Nirvana (Buddhism)

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Translations of
Nirvana
English: blowing out,
extinguishing,
liberation
Pali: nibbāna (निब्बान)
Sanskrit: nirvāṇa (निर्वाण)
Bengali:

নির্বান

nb
Burmese: နိဗ္ဗာန်
(IPA: [neɪʔbàɴ])
Chinese: 涅槃
(pinyinnièpán)
Japanese: 涅槃
(rōmaji: nehan)
Khmer: និព្វាន
Korean: 열반
(RR: yeolban)
Mon: နဳဗာန်
([nìppàn])
Mongolian: γasalang-aca nögcigsen
Shan: ၼိၵ်ႈပၢၼ်ႇ
([nik3paan2])
Sinhala: නිවන
(Nivana)
Tibetan: མྱ་ངན་ལས་འདས་པ།
(mya ngan las 'das pa)
Thai: นิพพาน (nibbana)
Vietnamese: Niết bàn
Glossary of Buddhism

Nirvana (Sanskrit, also nirvāṇa; Pali: nibbana, nibbāna ) is a Buddhist term that literally means "blowing out" or "extinguishing" and refers to the event or process of the extinction of the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya). In the Buddhist view, when these fires are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end, and one is released from the cycle of rebirth (samsara).

Goal of the Buddhist Path[edit]

In Buddhism, Nirvana is the ultimate goal of the spiritual path.[note 1] Joseph Goldstein explains:

It is Nibbana that the Buddha declared to be the final goal of the spiritual journey: “This holy life … does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood and its end.”[1][note 2]

Overview[edit]

Extinguishing the fires[edit]

In the Buddhist tradition, nirvana is described as the extinguishing of the fires that cause suffering. These fires are typically identified as the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya).[note 3]

For example, Rupert Gethin states:[7]

Literally nirvāṇa means ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ [...] What the Pali and Sanskrit expression primarily indicates is the event or process of the extinction of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. At the moment the Buddha understood suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation, these fires were extinguished. This process is the same for all who reach awakening, and the early texts term it either nirvāṇa or parinirvāṇa, the complete ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. This is not a ‘thing’ but an event or experience.

Contemporary Buddhist scholar Ajahn Sucitto emphasizes that when these fires are extinguished, the mind is freed. Ajahn Sucitto states:[9]

The metaphors associated with nibbāna often liken it to the blowing out of a fire. When it is no longer burning, the fire has “nibbāna’d”—the elements on which it was based are no longer in a state of combustion. This may seem like sterility and lifelessness from the viewpoint of the fire, but from the perspective of the elements it means life and potential. That is, when the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion are extinguished, the mind is free to operate in terms of its fullest capacity.

Freedom from suffering[edit]

In the Buddhist view, when the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya) are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end. The cessation of suffering is described as complete peace. Bhikkhu Bodhi states:[10]

The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbāna (nirvāṇa), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion.

Freedom from rebirth[edit]

In the Buddhist view, fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya) are the forces which propel the cycle of rebirth (samsara). When these fires are extinguished, freedom from rebirth is attained.[note 4]

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:[11]

For as long as one is entangled by craving, one remains bound in saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death; but when all craving has been extirpated, one attains Nibbāna, deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.

Paul Williams states:[8]

Nirvana is broadly speaking the result of letting-go, letting-go the very forces of craving which power continued experiences of pleasure and inevitably suffering throughout this life, death, rebirth, and redeath. That, in a nutshell, is what nirvana is. It is the complete and permanent cessation of samsara, thence the cessation of all types of suffering, resulting from letting-go the forces which power samsara, due to overcoming ignorance (thence also hatred and delusion, the 'three root poisons') through seeing things the way they really are.

During life and beyond death[edit]

In the Buddhist tradition, a distinction is made between a person's experience of nirvana during their life and after their death. These two aspects of nirvana are described as:[note 5]

  • Nirvana during life (nirvana with remainder) - indicating the experience of someone who has experienced nirvana in their lifetime but still remains in their physical body.
  • Nirvana after death (nirvana without remainder) - indicating the experience of nirvana for someone after they have passed away.

Theravada[edit]

Until final liberation (called moksha in Indian religions) beings wander through samsāra, the impermanent and suffering-generating realms of desire, form, and formlessness. Samsāra is perpetuated by craving and ignorance.

By uprooting the volitional dispositions one is no longer subject to further rebirth in samsāra.

A liberated person performs neutral actions (Pali: kiriya kamma) producing no fruit (vipaka), but nonetheless preserves a particular individual personality. This is the result of the traces of his or her karmic heritage.[16]

Visuddhimagga[edit]

Nirvana is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purification (Pali: Vissudhimagga) taught by the Buddha. The Buddha explained that the disciplined way of life he recommended to his students (dhamma-vinaya) is a gradual training extending often over a number of years. To be committed to this path already requires that a seed of wisdom is present in the individual. This wisdom becomes manifest in the experience of awakening (bodhi). Attaining nibbāna, in either the current or some future birth, depends on effort, and is not pre-determined.[17] Nirvana is the result of following the Noble Eightfold Path.

