Nirvana - Freedom from Life and Death

“The One who gives you the most pain, is none other than (your) Buddha… as he is the one who helps you evolve”.

Happiness in Austerity - Buddha

I was introduced to the teachings of Buddha for the first time when I was in middle school. Those days the ‘eight fold path’ to salvation was just another chapter in my history book. As years went by I realized that every religion offered some check points to regulate the conduct of humans in the society, be it Vedas in Hinduism or Ten Commandments in Christianity. Every religion prescribed almost the same techniques to attain freedom from shackles of life. However, one thing which caught my attention in Buddha’s teachings was his emphasis on ‘happiness in austerity’. All of us want to be surrounded by good people and live happier and joyful lives but the fact remains that we hardly get to learn anything from such happy moments. It’s only the bad time which helps us evolve spiritually and makes us wiser. It only happens in the darkest hour of our life that we shut the doors to the outside world and turn inward. It seems highly impractical, insensitive and unrealistic to ask someone to treat the most horrible and soul wrenching moment of his life as a blessing in disguise but …that’s what it is IN FACT.

Turmoil and tribulation, often times, trigger the process of transformation and self realization. The best illustration supporting this fact would be the sudden awakening of Kundalini (primal energy), without formal initiation, in the wake of a devastating event. There have been many reported incidents where people have experienced sudden spiritual awakening while undergoing a severe emotional upheaval brought about by an unexpected tragic event e.g. loss of a loved one. It took me almost a lifetime to understand why higher souls like Buddha embraced austerity even when they could live a life of abundance. Material gain was certainly not their objective. The ability and the desire to look deep within, and beyond the obvious, acted as a fuel for their transcendence.

Listen to No One…Buddha

‘Don’t follow me or anyone else unless the path feels right to you.’

His teachings were remarkably simple, down to earth, and doable, and at the same time, left everyone with a choice to follow or not to follow his path. Using that leverage I often ask myself if renouncing the world and detaching oneself with the worldly ties, paves way for liberation of soul? I completely understand that my personal opinion would not count here and that no one would ever dare to challenge the path walked by a man who has been, ever since, worshiped and revered like God. Being a seeker (like many out there) my job is to find the ‘Truth’ and the ‘Truth’ has to be the one which agrees with my thought process just like Gautama Buddha had said.

If we consider austerity and renunciation as two major milestones in the journey to enlightenment, then it should mean that all spiritualists (who renounce the world) attain ‘Moksha’ / salvation (freedom from birth & death). Has anyone ever wondered if Buddha actually attained Nirvana? Can we say for sure that he was never sent back to this earth to be born again as a human? Such thoughts do cross my mind time and again.

Karmic Life vs. Yogic Life

Hinduism emphasizes on the importance of fulfilling the duties during one’s lifetime. It is said that the one who dies after fulfilling all his obligations, rests in peace because he has nothing to come back for. It (kind of) makes sense as it sounds similar to the theory that ‘re-birth is a matter of choice’. One school of thought holds that there is no heaven or hell and as such there is no judgment day; if souls come back to be reborn, they do so by choice. Taking this philosophy as a basis of my research, I started digging deeper and stumbled on a past life regression story of a man who recalled himself to be a sage who had spent 15-20 years meditating in Himalayas, in his past life. During the regression session he saw that he had abandoned his poverty-stricken family and had found his abode in snow peaked mountains. The most interesting part of the story was that he had renounced the world and had spent the rest of his life as a sage…..a sage who had subjected his body to abject starvation and excessive harsh weather for almost two decades. He recalled his frozen body being washed away along with the gushing water, running down the mountains, after he died in freezing cold. The story didn’t end here. Surprisingly, he had to return to the earth to be born as a human again and face the day to day hardships of life in the process of providing sustenance for his family. Moral of the story – renunciation does not lead to liberation. He had not fulfilled his duties as a son / husband / father in the previous life and as such, had to come back to finish what he had left undone. Being an ascetic didn’t come to his rescue.

Desire is the cause of human suffering - Buddha

Buddha had said that the cause of human suffering is desire and that freedom from desire leads to Nirvana. Well, if the words of Gautama Buddha are taken as gospel truth then the ascetic in the above story should have attained Nirvana in his previous life only, as he had severed his ties with the materialistic world and had chosen to live a life free of desires. Clearly that didn’t happen and he had to come back. The story again proves the point – Karmic life is more powerful than asceticism and if done with complete sincerity and devotion, paves way for liberation of soul and freedom from the cycle of birth and death. There is no freedom unless the purpose of life is fulfilled. There is a reason we are born and our sole duty should be to realize that purpose and try hard to fulfill it with utmost sincerity, honesty and dedication so that we free ourselves from the cycle of birth and death for all times to come. Ironically, the entire process of spiritual evolution starts from the ‘desire’ to know the purpose and ends with the ‘desire’ to fulfill it. So to say, the element of ‘desire’ exists everywhere and in all we do, whether good or bad. Can there be freedom from ‘desire’ in real sense? A thought for the day!


