Urban Dharma Newsletter... March 30, 2004
This Issue: Nirvana in Buddhism
1. Nirvana, Buddhism
3. Buddhist Nirvana ...by Tom Harris
4. Hindu Nirvana ...by Tom Harris
5. How Buddhist Nirvana Works ...by Tom Harris
6. Buddhist Enlightenment vs Nirvana ...by Rev. Kusala Bhikshu
7. Nirvana Day
Ekoji Buddhist Temple
9. Book/CD/Movie: Psychoanalysis
& Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue ...by Jeremy D. Safran
Emperor asked Master Gudo, "What happens to a man of enlightenment
should I know?" replied Gudo.
you are a master," answered the Emperor.
sir," said Gudo, "but not a dead one."
there is a Nirvana; it is leading your sheep to a green pasture,
and in putting your child to sleep, and in writing the last
line of your poem. - Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)
Pronunciation Key, in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state
of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage
in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth. The word in Sanskrit
refers to the going out of a flame once its fuel has been consumed;
it thus suggests both the end of suffering and the cessation
of desires that perpetuate bondage. Epithets of nirvana in Buddhism
include "the free," "the immortal," and
"the unconditioned." Nirvana is attainable in life,
and the death of one who has attained it is termed parinirvana,
or complete nirvana. This has often been interpreted as annihilation,
but in fact the Buddhist scriptures say that the state of the
enlightened man beyond death cannot be described. Nirvana in
the different Indian traditions is achieved by moral discipline
and the practice of yoga leading to the extinction of all attachment
is the supreme state free from suffering and individual existence.
It is a state Buddhists refer to as "Enlightenment".
It is the ultimate goal of all Buddhists. The attainment of
nirvana breaks the otherwise endless rebirth cycle of reincarnation.
Buddhists also consider nirvana as freedom from all worldly
concerns such as greed, hate, and ignorance. No one can describe
in words what nirvana is. It can only be experienced directly.
Buddhist Nirvana ...by Tom Harris
term nirvana is associated with both Hinduism, the oldest religion
in the world, and Buddhism, its best known off-shoot. In both
Hinduism and Buddhism, the word refers to a higher state of
being, but the two religions view this state very differently.
As it turns out, examining the distinction between the concepts
of nirvana is an excellent way of understanding some of the
major differences between the two religions.
there are very few qualities or beliefs you can attribute to
Hinduism or Buddhism as a whole. But there are a number of ideas
that broadly characterize the religions. When we talk about
Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, we're referring to these general
tenets that are common to most major sects.
is mainly associated with Buddhism, which was born out of Hinduism
back in the 5th century B.C. It began as a movement within Hinduism,
based on the philosophy and life of a man named Siddhartha Gautama,
and eventually diverged to form its own path.
Gautama, who later became the Buddha ("the awakened one"),
was born to a rich, ruling family around 563 B.C. in what is
now modern Nepal. According to Buddhist legend, he led a sheltered,
pampered life for all of his childhood and well into his twenties.
a young man, he began to question the spiritual worth of this
luxurious life and decided to give up all his possessions and
emotional attachments, including his wife and young son. He
wanted to understand the true nature of life and saw all his
attachments as distractions, in keeping with Hindu thought.
became a shramana, a wandering, homeless ascetic dedicated to
meditation. He hoped to find enlightenment by completely detaching
himself from the world, swinging to the polar opposite of his
earlier life. Over time, he removed himself farther and farther
from the earthly world, to the point that he was close to starvation.
But he still hadn't achieved enlightenment.
decided that if he continued on that path, he would die without
reaching any understanding, so he gave up the ascetic life and
accepted a meal from a stranger. He decided to take the middle
road, the life between the luxury he had known and the poverty
he had known.
to legend, soon after Siddhartha took this path, he finally
achieved enlightenment. As he meditated under a tree, he saw
all of his past lives, and then the past lives of others. Eventually
he gained a perfect, omniscient knowledge of this world and
the world beyond it.
