Come as you are
As you can see, Kurt Cobain was contacted by the Buddha (the Boddah) at two years old—hence he subsequently named his famous band Nirvana. Well, perhaps he heard about “the Buddha” on the TV—after all, it was the 1960s and it was the West Coast and it was a time when Alan Watts was popular. Perhaps, perhaps—yet even if he heard it on the TV, why did he fixate on it? It cannot be simple coincidence because, as the excerpt relates, he thought he could hear “the Boddah” in the reverb on a tape player.
What is this other than the Buddhist mantra that repeats itself to extinction, unto the void? It is the empty bowl that is sounded and whose emptiness is the void—Buddha’s voice. The circle is repeated, the ring cycle closes—the void is apparent. The family tried to send the Buddha back to Vietnam—to his natural home—and said, ironically, he was “conscripted into the army” (what a place for the Buddha—or perhaps the place for the Buddha).
I remember the day Cobain died—although I did not understand it at the time. I remember all the girls on the street with little brown cardboard signs and candles. April 5 1994. It must have been cold in Seattle. I could not comprehend why these girls stood on a pavement corner with placards and candles because a man they did not know died. What was the point? Why were they so upset? Why did the mascara run? I was nine. It seemed utterly pointless to me. “Kurt was just the greatest…sob…he just meant so much to me.” <<Led off camera on friend’s shoulder, large puffed jacket a cushion>>. “Kurt Cobain, pioneer of ‘grunge music’ <<much arch disdain>> and voice of his generation, died today in an apparent suicide…”
What is Nirvana? It is the burnt out state—and it is not found only in Buddhism. It is that state where you not only say, “I give up,” but when you truly give up—it happens when you have really given up hope, yet it is a subtle state because the ego is subtle. It’s like when a woman says, “I give up on you, I really do. This is the end.” It is nowhere near the end—it has not even begun. When people really let go they never notice—just one day it “clicks”, as the psychoanalysts say, and it’s gone; if you pay attention, you can feel it move—it is hydrodynamic, a slipstream.
To exemplify in the other direction, once I really wanted a girlfriend and I tried for months and months to get one—then I said, “I give up,” but I hadn’t given up; then, one day, I went to a theatrical performance and afterwards this girl who I had not noticed at all at the performance began to chase me—send me messages on Facebook (even though they went to junk, her friend contacted me and demanded a reply). This is to truly give up, but when you have truly given up you do not know you have given up—and that is when you get what you want. It is desireless desire.
This is the state magicians teach people to achieve—it is true action, subtle action. How wonderful, I could use this to acquire women and money and power in unlimited amounts—yet, of course, these things that are most profanely desired are the very hardest to desire without desire; and, indeed, if you perfected your will so far as to be able achieve these through subtle action, as did Jesus and Buddha, you would never want them.
Nirvana means “the extinction of breath or disturbance”; yet this should not be taken to mean, per Cobain, literal suicide. Rather, the soul is the breath—that is what “psyche” means in ancient Greek—and that is why the doctrine of awakening places emphasis on breath in meditation. So Nirvana is to reach a state no longer characterised by change or disturbance—a supra-individual state, the unus mundus. This is why subtle action occurs in Nirvana—the soul has elevated to supra-consciousness, entered the unus mundus where cause-and-effect relations are suspended; and so it can effect any change it wishes as purified will. In Islamic esotericism, it is called fana al-fanai “the extinction of the extinction”—to give up on giving up.
Well, this is all very well…but what about poor old Kurt Cobain? Well, the Buddha called but he didn’t answer; perhaps it was because he looked to the machine, the machine echo—the machine is profane; the real echo is in the caves and in the valleys, not on a tape recorder. Still, he searched—yet he searched in a profane way; hence his narcissistic pose as a “bum” and a “grunge idol”—as an all-American bhikkhu. Hence his famous album cover with a baby submerged in a swimming pool—its natural arc upwards, a reflex response to submersion, is used to make it seem as if it is tempted towards a hook baited with a dollar bill.
But what did Cobain form his band for? Maybe not for money—for a more subtle and common temptation, vanity. Hence Cobain would say he came from “a middle-class neighborhood, white trash posing as middle class”—really? False modesty, Kurt—I think. “I’m just little ol’ Kurt Cobain—nobody important, nobody significant. It’s not like I’m so inauthentic as to make my money marketing Teen Spirit deodorant”; actually, the most subtle vanity—Trump is more modest, at least he says he thinks he’s the greatest guy in the world (as am I, so great). The natural conclusion for Cobain was to reach Nirvana: yet he could only understand this concept in material terms—and how do you extinguish yourself in material terms? A bullet to the cranium. As for Courtney Love—these things work by opposites; more power to miss Love, I think.