Nirvana is an ecstatic state in which there is no suffering, no desire, nor sense of self. It represents the final goal of Buddhist practice. The synonyms are: paradise, pleasure, heaven, bliss, ecstasy, peace, and serenity enlightenment. This definition is totally misleading. The true meaning of the word has nothing to do with this divine and ecstatic description. Zen Buddhism is concrete, down to earth and more practical.
Like anybody else, Zen practitioners do have desires, emotions, suffering and get the karmatic effects of their intentions and behavior. The difference is in their intensity and duration by the way practitioners are controlling the main culprit behind suffering that is our ego-driven mind.
The Sanskrit word Nirvana means literally “to extinguish”, or “to blow away”.
“ Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. This is why we call it “present”
This present moment is the only existing, real and concrete space -time in which we are alive and the only moment we can connect and experience the authentic reality of life using our consciousness.
The “past you” does not exist because the past is dead. The “future you” does not exist either because the future is not born yet. Both are inner movies and fictional dream world inside our mind.
The fictional past made of nostalgia and regrets needs the present moment because we are thinking about the past only now. The imaginary future made of dreams, ideas and expectations needs the present moment because we are thinking about the future it only now.
When we are facing difficult times – and we always do – we probably don’t want to experience the present moment in positive way. If fact, you hate these negative moments and try to avoid them. This is a normal reaction.
But remember this: escaping the bad moments by returning in the past or travelling in the future will never fix your current issues and struggles. Past and future are just temporary gateways like putting our head in the sand.
My second Zen Master came to live with us in 2008 and he is still sharing our life. This is our 10 years old wonderful Shih Tzu called Zap. His mind, behavior and non-verbal teaching remind me some of our greatest Zen Masters over the last 2, 500 years. Yes, like all of us, Zap’s mind can be restless but only at specific times such as when it is time for food is or when he has to go out for is needs. Beside these important moments Zap is very quiet and even very happy. Most of the day Zap is looking at the garden for hours in the most serene way. So, out of curiosity, one day I asked him: “ Zap, tells me, how can you be serene almost all the time”?
Of course, Zap could not answer verbally but he looked at me intensively trying to fulfill my quest.
Reading his non-verbal answers thru his eyes, this is what he told me:
“Indeed, we, animals, are different and maybe smarter then humans. Here are the main reasons on my behavior”:
This is a common expression that we make when we are surprised or angry about someone’s statement or behavior. “ You quit your job! Are you out of your mind!” It means to be mentally out of control.
“Out of your mind” is a critical judgment. It carries negative values because we strongly believe that being “in the mind that is being under its control ” is the only way to be and act in a logical, rational and intelligent way.
Zen is teaching us to have a “Don’t know mind “. It means also “Being out of the mind” and it has nothing to do with its common negative meaning. It simply means to be out of the control of our restless mind and more specifically out of the control of our ego-driven mind source of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and other negative emotions.