Path of purification[edit]

In the Visuddhimagga, Ch. I, v. 6 (Buddhaghosa and Ñāṇamoli, 1999, pp. 6–7.), Buddhaghosa identifies various options within the Pali canon for pursuing a path to nirvana,[note 6] including:

  1. By insight (vipassana) alone [note 7]
  2. By jhana and understanding (see Dh. 372)[19]
  3. by deeds, vision and righteousness (see MN iii.262)[note 8]
  4. By virtue, consciousness and understanding (7SN i.13);[note 9]
  5. by virtue, understanding, concentration and effort;[note 10]
  6. By the four foundations of mindfulness.[22][note 11]

Depending on one's analysis, each of these options could be seen as a reframing of the Buddha's Threefold Training of virtue, mental development[23] and wisdom.

Levels of attainment[edit]

Individuals up to the level of non-returning may experience nirvāna as an object of mental consciousness.[24][note 12] Certain contemplations with nibbana as an object of samādhi lead, if developed, to the level of non-returning.[25] At that point of contemplation, which is reached through a progression of insight, if the meditator realizes that even that state is constructed and therefore impermanent, the fetters are destroyed, arahantship is attained, and nibbāna is realized.[26]

Luminous mind[edit]

In many places the Buddha describes his enlightenment in terms of "knowing". In the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, "Knowing arose" (ñāṇa udapādi). With nirvāṇa the consciousness is released, and the mind becomes aware in a way that is totally unconstrained by anything in the conditioned world. The Buddha describes this in a variety of passages. One way is as "Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around."[27][28]

In one interpretation, the "luminous consciousness" is identical with nirvāṇa.[29][30] Others disagree, finding it to be not nirvāṇa itself, but instead to be a kind of consciousness accessible only to arahants.[31][32] A passage in the Majjhima Nikaya likens it to empty space.[33]

Awareness[edit]

Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro, contemporary vipassana-teachers write that what is referred to with the use of the word "viññana" is the quality of awareness, and that the use of the term "viññana" must be in a broader way than it usually is meant.[34][note 13]

This "non-manifestive consciousness" differs from the kinds of consciousness associated to the six sense media, which have a "surface" that they fall upon and arise in response to.[27] According to Peter Harvey, the early texts are ambivalent as to whether or not the term "consciousness" is accurate.[35] In a liberated individual, this is directly experienced, in a way that is free from any dependence on conditions at all.[27][36]

Unmediated knowledge[edit]

For liberated ones the luminous, unsupported consciousness associated with nibbana is directly known without mediation of the mental consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, and is the transcending of all objects of mental consciousness.[24][26] It differs radically from the concept in the pre-Buddhist Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita of Self-realization, described as accessing the individual's inmost consciousness, in that it is not considered an aspect, even the deepest aspect, of the individual's personality, and is not to be confused in any way with a "Self".[37] Furthermore, it transcends the sphere of infinite consciousness, the sixth of the Buddhist jhanas, which is in itself not the ending of the conceit of "I".[38]

Nagarjuna alluded to a passage regarding this level of consciousness in the Dighanikaya[39] in two different works. He wrote that

The Sage has declared that earth, water, fire, and wind, long, short, fine and coarse, good, and so on are extinguished in consciousness ... Here long and short, fine and coarse, good and bad, here name and form all stop.[40]

A related idea, which finds support in the Pali Canon and the contemporary Theravada practice tradition despite its absence in the Theravada commentaries and Abhidhamma, is that the mind of the arahant is itself nibbana.[41][note 14]

Mahayana[edit]

Nirvana also plays a role in Mahayana Buddhism, but is not regarded to be the final goal, nor to be different from samsara. The tathagatagarbha-literature gives a positive interpretation of Nirvana.

Bodhisattva-path[edit]

A bodhisattva must achieve full liberation as part of the process of achieving Buddhahood as defined by the Mahayana. On the Bodhisattva-paths, the 8th bhumi or 8th ground is equivalent to the attainment of Hinayana Arhatship or Hinayana Buddhahood.