Buddhism, this state, which the Buddha couldn't relate in language,
is called nirvana. The word is Sanskrit for "to extinguish."
In this case, it means to extinguish ignorance, hatred and earthly
suffering. The term is most closely associated with Buddhism,
though it's applied to a similar concept in Hinduism (as we'll
see later on).
achieving nirvana, you can escape samsara, the cycle of reincarnation
that characterizes both Hinduism and Buddhism. In each life,
a soul is punished or rewarded based on its past actions, or
karma, from the current life as well as earlier lives (which
also include lives as animals). It's important to note that
the law of karma isn't due to a god's judgment over a person's
behavior; it's closer to Newtons law of motion -- every action
has an equal and opposite reaction. It happens automatically,
of its own accord.
you achieve nirvana, you stop accumulating bad karma because
you've transcended it. You spend the rest of your life and sometimes
future lives "working off" the bad karma you've already
you have fully escaped the karmic cycle, you achieve parinirvana
-- final nirvana -- in the afterlife. As with Hindu nirvana,
souls that have achieved parinirvana are free of the cycle of
reincarnation. The Buddha never specified what parinirvana was
like. In Buddhist thought, it is beyond normal human comprehension.
the next section, we'll find out what the Buddha prescribed
for achieving nirvana on earth and parinirvana in the afterlife.
Hindu Nirvana ...by Tom Harris
Hindu tradition, nirvana (more commonly called moksha) is the
reuniting with Brahman, the universal God or universal soul.
In traditional Hinduism, a soul reaches this state after living
many lives in which it climbs up through the varna, or caste
accumulate good karma by performing the duties of the caste
they were born in. If a person is born in a lower caste, his
only hope is to behave properly in that caste so he will move
up to a higher caste in the next life.
a soul has reached the upper castes, it may escape the cycle
of reincarnation by eliminating bad karma. This includes setting
the scales right through good deeds (possibly over several lifetimes)
and also removing oneself from all earthly distractions. When
a soul finally escapes the karmic cycle, it becomes one with
Brahman when the last bodily incarnation dies. This is a higher
plane of existence that transcends the suffering of earthly
life. Essentially, the soul rejoins the intangible energy that
created the universe.
arose out of Siddhartha's alternate understanding of samsara
and transcendence of earthly life. In the Buddhist philosophy,
the best path to enlightenment is somewhere in between the luxury
of many in the upper castes and the poverty of the most devout
Hindu holy men.
was also a social reformer of sorts. He taught that anybody
might achieve higher enlightenment and escape from samsara if
he followed the right path, completely rejecting the caste structure
that defined traditional Hinduism. This is arguably the most
important difference between the two religions, at least when
Buddhism was born.
worlds of Hinduism and Buddhism, and the concept of nirvana,
are rich and multi-faceted. As in most religions, you can summarize
the fundamental ideas quickly, but you could easily spend your
whole life studying the details.
How Buddhist Nirvana Works ...by Tom Harris
Buddha couldn't fully relate his new understanding of the universe,
but he could spread the essential message of his enlightenment
and guide people toward achieving the same understanding. He
traveled from place to place teaching the four noble truths:
1. Life is suffering.
2. This suffering is caused by ignorance of the true nature
of the universe.
3. You can only end this suffering by overcoming ignorance and
attachment to earthly things.
4. You can overcome ignorance and attachment by following the
Noble Eightfold Path.
