Everyday Nirvana

The end of the quest

The end of the questAt last: a seeker’s guide to the end of seeking, put together by former “full-time seeker” Josh Baran. 365 Nirvana Here and Now: Living Every Moment in Enlightenment (Thorsons/Element, 2003, $19.95 cloth) contains passages from more than 265 sources, representing Eastern and Western wisdom of the past three thousand years. The range is vast—the Buddha to Martin Buber, Nagarjuna to Alice Walker, Krishnamurti to a Cherokee grandmother—but there is a common theme: “The main insight,” Baran says, “is that the awakened state—nirvana—is our natural condition, available at any moment to any one of us.” The 365 selections can be read in sequence for a year’s worth of daily inspiration, or dipped into at random to reel oneself back to the present.

The genesis of 365 Nirvana was a notebook of readings Baran began collecting a decade ago, but the seeds were planted even earlier. For eight years as a Zen priest at Shasta Abbey and another fifteen years on his own, Baran meditated diligently in pursuit of realization. The harder he practiced, the more elusive his goal. Then, on a trip to Nepal, teachings by Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen put an end to his restless quest.

“I found my 'self’ instantly stopped cold,” Baran recalls in 365 Nirvana. “I saw how much of my life’s energy had been focused on looking forward to some imagined future, rather than simply celebrating the all-pervasive present.” Back home in New York, he “could no longer stomach my library of spiritual books,” Baran writes. “Many authors gave lip service to the concept of living in the present moment but then proceeded to promote . . . more fruitless seeking.”

But won’t this book, too, promote more seeking? Baran draws a distinction. “The seeking mind is always looking for answers out there. To me, these are living words that point you back to yourself, to what’s alive for you in the moment.”

Dharma students, he has found, “are very good on the cushion because it’s about being present to your breathing, to your sensations. Then we get up, and get into past and future thinking. When we cut off our escapes to 'elsewhere' and 'elsewhen,' we can be here now.”

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