Jerry Katz
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Highlights #973

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Tuesday, February 12, 2002


----- Nirvana is Acceptance of the Present Moment -

Nirvana is Acceptance of the Present Moment
(adapted from The Meaning of
Happiness, by Alan W. Watts, 1940, New York
The Hinayanists looked upon Nirvana as an escape
from the pains of life and
death, a conception which to the Mahayanists with
their Brahmanic
background appeared as the old error of dualism.
Thus the ideal man of the
Hinayana was the arhat, one who simply attained Nirvana and ceased from
rebirth, entering into the formless rest, bliss, and impersonality of the
eternal. But the Mahayanists gave their philosophy of non-duality practical
expression in the ideal of the bodhisattva, who attains liberation but
remains in the world of birth and death to assist all other beings to
enlightenment. In other words, they refused to make any absolute
distinction between Nirvana and Samsara; the two states are the same, seen,
as it were, from different points of view. Therefore the Lankavatara Sutra
(as translated by D.T. Suzuki) says: "False imagination teaches that such
things as light and shade, long and short, black and white are different
and are to be discriminated; but they are not independent of each other;
they are only different aspects of the same thing, they are terms of
relation, not of reality. Conditions of existence are not of a mutually
exclusive character; in essence things are not two but one. Even Nirvana
and Samsara's world of life and death are aspects of the same thing, for
there is no Nirvana except where is Samsara, and no Samsara except where is
Nirvana. All duality is falsely imagined."
In terms of practical psychology this means that there is no actual
distinction between our ordinary, everyday experience and the experience of
Nirvana or spiritual freedom. But for some people this experience is
binding and for others liberating, and the problem is to achieve what the
Lankavatara calls that "turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness"
which effects the transformation.
Now the Mahayana was more thoroughgoing in its statement of this problem
than even Vedanta. For what is our ordinary, everyday experience? It is not
just our awareness of external circumstances or even such ordinary
activities as walking, eating, sleeping, breathing, and speaking; it
includes also our thinking and feeling: our ideas, moods, desires,
passions, and fears. In its most concrete form ordinary, everyday
experience is just how you feel at this moment. In a certain sense Buddhism
is very much a philosophy and a psychology of the moment, for if we are
asked what life is, and if our answer is to be a practical demonstration
and not a theory, we can do no better than point to the moment Now! It is
in the moment that we find reality and freedom, for acceptance of life is
acceptance of the present moment now and at all times..
Acceptance of the moment is allowing the moment to live, which, indeed, is
another way of saying that it is to allow life to live, to be what it is
now (yathabhutam). Thus to allow this moment of experience and all that it
contains freedom to be as it is, to come in its own time and to go in its
own time, this is to allow the moment, which is what we are now, to set us
free; it is to realize that life, as expressed in the moment, has always
been setting us free from the very beginning, whereas we have chosen to
ignore it and tried to achieve that freedom by ourselves.
For this reason Mahayana Buddhism teaches that Nirvana or enlightenment
cannot really be attained, because the moment we try to attain it by our
own power we are using it as an escape from what is now, and we are also
forgetting that Nirvana is unattainable in the sense that it already is.


Heidi asked:
> If a person has Awakened - in some sort of reality that can be
> experienced - has his mind undergone some sort of tranformation,
> whereby the dualities have actually BEEN merged, and he now sees only
> seamless unity in all things?
> If so, how could a person stand that for more than a day or so?

Wild guess here. Person has awakened to the fact that there is no "person".
Thus liberated from person's problems which were always only fictions and
were removed when person-fiction dropped. Seamless unity continues on as it
always has, nothing to "merge" or transform-the picket-fence view has been
removed as part of the home renovation. There would be "seeing" but no
person who sees; hearing but no person who hears, etc. Living might become
full and spontaneous. How could any "person" stand anything but that? What
persons can't stand is person-ness. There is no ground on which any person
could stand. Grounds maintenance a laborious chore.


(E) ................just remember what queen isabella said to columbus
on his return: "you did a good job kid, but the west indies aint

(E) Matthew, this quote/joke is so appropriate for so many terms and the
states they are supposed to designate as discussed on HS and NDS.
Good eye.
yours in the bonds,
(M).....................yah i thought so too. it actually is a
paraphrsed quote that someone told me their teacher wrote to them,
having to do with a particularly transcendent state the person was
in, and the conclusions they were making about it. it is so easy
(habitual) to draw conclusions about what we have "disvovered", about
where we feel we are at, what we understand or dont understand or
when we believe all sense of me-ness has dropped away, you know,like
when people refuse to use pronouns like I and me in their writings,
("here it is percieved as".....)as if refering to themselves could
somehow actually reinforce their identity. LOL. You could say that
there is no america to discover as that implies an end, a finality, a
finishing point. realization of all ready present enlightenment is
just the begining, kindergarten, and there is no end. And it is
always possible to get stuck. even realized people, people who
Understand get stuck, wallowing around in Understanding, mesmerized
by the Light.


Jody wrote:
> The moment when experiential knowledge arrives.

This moment? Just now?

How about now?



This is it.


Umm hmm.






on Buddha's enlightenment

Dear Greg,

Assuming this version of enlightenment isn't
pure fantasy, then it must be based on the actuality
of having achieved it.

That is, it can't be discussed as achievable unless achieved,
and this is the rationale for inventing a Buddha-figure
to whom such an enlightenment can be attributed.

Having been achieved, this enlightenment allows omniscience.
Would it not also allow omnipresence?
How could a localized being of limited capacities be

Being omnipresent and omniscient, the realized Buddha/bodhisattva
is now appearing to all sentient being skillfully helping
them in whatever way is best suited.

