Living beings is the name of a continuous stream and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana. –Gatha 44 from the sutra Yogacarabhumishastra by Acarya Asanga
Excerpt of Thich Nhat Hanh – January 26th, 2012, New Hamlet, Plum Village
There are two things this gatha is teaching us. First, we don’t have a separate self, and second, everything comes from our perception. There is no one who attains nirvana, because if there is not separate self, then who will do that? At first we think we have to choose: either we are in the ocean of birth and death, and then we suffer, or we are in nirvana so that we don’t have to suffer. But after that we have to go further in our understanding. We have to see that birth and death is nirvana. If we are deeply in touch with birth and death, then we are in touch with nirvana. These two things are not separate; because of that, there is nobody in the stream of birth and death, and there’s nobody to go to nirvana. So we don’t have to do anything. We don’t even have to practice.
Applied Buddhism is the way to touch reality, in order to see that birth and death are only doors by which you enter and leave. It looks like you are born, it looks like you died, but really you are born every second, you are dying every second.
So, friends, don’t think that this body is just you, because you are a river. This river continues to flow and to flow. And if it stops here, it will appear on the other side.