Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nirvana versus Higher Power

This morning I went to a half-day workshop at the East Bay Meditation Center. The topic was Nirvana, and teacher Mushim (Patricia Ikeda) greeted us with the following Thich Nhat Hanh quote:

Nirvana is the ground of being, the substance of all that is. Water is the substance of the wave ... we carry in us the ground of interbeing nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Nirvana is the complete silencing of concepts.

We did some reflective journaling on our ideas of nirvana. This is what I wrote:

What comes to mind with the word nirvana? There is the idea of a waterfall, something clean and spilling with no dictation from above or below. Nirvana is something achieved, but not demanded. I wonder if it's possible in this lifetime, at least on an ongoing basis. We achieve moments of it, but a solid state? That seems quite a bit more difficult. I'm not even sure I want ongoing nirvana. Wouldn't it get a little tiresome. Then again, maybe the pollyanna definition of the word isn't the real thing. I'll probably never know. 

In Mushim's dharma talk, she addressed the three seals that indicate the truth: 1) impermanence; 2) non-self; and 3) nirvana. Nirvana, she said, was part of the Buddha's spiritual practice and is the realization of truth with no greed, no aversion (hatred) and no ignorance (delusion). There are no fixed thoughts, no concepts and no perceptions. Mushim suggested thinking of thoughts as objects -- heap them into a giant pile and burn them. No ashes, nothing. Gone.

She warned that nirvana can sound unsexy and unexciting. No desire? No suffering? No craving? No urge to shop? "There is no shopping in nirvana," she said.

This got to me. I've been busy transferring my food addiction over to shopping -- clothes, jewelry, boots, all the girly stuff I always claim to hate. Could a nirvana state mean an end to that kind of craving and searching? Perhaps. I may never find out for myself.

It also got me thinking about the Higher Power they talk about in Overeaters Anonymous. I have such issues with the idea of a Higher Power, even with their codicil: as you understand Him. I'm not sure I know or understand Him or Her or It at all -- and I'm not an atheist, just a skeptic. I do believe in a God, but I don't know that I need to turn my life over to that concept.

What, though, if the Higher Power is Nirvana?

Whoa. That blows my mind on a Sunday night. Does that mean that instead of turning my "recovery" over to some sort of god, I'm surrendering to the progress toward nirvana?

I gotta think about it.

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