What is Nirvana? Is it some place you go after enlightenment? Is it a state of mind of being totally present? Is Nirvana a mystical evolution of the human condition? Is Nirvana the ultimate enlightenment?
Nirvana, to put is simply, is the state of unconditional happiness. It is achievable by all creatures, but it takes effort. It requires the skill developed through meditation, and applied through embodying the virtues.
Understanding the process of how to achieve spiritual realization and liberation, gives us insight into how Buddhism leads us to a state of blissful happiness.
The body is impermanent. This is an observable phenomenon. We see the birth and death of all those around us. We can see the predictable transformations created by illness, aging and death. With age and wisdom, we can learn to accept this truth.
The truth we cannot accept is that the mind is impermanent. Without incredible mindfulness, the mind as a phenomenon is not observable. The senses, always perceiving a world outside of the body, ignore observation within. This ignorance leads us to the delusions of the mind being something separate from the body.
The delusion of identity being permanent exists because, without direct observation and investigation, we cling to the fantasy that our mind is not part of the physical phenomenon of the body. When the body is sick, ages and dies; the mind is unique, separate and immune to that impermanent vessel.
The view that body and mind are not one and the same is a powerful delusion, which leads to the ignorant view of an eternal self or soul.
Through observation, mindfulness and meditation the awareness of the body can focus inwards. It can see the arising and passing of uncontrolled thoughts brushing the inside of the mind the way the breeze brushes across the hairs on the arm. In this way we see that thoughts are not our own, but a result of the sixth mental sensory organ processing all the data that is churning physically and psychologically.
Noting that there are now six senses, we can observe how our reactions within the body become. For example, it is observable how emotional states are also not part of a concept of self. Like a cat that purrs or claws against the insides of our chest, emotional states arise and create physical experiences that are not volitionally ours to control. Observing the processes and conditions that create strong emotional states, we are able to determine that emotions are now our own. We can surmise that anger is a conditioned response the same way our body sweats in reaction to the conditions of a hot room. Change the conditions and we can chance the response.
Our values, upon observation, can be noted as aversions and repulsions created by contact and condition. Sensations which are pleasant are valued to be good and clung to. Sensations which are unpleasant are valued to be bad and avoided. Sometimes sensations which are unpleasant initially are valued for the eventual pleasant sensations later on and vice versa. Noting that sensations from contact are relative to the body, they are not absolute and relative. Being relative, experiences that lead to aversion and repulsion to objects or phenomenon are seen to be not real and of permanent value. Our view of the world is conditional and not real or permanent.
When observing that thoughts, emotions and view are not real; we can realize that what makes up the concept of a real permanent self is an illusion. The self identity is conditional determined by the body, the environment, and condition. With different habitualization and education, with change in environment and experience, with the changing of body aggregates: any definition of “self” is profoundly changed: With the end of body, environment and condition, the definition of “self” ceases to exist.
In this we way we understand that self, as a permanent and real “thing” does not exist. It does not have a true nature and is therefore defined as “empty” in Buddhism. When the body and mind are seen as one impermanent subjective process, it is possible to see the world from view free from the delusion of “I”.
Free from the delusion of self and body as permanent, the awareness that is us can re-engage with the world around us with a different outlook. A view and understanding of the world free from the shackles of clinging, aversion and ignorance. The use of “I,” “we” or “you” in a sentence is one of utilitarian necessity rather than of conceptual reality. The ego gone emotions are no longer stirred up the same way a catfish stirs up the mud when it swims or slashes against the river’s bottom. The wisdom of the empty, connected and impermanent nature of all things removes the value of all things, which eradicates the condition of greed and hate.
Without hate, greed and delusion; without the ignorant view of “I”; within engaged wisdom through proper observation— a state of happiness is created without the need for condition or origin. This state of awareness is not blind to the past and future, but not determined unmindfully by it, is Nirvana.