Levels of attainment[edit]

Pabongka Rinpoche compares the path to full Buddhahood to climbing a mountain, which has:

  1. A base-camp located at the level of ethical conduct for practitioners of the small scope (non-Buddhists and non-practicing Buddhists),
  2. A base-camp at individual liberation for practitioners of the medium scope (Theravada),
  3. A last and most difficult climb peak of the mountain for practitioners of the great scope (Mahayana).[46]

Omniscience[edit]

According to Pabongka Rinpoche, the Theravadan's argue that the base camp of liberation, located above the clouds of suffering and rebirth, is the peak of the mountain. The Mahayanist's, however, insist that even though the obstructions to liberation have been removed,[47] the obstructions to full omniscience have not been removed.[48][note 15]

The end stage practice of the Mahayana removes the imprints of delusions, the obstructions to omniscience, which prevent simultaneous and direct knowledge of all phenomena. Only Buddhas have overcome these obstructions, according to Mahayana Buddhism, and, therefore, only Buddhas have omniscience knowledge.[note 16]

Tathagatagarba and Buddha-nature[edit]

Purified mind[edit]

In some Mahayana/Tantric texts nirvana is described as purified, non-dualistic 'superior mind'. The Samputa, for instance, states:

Undefiled by lust and emotional impurities, unclouded by any dualistic perceptions, this superior mind is indeed the supreme nirvana.'[51]

Some Mahayana traditions see the Buddha in almost docetic terms, viewing his visible manifestations as projections from within the state of nirvana. According to Professor Etienne Lamotte, Buddhas are always and at all times in nirvana, and their corporeal displays of themselves and their Buddhic careers are ultimately illusory. Lamotte writes of the Buddhas:

They are born, reach enlightenment, set turning the Wheel of Dharma, and enter nirvana. However, all this is only illusion: the appearance of a Buddha is the absence of arising, duration and destruction; their nirvana is the fact that they are always and at all times in nirvana.’[52]

Mahaparinirvana-sutra[edit]

Some Mahayana sutras go further and attempt to characterize the nature of nirvana itself. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which has as one of its main topics precisely the realm or dhatu of nirvana, has the Buddha speak of four essential elements which make up nirvana. One of these is ‘Self’ (atman), which is construed as the enduring Self of the Buddha. Writing on this Mahayana understanding of nirvana, William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous state:

‘The Nirvana Sutra claims for nirvana the ancient ideas of permanence, bliss, personality, purity in the transcendental realm. Mahayana declares that Hinayana, by denying personality in the transcendental realm, denies the existence of the Buddha. In Mahayana, final nirvana is both mundane and transcendental, and is also used as a term for the Absolute.[53]

Kosho Yamamoto, translator of the full-length Nirvana Sutra, expresses the view that the non-Self doctrine of the Buddha's earlier teaching phase is an expedient only and that in the Nirvana Sutra a hidden teaching on the True Self is disclosed by the Buddha:

He [the Buddha] says that the non-Self which he once taught is none but of expediency ... He says that he is now ready to speak about the undisclosed teachings. Men abide in upside-down thoughts. So he will now speak of the affirmative attributes of nirvana, which are none other than the Eternal, Bliss, the Self and the Pure.[54]

In consonance with this, researcher on the Nirvana Sutra, Dr. Tony Page, comments on the non-dual equation which the Buddha in the Nirvana Sutra draws between the True Self of the Buddha and the eternal reality of Nirvana:

On the specific question of the supramundane or nirvanic Self, it is apparent that the [Nirvana] Sutra does assert an eternally abiding entity or dharma – what we might call the “Buddha-Self”, since the Buddha utters the equation ‘Self = Buddha’ - as an ever-enduring reality of the highest order. That Buddha-Self is one with Nirvana.[55]

Positive language[edit]

According to some scholars, the language used in the Tathāgatagarbha genre of sutras can be seen as an attempt to state orthodox Buddhist teachings of dependent origination using positive language instead. Yamamoto points out that this ‘affirmative’ characterization of nirvana pertains to a supposedly higher form of nirvana—that of ‘Great Nirvana’. Speaking of the 'Bodhisattva Highly Virtuous King' chapter of the Nirvana Sutra, Yamamoto quotes the scripture itself:

What is nirvana? ...this is as in the case in which one who has hunger has peace and bliss as he has taken a little food.[56]

Yamamoto continues with the quotation, adding his own comment:

But such a nirvāna cannot be called “Great Nirvāna”". And it [i.e. the Buddha’s new revelation regarding nirvana] goes on to dwell on the “Great Self”, “Great Bliss”, and “Great Purity”, all of which, along with the Eternal, constitute the four attributes of Great Nirvana.[57]

Within the discourses[edit]

In the Sutta Pitaka the Buddha describes nirvāṇa as the perfect peace of mind possessed by one who is liberated (Pali: arahant). It is to be distinguished from peaceful moods arising from a temporary absence of anger, sensual desire, anxiety and other afflicting states (kleshas).

Highest happiness[edit]

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha describes nirvāṇa as "the highest happiness",[58] an enduring happiness qualitatively different from the limited, transitory happiness derived from impermanent things.

