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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
The poem is an echo of the Buddha’s response to Kappa’s question in the Sutta Nipata: Next was the brahmin student Kappa. “Sir,” he said, “there are people stuck midstream in the terror and the fear of the rush of the river of being, and death and decay overwhelm them. For their sakes, Sir, tell me where to find an island, tell me where there is solid ground beyond the reach of all this pain.” “Kappa,” said the Master, “for the sake of those people stuck in the middle of the river of being, overwhelmed by death and decay, I will tell you where to find solid ground. “There is an island, an island which you cannot go beyond. It is a place of nothingness, a place of non-possession and of non-attachment. It is the total end of death and decay, and this is why I call it Nibbana [the extinguished, the cool]. “There are people who, in mindfulness, have realized this and are completely cooled here and now. They do not become slaves working for Mara, for Death; they cannot fall into his power.” ~ SN 1092–5 (translated by Ven. Saddhatissa) goNçaloolIveIra In English, “nothingness” can sound like annihilation, like nihilism. But you can also emphasize the “thingness” so that it becomes “no-thingness.” So nibbana is not a thing that you can find. It is the place of “no-thingness,’” a place of nonpos- session, a place of nonattachment. It is a place, as Ajahn Chah said, where you experience “the reality of nongrasping.” Nibbana is a reality that each one of us can know for ourselves—once we recognize nonattachment and realize the reality of nongrasping. AjAhn Sumedho is abbot of Amaravati Buddhist monastery near hemel hempstead in england, which is part of the network of Buddhist monasteries in the lineage of Ajahn Chah. he was ordained as a Buddhist monk more than forty years ago and studied with Ajahn Chah for many years in Thailand. This article is from Ajahn Sumedho’s introduction to The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana, by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro, published by the Abhayagiri monastic Foundation. To download a free PdF version of the book, go to www.abhayagiri.org. fraNkgrIsdale