Top subscribe filter_none issues my account search apps login google-plus facebook instagram twitter pinterest youtube lock

Nirvana at a Carolina Bus Stop

Nirvana at a Carolina Bus Stop

It wasn’t quite so spring-like yesterday here in Northern Michigan, back to slightly more “normal” temperatures. It’s spring break week around here, which may account for a smaller group for meditation last night.

We’re reading “Nirvana,” the second-to-last chapter of One Dharma, by Joseph Goldstein. The concept of Nirvana is easiest for me to see with images. The one that stays with me is the Buddha’s description from his discourse to the nuns in the Pali Suttas. He describes a butcher who kills a cow and manages to carve out all of the interior flesh. He then re-covers all those interior organs with the hide. He asks the question, “Would the butcher be speaking rightly if he were to say: “This cow is joined to this hide just as it was before?” The nuns answer, of course, no, the cow is still disjoined from the hide.”

Goldstein understands the story this way: We use the word Nirvana to describe what it’s like when the mind is no longer clinging, no longer attached because of all its defilements. It is released. What keeps it attached? The three basic defilements: greed, hatred, and delusion.

Another example: there’s a poem by Charles Bukowski, the cult-figure poet of the sixties (Time magazine called him the “poet of lowlife”). Here’s an interesting fact: his gravestone reads: “Don’t Try”, a phrase which Bukowski uses in one of his poems, talking about inspiration and creativity. Bukowski explained: “Somebody asked me ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more.

As a poet, I take some issue with that (We didn’t spring full-grown from the head of Zeus—we need to know our heritage [the dharma] and we need to enter the contemporary conversation [the sangha]), but I get his point. There is a lot of not-trying involved in writing and in sitting on the cushion. Here’s his poem, below. It’s very long, but it’s very short. You can decide yourself what it has to do with Nirvana:


not much chance,
completely cut loose from
he was a young man
riding a bus
through North Carolina
on the way to somewhere
and it began to snow
and the bus stopped
at a little cafe
in the hills
and the passengers
he sat at the counter
with the others,
he ordered and the
food arrived.
the meal was
and the
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher.
in back,
laughed, a good
the young man watched
the snow through the
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
that it would always
stay beautiful
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I’ll just sit
here, I’ll just stay
but then
he rose and followed
the others into the
he found his seat
and looked at the cafe
through the bus
then the bus moved
off, down a curve,
downward, out of
the hills.
the young man
looked straight
he heard the other
of other things,
or they were
attempting to
they had not
the young man
put his head to
one side,
closed his
pretended to
there was nothing
else to do-
just to listen to the
sound of the
the sound of the
in the

Poet and writer Fleda Brown reflects on the gatherings of her weekly meditation group, speaking to you as one who has long practiced meditation but still comes to the practice with a learner’s mind.

This entry is tagged with:

Enlightening, Empowering, Innovative, Inspiring… Don’t Miss a Word!

Become a subscriber, or find us at your local bookstore, newsstand, or grocer.

Find us on instagram @SpiritHealthMag

Instagram @SpiritHealthMag

© 2021 Spirituality & Health

2021 Spirituality & Health (en-US) MEDIA, LLC