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Buddhism; Part 6, The Path to Nirvana

By Frank Simons

The cessation of suffering is called nirvana, the “blowing out” of desire.

Video Presentation
Buddhism; Part 6, The Path to Nirvana
Thu, Jan 6, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted
044 415 111 0644

The second Noble Truth is the origin of suffering. Ignorance leads to desire. Desire leads to rebirth. The most fundamental form of ignorance is that “I” constitutes a permanent ego that needs to be fed by new and desirable experiences or objects. The third Noble Truth is cessation, or nirvana. When you cultivate an awareness of no self and strip away the desires that feed the fire of samsara, that fire can eventually burn out. This is not easy. But it is possible for anyone to achieve the same cessation of samsara that was experienced by the Buddha himself.

Nirvana comes at two moments: that of awakening, when fuel is no longer added to the fire of personality; and that of parinirvana, when the fire of personality finally flickers out completely. These two moments are called “nirvana with residues” and “nirvana without residues.” Like the concept of suffering, nirvana seems at first to be quite negative. If it is just an experience of cessation, why is it desirable? If samsara really is something to be avoided, then the most positive thing to do is negate it. Nirvana is this negation. The God of Abraham faced nothing and made something come to be. The Buddha did the opposite. He faced a situation in which death and rebirth had been going on from time without beginning and found a way to bring it to an end.

A second way to explain the appeal of nirvana is to understand the experience is not limited to the moment of death; it also occurs at the moment of awakening. One is no longer bound by the ignorance and desire that fuel samsara. Nirvana is a quality of mind or state of being that led to the Buddha’s exemplification of many positive characteristics. He was peaceful, wise, unattached, and free. He was able to act with spontaneity and clarity of mind, compassion for the suffering of others.

The path to nirvana is often divided into eight categories: referred to as The Noble Eightfold Path. The logic of the Path is clearer, however, if we reduce them to three: 1) sila, moral conduct samadhi, or mental concentration; 2) panna, or wisdom; and 3) the five moral precepts of no killing, no stealing, no lying, no abuse of sex, and no succumbing to intoxicants. These three modes of discipline are meant to avoid the karma that lead one to difficult and dangerous forms of rebirth. They also are meant to cultivate the qualities of wisdom and detachment that eventually lead to awakening.

The videocourse of 24 lectures is presented by Professor Malcolm David Eckel, professor of Religion and Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston University. He holds graduate degrees from Oxford and Harvard. An expert on Buddhism, comparative religion, and Asian faiths, Eckel has written insightful books on Buddhist philosophy, including Buddhism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video. Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


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