Smells like teen spirit? No, I’m not talking about the American band Nirvana. Actually I am referring to the Buddhist goal of existence.
I can only comment below on Theravada Buddhism of which I am familiar.
A simple definition of Nirvana is: a state of being free from suffering (or dukkha).
“Nibbāna”, in the Pali language, literally means “blowing out”…a ceasing to exist, which means a ceasing of suffering.
Sound difficult to understand? Well, it is! And most every person you talk to has a different idea of what they think it means, including Buddhist teachers.
Nirvana is the goal of every Buddhist, theoretically. However, when I talk with everyday people on the street, they have been taught that no one could ever really attain what “THE Buddha” did even though they try really hard. Problem is, most don’t even try with the exception of a few token offerings at the temple every once in awhile.
Enlightenment leading to Nirvana is said to be available to all, but most will tell you that they would be happy to be able to spend a little time in one of the “heavens” and be reborn in a life where they could have alot of free time, leisure work, and travel. This is the real goal of the people I talk to. They are just hoping to get it better next go round.
Nirvana is NOT heaven in the sense that most in the West understand it. It is said to be beyond heaven and that even the “gods” are seeking to attain it. Yes, even the gods look to the Buddha to understand how he came to the place of enlightenment.
The only way to even potentially ensure that a human (sentient being) is able to attain Nirvana is to follow the four noble truths of Buddhism and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The best thing a person can do to ensure their chance is to become a monk for life. If you are not a man in Thailand, sorry, your out for the most part. If you have some type of physical defect, “not whole in all 32 parts”, sorry…you are out too.
Once you become a monk, you are subject to 227 rules that must be followed to achieve “perfection” of life. (With all of the monk scandals in the news lately, most Thais are probably wondering how there is any hope for them!) If you make it in as a female nun, you have 311 to follow. Why more rules? You can make you own assumptions. (There are very few female nuns in Thailand.)
Back to Nirvana. So, where is the Buddha now? Some say he is one with empty space. What does that mean? I don’t know. Is that something you want to achieve also? Only you can decide.
If so, you should make sure you end up in Thailand, ordain as a male monk; and follow the four noble truths, the eightfold path, take refuge in the triple gem, follow the 227 precepts exactly, and wait to see how things turn out next go around.
If that’s not your thing, you can at least come to Thailand to give food each morning to the guys who are going for it themselves and catch a ride to heaven for a little while on their robes.
If you are “lucky” and your karma demerits are low, you can escape having to go to one of the 8 levels of hell which most will admit they will have to spend some time in before they are reborn.
But as for Nirvana? You all still have a long way to go.