Freedom from Life and Death

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Comments 17 comments

eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Interesting, but some how I just do not get it. This does not seem to be a life but a waste of a life. Trying to figure out who you are and abandoning everything? This just doesn't fit right to me. I get my fulfillment and spiritual from providing for others, especially for my family. This is the greatest gift and reward. And to abandon them to find yourself, sounds more like losing yourself. I just don't get it?

Keep on hubbing!


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Eovery: I'm glad we are on the same page. I also don't get it. That's why I felt prompted to write about it. I'm expecting some critical comments in this hub but it's ok for me. I will still speak what feels right. Thx so much for sharing your opinion.


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 5 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Anjali: This hub gave me food for thought; withdrawing completely from life is giving away the soul's opportunity in experiencing different scenarios that gives the soul the opportunity to grow and access where it stands in the face of different tests. Does the soul learn to forgive? choose love over material possesions? Be kind in the presence of great success? These questions and more, came up for me as I finished reading this hub.

Rated up!

Beautiful thoughts, the ones I love to connect to!

Hugs and peace,

Marie


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 5 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Hm, prince Gautama Buddha did not leave his family in poverty - on the contrary, his family was left rich, more then well provided.

"Ascet" just left his wife in children helpless and poor, exposed them to various dangers, humiliations and suffering - he was just running away from his duty, what IS different. If he did not have family, he would not need to come back. Without family- his ascetism would work for sure, why not?

Life without desire is just not possible, Buddha had very passionate desire - but was focused on spiritual experiences because he was attached to another, non-Earthly dimensions of reality, where there in no pain and unjustice we need to face here on Earth.

With this non-attachment to material possessions would be everything right if there was not the others who are greedy and attached to material world too much. Tibetans were living peaceful life, not-too-attached, when Chinese people came, who were (are) very, very attached to Tibet...and we can see results now... just food for thoughts.

Love and Hugs...


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Hi Marie! Yes you're right. We have many questions that need to be answered. It seems that when God created this earth, he said to the first human being,

"Go figure! I've created this beautiful abode for you and for the next million years you'll spend understanding it."

As we evolve, we tend to see things clearly and the answers keep coming to us naturally. In this hub I tried to share something on the basis of that small voice in my head. I just hope that most people are able to relate to what I wrote. Thx a lot for your wise words. (Hugs)


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Hi Tatjana! Yes thats precisely what I meant. By giving an example of the sage (in previous life) I wanted to emphasize on the importance of fulfilling life obligations over renunciation. Like you also mentioned, there can be no freedom (from life & death cycle) if one runs away from one's obligations even though one runs towards God. I didn't compare his case with that of Gautama Buddha because we all know that Buddha's family was well provided for. However, I wonder if 'life duties' involve only providing money (material gains) to the family. I guess it includes consortium with the spouse and nurturing children with parental love & care. I might be wrong though. Thx so much for your valuable insight.


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Sounds like these guys experiences is the same a drug. The are hooked on a sensation just like a drug.

Keep on hubbing!


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Eovery: Sorry I didn't quite understand. What exactly do you want to convey?


Jewels profile image

Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

You bring in great subjects to be mused over. It also shows the difficulty of dropping the ordinary mind in the search for the Self. Attachment then detachment. Having desires and then knowing that no matter what material desires you could have, nothing sates the desire to be in union with something as divine as the Absolute. And yet in all our grossness as fallen human beings we don't really understand what that state feels like, or what is required to attain it.

There is love (akin to loving pizza and the dog), then there is real LOVE, that burns and burns all our scars, our traumas, our blocked bits. It demands opening ourselves and being vulnerable to a space so exquisite and hot. We run a mile from it because it means facing all our crap to get there.

The laws of karma are extremely complex, particularly trying to fathom it from the mind. One thinks they are satisfying their 'obligations', yet are they? Even through the discipline of giving, is the giving from the place of selflessness and 'righteousness' in the eyes of a higher judge? Is the act of giving a mind made reason or path to a higher state or a character assassination for the sake of martyrdom?

Desire is the reason for human suffering, yet if we turned our desire to only wanting our Divinity and nothing else, we would achieve it. That is freedom from desire. Paradoxes!

An understanding of The Fall, when we became separate, is that those who did not see themselves as separate from the divine immediately achieved Union with the Divine. Those that saw themselves less than, and therefore desired to be reunited, fell.

'Renunciation does not lead to Liberation.' I love this one. You cannot reach a state of wholeness when the path is to renounce bits of yourself. To see all yourself, warts and all, acceptance of the entire human condition - the good, bad and ugly will lead to Liberation A path of awakening is one where you become 'all that you can be' so you reach your full potential. In the teachings of Steiner for example he speaks of a transformed astral body. In this model you seek the highest of yourself and do not get pulled by traumas and events that create reactions. But even in this model it is really the lower self he speaks of. The attainment of Enlightenment is to not be pulled by your Astral Body but to be above or beyond it. You can be in your body, but not subject to the animal pulls that create the malaise of the human condition. Renunciation would then be easy. To understand that you are in the world but not of it is needed.

