[Buddha-l] Re: Nirvana si, bodhi no! [was liturgical languages]

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Fri May 13 21:18:46 MDT 2005

On Fri, 2005-05-13 at 10:04 -0600, Richard P. Hayes wrote:

> There are reasons why I think nirvana is superior in every way to bodhi
> as an ultimate goal. Let me address that issue in a separate message,

As I'm sure everyone on buddha-l knows by now, I rarely make categorical
or absolute claims, so when I say I think nirvana is superior in every
way to bodhi, the only claim I am making is that I personally like the
idea of nirvana and find it helpful but find the idea of bodhi
unhelpful, perhaps even a bit of an obstacle. Others no doubt have their
own preferences, and some people's taste disagrees with mine. And that
is fine with me, so long as they don't think they are Buddhists. (As
long-time veterans of buddha-l may recall, I used to unsubscribe anyone
who used one of those inane emoticons to signal that they were telling a
joke. If you don't suck somebody into thinking that an ironic claim is
sincerely stupid, what the hell's the point of being ironic, eh?)

Here's why I like nirvana. It's completely knowable. I mean there's no
DOUBT about nirvana. If you still get angry with people, if you still
throw plates across the room when George W. Bush comes on the
television, if you still get a charge out of defeating people in
debates, if you still turn your head when a cute something walks past
the water cooler, if you still feel a little puffed up when the boss
says you're doing a great job, and if you still have dreams about
Mediterranean cruises, then you haven't attained nirvana. End of story. 

You see, with nirvana you don't need anyone else to confirm that you
haven't attained it. It is, if you'll pardon the expression, painfully
obvious. And if one knows that one has not attained nirvana, then one
knows there is work to do. And if one thinks one HAS attained nirvana,
one's living in denial, so there is work to do. No matter how you slice
it, there's work to do. That's what I love about nirvana. You're never
out of work.

Here's why I hate bodhi. You always need someone else to tell you
whether you've attained it. So you are always beholden to a guru or a
master at whose feet you have to grovel for several decades, something
no reasonable person would ever do, which makes you think that being
enlightened has nothing at all to do with being reasonable, so you start
having contempt for logic and science and technology, and before you
know it you find yourself thinking you can see auras, and you're taking
busloads of senior citizens on pilgrimages to Roswell, and you're
drinking tasteless green juice made from concentrated seaweed that costs
you about twice as much as heroin and believing it is making your
chakras pure, and you're putting crystals in your jockey shorts to cure
your prostate cancer, and you're chanting mantras and believing they can
heal your budgie's asthma, and then your guru dies, and so you find
yourself holding seances so he can confirm your enlightenment five years
after he dies, and when your enlightenment is confirmed by a dead guru
you think it's fine to have sex with everyone you see and drive sports
cars at twice the speed limit, because enlightened people can do
whatever they want, since they can only want what's good for people. In
short, I hate it because it's probably the second most dangerous idea on
earth, far more dangerous than such hare brain dogmas as the trinity.
The belief in bodhi may not be as dangerous as some of the stuff that
people think they know as a result of reading the Book of Revelations,
but it's close.

> which I will write when I get back from my yoga class 

OK, I'll confess. I cheat at yoga. But it's okay, because everyone else
has their eyes closed, so there's no way anybody will catch me.

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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