The Buddha talked about Nirvana a great deal. Usually he would talk of it in negative terms, so he might say, for example, that it wasn’t perception and it wasn’t no perception, things like that.
But among the few positive statements he made about Nirvana, one in particular is very resonant. He said that Nirvana was the ground of the holy life.
From that, I think it’s clear that Nirvana is not an achievement, or a place, or a destination, or a state, but it’s an intrinsic faculty of us as human beings.
But if nirvana isn’t a state, or a place, then what are we to make of its apparent opposite, Samsara?
Samsara is normally explained in terms of the transmigration between the six realms of existence: the hell realm, the realm of hungry ghosts, the animal realm, the fighting demons realm, the heavenly realm, and the human realm.
I say that Nirvana and Samsara both arise within this practice of zazen. The ‘ground’ that the Buddha talks about is this body. The space which is there, which is common to all the realms of existence, is the space of our awareness in zazen, and the space which holds all these different aspects of existence. And it is the one space.
Nirvana and Samsara are both within us, and contain us, and are here, now. And if they’re not here, and now, then where are they?