Liberation from samsara[edit]

Until final liberation beings wander through samsāra, the impermanent and suffering-generating realms of desire, form, and formlessness. Samsāra is perpetuated by craving and ignorance. The sankharas are the ultimate cause for the material incarnation of sentient beings. According to the Buddha, during the course of many repeated incarnations these deeply buried structures (also referred to in Yogacara as karmic 'seeds'; Sanskrit: bīja[citation needed]) are either strengthened by indulgence in worldly activities (a person doing so is described as a Puthujjana) or weakened by following the Buddhist path. By uprooting the sanskara (volitional dispositions) one is no longer subject to further rebirth in samsāra.

The realizing of nirvāṇa is compared to the ending of avidyā (ignorance) which perpetuates the will (Pali: cetana) into effecting the incarnation of mind into biological form passing on forever through life after life (samsāra).

Nirvāna is meant specifically—as pertains gnosis—that which ends the identity of the mind (citta) with empirical phenomena. Doctrinally, nibbāna is said of the mind which "no longer is coming (bhava) and going (vibhava)" but which has attained a status in perpetuity, whereby "liberation (vimutta) can be said."[citation needed]

Mind-body transformation[edit]

The ultimate state of nirvana is described by the Buddha as "deathlessness" (Pali: amata or amāravati). The Buddha explains the unique character of nibbāna as being due to the mind having become unconditioned (asankhata) which is to say free from the conditions formerly obscuring it by the volitional formations.

Nirvana is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purification (Pali: Vissudhimagga) taught by the Buddha. The Buddha explained that the disciplined way of life he recommended to his students (dhamma-vinaya) is a gradual training extending often over a number of years. To be committed to this path already requires that a seed of wisdom is present in the individual. This wisdom becomes manifest in the experience of awakening (bodhi). Attaining nibbāna, in either the current or some future birth, depends on effort, and is not pre-determined.[17] Nirvana is the result of following the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Buddha's teachings in the Pāli Canon present nirvāṇa as a radical reordering of consciousness.[59] This reordering is made possible through the threefold training (Noble Eightfold Path). It is concerned with performing wholesome actions (Pali: kusala kamma) with positive results and finally allows the cessation of the origination of worldly activities altogether with the attainment of nibbāna. Part of it is cultivation of special states of absorbed concentration called jhānas. These are states of deep relaxation in which a high degree of mental alertness and concentration is present. The jhanas in turn are made possible by a training in the establishing of mindfulness.

A liberated person performs neutral actions (Pali: kiriya kamma) producing no fruit (vipaka), but nonetheless preserves a particular individual personality. This is the result of the traces of his or her karmic heritage.[16] In Theravada the arahant abiding in nirvāṇa is "the ideal personality, the true human being".[60]

The liberated mind[edit]

Nirvāṇa is not conceived of as a place (such as one might conceive heaven), but rather the antinomy of samsāra.[citation needed] This said:

The liberated mind (citta) that no longer clings' means nibbāna.(Majjhima Nikaya 2-Att. 4.68)

This state of being is described as transcendent or supramundane (Pali: lokuttara).[citation needed]

Parinirvana[edit]

A person can attain nirvāna without dying. When a person who has realized nirvāṇa dies, his death is referred as parinirvāṇa (Pali: parinibbana), his fully passing away, as his life was his last link to the cycle of death and rebirth (samsāra), and he will not be reborn again. Buddhism holds that the ultimate goal and end of samsāric existence (of ever "becoming" and "dying" and never truly being) is realization of nirvāna. What happens to a person after his parinirvāṇa cannot be explained, as it is outside of all conceivable experience. Through a series of questions, Sariputta brings a monk to admit that he cannot pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life, so to speculate regarding the ontological status of an arahant after death is not proper.[61] See Tathagata.

Nirvana and nonexistence[edit]

The Aggivacchagotta Sutta, a text from the Pali Canon, indicates that a person who attains Nirvana cannot be described as being reborn after death, not being reborn, being and not being reborn, or neither being nor not being reborn. However, in this text Buddha also explains that Nirvana is like the extinguishing of a fire, which he points out does not go anywhere when put out, but rather is just destroyed.[62] However, Bhikkhu Bodhi also stresses that Nirvana is not a mere annihilation.[63]

Other texts and schools hold a different position on the issue. Some Mahayana texts explain that after attaining Nirvana, a Buddha exists everywhere and takes countless forms.[64] The Dharmakaya doctrine is an example of this.

Quotations[edit]

Gautama Buddha:

  • "Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvāṇa do I call it—the utter extinction of aging and dying." [Sutta-nipata]
  • "There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress." [Udana VIII.1]

Etymology[edit]

Smith and Novak state:[5]

Etymologically [nirvana] means “to blow out” or “to extinguish,” not transitively, but as a fire ceases to draw. Deprived of fuel, the fire goes out, and this is nirvana.

