WHAT BUDDHISTS BELIEVE

Nirvana

Nirvana is the highest bliss, a supra-mundane state of eternal happiness. The happiness of Nirvana cannot be experienced by indulging the senses but by calming them. …

NIRVANA is the final goal of Buddhism. What is Nirvana then? It is not easy to know what Nirvana really is; it is easier to know what Nirvana is not. Nirvana is not nothingness or extinction. Would the Buddha have left His family and kingdom and preached for 45 years—all for nothingness? Nirvana is not a paradise. Several centuries after the Buddha,some of the Buddhist sects began to describe Nirvana as a paradise.Their purpose of equating Nirvana with a heavenly world was to convince the ‘less-intellectually-gifted’ and to attract them to the teachings of the sect. Striving for Nirvana came to mean looking for a nice place where everything is beautiful and where everyone is eternally happy. This might be a very comfortable folk tale, but it is not the Nirvana that the Buddha experienced and described. During His time the Buddha did not deny the idea of paradise or heaven asit was presented in the early Indian religions. But the Buddha knewthat this paradise was within Samsara and the final liberation was beyond it. The Buddha could see that the Path to Nirvana led beyond the heavens.

If Nirvana is not a place, where is Nirvana then? Strictly speaking we cannot ask where Nirvana is. Nirvana exists just as fire exists.There is no storage place for fire or for Nirvana. But when you rub pieces of wood together, then the friction and heat are the proper conditions for fire to arise. Likewise, when the nature of a person’smind is such that he or she is free from all defilements, then Nirvanic bliss will arise.

Anyone can experience Nirvana but until one experiences the supreme state of Nirvanic bliss, one can only speculate as to what itreally is, although we can get glimpses of it in everyday life. For those who insist on the theory, the texts offer some help. The texts suggest that Nirvana is a supra-mundane state of unalloyed happiness.

By itself, Nirvana is quite unexplainable and quite undefinable. As darkness can be explained only by its opposite, light, and as calm can only be explained by its opposite, motion, so likewise Nirvana, as a state equated to the extinction of all suffering can be explained by its opposite—the suffering that is being endured in Samsara. As darkness prevails wherever there is no light, as calm prevails wherever there is no motion, so likewise Nirvana is everywhere where suffering and change and impurity do not prevail.

A sufferer who scratches his sores can experience a temporary relief. But this temporary relief will only aggravate the wounds and cause the disease to worsen. The joy of the final cure can hardly becompared to the fleeting relief obtained from the scratching. Likewise, satisfying the craving for sense-desires brings only temporary gratification or happiness which prolongs the journey in Samsara. The cure for the samsaric disease is Nirvana. Nirvana is an end of the cravings which cause all the sufferings of birth, old age, disease, death,grief, lamentation and despair. The joy of Nirvanic cure can hardly be compared to the temporary Samsaric pleasure gained through fulfilling the sense desires.

It is not advisable to speculate on what Nirvana is ; it is better to know how to prepare the conditions necessary for Nirvana, how to attain the inner peace and clarity of vision that leads to Nirvana. Follow the Buddha’s advice: put His Teachings into practice. Get rid of all defilements which are rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion. Purify yourself of all desires and realise absolute selflessness. Lead alife of right moral conduct and constantly practise meditation. By active exertion, free yourself from all selfishness and illusion. Then, Nirvana is gained and experienced.

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