This morning hubby came into my room and we talked about Nirvana. In the The Great Courses Buddhist lecture, Professor Eckel describes Nirvana as the cessation of reincarnation.
My western mind has never been able to grasp the concepts of Nirvana and reincarnation. The Buddhists say that if you’re bad in the current life, you might come back as a lowly snake or worm. But I wonder…. do snakes and worms live lives stressed out because they weren’t good people in past lives? It’s easy to say “no, of course not!”. On the other hand, there’s so much about this world that we can’t see or touch but is nevertheless there.
Take radiowaves for instance. When I turned on my ham radio for the first time many years ago, I looked up in the sky and thought, “All these radiowaves from around the globe are travelling through the air that we breathe and exist in. They’re travelling through my body as I sit here.”
Now, we have scientific proof of the existence of radiowaves. Before we invented the very first radio, did the waves exist? Sort of like the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
So, if you don’t really have “proof” that the tree that fell in the forest actually made a sound, then you can never be sure. So to me, that question extends to: what “proof” do we have of anything in this life, including our mere existence?
Still, even knowing that I should suspend my beliefs, the question remains in my head, “What motivation do I have to live a good life to avoid coming back as a worm in a future life? What if I do everything I can to be the best person I can be and still fall short? What would be the point of even trying?”
Hubby says that Professor Eckel defines Nirvana as the cessation of reincarnation — that ultimate state of never having to worry about having to come back as a worm. So it’s Nirvana that we’re all striving for ultimately. But if I never really wrapped my life motivations around the whole reincarnated worm concept, that extends to Nirvana — why should I care about Nirvana?
However, Buddhism’s — Christianity’s as well for that matter — core revolves around meditation. (I include Christianity because even though Christians don’t call it meditating, that’s what they’re doing when they open up the Bible and meditate on scripture, or kneel in prayer.)
My primary spiritual ritual is meditating. To me, meditation is is all about calming my mind and finding that place of emptiness or peace within myself. I never associate the results of my meditating to Nirvana or reincarnation. Meditation is a process which helps me clear the monkey chatter of fictional stories of past events and future fears. It helps me see the current moment without judgement.
I can’t possibly truly care about Nirvana and reincarnation, but maybe in the final analysis, the Buddhist teachings all boil down to: make things better for this instantaneous moment and all else will fall into place.