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:[65]

Etymologically, the word nibbāna — the Pali form of the better known Sanskrit nirvāṇa — is derived from a verb nibbāti meaning “to be blown out” or “to be extinguished.” It thus signifies the extinguishing of the worldly “fires” of greed, hatred, and delusion. But the Pali commentators prefer to treat it as the negation of, or “departure from” (nikkhantatta), the entanglement (vāna) of craving, the derivation which is offered here. For as long as one is entangled by craving, one remains bound in saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death; but when all craving has been extirpated, one attains Nibbāna, deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.

Rupert Gethin states:[7]

Literally nirvāṇa means ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’, although Buddhist commentarial writings, by a play on words, like to explain it as ‘the absence of craving’. But where English translations of Buddhist texts have ‘he attains nirvāṇa/parinirvāṇa’, the more characteristic Pali or Sanskrit idiom is a simple verb: ‘he or she nirvāṇa-s’ or more often ‘he or she parinirvānṇa-s’ (parinibbāyati). What the Pali and Sanskrit expression primarily indicates is the event or process of the extinction of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. At the moment the Buddha understood suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation, these fires were extinguished. This process is the same for all who reach awakening, and the early texts term it either nirvāṇa or parinirvāṇa, the complete ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. This is not a ‘thing’ but an event or experience.

Advaita Vedanta scholar T. K. Parthasarathy suggests an alternate interpretation of the Sanskrit roots:[66]

The Abhidharma -mahavibhasa-sastra- a sarvastivAdin commentary, gives a complete picture of the meanings from its Sanskrit roots: vANa implying the route of rebirth and added with Nir meaning 'leaving off' conveys permanently avoiding all paths of transmigration. vANa meaning stench or stink and Nir meaning opposite to it in total implies 'without and free from all stench of karma-s'. vANa meaning forest and Nir meaning without totally implies 'a state which has got rid of, for ever, of the dense forest of the three fires of lust, malice and delusion'.

Relation to moksha[edit]

Moksha is a Sankrit terms that is also used to indicate liberation. This term is used in some Buddhist traditions to denote aspects of liberation. For example, the Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism states:

