Samsara And Nirvana, another text from the so called Gospel of Buddha, brings up the age old conundrum “What’s the Meaning of Life?”. One can contemplate it forever and never know the answer. Through meditation, the Buddha recognised that the collection of ideas he had about himself were just that, a collection of memories, prejudices and imposed ideals. In meditation he discovered that this “self” could be quieted, that it was possible to be truly self-less.
In this discovery lay the answer to the big question. All around him he saw suffering; illness, poverty, sickness and ultimately death, impermanence. But in meditation he experienced self-less-ness.
The question goes: what’s the meaning of life?, surely it can’t be this, suffering and then death. An end to existence? But who is it that experiences this life and death? Who is it who suffers?
In meditation, which is often confused for an attempt to block out or clear our heads of all thought, we simply bring our attention to our breath. Jacob Needleman says “all we own is our attention” or words to that effect. Our attention is everything.
If there is no Self, then who is suffering? Who is dying?
Samsara the cyclical nature of life, death and re-birth.
Nirvana or the extinction of the “three fires” of passion, aversion and ignorance. When these fires are extinguished, release from the cycle of samsara is achieved.
Samsara And Nirvana:
“LOOK about and contemplate life! Everything is transient and nothing endures. There is birth and death, growth and decay; there is combination and separation. The glory of the world is like a flower: it stands in full bloom in the morning and fades in the heat of the day.
Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a struggling, and an eager pursuit of pleasure. There is a panic flight from pain and death, and hot are the flames of burning desires. The world is Vanity Fair, full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara, the turning Wheel of Existence.
Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal turmoil no resting-place where our troubled heart can find peace? Is there nothing everlasting? Oh, that we could have cessation of anxiety, that our burning desires would be extinguished! When shall the mind become tranquil and composed?
The Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing that will not fade or perish, but will abide for ever and ever.
You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in transiency. You who wish for happiness without the sting of regret, lead a life of righteousness. You who yearn for riches, receive treasures that are eternal. Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is happiness.
All compounds will be dissolved again, but the verities which determine all combinations and separations as laws of nature endure for ever and aye. Bodies fall to dust, but the truths of the mind will not be destroyed.
Truth knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no end. Welcome the truth. The truth is the immortal part of mind. Establish the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the eternal; it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.
The Buddha has proclaimed the truth; let the truth of the Buddha dwell in your hearts. Extinguish in yourselves every desire that antagonizes the Buddha, and in the perfection of your spiritual growth you will become like unto him. That of your heart which cannot or will not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion and unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your misery.
You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth. Therefore, become like unto vessels fit to receive the Master’s words. Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is no other way of reaching truth.
Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of selfishness and the source of evil; truth cleaves to no self; it is universal and leads to justice and righteousness. Self, that which seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek the truth.
If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things as they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of clinging and unrest.
Yet you love self and will not abandon self-love. So be it, but then, verily, you should learn to distinguish between the false self and the true self. The ego with all its egotism is the false self. It is an unreal illusion and a perishable combination. He only who identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the highest good; he has become eternal and immortal.
All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of Buddha will remain for ever.
The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is the condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana.
Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest bliss.
Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of the Buddha. Let us take our refuge in the community of those who seek the truth and endeavour to live in the truth.”
Books that will help: