Nibbana for Everyone
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Messages from Suan Mokkh series
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When you hear the words “Nibbana for everyone,” many of you will shake your heads. You’ll think that I’m trying to dye cats for sale1 and you probably won’t have any interest in the subject. This can only happen because you understand the meaning of this phrase too narrowly and out of line with the truth.
In the schools, children are taught that Nibbana is the death of an arahant. The ordinary man in the street has been taught that it’s a special city, empty of pain and chock full of the happiness of fulfilled wishes, supposedly reached after death by those who store up perfections (paramis) over tens of thousands of lifetimes. Modern social developers see it as an obstruction to progress that we shouldn’t get involved with or even discuss. Most students consider it a matter only for devout old folks at the temple, with no relevance for the young. Young men and women think it’s bland and unexciting, awful and frightening. All the candidates for the monkshood merely mouth without understanding the vow “May I go forth in order to awaken to Nibbana.” The old monks say Nibbana can’t happen anymore in this day and age and that an arahant cannot exist anymore either. Nibbana has become a secret that no one cares about. We’ve turned it into something barren and silent, buried away in the scriptures, to be paid occasional life service in ser-mons while no one really knows what it is.
In fact, without this theme of Nibbana, Buddhism would be as good as dead. When nobody is interested in Nibbana, then nobody is genuinely interested in Buddhism. When nothing about Nibbana interests us, then we can’t get any benefits at all from Buddhism. I feel that it’s about time for us to get interested and bring about this highest benefit, as befits the words “Nibbana is the Supreme Thing” – namely, the highest goal of living beings, a purpose always inseparable from our daily lives