Beyond Pleasure and Pain

Nibhana sounds awful. Why would I want to strive for a state beyond mind and matter? Isn’t that simply non existence? Why am I supposed to believe that this state is blissful? Couldn’t it just as easily be hellish? The intellectual goal of seeking Nibhana is insufficient to motivate me to sit twice a day. It might even be a deterrent, but let’s observe this practice from a different direction.

Vipassana has made 2 states very apparent: pleasure and pain. We naturally are driven to escape pain and seek pleasure. Most of my life has been driven by this simple intuitive goal. Vipassana builds upon this intuitive apparent knowledge and teaches me that pleasure can be just as harmful as pain in the subtle levels of the mind. Choosing not to pursue pleasure initially seems counter intuitive until you look more closely.

People enjoy drinking in moderation because of the pleasant feeling, but many choose not to drink because of concerns of a hangover or alcoholism. People work extremely hard to accomplish company goals but are wary of the burden this places on family and know there is suffering if they can reach their goals. Wisdom shows us that in every example a temporary pleasure can quickly be replaced by pain if there is attachment.

I believe Vipassana is trying to show us the state beyond pleasure and pain. Both these sensations are so closely linked to suffering, but an experienced meditator understands the peace that comes with simply observing these sensations instead of reacting to them. By accepting these experiences we can let them go and witness the peace and love that remains. I think unconditional love is an experience beyond pain and pleasure, and since the mind and matter are directly linked to the sensations of pleasure and pain, maybe moving beyond pleasure and pain also means moving beyond mind and matter. Maybe I’m seeking Nibhana after all. Time to meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

In March of 2010 I discovered a path to peace and happiness through a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. After establishing my personal practice, and witnessing how it changed my way of life, I'm now curious to explore how the growing community of meditators can help to support each other and make the world a better place.
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