Nirvana (Sanskrit, also nirvāṇa; Pali: nibbana, nibbāna ) is the earliest and most common term used to describe the goal of the Buddhist path. The literal meaning of the term in Sanskrit is "to be blown out" or "to be extinguished". Within the Buddhist tradition, this term is typically glossed as the extinction of craving (tanha), or more broadly, the extinction of the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidyā). 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).
(mya ngan las 'das pa)
The Buddhist tradition distinguishes between the experience of someone who reaches nirvana during their lifetime (sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa) and the experience of nirvana after death (nir-upadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa). The experience of nirvana-in-this-lifetime is described as a transformed state of mind that is free from negative mental states, peaceful, happy, and non-reactive. The experience of nirvana-after-death (commonly referred to as paranirvana) is said to be beyond words or description.
The two main traditions of Buddhism, the Theravada and Mahayana, differ in their presentations of nirvana. The Theravada tradition emphasizes the cessation of suffering and liberation from samsara. The Mahayana tradition emphasizes two stages of nirvana: the first stage is described (using similar language to the Theravada tradition) as the cessation of suffering and liberation from samsara; the next and final stage is referred to as the nonabiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana, or buddhahood, that transcends both samsara and the limited nirvana of the first stage.
Goal of the Buddhist Path
- 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.”[lower-alpha 2]
- The Buddha says "Just as the water of a river plunges into the ocean and merges with the ocean, so the spiritual path, the Noble Eightfold Path, plunges into Nibbana and merges with Nibbana."
Extinguishing the fires
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).[lower-alpha 3]
For example, 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.
Contemporary Buddhist scholar Ajahn Sucitto emphasizes that when these fires are extinguished, the mind is freed. Ajahn Sucitto states:
- 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
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:
- 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
In the Buddhist view, the 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.[lower-alpha 4]
Bhikkhu 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.
Paul Williams states:
- 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 after death
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:[lower-alpha 5]
- Nirvana during life
- Pali: sa-upādisesa-nibbāna
- Sanskrit: sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa
- Also translated as: nirvana with remainder; nirvana with residue
- Indicates the experience of someone who has experienced nirvana in their lifetime but still remains in their physical body
- Nirvana after death
- Pali: an-up ādisesa-nibbāna
- Sanskrit: nir-upadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa
- Also referred to as: nirvana without remainder; nirvana without residue; or parinirvana
- Indicates the experience of nirvana for someone after their death
Nirvana in this life
In the Buddhist tradition, it is believed that a practitioner can achieve nirvana during their life, or at the moment of death. When a practitioner experiences nirvana during their life, this experience is referred as nirvana-in-this-life, or more traditionally, "nirvana with remainder" (Pali: sa-upādisesa-nibbāna; Sanskrit: sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa).
Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin explains:
- Like the Buddha, any person who attains nirvāṇa does not remain thereafter forever absorbed in some transcendental state of mind. On the contrary he or she continues to live in the world; he or she continues to think, speak, and act as other people do—with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom. This condition of having extinguished the defilements can be termed ‘nirvāṇa with the remainder [of life]’ (sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa/sa-upādisesa-nibbāna): the nirvāṇa that comes from ending the occurrence of the defilements (kleśa/kilesa) of the mind; what the Pali commentaries call for short kilesa-parinibbāna.[lower-alpha 6] And this is what the Buddha achieved on the night of his awakening.
The experience of nirvana-in-this-life is said to result in a transformed mind that has the following qualities:
- free from negative mental states
Free from negative mental states
The experience of nirvana-in-this-life is said to be free from all negative mental states. For example, Walpola Rahula states that one who has achieved nirvana is "free from all ‘complexes’ and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others."
Damien Keown states:
- Nirvana [...] involves a radically transformed state of consciousness which is free of the obsession with ‘me and mine’.
Rupert Gethin states:
- Any person who attains nirvāṇa [...] continues to think, speak, and act as other people do—with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom.
Contemporary Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sucitto states:
- When the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion are extinguished, the mind is free to operate in terms of its fullest capacity.
Anam Thubten states:
- Nirvana or whatever you want to call it means the complete deconstruction of all of our rigid mental patterns and habits as well the deconstruction of all of our limiting beliefs. This deconstruction creates a space for true inquiry. When we open our hearts and our minds completely, we are in a place where we can experience something new, a new truth, a new reality, a miracle that we haven't experienced in the past. We can see things differently and they present new, expanded opportunities, new horizons.
- He who has realized the Truth, Nirvāṇa, is the happiest being in the world. He is free from all ‘complexes’ and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others. His mental health is perfect. He does not repent the past, nor does he brood over the future. He lives fully in the present.[lower-alpha 8] Therefore he appreciates and enjoys things in the purest sense without self-projections. He is joyful, exultant, enjoying the pure life, his faculties pleased, free from anxiety, serene and peaceful.[lower-alpha 9]
Damien Keown states:
- It is clear that nirvana-in-this-life is a psychological and ethical reality, a transformed state of personality characterized by peace, deep spiritual joy, compassion, and a refined and subtle awareness. Negative mental states and emotions such as doubt, worry, anxiety, and fear are absent from the enlightened mind. Saints in many religious traditions exhibit some or all of these qualities, and ordinary people also possess them to some degree, although imperfectly developed. An enlightened person, however, such as a Buddha or an Arhat, possesses them all completely.
