Who experiences bliss or nirvana?

by Vic Shayne
author
13 Pillars of Enlightenment: How to realize your true nature and end suffering

Nirvana, Enlightenment, Bliss. These sorts of words are people’s attempts to explain the unexplainable. Consider what it would take if you had to explain precisely what it feels like to know that you exist. You wouldn’t be able to put words to this.

Some of us who have meditated deeply have come into states that are beyond words. I cannot speak for others, but for myself I have experienced a complete dissolution of the sense of self so that all that remained was awareness. I have also disappeared completely, without even a sense of awareness. One might call this complete annihilation. In this state there is no self, so there is also no thought, opinion, criticism, ideas, fears, etc. I would not call this bliss, however. The unalloyed awareness exists always; it does not come and go; and this is my experience. It can be known, or realized, at any time without effort. Similarly, the complete lack of awareness also exists always; Nothingness is as real as allness.

The idea of bliss is tied to nirvana in Indian philosophy, but in my experience it is misunderstood and described by people outside of the experience trying to understand it. These sorts of misunderstandings are how religions are born — a sage or mystic has an experience or way of realizing Truth and then his followers, without any personal understanding, begin to teach this Truth to others. We can point to every major religion and see how this has come to be — Buddhism, Hindu sects, Christianity, and so on.

When you can simply see things for the way they truly are, devoid of the ideas of the egoic self, there is a sense of peace and bliss that is felt. (To understand the egoic self, refer to my other articles or my book The Self is a Belief). However, all feelings are of the mind and not of the actuality. Once you know you are being aware then you are no longer being aware; you are coloring an experience with the overlay of thought. Bliss exists in pure awareness, but it is described only after the mind returns.

Because we are living in this body, with the body enabling us to be conscious, feelings such as bliss, happiness, etc., are related to the brain and body. But behind, beyond, or within everything is a silent stillness that is permanent, unchanging, boundless, and without structure; and this silent stillness is blissful to the body and mind, but without the body and mind it has no explainable attributes and there is no one “home” to experience it. What we have here is a paradox not understandable by way of logic.

Whenever there is an experience there is an experiencer. Who is it that experiences nirvana or bliss? Again, this is a paradox. Awareness is not an experiencer, neither of bliss or any other feeling, mood, phenomenon, or event. One may be aware without being aware of things that the mind categorizes, judges, or expresses a preference or rejection for, but once a person speaks of being in a state of bliss it is for one of the following reasons: 1. They are pretending or deceiving others, or 2. They are trying to put something into words while knowing this is not possible, or 3. They are repeating something they have heard through religion, philosophy, New Age teachings, etc.

The best thing to keep in mind is that your desire will lead you where you want to go, whether it’s finding the ultimate Truth, personal happiness, success, or inner peace. What is it that you truly want? Finding that which is beyond the sense of self, and even beyond consciousness, leads to a realization of something that is indescribable, unexplainable, unbounded, uncancellable, and beyond thought. You may call this state blissful, but what’s the point?

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Vic Shayne

Vic Shayne

…writer for 40+ years, mind/body practitioner, self-enquiry meditation, NY Times best selling author (https://amzn.to/2CeaSE), consultant, researcher.