What is Nirvana?

Nirvana, or Nibbana, are two words from the lexicons of ancient India that refer to the state of experience discovered by the Buddha. In this state a human being experiences the cessation of suffering. The words literally mean to extinguish, or "no burning."

To understand a bit more about the nature of Nirvana we have to first understand the nature of perception. In order for perception to occur there must be content to be perceived. The nature of all content of perception is relative.

For example, if I perceive an overweight man that perception is coming more from inside me than from anywhere else. He is a man. He is overweight. Those are my perceptions. The reality of the individual I'm perceiving is more difficult to obtain. The individual informs me that she is a woman wearing a heavy jacket. I have a new perception inside myself. I then corroborate that further with the external reality. I could perceive the person as young. But every moment they're growing older. The play between the external "reality" and my perception goes back and forth ad infinitum without hitting a bedrock of pure objective reality. The content of perception is like a house of cards supported by a house of cards supported by a house of cards...

The only constant through all perception is the present moment. This is the one unchanging substrate of perception. All perception necessarily takes place in the present moment. It cannot, ever, leave the present moment. And the present moment never goes anywhere. Indeed, it has never gone anywhere, because the present moment is not even subject to time. Time is merely one of the contents of perception.

Then what is the present moment without content. That is Nirvana. It cannot be put into words because words are more content.

"Normal" reality, as compared to Nirvana, is like watching a movie in which you feel all the characters are real and you are super attached to them. When they suffer, you suffer. The experience of Nirvana allows us to return to watching the movie while knowing that it is just a movie. Our heart is light.

Returning to the example of the overweight man I am perceiving. Say he is me. I am looking in the mirror. Now the external reality is me. But what is me? Me is the internal reality I perceive in myself. But what is that? I'm always changing inside. If "me" is just more content of perception and the present moment without any content is Nirvana, then we get an understanding of what gets "extinguished" in the experience of Nirvana, i.e. the story and ideas I have built about what is "me."

Now that we have clarified the definition of Nirvana, the more important question is how do we experience Nirvana. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. For some orientation on that keep following this blog and my other writings and videos. You can explore this question at depth with me personally by scheduling a spiritual consultation with me here.