The Third Noble Truth
Nibbana essentially means the complete uprooting of greed, hatred and delusion and the end of the suffering caused by craving. It’s helpful to keep an open mind about what this means and to let it be an ongoing source of reflection in your practice. We often find our views of nibbana changing as we explore practice in more depth.
At times, nibbana may seem a distant and seemingly impossible goal. We may feel that it is only accessible to people who lived in the past or only something of serious concern to nuns and monks. When we think in this way, it may feel irrelevant to our practice. However, it’s helpful to get a sense of what it means by considering more ordinary moments of peace and contentment. For instance, one of my students said to me once how she sometimes felt happy sitting on a bus for no reason at all. This feeling of happiness for no reason may give us a clue as to the nature of nibbana. It refers to freedom beyond loss and gain, and the end of the attempt to build happiness on shifting sands.
It’s useful to see the four noble truths as a moment to moment reflection rather than simply being a description of what happens over a long period of time. We can see that the sense of dukkha in our lives is not constant. At times it is very pronounced and the struggle is clearly evident. At other times, it may become much more subtle. It’s helpful to explore what happens in these moments, to notice the sense of freedom that’s apparent. This can lead to a deep questioning of our notions of what we need to be happy. Sensing the relief of the freedom from the compulsions of craving helps to open up new ways of being in the world.
Notice how the sense of struggle varies from moment to moment in your life. What’s present and what’s absent in those times when there’s a greater sense of freedom and ease. Notice ‘ordinary’ moments when craving lessens. What does this feel like? What does that open up? What do these moments imply about what we need to peaceful and free?
Mindfulness of thoughts
Each day, practice the meditation on mindfulness of thoughts for twenty minutes
Write brief notes in your journal about what you notice in your practice.
Reflect in your journal about the moments in your life when you feel most peaceful. What mental factors are present or absent at such times?