Zen & Buddhism Q&As

What is Nirvana?

To understand what’s meant by Nirvana, we need to understand ‘not doing’.

The fourth of the five skandhas  (the Buddhist description of the five constituent parts of a human being) is called, ‘samskara’, which is, often unhelpfully, rendered as ‘will’, or ‘volition’, or ‘mental fabrication’.   (Mental fabrication is possibly the least unhelpful translation) 

Samskara  describes what we are continuously doing with our experience: for example; we are interpreting it; we’re making a structure of it; we’re fitting it with other experiences in the past or the future, we are not letting it be.

Nirvana is not doing that. Essentially we are letting everything just be as it is, in openness and indeterminacy. We are not grasping things conceptually. We are not saying ‘that’s a wall’, ‘that’s a car’ ‘ that’s trauma’ and so on. We are allowing everything to exist in its full and unlimited expression.

The Lotus Sutra says that all things have Nirvana as their essence. What that means is, that if we don’t grasp something; by interpretation and judgment, then we allow it its full nature. This full nature, its infinite expression, is Nirvana.