Noble Eightfold Path is a list of eight ideals that guide a
person toward greater understanding of the universe. The eight
* Right views
* Right intention
* Right speech
* Right action
* Right livelihood
* Right effort
* Right mindedness
* Right contemplation
the surface, the eight ideals are incredibly vague -- they're
open to almost any interpretation. Buddhist sects do view them
differently, but generally speaking, Buddhists follow the path
by approaching the world with compassion, patience and joy,
and contemplating the universe through meditation. The fundamental
goals are to cultivate morality (shila), meditation (dhyana)
and wisdom (prajna).
who achieve nirvana on their own become buddhas, awakened ones
(this is different from "the Buddha," the specific
buddha who was incarnated as Siddhartha). Like the Buddha, other
buddhas gain omniscience when they are enlightened. Buddhists
who achieve nirvana with the help of a buddha guide become arhats,
people who are enlightened but not omniscient.
nirvana is possible for any person, in most Buddhist sects only
monks attempt to achieve it. Lay Buddhists -- Buddhists outside
the monastic community -- strive instead for a higher existence
in their next life. They follow the Noble Eightfold Path and
help others, trying to accumulate good Karma. In this sense,
they're working toward nirvana because they're setting up a
future life in which they might achieve nirvana.
Buddhist Enlightenment vs Nirvana ...by Rev. Kusala Bhikshu
- Buddhist Enlightenment vs Nirvana... Is not an academic article,
but simply a personal reflection on the unity and diversity
found in Buddhism. My interpretation of Enlightenment and Nirvana
is only a finger pointing, and not the moon.
I first started reading books on Buddhism back in the late 1970’s,
I had trouble understanding *Nirvana and Enlightenment. These
two words were often used interchangeably by authors writing
on the *Theravada and *Mahayana traditions. Sometimes though,
the meaning seemed to change depending on who was doing the
couldn’t understand why, for instance... In some Zen and
Mahayana texts folks didn’t want Nirvana. Why did some
choose one, and not the other? If they were not the same...
What was the difference?
first thing I did was define Enlightenment and Nirvana myself,
in a way that made sense to me. My definition of Nirvana became-
"The end of suffering"... and Enlightenment became-
"The Wisdom of Emptiness."
The End of Suffering... In this lifetime and all future lifetimes.
Buddha once said, “I teach the path to immortality.”
As it turns out, he didn’t mean, not having to die, even
Christ had to die. The Buddha was saying... Samsara, the perpetual
cycle of birth and death ended in Nirvana, I could never be
reborn again... I would exist and not exist at the very same
time, forever. I would abide in Nirvana.
The Wisdom of Emptiness... The wisdom that arises from the direct
experience of all phenomena being empty of independent existence.
through personal experience (for example, meditation) that all
things are interconnected and interdependent. That nothing in
this world exists independently. All things are connected and
conditional... In other words... All things exist because of
am here because my parents had sex, and I had Karma. If both
conditions hadn't come together in a very special way years
ago, I wouldn’t be standing here today, but that’s
only half the story.
order for me to live in this world, the Buddha said I need...
“Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Medicine.” These are
the four major conditions necessary for me to subsist. Some
conditions were necessary for me to be born, other conditions
are important for me to stay alive.
whole story is... Certain conditions got me here, other conditions
keep me here, and when all the necessary conditions come to
an end, so do I. I do not live independent of conditions.
is a direct result, of the direct experience, of conditional
and interconnected reality. Enlightenment is more than an intellectual
understanding though, it’s also an intuitive knowing.
It is a total transformation of the heart.
favorite Mahayana sutra on emptiness is the Heart Sutra.
Perfect Wisdom of the Heart Sutra
Bodhisattva, when practicing deeply the Perfect Wisdom clearly
saw that all five Skandhas are empty and passed beyond all suffering.
form does not differ from emptiness: Emptiness does not differ
from form. Form then is emptiness. Emptiness then is form. Sensation,
perception, volition, and consciousness, are also like this.
all Dharmas are marked with emptiness: not born and not dying,
not stained and not pure, not gaining and not losing. Therefore,
in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, perception, volition
or consciousness. No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; nor
form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or Dharmas; no realm of sight
‘til we come to no realm of consciousness; no ignorance
and no ending of ignorance, ‘til we come to no old age
and death, and no ending of old age and death. No suffering,
origination, extinction, or path. No wisdom, and no attainment,
with nothing to attain.