Moksha, also called vimoksha, vimukti and mukti. The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism: "Vimoksha [解脱] (Skt; Jpn gedatsu ). Emancipation, release, or liberation. The Sanskrit words vimukti, mukti, and moksha also have the same meaning. Vimoksha means release from the bonds of earthly desires, delusion, suffering, and transmigration. While Buddhism sets forth various kinds and stages of emancipation, or enlightenment, the supreme emancipation is nirvana, a state of perfect quietude, freedom, and deliverance.[web 2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nirvana is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist spiritual path.
    • Joseph Goldstein states: "It is Nibbana that the Buddha declared to be the final goal of the spiritual journey."[1]
    • Damien Keown states: "Nirvana is the summum bonum of Buddhism – the final and highest good. It is both a concept and an experience. As a concept it offers a particular vision of human fulfillment and gives contour and shape to the ideal life. As an experience it becomes incarnate over the course of time in the person who seeks it."[2]
    • The Dalai Lama states: "The ultimate aspiration of a practicing Buddhist is the attainment of nirvana. The emphasis is within oneself."[3]
    • Daniel Goleman states: "The fundamental goal of Buddhist practice is the achievement of nirvana."[4]
    • Smith and Novak state: "Nirvana [is] the word the Buddha used to name life’s goal as he saw it. [...] Nirvana is the highest destiny of the human spirit and its literal meaning is “extinction,” but what is to be extinguished are the boundaries of the finite self [...]"[5]
    • Ajahn Sucitto states: "Nibbāna is held to be the ultimate goal in Buddhism. [...] It is the ending of sorrow and delusion, and it is supremely peaceful."[6]
    • Donald Lopez states: "Nirvana is [...] the oldest and most common designation for the goal of the Buddhist path "[web 1]
  2. ^ Goldstein is quoting from the final paragraph of the Maha Saropama Sutta; see Maha Saropama Sutta.
  3. ^ Nirvana is described as extinguishing the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya).
    • Rupert Gethin states: "Literally nirvāṇa means ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ [...] What the Pali and Sanskrit expression primarily indicates is the event or process of the extinction of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. At the moment the Buddha understood suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation, these fires were extinguished. This process is the same for all who reach awakening, and the early texts term it either nirvāṇa or parinirvāṇa, the complete ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. This is not a ‘thing’ but an event or experience."[7]
    • Paul Williams states: "[Nirvana] means 'extinguishing', as in 'the extinguishing of a flame', and it signifies soteriologically the complete extinguishing of greed, hatred, and fundamentally delusion (i.e. ignorance), the forces which power samsara."[8]
    • Ajahn Sucitto states: "By the extinguishing of the “three fires” of greed, hatred, and delusion, nibbāna gives tangible results in terms of other people’s welfare."[9]
    • Smith and Novak state: "Nirvana is the highest destiny of the human spirit and its literal meaning is “extinction,” but what is to be extinguished are the boundaries of the finite self and the three poisons that feed that self: “The extinction of greed, the extinction of hate, the extinction of delusion: this indeed is called Nirvana.”"[5]
    • Bhikkhu Bodhi states: "The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbāna (nirvāṇa), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion."[10]
    • Donald Lopez states: "[Nirvana] is used to refer to the extinction of desire, hatred, and ignorance and, ultimately, of suffering and rebirth."[web 1]
    • See also Gombrich Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benāres to Modern Colombo. Routledge
  4. ^ When the fires of craving are extinguished, freedom from rebirth is attained.
    • Bikkhu Bodhi states: "For as long as one is entangled by craving, one remains bound in saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death; but when all craving has been extirpated, one attains Nibbāna, deliverance from the cycle of birth and death."[11]
    • Damien Keown states: "When the flame of craving is extinguished, rebirth ceases, and an enlightened person is not reborn."[12]
  5. ^ There are two stages of nirvana--during life and beyond death.
    • Donald Lopez states: "Two types of nirvana are [...] described. The first is called 'nirvana with remainder.' [...] The second type is called 'nirvana without remainder', or final nirvana."[13]
    • Peter Harvey states: "The first aspect of Nibbana is described as 'with remainder of what is grasped at' (sa-updadi-sesa), meaning that the khandas, the result of past grasping, still remain for him; the second is described as 'without remainder of what is grasped at' (an-upadi-sesa) (It.38-39).[14]
    • Damien Keown states: Nirvana takes two forms: the first occurs during life and the second at death. The Buddha attained what is known as ‘nirvana-in-this-life’ while sitting under a tree at the age of 35. At the age of 80 he passed away into ‘final nirvana’ from which he would not be reborn.[15]
  6. ^ A number of the suttas referenced below as well as Buddhaghosa himself refer not explicitly to nirvana but to "the path of purification" (Pali: Visuddhimagga). In Visuddhimagga, Ch. I, v. 5, Buddhaghosa notes: "Herein, purification should be understood as nibbana, which being devoid of all stains, is utterly pure" (Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli, 1999, p. 6.)
  7. ^ See Dh. 277, e dhp-277 Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, Buddharakkhita (1996a) In the Paramattha-mañjūsā (the Visuddhimagga commentary), vv. 9-10, it adds the following caveat regarding this option of "insight alone": "The words 'insight alone' are meant to exclude, not virtue, etc., but serenity (i.e., jhana), [...] [as typically reflected] in the pair, serenity and insight [...] The word 'alone' actually excludes only that concentration with distinction [of jhanic absorption]; for concentration is classed as both access [or momentary] and absorption [...] Taking this stanza as the teaching for one whose vehicle is insight does not imply that there is no concentration; for no insight comes about with momentary concentration. And again, insight should be understood as the three contemplations of impermanence, pain and not-self [see tilakkhana]; not contemplation of impermanence alone".[18]
  8. ^ See Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, Thanissaro (2003). Verse 262 of this sutta is translated by Thanissaro as: "Action, clear-knowing, & mental qualities, virtue, the highest [way of] life: through this are mortals purified, not through clan or wealth.
  9. ^ The option expressed by SN i.13 is the basis for the entire rest of the Visuddhimagga's exposition. It is the very first paragraph of the Visuddhimagga and states: "When a wise man, established well in virtue, develops consciousness and understanding, then as a bhikku ardent and sagacious, he succeeds in disentangling this tangle.[20] In the Visuddhimagga, Ch. I, verse 2, Buddhaghosa comments that this tangle refers to "the network of craving." In verse 7, Buddhaghosa states that develops consciousness and understanding means "develops both concentration and insight."[21]
  10. ^ SN i.53)Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), p. 7, translate SN i.53 as: "He who is possessed of constant virtue, who has understanding, and is concentrated, who is strenuous and diligent as well, will cross the flood so difficult to cross.
  11. ^ See Thanissaro (2000). Verse 290 of this sutta is translated by Thanissaro as: "The Blessed One said this: "This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding—in other words, the four frames of reference.""
  12. ^ See for example the Jhana Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  13. ^ Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro: The Buddha avoided the nit-picking pedantry of many philosophers contemporary with him and opted for a more broad-brush, colloquial style, geared to particular listeners in a language which they could understand. Thus ‘viññana’ here can be assumed to mean ‘knowing’ but not the partial, fragmented, discriminative (vi-) knowing (-ñana) which the word usually implies. Instead it must mean a knowing of a primordial, transcendent nature, otherwise the passage which contains it would be self-contradictory." They then give further context for why this choice of words may have been made; the passages may represent an example of the Buddha using his "skill in means" to teach Brahmins in terms they were familiar with.[34]
  14. ^ There is a clear reference in the Anguttara Nikaya to a "luminous mind" present within all people, be they corrupt or pure, whether or not it itself is pure or impure.[42] The Canon does not support the identification of the "luminous mind" with nirvanic consciousness, though it plays a role in the realization of nirvāṇa.[43][44] Upon the destruction of the fetters, according to one scholar, "the shining nibbanic consciousness flashes out" of it, "being without object or support, so transcending all limitations."[45]
  15. ^ The analogy is as follows:"If you put garlic in a vessel, it deposits some of its odor in the vessel itself; Thus when you seek to clean the vessel, it is necessary to first remove the garlic. Similarly, a consciousness conceiving inherent existence, like garlic, deposits predispositions in the mind that produce the appearance of inherent existence; Thus,there is no way to cleanse the mind of those predispositions, which are like the flavor of garlic left in the vessel of the mind,until one removes all consciousnesses conceiving of inherent existence from the mind. First, the garlic must be removed; then, its odor can be removed. For this reason, according to the Consequence School, until one has utterly removed all the afflictive obstructions, one cannot begin to remove the obstructions to omniscience. Since this is the case, a practitioner cannot begin overcoming the obstructions to omniscience on any of the seven first bodhisattva grounds, which are called "impure" because one still has afflictive obstructions to be abandoned. Rather, one begins abandoning the obstructions to omniscience on the eighth bodhisattva ground, and continues to do so on the ninth and tenth, these three being called the 'three pure grounds" because the afflictive obstructions have been abandoned."[49]
  16. ^ According to Tibetan Buddhist scholars, Buddha's omniscience has Five Exalted Qualities:has five parts: (1) the exalted mirror-like wisdom, which perceives all phenomena simultaneously as a mirror reflects objects; (2) the exalted wisdom of equality, which realizes that all phenomena are equal in emptiness; (3) the exalted wisdom of individual realization, which realizes all individual phenomena directly; (4) the exalted wisdom of he ultimate nature of all phenomena."[50]

