The Buddha said:
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of dukkha (suffering): the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
What image comes to your mind when you think of Nirvana? Is it an enlightened state where you’re floating above the clouds in peace? Perhaps you get the image of a beautiful paradise somewhere on earth. Most I’ve asked believe it to be an ethereal realm, outside of this one or not, that you get to once you’ve meditated enough.
Unfortunately, the Nirvana described by Buddha is not as mystical as it has been portrayed. But it is vastly more beautiful.
The Buddha said
“Nirvana is the extinction of craving. It is the absence of desire and attachment. It is the extinction of jealousy and hate. The freedom from conceit, boredom and unhappiness.
A person in this state is not anxious at the time of his death. They will know they have lived a life of purity, done everything that needs to be done, and knows nothing more is left to be done. “
This is the Third reality. The end of unhappiness, a non-struggling, peaceful mind, free of desire, is possible. There is an end to your cycle of desperation. The unsatisfactory nature of life can come to an end.
Don’t get hung up on Nirvana. The grandiose imagery it accompanies. It is simply meant to imply a letting go, a breathing out. An awakening from your lifelong sleep. A lack of clinging to everything.
Life is like breath, you cannot take in more than you need, and if you hold onto it, you will die.
In the state of Nirvana, when you experience a pleasant emotion, you will be passionate. When you experience an unpleasant emotion, you will also be passionate. But it will not bind you. The passion will not bind you. You will not be a slave to your passion. Your happiness will not come from outside of your being, it will come from within.
It may sound very simple. Merely stop desiring, and there is absolute peace. There is pure bliss, enlightenment, Nirvana. In a way it is very simple. However we’ve taken the idea of Nirvana and placed it on a pedestal. We’ve made a fantasy of what Nirvana should be and what effort it would take to get there. The type of devoted and otherworldly being you must be in order to attain it.
This air of unattainability that’s been attributed to enlightenment over centuries is one of the many reasons that it remains unattained. However it is as simple as relinquishing all desires. The difficulty comes in becoming aware of yourself enough to even recognize all of your desires. Then becoming detached from all your desires.
Some desires are very obvious, and some are incredibly subtle. Begin with the obvious and you will start to become aware of the very subtle. One by one, you’ll observe each desire that you’ve become aware of. Dissect your attachment to each one. Ask yourself now, what desires do you have?
Let’s for example say you have a desire to be beautiful, to be handsome. This may not be your ultimate desire, however somewhere in your mind is this nagging desire that you attempt to fulfil in every day. In the way you eat, the way you dress, and in the way you interact.
First become aware of this desire. Recognize that it has roots within your mind. Now ask yourself, what is your attachment to this desire? What do you believe will come to you from the fulfillment? How will you know that you are beautiful?
You may feel that beauty will result in adoration from a lover. You believe that their adoration of you will make you happy. However, has adoration ever given you lasting happiness? How many compliments have you received, and for how long have they given you happiness?
Now, imagine how you will feel on the day when your lover is not nice to you. You will worry, am I not beautiful now? Am I not handsome? When a picture shows a side of you that isn’t beautiful. When age begins to disintegrate the features that you found beautiful. You will be in despair. You will be frantic until you regain your beauty.
Can you see how a person’s misery can stem from their desire? Desire places your happiness in the hands of things that fade. In the hands of impermanence. Sometimes in the hands of the unattainable or the unreal.
The desire for beauty was only the desire for happiness. However, happiness in this scenario was dependent on beauty. Therefore happiness will never be lasting, attainable, or eternal. Happiness is only eternal when it is stemming from your eternal being, attached to nothing. In a state where you’ve realized that desire for anything only results in suffering. When you realize that desire is futile.
It is to be understood, however, that this person could still engage in the same activities. Still beautify themselves, fix their hair, flatter their figure with clothing, exercise, and apply makeup. But the attachment to the desire won’t be there. This person could enjoy their beauty, but their happiness would have nothing to do with it. They would be happy on a day that they did not feel beautiful.
If a person is able to do this, to unravel all of these desires through understanding of their futility, they will find absolute bliss. This state of Nirvana will start to grow in them.
However, do not cling to the idea of this state. Desire for this state will only leave you where you started, again in strife, in suffering. The Buddha uses the word upeksha, absolute indifference. From indifference, you will not have the desire. Only from indifference can you begin to experience Nirvana, with the knowledge of its presence. The Third Noble Truth is simply to be understood. The presence of Nirvana within you.