the Bodhisattva is the Perfect Wisdom of emptiness, his mind
has no hindrance. Having no hindrance, there is no fear and
far from all fantasy, he is dwelling in Nirvana.
all Buddhas of the three times practice the wisdom of emptiness,
they gain complete and perfect enlightenment.
know, that Perfect Wisdom, is the great holy mantram, the great
bright mantram, the wisdom mantram, the unequaled mantram, which
can destroy all suffering---truly real and not false. So he
gave the Perfect Wisdom mantram, which goes;
te Ga te, Pa ra Ga te,
Pa ra sam Ga te,
a Buddhist realizes Enlightenment... The “Great Compassion”
cannot but arise in his or her heart. He is no longer able to
view the world in the same way he did before his Enlightenment.
He can now see, feel, know, and understand... If one person
is sick, hungry, homeless, or dying in the world... There is
a part of him that is sick, hungry, homeless, or dying. He no
longer feels separate and safe. He views the world as a sea
of suffering and is directly connected to each and every suffering
being, in the same way the ocean connects to each and every
really a choice all Buddhist practitioners make... To change
themselves in a way that is of benefit to all living beings,
and not just their ‘Self.' This transformation is founded
on the direct experience of “Enlightenment" in Mahayana
Buddhism. The path that leads to “Enlightenment”
is called the ‘Path of the *Bodhisattva.’
to the world in this very special way, does not end the Bodhisattva’s
suffering, however... In some ways Bodhisattva's may suffer
more, but each time they help end the suffering of another being,
their suffering is also eased. Each time they feed someone,
clothe someone, shelter someone, comfort someone... Their suffering
path of the Bodhisattva is very difficult... There is no time
out, they never take a vacation. Where would they go? Where
is the place, no one suffers?
the Theravada tradition, the Buddha was a Bodhisattva numerous
times in his past lives and seemed to achieve Enlightenment
many times before his Nirvana. The story of the Buddha's life
as a Bodhisattva is found in an Early Buddhist text called the
the Mahayana Tradition, the focus is on ‘Enlightenment,’
not Nirvana. The goal is to become a Bodhisattva, and then a
Buddha. The Bodhisattva ends his/her suffering only in Buddhahood,
and not before. In the Mahayana, it’s not so much... Do
what the Buddha says... But, do what the Buddha did.
the Theravada tradition, the focus is on Nirvana... Here and
now. By following the teachings of the Buddha, he/she can become
an *Arahant. Having crossed over the sea of suffering and landed
on the other shore... The Arahant not only ends his suffering,
but gains the ‘Compassion and Wisdom' of a Buddha
again, as with the Bodhisattva, the Arahant’s life is
fully dedicated to the end of suffering. Again, there is no
rest so long as one person suffers. Again, there is no place
to go, and nothing to do, other than be of service. The activity
of the Bodhisattva and the Arahant is not determined by Self
or ego, but by compassion and wisdom for the other.
all is said and done, are the path's of the Bodhisattva and
Arahant the same? I don't think so, they appear to be different...
But they both end and/or reduce suffering in the world.
Enlightenment the same as Nirvana? I think they mean different
things to different people. In my mind, the future Bodhisattva
strives towards Enlightenment, and the future Arahant towards
the Theravada tradition, the focus is on Nirvana, doing what
the Buddha taught, and following the path of the Arahant to
the ‘End of Suffering.’
the Mahayana tradition, the focus is on Enlightenment, doing
what the Buddha did, and following the path of the Bodhisattva
to the ‘Wisdom of Emptiness.’
I end this portion of the presentation... One last point needs
to be made... I have tried to share with you how Enlightenment
and Nirvana may be different... But they are very much the same
in this sense.
in the end... In the Ultimate reality of Buddhism... Both the
path of the Bodhisattva and the Arahant lead to the end of suffering.
Just as the Buddha’s many past lives as a Bodhisattva
finished in Buddhahood. Every path found in Buddhism will ultimately
end in Nirvana!
hope my explanation of Enlightenment and Nirvana will help you
read the teaching’s of the Buddha with more clarity and
Arahant... Enlightenment... Nirvana... The Wisdom of Emptiness...
The End of Suffering... The choice is up to you!
Great Vehicle. This form of Buddhism emerged somewhere between
150 BCE and 100CE. Its distinctive features include the new
emphasis given to compassion and the Bodhisattva ideal, the
three-bodies of the Buddha doctrine, emptiness and skill in
Being. This is a being whose Buddhahood is assured but who postpones
his/her own entry into Nirvana to help all other sentient beings
attain to it first. The Buddha himself was described as a Bodhisattva
in stories of his previous lives.
Theravada school of Buddhism was the first one to emerge after
the Buddha's parinirvana (Death). Over the centuries, it has
retained its unique approach to the search for Nirvana, relying
closely on the word of the Buddha as it appears in the Pali
one. An arahant is an individual who has realized Nirvana, brought
an end to his own suffering and the cycle of birth and death.
cease blowing. Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism, the
third noble truth. In nirvana, the suffering and the desire
that causes suffering have come to an end, as has the cycle
of birth and death. Sometimes nirvana is referred to by the
Buddha as 'unborn' and 'unconditioned', in contrast to the phenomenal
world we experience in our unenlightened state.
Day is an annual Buddhist festival. It is also known as Parinirvana
and is celebrated by some Buddhists on February 15th. Nirvana
Day is one of many Buddhist festivals which also include Wesak
and Uposatha days. Nirvana Day is the celebration of Buddha's
death when he reached total Nirvana, at the age of 80.
Nirvana Day, Buddhists think about their lives and how they
can work towards gaining the perfect peace of nirvana. Nirvana
is believed to be the end of rebirth and is the ultimate aim
of buddhism. It is reached when all want and suffering is gone.
celebrate Nirvana by meditating or by going to Buddhist temples
or monasteries. Celebrations vary throughout the world. In monasteries
Nirvana Day is treated as a social occasion. Food is prepared
and some people bring presents such as money, household goods
or clothes. Some Buddhists will read passages from the The Paranibbana
Sutta which describes the last days of Buddha, while others
may reflect on those who have recently passed away.
Ekoji Buddhist Temple
Buddhist Temple Information - Reverend Shojo Honda, Minister
Lake Haven Lane
Station, VA 22039-1879
Buddhist Temple of the Gift of Light: A Vision of the Future
envision our temple as housing a warm and supportive sangha
for the national capital area. The temple and its minister support
the practice of Shin Buddhists throughout the area. The accessibility
of our new Burke Road location near the Fairfax County Parkway
makes this possible.
for adults of all ages can build on the foundations of our study
groups, taiko drum ensemble, and other activities that we support.
The Dharma school offers Buddhist education for children and
related social activities.
envision our temple as the location for regional and national
seminars on the development of Buddhism in America. The Ekoji
temple recently hosted the 1998 Eastern Buddhist League Conference.
As an Ekoji temple, historically supported by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai
and other Shin Buddhist philanthropists, we have an obligation
to act as a source of education and contemplation in Buddhism
for people who are not necessarily regular members of our sangha.
Ekoji Buddhist Temple of the greater Washington, D.C. area was
founded in 1981 by the late industrialist and philanthropist
Reverend Dr. Yehan Numata and the Reverend Kenryu T. Tsuji.
Buddhism, it is said that there are more than 88,000 different
paths to enlightenment. Amongst these paths, Ekoji shares the
teaching of Shinran, a 12th Century Japanese Buddhist whose
path is based on the Nembutsu Teaching of the Amida Buddha [the
Buddha of Infinite Life and Light].
