“Nirvana” is a name that pops up, ever so often, in conversations of rock/grunge music fans, intellectuals, and those wannabe intellectuals. The meaning of Nirvana (not the band) can be found in Buddhism and Hinduism and is basically the beatitudes that transcend the cycle of suffering and rebirth. Or in other words, Nirvana is a state of complete bliss.
What is Nirvana?
Although it is used and can be found in the teachings of Hinduism, which is one of the oldest religions of the world, Nirvana is more commonly associated with Buddhism, which is considered an off-shoot of Hinduism. Buddhism, inspired by the spiritual teachings of The Buddha (Siddhartha Guatama), began as a movement within Hinduism in the early 5th century before diverging to form its own spiritual path.
Legend has it that after Gautama took to this path, he reached a state of enlightenment which he was unable to elucidate in language. This state of being is what he called ‘Nirvana’, which is Sanskrit for ‘extinguish’. In a nutshell, Nirvana is a reference to being in the highest state of consciousness, oneness with all of creation while existing as a human being.
How to Achieve Nirvana?
A cluttered mind is an epidemic, especially in western society, and in an attempt to tune out from a world full of chaos many are turning towards the practice of meditation, burning incenses, banging gongs, chanting, etc. But the truth is that one can only come close to Nirvana by going inward and walking the path of self-realization. One proven and time-honored path is the practice of meditation.
It is believed that by entering states of enlightenment, one can transcend the cycle of birth and rebirth in this particular dimension often recognized as reincarnation in both Hinduism and Buddhism. According to both philosophies, a person’s consciousness or soul is, in essence, sculpted in association with their actions, which is also referred to as Karma. It is interesting to note here that the law of Karma has less to do with god’s judgment on man and more to do with a person’s own actions that reflect a certain vibration or frequency. This is strangely more in line with Newton’s law of motion, which is, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
The state of Nirvana is further distinguished by two definitions within Buddhism as well; In Theravada Buddhism, Nirvana means achieving the final goal or ‘liberation’ by removing all harmful habits and mistaken views that may lead to personal difficulties. One can easily overcome these habits by practicing certain meditation techniques.
In Mahayana Buddhism, achieving Nirvana does not just include achieving benefits for the practitioner, but also for others as well. Since one is not caught up in their own personal problems, one becomes more able to help others. In this sense, Mahayana can be described as a two-step goal with Nirvana being attained after one has freed themselves from limiting concepts of life.
It is important to understand that when we meditate, we are not learning something which is new, or unheard of before, but rather we are teaching our minds to get out of their own way in order to recapture the peace which is already within us.