References[edit]

Published references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Goldstein 2011, pp. 158-159.
  2. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 887-888.
  3. ^ Goleman 2008, Kindle Locations 5513-5517.
  4. ^ Goleman 2008, Kindle Locations 3538-3539.
  5. ^ a b c Smith & Novak 2009, pp. 51-52.
  6. ^ Ajahn Sucitto 2010, pp. 162-163.
  7. ^ a b c Gethin 1998, p. 75.
  8. ^ a b Williams 2002, pp. 47-48.
  9. ^ a b Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 163.
  10. ^ a b Bhikkhu Bodhi 2011, p. 25.
  11. ^ a b Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Kindle Locations 5188-5193.
  12. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 1025-1032.
  13. ^ Lopez 2001, p. 47.
  14. ^ Harvey 1990, p. 61.
  15. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 1013-1016.
  16. ^ a b Steven Collins, Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism. Cambridge University Press, 1982, page 207.
  17. ^ a b Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press 1995, page 87.
  18. ^ Buddhaghosa andÑāṇamoli, 1999, p. 750, n. 3.
  19. ^ See Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism , Buddharakkhita (1996b).
  20. ^ Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli, 1999, p. 1.
  21. ^ Buddhaghosa and Ñāṇamoli, 1999, pp. 1,7.)
  22. ^ Satipatthana Sutta, DN ii.290
  23. ^ In the Nikayas mental development generally suggests the attainment of jhanic absorption; however, as indicated above in the note regarding the "insight alone" option, in some contexts it can refer to attaining "access" or "momentary" concentration without full absorption.
  24. ^ a b Thanissaro Bhikkhu's commentary to the Brahma-nimantantika Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  25. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 91.
  26. ^ a b Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 93.
  27. ^ a b c Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  28. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness mysticism in the discourses of the Buddha. in Karel Werner, The Yogi and the Mystic; Studies in Indian and Comparative Mysticism." Routledge, 1995, page 82; books.google.com.
  29. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  30. ^ See also Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind.
  31. ^ Ajahn Brahmali, bswa.org.
  32. ^ Rupert Gethin objects to parts of Harvey's argument; buddhistethics.org.
  33. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 88. The quote is MN I, 127-128.
  34. ^ a b Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro, The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on nibbāna, page 131. Available online at abhayagiri.org.
  35. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, pages 87, 90.
  36. ^ Thanissaro Bhukkhu's commentary on the Brahma-nimantanika Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  37. ^ Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, page 355. ISBN 978-81-208-0880-5
  38. ^ Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, pages 354-356. books.google.com ISBN 978-81-208-0880-5
  39. ^ See Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, DN 11
  40. ^ Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom. Dharma Publishing, 1997, page 322. Lindtner says that Nagarjuna is referencing the DN.
  41. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 100.
  42. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 94. The reference is at A I, 8-10.
  43. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, pages 94, 97.
  44. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
  45. ^ Harvey, page 99.
  46. ^ Pabongka Rinpoche (author). "Liberation in Our Hands." Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press. (1994).
  47. ^ Obstructions to Liberation
  48. ^ Obstructions to Full Omniscience
  49. ^ Jeffery Hopkins (author). "The Dalai Lama at Harvard: Lectures on the Buddhist Path to Peace." Snow Lion Publications.
  50. ^ Kelsang Gyatso. "Understanding the Mind." Tharpa Publications.
  51. ^ Takpo Tashi Namgyal, Mahamudra Shambhala, Boston and London, 1986, p.219
  52. ^ Professor Etienne Lamotte, tr. Sara Boin-Webb, Suramgamasamadhisutra, Curzon, London, 1998, p.4
  53. ^ William Edward Soothill, Lewis Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1997, p. 328. Digital version
  54. ^ Kosho Yamamoto, Mahayanism: A Critical Exposition of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāna Sutra, Karinbunko, Ube City, Japan, 1975, pp. 141, 142
  55. ^ Dr. Tony Page, Affirmation of Eternal Self in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Bangkok University Academic Review, Bangkok University, URL:http://www.bu.ac.th/knowledgecenter/epaper/jan_june2010/pdf/Page_47.pdf
  56. ^ Yamamoto, Mahāyānism op. cit., p. 165
  57. ^ Yamamoto, Mahāyānism, ibid
  58. ^ Verse 204, nibbanam paramam sukham
  59. ^ Peter Harvey, Consciousness mysticism in the discourses of the Buddha in Karel Werner, The Yogi and the Mystic; Studies in Indian and Comparative Mysticism." Routledge, 1995, page 82; books.google.com
  60. ^ Guenther, The Problem of the Soul in Early Buddhism, Curt Weller Verlag, Constanz, 1949, pp. 156-157.
  61. ^ Yamaka Sutta, SN 22.85.
  62. ^ Aggivacchagotta Sutta; In the Buddha's Words, p367-369. Bhikku Bodhi
  63. ^ Bodhi, Bhikkhu. "Nibbana". Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  64. ^ Lotus Sutra
  65. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Kindle Locations 5193-5198.
  66. ^ About T K Parthasarathy (February 8, 2011). "Working Towards nirvANa and New Humanity (1 of 2)". Advaita Academy. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 

