Soo…What is nirvana?
Nirvana is a “space” which is free of suffering (NT3) and how you get to it is through NT4.
Nothing is sufficient to present authentic, durable happiness (greatest sex, love, food, etc)
Finding happiness in the external world (craving) is the problem.
The Buddha felt that the limits of language and human understanding prevented a clear definition.
He often defined Nirvana in a negative way - by what it wasn’t. He taught that this state is neither
existence -- because that which can be said to exist is limited in time and space -- nor non-
existence. Basis for Nirvana: realization of non-self, anatta, emptiness, usually through meditation.
Nirvana in Theravada Buddhism describes 2 types of nirvana.
- The first describes a living enlightened being, an arhat, who is still conscious of pleasure
and pain but is no longer bound to them.
- The second type is parinibbana, which is final or complete nibbana that is "entered" at
Nirvana in Mehayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhists strive to bring all beings to enlightenment. Thus the idea of the Bodhisattva
emerges. Mahayana Buddhism also teaches that samsara and nirvana are not really separate, that
they in fact pervade each other. Nirvana is the purified, true nature of samsara.
➢ Blowing out the causes of neurotic behaviour, irrational cravings, delusions. Not normal things
– only STRONG, unreasonable things.
➢ The ability to encounter experience with an undistorted frame of reference (so w/o seeing
experience as a continuous process [impermanence], conditioned [emptiness] and
incapable of providing durable satisfaction [unsatisfactoriness, dukkha]).
➢ ‘deathless’, ‘unborn’, ‘unaging’, ‘unailing’; implies a state of reality beyond the cycle of rebirth.
➢ Bliss, peace. A place characterized by the highest happiness.
Can the notion of Nirvana as both extinction and bliss be reconciled?
Full cessation of suffering must occur post-death
Nevertheless, the claim is that Nirvana with residue produces a bliss and happiness
Happiness unrelated to sensation; deep joy or gratification
The Two Types of Nirvana
Nirvana with residue occurs in this lifetime. Such people will have successfully destroyed the
cause of craving, hatred and ignorance (but otherwise they function normally).
According to the Buddha, whatever feelings an Arhat has ‘whether pleasant or painful or neither-
pleasant-nor-painful, he abides contemplating impermanence in those feelings’.
Arhats have peace, tranquility, metta, appreciation, joy and equanimity. True (positive) happiness
emerges from the freedom from preoccupation with craving desires and its fulfillment! The Buddha
says that ‘one who perceives non-self achieves the elimination of the conceit ‘I am’ and attains
Nirvana in this very life. Nirvana without residue occurs post-death and here all experience is extinguished: one escapes
cyclic existence = no rebirth.
The Buddha discouraged any discussion of this type of nirvana. He refused to say whether or an
Arhat exists after death or not. We do know that he claimed that after death nothing of what existed
while alive (i.e. the aggregates, skandhas) survives. In essence, the Buddha has little to say about
what it is like, but more what it is not (negation).
Issues with Nirvana
1. There must be something left, or else Nirvana would be annihilation, which the Buddha
denies. There is no empirical way to know.
2. Can there be experience w/o consciousness?
3. If Nirvana is not annihilation then there must be some kind of ‘self’ that experiences
Nirvana, which the Buddha denies????
4. If the skandhas are empty, what would experience nirvana after death? (i.e, no
consciousness, feelings, body)
5. Where are the enlightened beings today? Does anyone claim to be in nirvana with residue?
In the Sutras, the Buddha describes a very psychological approach to attaining nirvana or nirodha
(i.e., the 8-fold path), which we are encouraged to follow. Buddha calls this bhavana (bhu= being;
bhava = becoming) or mental cultivation or development.
Bhavana refers to the development of specific types of mental qualities. It refers to creating the
right conditions for happiness and wisdom to arise. It’s hard. There are different types:
1. Metta-bhavana (cultivation of loving-kindness);
2. Citta-bhavana (cultivation of mental qualities);
3. Prajna-bhavana (cultivation of wisdom)
By eliminating cravings, delusions, aversions, space is opened up to experience higher types of
happiness that are durable and authentic and unconditioned
The 8-Fold Path emphasizes:
➢ the attainment of mental calm, clarity and focus (the path of meditation: Paths 6,7,8)
➢ clearly percveing the nature of mental experience (the path of wisdom: Paths 1,2) which
naturally leads to:
➢ the recognition of our utter interconnectedness with the social world and the environment
(the path of ethics: Paths 3,4,5)
The Buddhist path stresses the cultivation of ETHICS, WISDOM and MEDITATION as the 3 pillars of
authentic happiness. The Path of Wisdom
TRANSFORMATION OF: DESCRIPTION
VIEW Understanding cause and effect (karma); all experience is transient
(Perceptual Wisdom) (impermanent) and conditioned (empty); understanding the nature of
suffering, cause of suffering and the solution to suffering