Why Would Anyone Want to Reach Nirvana?

A Curious Buddhist

THE FOLLOWING PRESENTS A FASCINATING QUESTION BY A CURIOUS BUDDHIST.  I found the post below when I was conducting research in discussion forums regarding the differences between the God of the Bible and the gods of Hinduism and Buddhism.  The post shows a line of authentic reasoning and questioning that I find interesting.  This wannabe Buddhist gave Buddhism a shot, and found it wanting.

The teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism contrast greatly with all that is explained of God in the Bible.  Hindu and Buddhist teachings state that the highest goal for a human is to reach a state of nirvana, characterized by the extinction of individual consciousness, and thus the disappearance of all desire and suffering.  In this supposed state of nirvana, the unique self ceases to exist.  (Why would we want this?)  On the other hand, the Bible tells us that God desires us to retain our selves because He made us, authentically loves us, and wants to be with us.  The God of the Bible doesn’t want any of us to cease being the wonderful and unique selves that He created us to be.  Here is the fascinating post from a curious Buddhist:

Why Would Anyone Want to Reach Nirvana?

“I have been reading about Buddhism lately, and I’m sure I have a poor and incomplete understanding of it. One thing I cannot understand though is why anyone would willingly choose to reach nirvana.

The second noble truth states that life is suffering, and that suffering is rooted in attachment or desire; and it seems the noble eightfold path and other Buddhist philosophy is a means of creating detachment.

Yes, life will always include suffering. And materialism plays a role in that. But isn’t the concept of nirvana taking this to too far of an extreme?

Anatta, the concept of “true self”, does not include your consciousness or memory from what I understand, which Buddhists see as being a constantly refreshing “flux” which is actually quite in line with quantum field theories of the brain.

So the “true self” that is attained in nirvana is not our normal concept of ourself or consciousness, or our memory. It seems to me to be similar to the Taoist “qi” in that it is a generalized sort of life energy than has no individualism or distinct memory beyond what is described above. It is not conscious. It is not self-aware. How does this even differ from the matter that composes our bodies?

So exactly why would I want to cease to exist? “I” being perhaps something distinct from the anatta, but real nonetheless.

Life may be suffering, but it isn’t all suffering. It is dualistic. I would rather have both suffering and happiness, than nothingness. Perhaps nothingness is an alternative to exclusive suffering, but I don’t believe that life is merely suffering.

Perhaps that’s selfish, or at the very least, hedonistic. But I can’t see rationally why I would want to take the concept of detachment to such an extreme.

The reason I started learning about Buddhism was I felt the philosophical truths and meditation could be used to improve my life; if the ultimate goal is the loss of any self, consciousness, sentience, memory, or identity I don’t understand why I’d want to go down that road.”

(Source: http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/1599/why-would-anyone-want-to-reach-nirvana)


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