is the banana leaf that speaks of it first. So, in meditation, when you hear a sound, whether it be a word or a bird chirping, you don't judge it with words. Instead, you listen to words in the same way you'd listen to an instrumental piece or the sound of falling rain. You simply listen. Listen without judging it with words or imagery, symbols or sounds.
The dog metaphor is good, although I'm not entirely sure the dog is experiencing nirvana. I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility, but it's plausible that dogs may think in terms of imagery or have some type of conscious experience that, of course, wouldn't involve words, but involve something else. Also, while it's true words are a major obstacle, they aren't the only obstacle. For instance, to mention something simple: Breath. Breath is another obstacle. You can have the sensation that you're controlling your breath, but perhaps a better way to describe meditation is not the "cessation of thoughts or mentation," but the "cessation of your personal will." The sense of "doership" that Hindus speak of. In other words, breath should be involuntarily, as in sleep. Just as you don't judge sounds, because that would also be imposing your will. You don't "try" and breathe a certain way, because you're still imposing your will. Breath will come naturally, if you let it. Just as a centipede doesn't think twice of which foot it's going to set forth first as it's walking, because the moment it starts to think about which foot it should move first, it got all balled up.
Hindus have even called the state of meditation "conscious sleep," and sleep "unconscious meditation." There's a recently deceased guru in India by the name of Ramesh Balsekar whose idea of enlightenment was the revelation that everything is predetermined.
Ramana Maharshi said, "All you need is to simply be." It's funny because it's made out to be this effortless state to enter into, but because we've lived a good majority of our lives through the assumption of ego, with the accompanying of words clogging our stream of consciousness, it's become one of the most difficult endeavors to embark.
Awareness without judgment or analysis... This is going to sound strange, but I try to practice mindfulness as much as I can, even in moments people go to great lengths to escape from or continually recreate . Whatever is going on in the moment is a universe of experience. Being in the moment changes the moment, and the next, and the next.
I forget this so easily. It is so ironic, so simple. I am grateful for the moments of awareness I have had despite my brain's constant attempts to not be there. This is a good reminder. I don't know if nirvana is a state one reaches and stays at forever, but I certainly have not reached it if it is. I suspect it is more transient for most of us mere mortals.
@Diane It's interesting you mention a "permanent" nirvana. Usually, the sages of ancient India and Asia speak about "nirvana" in terms of a brief experience from which they draw upon insight, but you do hear sometimes of notions such as the one you brought up. Are you familiar with "nirvikalpa samadhi"?
May not be 'Nirvana' Belle, I have no idea - but it still sounds kind of cool :)
@Belle - yes, and a peace and lightness in your heart even in difficult circumstances.
"I don't know what I'm talking about really, LOL!"
Congratulations! You have reached Nirvana!
So even idiots have already 'arived'!
I think our minds are wonderfully powerful tools that sometimes enslave the would-be masters. I am regularly enslaved, I know, but I am working to allow my mind to work for me, not against me.
Here's a quote I love from a TedxAtlanta talk on compassion meditation by Dr Charles Raison:
"Our real enemies are not those who oppose us.
Our real enemies are the anger and hatred we feel towards those people."
Can anyone in their right mind - clearly I'm addressing an exclusive audience - imagine early Humans surviving long without any degree of anger or hatred?
"Well, of COURSE you may take my share of the tribe's communal meal - here, take my children's too while you're at it - by your threat of force, I can see that your need is much greater than our own."
If Nirvana is feeling nothing, the complete abdication of "self," then Nirvana is a pale reflection of Death. It certainly isn't life, with it's ups and downs, loves and hates, mountains to climb and valleys to plumb. Life is full of passion, not passionless as Nirvana implies - without hate, we would never know love, without anger, tranquility is unrecognizable.
Just as I would never be content in the theist's heaven, the state of Nirvana strikes me as being a sterile world I would not like to visit, even in my dreams - until I'm ready to be returned to the earth, give me the grit of life, with all of its imperfections - directions to Nirvana are irrelevant to me.