Because this has happened, all sentient beings are being
taken care of exactly in the way that best suits.

There is, therefore, no need for any other being to achieve
enlightenment. Nor is there any need for any additional
help to be added.


Hi Dan,

This version of enlightenment is based on the Mahayana sutras and commentaries, which are vast and
numerous. What are they based on?? :-) In this particular slant, the Buddha is still a localized being. He
is very skillful but not omnipotent, and as a being not omnipresent. There *are* aspects of the Buddha
that are omnipresent however, such as the Dharmakaya or Dharmadhatu or emptiness nature. (But
omnipotence is not always thought to accompany omniscience. For example Harold Kushner's version of
God in his book _When Bad Things Happen to Good People_. Kushner's revision of God in this book
makes God omniscient but not omnipotent. This is a solution to the traditional Judeo-Christian problem of
evil -- for Kushner, God knows all things but is not powerful enough to make only the good stuff happen.)

Some forms of Mahayana Buddhism, especially Ch'an, include a wonderfully rich, fascinating and
companionable interplay between the simultaneous teachings that (a) all beings are now being saved and
(b) one must work to save all beings. Seung Sahn writes about it a lot, and lots of the great old dialogues
and koans tread on the razor edge between (a) and (b). In Middle Way Buddhism, (a) and (b) are
looked at as in two different senses, corresponding to its "two-truths" doctrine. (a) captures the ultimate
truth that all beings are empty of inherent existence so in that same sense do not need to be saved, and (b)
captures the conventional truth that beings hurt, suffer and die, and desire to end the suffering.


Su wrote:
> It is often said here that there is no one to be enlightened, and
> no experience of enlightenment to be had. Have you inquired into
> this?

It's a dead-end, a cul-de-sac, a thought that eats its own tail and
explodes with a whimper. Is that your starting point or ending point
with all this? It seems that it is the similar refrain from many here.

"There is nothing to do or to know, because there is no one to do it
or to know it, so, just REALIZE yourself as you are, and smile big
and wide (or not)". Doesn't that just about sum it up? Oh, I know
some will be offended by this, so please rephrase it, so that it
captures the full aliveness of the non-dual experience, if you must,
and imagine that THAT is what I actually wrote.

That anyone would be satisfied with that kind of simplistic logic
thoroughly amuses me.

Here, you have this thing between your ears that easily is the most
complex structure in the Universe, capable of conscious thought, and
possibly comprehension OF the Universe, and the best that it can come
up with is, "Don't think about it - just accept reality as it is",
and the human who hears this echo in his head goes: "yeah, that
sounds right, ok, got it!"

Here is a question for you.
Have you considered that the brain (mind, arm, lips, whatever you
choose to call it) responsible for writing your paragraphs TO ME,
does not want you to get past that dead-end thinking. That it would
be in-con-veeeeenient, to say the least, if you did, especially if
many people did.

And, if you could START there, and think a little further, that would
mean that, maybe, 'reality' is not what you believe it is, that
'enlightenment' is not what you imagine it is, and 'thinking' is not
what you think it is, that "seeing things as they are" doesn't really
MEAN what you think it means, but something else entirely.

-------Love Heidi

(that was a command, don't get your hopes up.)


Hi Heidi,

I said: "It is often said here that there is no one to be enlightened,
and no experience of enlightenment to be had. Have you inquired into
this?" Inquired, not accepted. Big difference. I love your last
paragraph, it's fierceness. These "maybes" are more the kind of open
inquiry I was wondering if you had tried. I'm not saying you should.
It has been a helpful inquiry for me. But if something doesn't seem
helpful, better to drop it.

> ºI really don't know how Nirvana figures in, but those who have
º> ºcome to this understanding are under no illusions about their
º> ºbeing eternal Being absolute. That's what I always thought
º> ºNirvana was.
º> Nirvana is about a fundamental and irreversible change regarding
º> the mind-body. The same goes for moksha, the resurrection of
º> Christ and the annihilation of the lover in the beloved: all terms for
º> the same psycho-physical event, in the NT also called 'first death'.

º> It simply means " " as the sole 'factor' determining life, hence
º> unconditional. Thus, every thread comes to an end as the fire
º> (of desires) extinguishes. That is why 'nirvana' sometimes is translated
º> with "making cool by blowing". At "enlightenment", the fire still is
º> raging even if that seems different: as long as the ashes are glowing,
º> the fire will resume when new fuel is added. In other words, then the
º> thread continues.
ºBurn baby, burn!
Read the poems of Lalla - one of the few women covertly describing
"the" change. It pales the "apperception event" to an invisible star in
the sky on a lasting bright sunny day in the tropics.
The human interface holds a few surprises which cannot be
predicted nor "understood" by the finite mind, just intuited which
is more the exception than the rule.


ºProbably stupid question-but, could you say if there is
º"only understanding" without the "you" (an owner of the understanding -
ºseparation of understanding and some entity having it)
ºit just might be "God"?

Understanding always is secondary: no thoughts arise so what is there to be understood?
Hence the issue of 'understanding' is quite a laugh as it only signifies a mind in motion
whereas the silent mind is the proverbial bliss forever.



Zero is clarity that nothing is lacking,
so now nothing to be understood,
and what use is claiming "Understanding"?

-- Dan


> We're still left here with two: thoughts
> and awareness of thoughts.

That inference was not intended. What was said was
"thoughts [have] no substance apart from the borrowed light [ie. awareness]
in which they appear." the exact opposite was intended -- we are awareness
(if in fact "we" are at all) and there is nothing truly separate from
awareness. Separable things (ie. non-dependent things) can merely be implied
by thought but they are not therefore established.

so what can be said by way of conclusion?

how about "there are no non-dependent things"?


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Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: