Call of the Friend

This series is based on the second half of Martin Heidegger’s masterpiece Being and Time, a phenomenological existential analysis of the experience of integrity, choice and conscience. This leads to the experience of hearing the Call of the Friend, which seems to come from outside oneself but is actually the purest expression of conscience. Following this call, wherever it may lead, is the key to finding an authentic teacher and attaining actual self-realization. Our autobiographical book Forest Monastery Journal is about the experience of following this Call.

Nibbāna 1: Non-conceptual Nibbāna

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Just because we can concoct fancy explanations about Nibbāna doesn’t mean they’re true.

“This is peaceful, this is excellent: the stilling of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all assets; the destruction of craving; detachment, cessation, Nibbāna.” — Mahā-Mālunkya Sutta (M I 436)

This description of Nibbāna by the Buddha is a kammaṭṭhāna, one of the forty classic meditation subjects. It is a contemplation on the ultimate peace of Nibbāna, upasamānussati. This verse very succinctly expresses the theme of this work. For anyone who can understand this description of Nibbāna will be in a position to realize it directly.

We are told in Mahā-Parinibbāna Sutta (D II 93) that the Buddha’s teaching is svākkhāta—well-proclaimed; sandiṭṭhika—can be seen and realized here-and-now; akālika—timeless; ehipassika—inviting one to come and see for oneself; opanayika—leading one onwards to enlightenment; and paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi—the wise individual can understand it directly. The purpose of this work is to help you experience these six qualities of the Buddha-Dhamma here-and-now.

We should be clear that describing Nibbāna in words is categorically impossible. The ineffable can be experienced, but not explained; realized, but not articulated. Nevertheless, one can cognize the way to realization of non-conceptual phenomena by careful application of adequate terminology, and experience it by practice. Indeed, this is precisely the principle of operation of the Buddha’s teaching. Hopefully this apparently contradictory idea will become clearer in the discussion below.