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The following article is about the term Nirvana in the context of Buddhism. See Nirvana (disambiguation) for other meanings.

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In Buddhism, nirvāṇa (from the Sanskrit -- Pali: Nibbāna -- Chinese: Nie4 Pan2 (涅槃)), literally "extinction" or "extinguishing", is the culmination of the Buddhist pursuit of liberation. Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, described Buddhism as a raft which, after floating across a river, will enable the passenger to reach nirvana. Hinduism also uses nirvana as a synonym to its ideas of moksha, and it is spoken of in several Hindu tantric texts as well as the Bhagavad Gita.

Table of contents
1 Etymology
2 Philosophical concerns
3 Quotations
4 See also
5 External link
6 Further reading


Etymologicallly, nirvana connotes an extinguishing or "blowing out" of a fire or candle flame, and in the Buddhist context carries the further connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. In nirvana, all greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving and ego-centered consciousness are extinguished.

In Indian physics during the time of Gautama Buddha, when a fire was extinguished it went into a state of latency. Rather than ceasing to exist, it became dormant and unbound from any particular fuel, it became diffused throughout the cosmos. When the Buddha used the image to explain nibbana to the Indian Brahmins of his day, he bypassed the question of whether an extinguished fire continues to exist or not, and focused instead on the impossibility of defining a fire that doesn't burn: thus his statement that the person who has gone totally "out" can't be described.

Philosophical concerns

As a negation of saṁsāra (i.e., the whole phenomenal world), nirvana is impossible to define directly; it can only be experienced or realized. One may not even be able to say this, since saying this implies the existence of an experiencing subject--which in fact would not persist after full nirvāṇa. While some of the side-effects of nirvana can be identified, a definition of nirvāṇa can only be approximated by what it is not. It is not the clinging existence with which man is understood to be afflicted. It is not any sort of becoming. It has no origin or end. It is not made or fabricated. It has no dualities, so that it cannot be described in words. It has no parts that may be distinguished one from another. It is not a subjective state of consciousness. It is not conditioned on or by anything else.

Calling "nirvana" the opposite of samsara may not be doctrinally accurate since even in early Buddhism and by the time of Nāgārjuna, there are teachings of the identity of nirvana and samsara. However, even here it is assumed that the natural man suffers from at the very least a confusion regarding the nature of samsara.

We can also say that, given the vital importance of the idea of anatta (Pāli; Sanskrit: Anātman), which negates not merely the grasping mind but also any concept of essential substance or permanent self, it is clear that nirvāna is not to be understood as a union with monistic ideal. Since there is essentially no self and no not-self, there is nothing to unite, instead it is an experience of non-separation.

It should also be noted that the Buddha discouraged certain lines of speculation, including speculation into the state of an enlightened being after death, on the grounds that these were not useful for pursuing enlightenment; thus definitions of nirvāṇa might be said to be doctrinally unimportant.


See also

External link

Further reading