Nibbāna – How can it be described?
What is nibbāna? And where is nibbāna? For general understanding, nibbāna is not a state of paradise or some sort of heavenly realms that can be found alongside the planes of existence within the cosmos. In an ultimate sense, nibbāna does not exist at all, but why? This is because there is non-existence of the mind to provide with descriptions, perceptions, names, shapes, etc. within the state of nibbāna. Furthermore, mind is dependent arising but nibbāna is a non-dependent arising state of affairs i.e. with no rising and falling activities taking place. In other words, nibbāna is a completely neutralised state of affairs – in contrast with the conventional phenomenon that would subject to the conditional influences i.e. in a continuous and constantly changing state of affairs.
In the dependent nature or samsāra, there is an element of suffering or dukkha. Suffering means ‘bearing with’ in the Buddhist context and ‘letting go’ is the antonym of it. Literally, there are no elements of grasping when one practises letting go. When no grasping arises, the becoming process would slow down. This is because everything in the dependent nature is nothing but energy. And energy is nothing but mere vibration. When the becoming process slows down, it means energy is vibrating at lower frequencies. When the becoming process ceases, energy literally stops vibrating. Energy just got ‘frozen.’ Zero vibration means zero becoming. Zero becoming means an absolute cessation of any changing activities. Thus an absolute stage of absence is achieved. Absence means a perfect state of balance. Therefore, absence is not about nothingness but instead it is about no-thing-ness. No thing means no becoming or no changing. No changing means no suffering. No suffering means no mind. Mind is the forerunner of all states. No mind means a completely neutralised state of affairs - that is nibbāna. The state of nibbāna is inexplicable in conventional terms but still, it can be tasted by the enlightened ones during deep meditation.
However, there is an argument that says nothing stops completely in the scientific world. In physics, there is something called zero-point energy or the lowest level that energy could exist. Scientists have discovered that Hydrogen (the smallest molecule in the material Universe with a single atom) cannot be frozen completely i.e. it would cool down to a specific low temperature and then continues to vibrate again. In other words, the material Universe does not freeze itself completely in the coldest region and there is always energy that vibrates in the outer space.
Well, it is a valid argument that energy can neither be stationary nor be created nor be destroyed in the scientific sense. But how then could we best describe a scenario of ‘frozen’ energy here? Let us look at the case of a black hole in the material Universe. Black holes were originally called frozen stars because they appear to ‘freeze’ at a size just slightly bigger than the Schwarzschild radius - the distance at which all matter within that distance will collapse into the singularity. Around the black hole, there is a surface called event horizon that marks the point of no return. Any objects that fall and cross the event horizon would appear to freeze from the perspective of an observer who is stationary at great distance from the event horizon. Just as in Einstein’s special theory of relativity, if you were to enter a black hole, you would find your watch ticking along at the same rate as it always had but someone else at great distance from the black hole would see a different ticking rate on your watch than the usual, and you would see their watch to be ticking at a different than normal rate.
For instance, if you were to station yourself just outside a black hole, while you would find your own watch ticking at the normal rate, you would see the watch of a friend at great distance from the hole to be ticking at a much faster rate than yours. Your friend would see his own watch ticking at a normal rate, but see your watch to be ticking at a much slower rate. Thus if you stayed just outside the black hole for a while, then went back to join your friend, you would find that the friend had aged more than you had during your separation. At the end of the day, if you were to cross into the event horizon, you appear to freeze, as seen by your friend and it is only an ‘optical’ illusion that makes your friend think that you never cross the horizon when in actual fact you did.
Once again, when one talks about energy, one talks about vibration. And energy can never be stationary at any point of time but it can appear to freeze under a special circumstance described as above. In other words, when there are opposing forces, there would be vibration. In the absence of opposing forces, vibration would cease to exist i.e. it is considered to be blown-off but not annihilated. This means in the absence of vibration, energy would still exist but it seems to freeze due to homologous force arising.
In the Buddhist context, there are two opposing forces arising in the dependent nature i.e. the force of Awakening (an inward tendency force) and the force of Ignorance (an outward tendency force). For an ignorant being, during a disintegrating process, the elements of prevailing consciousness or so-called the ‘chain of consciousness’ would die out and the force of Ignorance would overcome the force of Awakening. The elements of subtle consciousness would then liberate into fragments. The amount of liberated fragments is very much dependent on the level of Ignorance or Awakening within the being. And for an ignorant being, the level of Ignorance would surpass the level of Awakening and this would mean the intensity of Ignorance is higher than the intensity of Awakening. A higher intensity of Ignorance would mean a higher intensity of becoming. A higher intensity of becoming would mean a higher amount of liberated fragments. On the other hand, for a fully awakened being, the force of Ignorance would be blown-off (cease to exist) completely. The remaining force of Awakening i.e. an inward tendency force would conquest in full scale and thus conjuring up a circumstance that is known as the black hole of emptiness i.e. the eternal bliss of nibbāna.
As a conclusion, nibbāna is a completely neutralised state of affairs that is boundless, timeless and permanent. The ultimate goal in the Buddhist practice is to quest for an everlasting happiness that is unconditional via enlightenment. While enlightenment is about realisation, wisdom is about applying it into one’s daily perspectives and decision making, wholesomely. Therefore, if one wishes to gain enlightenment and wisdom, one would need to walk the walk and not talk the talk. In other words, enlightenment can never be achieved through desire for it is a mere intention of building castles in the air. Buddhism is about the sheer determination to pull one’s act together to end the state of suffering conclusively and not just blowing hot air.
~ Ignorance triumphs when wise men do nothing ~