Reunion to the Absolute is an entirely different realm of consciousness, and is not subject to reincarnation. It's way beyond duality. So those who have achieved it will not come back to tell us about it!

The ultimate search for Truth is to reach a state where you are Divine. That is the only Truth to find. Hard though as we get pulled left and right trying to find it! Paradoxically all we had to do in the first place was BE our Divine selves. It is written that we can reach Enlightenment in 5 minutes. I'd love to see that!


Vidhya 5 years ago

Hi anjali , i came across ur hub really interesting . I want to know about some other things aswell . 1. Immortal or eternal life . 2. When we should obey mind and heart . Right now i jst want to know these . Can u post .


Vidhya  5 years ago

Can i open third eye chakra first before opening other chakras


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Jewels:

I'm more than tempted to cut paste some of the very insightful and enlightening words from your post, in order for the readers to have a summarized version of it. I don't want anyone visiting this hub leave without reading the gist of your content. It's been one of the most amazing responses I've ever got in my hubs.

"It demands opening ourselves and being vulnerable to a space so exquisite and hot. We run a mile from it because it means facing all our crap to get there."

"is the giving from the place of selflessness and 'righteousness' in the eyes of a higher judge?"

"A path of awakening is one where you become 'all that you can be' so you reach your full potential.....you seek the highest of yourself and do not get pulled by traumas and events that create reactions."

"So those who have achieved it will not come back to tell us about it!"

"Hard though as we get pulled left and right trying to find it! Paradoxically all we had to do in the first place was BE our Divine selves."

I must have read your post at least 10 times and I can't tell you how much it meant to me. I've to thank you for those precious pearls (words) you graced my hub with. Thx a ton.


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Hi Vidya!

I can see that you're desperate to get your answers the way I was and still am. :)

1. First of, about Chakras...It sounds like getting into Phd program without getting your college degree. :) Well, going to Third Chakra straightaway is not impossible but is not advisable. Your lower Chakras have to be well grounded & fully functional before you can proceed to the Third Chakra. The opening of thirds chakra often opens doors to the other world and for that you've to be strong enough to understand and accept it without fear. If you get scared you'll never be able to tread again.

2. About immortal & eternal life....what exactly do you want to know about that? All I can tell you is that our body is mortal and soul is immortal. It leaves one body and enters another till the time its purpose is fulfilled and while doing do its Karmas follow it in every life until it achieves liberation or union with the Divine.

3. Obeying mind or heart....it seems you're facing some kind of conflict at this point of time in life. Well, its always been a difficult question to answer. From worldly point of view, it seems sensible to obey the mind because its the seat of logic, reasoning and practicality ...all of which is required for living in this world.

As against our mind, the heart does not know anything other than love, emotion, passion and compassion. In order to live a balanced life, we need to create a harmony between head and heart so that we free ourselves from the conflicts created by them. I'm sure all of this sounds difficult to achieve but if you read the comments of 'Jewels' posted above, you'll understand what I mean and what we should achieve while we are on this planet.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to come back. :)


Jewels profile image

Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

anjalichugh thank you for your compliment, it was sincerely touching. I've used your opening quote on my facebook wall. I found it inspiring and timely as I'm about to go into seven weeks of spiritual practices with my teacher.


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 5 years ago from New York Author

Jewels:

Thanks for being so kind and encouraging. I'll pray that you get what you're looking for. Wish you a wonderful week ahead. :)


Greenheart profile image

Greenheart 4 years ago from Cambridge

Hi Anjali.

This is a great hub, with a few significant points.

You talk of freedomm from desire, and if thats possible.Desire can certainly be used to make what we need to happen, happen. And i think that there is nothing wrong about it. There could be desire for liberation, not just worldly goals. And some may say that enlightenment, in terms of being The Witness, has no trace of desire in it, at all.(The witness consciousness has been described, in the Hindu tradition,as completely free of all karma, all birth and death,all fear,etc).

I also love the story about the frozen yogi who had to be re-born in order to serve his family. This seems true. My Guru did once say that many of his devotees in this life had probably done the yogi, ascetic path in a previous life, and now had to deal with "money, food and sex". I do think there can be a lot of idealism in spirituality, and what may be called "spiritual bypass" in the world of psychotherapy. Thats enough from me. :-)All the best to you!. Gavin


anjalichugh profile image

anjalichugh 4 years ago from New York Author

Hi Gavin: So good to see you. Its been long time.

Yes, I agree with you. There can be a lot of idealism in spirituality. The way I see it ....spirituality is the way to connect with the higher self and this connection is important to navigate through life. without this connection its very easy to lose sight of one's purpose while traveling through this wilderness. Its as simple as that. Your comments are highly appreciated. Thank you. :)

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