Web-references[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi (translator) (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1 
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi (2011), The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering, Independent Publishers Group, Kindle Edition 
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, Independent Publishers Group, Kindle Edition 
  • Duiker, William J.; Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2008). World History: To 1800. 
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press 
  • Goldstein, Joseph (2011), One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, HarperCollins, Kindle Edition 
  • Goleman, Daniel (2008), Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Bantam, Kindle Edition 
  • Harvey, Peter (1990), Introduction to Buddhism, Cambridge University Press 
  • Harvey, Brian Peter (1995), The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāṇa in Early Buddhism, Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-0338-1 
  • Hindson, Ed (2008). The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. 
  • Jain, Arun Kumar (2009). Faith & philosophy of Jainism. 
  • Keown, Damien (2000), Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition 
  • Lopez, Donald S. (2001), The Story of Buddhism, HarperCollins 
  • Moffitt, Philip (2008), Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Rodale, Kindle Edition 
  • Pruthi, R.K. (2004). Sikhism And Indian Civilization. 
  • Ringu Tulku (2005), Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion 
  • Smith, Huston; Novak, Philip (2009), Buddhism: A Concise Introduction, HarperOne, Kindle Edition 
  • Snelling, John (1987), The Buddhist handbook. A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice, London: Century Paperbacks 
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (1991), Old Path White Clouds, Parallax Press 
  • Thich Nhat Hanh (1999), The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Three River Press 
  • Trainor, Kevin (2004). Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide. 
  • Traleg Kyabgon (2001), The Essence of Buddhism, Shambhala 
  • Williams, Paul (2002), Buddhist Thought, Taylor & Francis, Kindle Edition 
  • Walpola Rahula (2007), What the Buddha Taught, Grove Press, Kindle Edition 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ajahn Brahm, "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook" (Wisdom Publications 2006) Part II.
  • Katukurunde Nanananda, "Nibbana - The Mind Stilled (Vol. I-VII)" (Dharma Grantha Mudrana Bharaya, 2012).
  • Kawamura, Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhism, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1981, pp. 11.
  • Yogi Kanna, "Nirvana: Absolute Freedom" (Kamath Publishing; 2011) 198 pages.
  • Steven Collins. Nirvana: Concept, Imagery, Narrative (Cambridge University Press; 2010) 204 page.

External links[edit]