The Nibbana Box

What is Nibbana? The most profound truths of life can be hard to understand intellectually. It is often better to approach them through the use of similes and metaphors.

It was Ajahn Brahm’s birthday. Usually this is a big occasion at Bodhinyana Monastery, and this day was no exception. People brought all sorts of delicious food to offer, as well as the odd gift.

Now, Ajahn Brahm is not particularly interested in gifts. He is a simple monk who prefers a simple life. Unless he really needs something, which is rare, he considers possessions as clutter that is best avoided. Meditation succeeds when you let go, not when you accumulate.

Yet on this occasion Ajahn Brahm was given that rare gift that he actually really valued. When he unwrapped the gift, he found a perfect cube- shaped box with a single switch on the side. He put the box down and flicked the switch to the “on” position. The top of the box opened up. Out emerged a mechanical hand, which then bent around the side of the box, flicked the switch into the “off” position, and then retreated back into the box, after which the box closed up. That was it! The box only had one purpose, to turn itself off.

That is Nibbana. You discover that “switch” and turn your(non)self off. Things come to an end. What a brilliant metaphor for the Buddhist spiritual path!