The Experience of Nirvana

The experience of Nirvana

‘The Bodhisattva, since he is not gaining anything, by the Prajna Paramita has his heart free from the net of hindrances, and with no hindrances in the heart there is no fear. Far from all perverted dream thoughts, he has reached ultimate Nirvana. By the Prajna Paramita all the Buddhas of the three worlds have the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment. ’

As explained before, it is only by the power of the wisdom of ultimate Emptiness that we come to see that the inescapable clinging to life is what we are. Through that power comes the awakening to Emptiness.

Now the phrase ‘he is not gaining anything’. If there is no life which has to be reduced,to nothingness then there is no Nirvana which has to be gained; if there is nothing to be thrown away, there is nothing to be grasped. Then what to do? For baby Bodhisattvas like us, this is a question which cannot be set aside even for a moment. There is no other way than to discover the Bodhi in the passions themselves and experience Nirvana in birth-and-death. The path which the Bodhisattva must tread is one alone. There is no other path except the power of wisdom of absolute self-negation.

Each step in birth-and-death is seen to be the true form of the self Passions are the Bodhi, birth- and-death is Nirvana. By throwing away birth-and-death as it stands, however many births and deaths we pass through they don’t become Nirvana. Ice is water, but if we simply throw away the ice as it is it still remains ice and does not become water.

On the Bodhisattva path, when by wisdom he from the bottom of his heart knows what the self ready is, he experiences the state of awakening. Now delusion, karma-action and suffering afflict no more. The karma-obstacles have disappeared. With the disappearance of the karma-obstacles the fear of birth-and-death in the six worlds also disappears.

‘Far from all perverted dream thoughts.’ It means he awakens from the dream of passions which arise from clinging to self. The bonds of karma are loosed, the fear of the worlds vanishes and he can really live as an awakened Bodhisattva, in the experience of Nirvana.

Now I speak only as a baby Bodhisattva. I am all the time being pulled by karma. But while being pulled along, I have discovered a real meaning in each step. May we all experience it! I am yet a child and there is no question that I am pulled; but I have a taste of the Bodhisattva world at each step. The state of being puled is yet the state of freedom; there is no net of hindrances in the heart.

Another point is the disappearance of fear. Since I am alive, it cannot be that I never weep or laugh. But in that laughter—which is not a complete laughter—and in that grief-which is not total grief —I discover something of release, and then the laughter and the grief themselves are liberation.

The text speaks of awakening from confused dreams, Passions blaze up. But when the passion of greed appears I am to observe in its form the form of the self. In the form of passion I am to see the world of release, and so not be moved an inch by the passion. This is the experience of awakening and to some extent at least let us realize it.

When the text repeats its ‘no, no’ it does not imply nothingness. Tears and smiles, anger and desire, do arise; but the supreme Nirvana is verily to experience in those very things true Emptiness.

But we cannot rest only with this. The highest Nirvana means again to experience the world of exertion. To rest serene is not the height of Nirvana. I here digress from the text for a moment to explain the point.

by Abbot Obora of the Soto Zen sect

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