Part 1 – Are there two Nibbānas?
Have you asked yourself recently, What is the goal of my practice? Why am I bothering with all this?
It seems to me the initial response is quite diverse. Sometimes there’s something about reducing dukkha, wanting more calm, suffering less, etc. Sometimes there’s something about ethics; wanting to be a better person, be more kind, etc. Myriad initial responses.
But I think if we keep querying these responses can all be expressed as a quest or a path towards Nibbāna.
So then we ask, “What is Nibbāna?”
My understanding is that responses here tend to suggest a bifurcation, two broad classifications of describing or defining Nibbāna.
On the one hand, Nibbāna is understood more in line with canonical dhamma. It is a transcendent, permanent state, in which we will never again experience suffering. It is usually seen as extremely difficult to reach. Because it is so difficult, the only way to arrive there is via a monastic or strongly renunciatory path.
On the other hand, Nibbāna is understood more in line with Buddhadasa’s model where it is imminent, as he says, “always inseparable from our daily lives”. This is my understanding of Stephen Batchelor’s (@agnostic108) version of Nibbāna, and what he teaches in his vision of #SecularDharma. Nibbāna is the “going out” of the Kilesas, the three fires of Rāga (greed), Dosa (aversion) and Moha (not understanding how our minds work). Whenever the three fires are not present, we are experiencing Nibbāna. There can be moments of Nibbāna. And Nibbāna is the birthright of every living creature. (1)
To keep it atomic, I’ll pause here. In following parts, I want to give examples of transcendent and imminent Nibbāna in the Pāli Canon and, what I think most important, to discuss implications of this bifurcated understanding on our practice and on our being in the world.
(1) Disclaimer: I am strongly partial to the imminent version of Nibbāna. :)