Shinran. Outcast by the older sects of Japanese Buddhism and
the government as well, Shinran nonetheless continued to share
his beliefs about the Amida Buddha [the Buddha of Infinite Life
and Light] with the masses. For more than 50 years, Shinran
shared the "Life of Nembutsu," claiming no followers
and proclaiming that all people were "the children of Amida."
The basis teaching of Amida Buddha is his Primal Vow which promises
Universal Enlightenment for not only humans but for all living
beings. The compassionate activity of Amida Buddha will never
cease as long as beings are lost, forlorn, suffering, or wandering
in a meaningless existence.
Meaning of Life. While the ultimate objective of life for all
Buddhists lies in the achievement of Buddhahood, life's immediate
purpose is realized in the awakening of faith.
Programs. Ekoji offers various programs and activities which
will help one to walk the path of a Buddhist.
this time, the regular schedule of religious activities is as
Service. Held weekly Sundays at 11:00 a.m, this service
and the Dharma message is intended for adult followers.
Dharma School. Held on a regular basis, these classes are
open to anyone, of any background, who wants to learn more about
Buddhism in general and Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in particular.
Classes are led by Ekoji's Director of Buddhist Education. Check
the web page for class schedules.
Service and Dharma School. Programs for children, youth
and their parents are held on the second Sunday of every month
beginning at 10:00 a.m. and the fourth Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Classes. 'Sitting' [seiza] sessions are held on Wednesdays
at 8:00 p.m.
Funerals, and other Services. Ekoji and the resident minister
are available to conduct private and public religious observances.
Please consult with the minister to set up a schedule and arrangements.
Description. A 5-foot statue of the Buddha overlooks the
seating for 150 Sangha members and friends. An overflow area
provides additional seating for 50 people. A columbarium is
also part of this structure.
to the temple is an education center, which includes a library,
classrooms, assembly room/social hall, recreation room, and
a kitchen facility. Parking for more than 50 cars is available.
Psychoanalysis & Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue ...by
Jeremy D. Safran
Altman • Joseph Bobrow • Jack Engler • Mark
Finn • James Grotstein • Robert Langan • Barry
Magid • Stephen A. Mitchell • Raul Moncayo •
Stuart Pizer • Owen Renik • Philip A. Ringstrom
• Jeffrey B. Rubin • Jeremy D. Safran • Charles
Spezzano • Neville Symington • M. Guy Thompson •
Sara Weber • Polly Young-Eisendrath
this groundbreaking book Jeremy Safran assembles an extraordinary
array of contributors who engage in an unprecedented dialogue
about the relationship between psychoanalysis and Buddhism.
Some are psychoanalysts who have been steeped in Buddhist practice
over many years. Others are leading figures in contemporary
psychoanalysis, who have an interest in examining similarities
and differences between the two worlds as well as areas of potential
synergy. The dialogical format of the book dramatically enlivens
the text for the reader who is thereby afforded the opportunity
to hear some of his or her most pressing questions asked and
commented on by a discussant and then responded to by the first
author. The contributors cover a wide territory in the examination
of Buddhism from a psychoanalytic point of view–including
the concept that is so difficult for the Western mind, the question
of no self. Safran has provided us with a trail-blazing book
that will be deeply rewarding to both psychoanalysts and Buddhists;
it will extend the horizons of both. - Emmanuel Ghent, M.D.,
Supervisor and Faculty, NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis
- Reviewer: Oregon, WI USA ...Compiled and edited by Jeremy
D. Safran, Psychoanalysis And Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue
brings together dialogues from a group of nineteen talented
writers who focus on concerns respecting the intersection of
Buddhism and the science of psychoanalysis. Contemplating the
complexities of the human mind, will, and spirit, these informed
and informative writings meditate upon the depths of transformation
possible in the individual. A profound and recommended addition
to Buddhist studies shelves, Psychoanalysis And Buddhism will
prove of immense interest and value to students of Eastern Philosophy
and Western Psychology.
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