My favorite basic Buddhism primer is “The Heart of Buddha’s Meaning” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I remember reading this part of the book. I was in the student union on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Up on the second floor, in the back is a hallway that leads to and from offices and some of the large assembly spaces, which are mostly unused in the middle of a weekday. This hall is lined with sofas and chairs and is generally used for napping. I used to go there between classes to read and sleep. One afternoon, I lay there and read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book quietly chuckling to myself. I couldn’t help giggling in shear delight.
About two-thirds of the way through the book, he reveals that Nirvana is not some mystical place like heaven, or even some other realm of existence, or alternative state into which one can transcend upon death. Nirvana is now, this very moment, this very life, this very place. We simply don’t see it. We don’t let the perfection of the present moment penetrate our daily lives. We create mental shields against it.
It was the greatest joke I had ever heard. I laughed, not in a cynical or jaded way. In that moment, realizing that one thing, I was happy. Every time I think of it, I am happy. I smile. My mood lifts, I breath easier in that moment, and my shoulders finally loosen. Of course, the trick is to always keep that thought in the forefront of my mind no matter what else is occurring in my life, which is not always easy.
Nirvana is now - go figure. :-)