When the Buddha was once delivering a discourse, he turned a flower in his ringers and held it before his attentive listeners. All were silent. The silence was so much the sound of a pin drop would have been heard. Only Mahakasyapa smiled.

Buddha said, “I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Truth. It is not expressed by words but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Mahakasyapa.”


When the Buddha turned a flower in his fingers and held it before his listeners, only Mahakasyapa smiled big-time. He understood the mind of the Buddha. The flower is flower, nothing else. It has no pretense, no pride, and no shame.
The essence of all things is the wordless word, the formless form. Truth is not words. Words and teachings merely point. Zen is transmitted without words from mind to mind.

Many fail to grasp the essence of awareness because they have become too numbed by presumptions that percolate in their minds even when enlightenment is taught using the most mundane things like the flower itself. When the audience was expecting to be taught sophisticated philosophy of enlightenment at that time, the Buddha decided to teach that they fail to ATTAIN because their minds have become too accustomed to expect ‘something’. We enter every circumstance expecting to gain something in return and that subtle ‘greed’ becomes our very barrier to Thatness.

12 thoughts on “THE HEART OF NIRVANA

  1. This is why we meditate; to forget the conceptual world and remember The Real. To forget The Desert of The Real is to wander off pursuing mirages, hounded by phantoms with no basis in matter. Empty ghosts. Ideas. We all know what happens to a man who walks into The Desert chasing illusions.

    Words are Śūnyatā.
    Thoughts are Śūnyatā.

    Buddha is a word, and a thought.
    Flower is a word, and a thought.

    How can they understand about stones when you show them with a cup of water, Philip?

    There IS a flower that is not a flower. Can you show them that one? Is that one also Śūnyatā, Philip? I’ve never been sure.

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  2. There is a flower that is more than just a flower. You are perfectly right! This is the eternal order of things – that not all people can see at the same time, people do not carry equal merit in them.

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  3. Nice definition. But the question shouldn’t be “what is Nirvana” but, rather, “how to reach Nirvana”. If you get it all wrong from the root then even the branches and leaves and flowers and fruits of that tree will be replete in imperfection. Isness is the closest description for That; it is a far cry.


  4. Thank you for the kind words. I was inspired by your discussion of the Flower Sermon.

    It has become a gate to mystery for me because the story is not the fact, the flower that was there is not the flower that is spoken, and even the flower of which we cannot speak may not be a flower itself, since physically it is mostly empty space, a hologram… the recursion of nothing upon nothing upon nothing until it mysteriously seems to become something knocks the thought from my mind the way a good fall knocks the breath from my lungs, but leaves a fresh feeling of something like freedom.

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  5. Philip consider this….. you can not find enlightenment because you cannot obtain something that you already have! And to complicate things, there really is “no one” to find it. We are not a self, not our body or our mind. We are beyond the mind’s idea of enlightenment. Our life is an illusion and the concept of enlightenment is just part of that illusion. We are so much more than we think we are! Your post and the responses for others on this site inspires me to write something about this on my site. Blessings to you and all that follow your posts. H.

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  6. Thank you so much for this wisdom. Many cowards are too easily contented with inferior realizations and think nothing more exists beyond their delusion. Or maybe its due to the aftermath of blemish?


  7. Philip, anything that is conceivable or perceivable in the mind is not who you are. You are beyond all thoughts, memories, ideas or concepts. Enlightenment is only a word made up by human minds to point us in a direction beyond the mind….. The mind is always looking for more… for safety…. It seeks to have you become something to make you better… can never know what you are… but it can help you to look at what you are not. And when you do this you will “know” that nothing in this world is you. Everything is impermanent except you.

    I used the word illusion and you ask…. “If all is an illusion then how is it possible to know that it is all illusion in the first place”? The answer is you don’t because you…the mind that is thinking this…. is part of the illusion. But, when you recognize that you are beyond the mind/body and step out of the illusion (world as our mind and nervous system portrays it), you will see that nothing in our world is real (although it feels real to our mind).

    Science tells us that every object that we touch is made up of mostly empty space. Yet it feels hard. Our senses deceive us because the world we see is in time and space and we are beyond this…. and came before it. Just ask yourself (with a small “s”) who you were before you were born and after you die? Who were you in the womb? Are you really born? Do you really die? Or where do you go and who are you when you fall asleep each night?

    Or better yet, have you meditated and found yourself in emptiness which you just know is so full. No mind. No thoughts. No senses.

    I know that you use quotes in your posts from spiritual greats such as Buddha. Here is a Sutta that sums up what Buddha said about this:

    “As a water bead on a lotus leaf, as water on a red lily, does not adhere, so the sage does not adhere to the seen, the heard or the sensed”. From the Jara Sutta of the Sutta Nipata.

    More on this in one of my future posts at Blessings


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