In the state of nirvana, the mind is no longer reactive. Phillip Moffitt states:
- Nibbana literally means "cooled" and is analogous to a fire that's no longer burning. Thus, when there is cessation, your mind no longer burns in response to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant in your life; it isn't reactive or controlled by what you like or dislike.
Ringu Tulku explains:
- Someone who has attained [...] the state of nirvana, will no longer react within the pattern of aversion and attachment. The way such a person sees things will be nondualistic and therefore non-conceptual. [...] When this dual reaction is gone, nothing is haunting or fearful anymore. We see clearly, and nothing seems imposing, since nothing is imposed from our part. When there is nothing we do not like, there is nothing to fear. Being free from fear, we are peaceful. There is no need to run away from anything, and therefore no need to run after anything either. In this way there is no burden. We can have inner peace, strength, and clarity, almost independent from circumstances and situations. This is complete freedom of mind without any circumstantial entanglement; the state is called "nirvana" [...]. Someone who has reached this state has gone beyond our usual way of being imprisoned in habitual patterns and distorted ways of seeing these things.
Ajahn Sucitto states "qualities like calm, clarity, and kindness are all enhanced [...] the tinder and the sparkiness of the heart are removed."
No sensation itself is happiness
Walpola Rahula explains:
- Nirvāṇa is beyond all terms of duality and relativity. It is therefore beyond our conceptions of good and evil, right and wrong, existence and non-existence. Even the word ‘happiness’ (sukha) which is used to describe Nirvāṇa has an entirely different sense here. Sāriputta once said: ‘O friend, Nirvāṇa is happiness! Nirvāṇa is happiness!’ Then Udāyi asked: ‘But, friend Sāriputta, what happiness can it be if there is no sensation?’ Sāriputta’s reply was highly philosophical and beyond ordinary comprehension: “That there is no sensation itself is happiness’.
Nirvana after death
In the Buddhist view, when an ordinary person dies and their physical body disintegrates, the person's consciousness passes onto a new birth; and the person is reborn in one of the six realms of samsara. However, when a person attains nirvana, they are liberated from ordinary rebirth. When such a person dies, their physical body disintegrates and their consciousness is said to be completely liberated. They are not reborn in the ordinary sense. Their consciousness does not take rebirth into a physical form.
Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin explains:
- Eventually ‘the remainder of life’ will be exhausted and, like all beings, such a person must die. But unlike other beings, who have not experienced ‘nirvāṇa’, he or she will not be reborn into some new life, the physical and mental constituents of being will not come together in some new existence, there will be no new being or person. Instead of being reborn, the person ‘parinirvāṇa-s’, meaning in this context that the five aggregates of physical and mental phenomena that constitute a being cease to occur. This is the condition of ‘nirvāṇa without remainder [of life]’ (nir-upadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa/an-up ādisesa-nibbāna): nirvāṇa that comes from ending the occurrence of the aggregates (skandha/khandha) of physical and mental phenomena that constitute a being; or, for short, khandha-parinibbāna.[lower-alpha 6] Modern Buddhist usage tends to restrict ‘nirvāṇa’ to the awakening experience and reserve ‘parinirvāṇa’ for the death experience.
No words to describe the experience
In the Buddhist view, there are no words to describe the experience of nirvana-after-death. Walpola Rahula explains:
- Now another question arises: What happens to the Buddha or an Arahant after his death, parinirvāṇa? This comes under the category of unanswered questions (avyākata). [Samyutta Nikaya IV (PTS), p. 375 f.] Even when the Buddha spoke about this, he indicated that no words in our vocabulary could express what happens to an Arahant after his death. In reply to a Parivrājaka named Vaccha, the Buddha said that terms like ‘born’ or ‘not born’ do not apply in the case of an Arahant, because those things—matter, sensation, perception, mental activities, consciousness—with which the terms like ‘born’ and ‘not born’ are associated, are completely destroyed and uprooted, never to rise again after his death. [Majjhima Nikaya I (PTS), p. 486]
Physical existence is like a fire gone out
When a person who has reached nirvana dies, their physical existence is compared to a fire that has gone out. Walpola Rahula explains:
- An Arahant after his death is often compared to a fire gone out when the supply of wood is over, or to the flame of a lamp gone out when the wick and oil are finished.[Majjhima Nikaya I (PTS), p. 487] Here it should be clearly and distinctly understood, without any confusion, that what is compared to a flame or a fire gone out is not Nirvāṇa, but the ‘being’ composed of the Five Aggregates who realized Nirvāṇa. This point has to be emphasized because many people, even some great scholars, have misunderstood and misinterpreted this simile as referring to Nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa is never compared to a fire or a lamp gone out.
According to the Visuddhimagga, nirvana is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purification (Pali: Vissudhimagga). 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.
