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Nirvana

Nirvana (Sanskrit, Nibbana Pali lit. the "unbinding" of the mind from all mental effluents, defilements, and the round of rebirth; beyond all that can be described or defined) is the transcendent and singularly ineffable freedom that stands as the final goal of Buddhism. In Chinese Buddhist scriptures, the word is transliterated as Nie4 Pan2 (涅槃).

As a term, it denotes the extinguishing or "blowing out" of a fire or candle flame and carries the connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. This state is in opposition of suffering in which all greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving and ego-centered consciousness are extinguished. Often considered ineffable, Nirvana may be denoted as a continuity of void processes.

A popularly quoted verse spoken by Gautama Buddha describing what Nirvana is not: "There is, monks, an unborn -- unbecome -- unmade -- unfabricated. If there were not that unborn -- unbecome -- unmade -- unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born -- become -- made -- fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn -- unbecome -- unmade -- unfabricated, emancipation from the born -- become -- made -- fabricated is discerned." [Udana VIII.3]

According to the physics taught at the time of the Buddha, a burning fire seizes or adheres to its fuel; when extinguished, it is unbound

To Brahmin and Indian thought 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 in that state -- unbound from any particular fuel -- it became diffused throughout the cosmos. When the Buddha used the image to explain nibbana to the Indian Brahmans 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.

However, when teaching his own disciples, the Buddha used nibbana more as an image of freedom. Apparently, all Indians at the time saw burning fire as agitated, dependent, and trapped, both clinging and being stuck to its fuel as it burned. To ignite a fire, one had to "seize" it. When fire let go of its fuel, it was "freed," released from its agitation, dependence, and entrapment -- calm and unconfined.

See also: paramita, moksha


Based on the above usage, the name Nirvana has been used by:



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