Working hard for a better extinction


And here is the #4 reason I am NOT a Buddhist: Achieving nirvana is, to the best of my ability to comprehend it, akin to reaching the void or nothingness. It’s hard for me to aspire to get there.

Understanding nirvana is like trying to read clouds. One moment you have it, the next, it is gone. In essence, nirvana is the end of suffering, the place of a higher consciousness, of being one with the universe. To achieve it, one must practice the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Noble Path referred here previously. Some say that nirvana is a state of ego-lessness, the place of total control over one’s sense and desire (lust). Some say you have to “destroy” your mind to achieve nirvana, others say that you don’t even “achieve” nirvana, you “realize” it (it’s latent in you (latter) or it is a goal to be attained (former).

For a fascinating forum on what this all means, click here. It will take you about half an hour to read the article and all the comments posted on the bottom. It is tedious but very interesting read, not written by scholars but by practitioners or curious minds. In the end you will see what I mean about not wanting to aspire to go somewhere that is not clearly defined for me. But in the unlikely chance I were to choose to follow this path, the end result does appear to benefit primarily one solitary person — me! How about the rest of humanity? So that’s part of the reason I am not buying.

For a less engaged description of nirvana, you can go here. You will understand why I think Wikipedia should sometimes be called “Weakpedia.” Still, you will quickly understand that in this view, nirvana can only come through much individual effort and the application of meditation and exercises that most people in this universe may not have time and energy to perform. There are multiple levels and graduating steps. I just don’t get the wisdom of going through all this trouble if all I am looking at in the end is extinction (according to one school of Buddhism). Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of saying, “I will work very hard to improve my life so I can cease to exist better”?

As I travel the world, I find that most people I meet are preoccupied with survival issues — how will I feed my family tomorrow? Where will I find the money to pay for medical treatment for my sick child? How long will it take me to gather wood and will my crops survive the drought this year? Sophisticated people may find the time to develop these disciplines of the mind, but the vast majority of the world is just trying to make it to the next day. How is Buddhism helping them? (More about that tomorrow).

Ivanildo C. Trindade

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