Question: If Nirvana Is Supposed to be the State of True Reality, Is It Exempt from Cause and Effect?

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Question: Is Nirvana Exempt from Causes/ Effect?

Question: In Buddhist works they say that nirvana is not an effect that can be attained through some kind of cause. If nirvana is supposed to be the state of true reality, it seems that someone who reaches this state is exempt from cause and effect. Is this so?

Nirvana Is Not a Thing

Nirvana is not a thing; nirvana is when you personally experience, and understand, and recognize that everything is void, or empty. Through the practice, you gradually come to experience that there is no real space or time that you can hold on to. So you can say that nirvana is the result of practice, but it is not a result of something changing into something else. If certain things happen, we cannot say that these things didn’t happen. If we simply ignore the fact that these things happened, then we fall into the view called “the weird sense of emptiness.”

False Views of Emptiness

”But on the other hand we also realize that whatever happens is not something eternal or unchanging. So there is no need to take it too seriously or to be attached to it. If we are attached to it, that is a vexation. If you hold on to the false views of emptiness and if you deny the law of cause and effect(karma), then you are in a very dangerous position.You may think that all phenomena are unreal and you don’t have to practice morality. With this lack of responsibility, you will create a lot of evil karma and you will suffer the consequences.

Middle Way

Being attached to existence will give you vexations, but being attached to the false views of emptiness will give you even greater problems. If, seeking to avoid the attachment to existence, you fall into the trap of the false views of emptiness, then that is like being afraid of getting drowned and jumping into the fire. From the Buddhist point of view, we take the Middle Way; that is, in emptiness there is existence and existence itself is empty.

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From Chan Newsletter No. 12, March, 1981

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