The Island, Chapter 20, “Ah, What Bliss!” The Blessings of Nibbana
Discourses to be read out loud:
20.1, 20.3, 20.4, 20.10, 20.11
This month as we finish up our book, we are asked to contemplate the taste of release. Although subtle, the experience of release is unforgetable, completely trustworthy and in no way could it be misconstrude as dukkha. It undermines a very strong heavy assumption that much of life is to be feared and therefore pleasant experience should be grasped to provide some relief from the stress of fear.
We need to intuite the experience of release in order to feel inspired and to energized in our practice. This inspiration provides greater and greater immunity to the conditioned habits of fearing and grasping. Ajahn Pasanno states on p. 338, “Having faith and confidence in something naturally draws us toward it; when we have no faith or confidence, there is little or no sense of attraction. Sometimes, people shrink back from Nibbana, viewing it as a source of loss or a blankness, and so feel little faith or confidence in it.”
As Ajahn mentions later in the chapter, it is not easy to understand the happiness of Nibbana from a conceptual framework. Paraphrasing the Buddha, “However we conceive it, it will be otherwise.” However, we can clearly know the experience of dependence, the sense of oneself being tied to something. Any dependence is stressful and experienced as a weight. Do we, can we, intuite the experience of independence the mind not tied to good and bad, this and that, even our ideas of happiness and suffering. We conventionally call this experience equanimity.
Let’s use this month to challenge any experience of dependence that we see operating in the mind. This is not meant to be an excuse to pretend that we don’t care, but rather an opportunity to reflect, “Is there actually someone dependent?” Or, is this weight of dependence nothing but a superficial squeeze of the heart that the mind habitual misunderstands, takes it to be something that it is in fact not?