A Karmic Blowout
"Nirvana can only arise unintentionally, spontaneously, when the
impossibility of self-grasping has been thoroughly perceived."
Alan Watts in The Way of Zen
The experience of
nirvana is the state of liberation from the grasping and
self-frustration that is at the root of suffering. It is the end of the
effects of karma, which move the wheel of birth and death. Nirvana
is the experience of awakening that is Buddhahood. In trying to define nirvana
in The Way of
Zen, Alan Watts says, it is “a word of such dubious etymology that
simple translation is exceedingly difficult. It has been variously
with Sanskrit roots which would make it mean the blowing out of a
or simply blowing out (ex- or de-spiration), or with the cessation of
turnings, or circlings (vritti) of the mind.”
If we take the meaning of nirvana
to suggest blowing out the ego as one blows out a candle, we can
practice a meditation that focuses on the outbreath and reminds us of
the importance of releasing our grasp on the causes of suffering.
Sitting in meditation,
assume your upright posture and focus on your breath. Especially focus
on the out-breath. Give your attention to the outwardness of it.
Breathe gently, but with a slightly stronger emphasis on exhaling than
inhaling. Sense the breath leaving the confines of your body. Your
breath goes out and you have released it. You no longer control it, and
it is no longer your concern. The molecules of air you have sent off on
a journey may wind up thousands of miles away. Other people whom you
don’t know may breathe them again. It is not your worry.
Just as you let go of your
breath, let go of your mental constructs. Let go of your ego
activities. With your exhalation, breathe out your worries, your
thoughts about things, and your reflections upon yourself. Sit in the
void that is like the space between breaths. Sit empty of unnecessary
churning of the mind. Let the breath carry away distraction. Sit in
awareness, wakefulness and peace. When mental turbulence drifts into
your mind, breathe it out. Let the air take it away.
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© 2003 Tom Barrett