Options for pursuing the path
- By insight (vipassana) alone [lower-alpha 11]
- By jhana and understanding (see Dh. 372)
- by deeds, vision and righteousness (see MN iii.262)[lower-alpha 12]
- By virtue, consciousness and understanding (7SN i.13);[lower-alpha 13]
- by virtue, understanding, concentration and effort;[lower-alpha 14]
- By the four foundations of mindfulness.[lower-alpha 15]
Levels of attainment
The Theravada tradition identifies four progressive stages culminating in full enlightenment as an Arahat. These four stages are:
- Stream-enterer (Sotapanna)
- Once returner (Sakadagami)
- Non-returner (Anagami)
The final stage, the arhat, is a fully awakened person. The arhat has abandoned all ten fetters and, upon death will never be reborn in any plane or world, having wholly escaped saṃsāra.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes that individuals up to the level of non-returning may experience nirvāna as an object of mental consciousness.[lower-alpha 17] Certain contemplations with nibbana as an object of samādhi lead, if developed, to the level of non-returning. 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.
Mind/consciousness in the liberated person
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The Buddha's teachings in the Pāli Canon present nirvāṇa as a radical reordering of consciousness. 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.
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."
In one interpretation, the "luminous consciousness" is identical with nirvāṇa. Others disagree, finding it to be not nirvāṇa itself, but instead to be a kind of consciousness accessible only to arahants. A passage in the Majjhima Nikaya likens it to empty space.
Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro, contemporary vipassana-teachers write that what is referred to with the use of the word "viññana" (consciousness) is the quality of awareness, and that the use of the term "viññana" must be in a broader way than it usually is meant.[lower-alpha 18]
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. According to Peter Harvey, the early texts are ambivalent as to whether or not the term "consciousness" is accurate. In a liberated individual, this is directly experienced, in a way that is free from any dependence on conditions at all.
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. 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". 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".
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.
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.[lower-alpha 19]
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.
Free from rebirth
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) 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 samsara.
The ultimate state of nirvana is described by the Buddha as "deathlessness" (Pali: amata or amāravati).
Actions of the liberated person
A liberated person performs neutral actions (Pali: kiriya kamma) producing no karmic results or fruit (vipaka), but nonetheless preserves a particular individual personality. This is the result of the traces of his or her karmic heritage.  In Theravada the arahant abiding in nirvāṇa is "the ideal personality, the true human being".
The Mahayana (Great Vehicle) tradition emphasizes two levels of nirvana:
- The nirvana of the Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle)
- Indicates freedom from samsara and the cessation of suffering
- Referred to as arhathood in the Mahayana tradition
- Nonabiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana
- Indicates a state that transcends both samsara and the nirvana of the Hinayana
- Referred to as buddhahood in the Mahayana tradition
- The ultimate goal of the path
Note that some texts present the Mahayana path in three stages, where the first stage indicates a level of understanding or ethical conduct for non-Buddhists, and the second two stages are as indicated above.[lower-alpha 20]
Nirvana of the Hinayana
In the Mahayana tradition, the path of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, is distinguished from the path of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle. The Hinayana path is typically described as consisting of two subdivisions: the path of the sravaka (listener, hearer, or disciple) and the path of the pratyeka-buddha (solitary realizer). While the Hinayana path is sometimes equated with the modern day Theravada tradition, the terms are not synonymous. As Walpola Rahula notes, the modern-day Theravada formed separately from the Hinayana traditions referred to in the Mahayana texts.[lower-alpha 21]
From the Mahayana point of view, the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle is a form of liberation or awakening, but it is not the final goal of the path. Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin explains:
- The Mahāyāna sūtras express two basic attitudes towards [the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle]. The first [attitude] is that the path of the disciple [sravaka] and the path of the pratyeka-buddha do lead to a kind of awakening, a release from suffering, nirvāna, and as such are real goals. These goals are, however, inferior and should be renounced for the superior attainment of buddhahood. The second attitude, classically articulated by the Lotus Sūtra, sees the goal of the disciple and the pratyeka-buddha as not true goals at all.[lower-alpha 22] The fact that the Buddha taught them is an example of his ‘skill in means’ (upaya-kauśalya) as a teacher.[lower-alpha 23] These goals are thus merely clever devices (upāya) employed by the Buddha in order to get beings to at least begin the practice of the path; eventually their practice must lead on to the one and only vehicle (eka-yāna) that is the mahāyāna, the vehicle ending in perfect buddhahood.
From the point of view of the Mahayana tradition, only by following the Mahayana path can one attain the highest level of realization, which is the nonabiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana, or buddhahood, that transcends both samsara and the limited nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle.[lower-alpha 24]
Contemporary translator Douglas Duckworth presents the Mahayana point of view:
- The Lesser Vehicle does not result in the practitioner becoming a complete buddha; rather, the aim is to achieve a personal nirvana that is the total extinction of existence. The Great Vehicle, however, does result in becoming a complete buddha. A buddha remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains. Thus, those who accomplish the Great Vehicle do not abide in samsara due to their wisdom that sees its empty, illusory nature. Further, unlike those who attain the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle to escape samsara, they do not abide in an isolated nirvana due to their compassion. For these reasons, in the Great Vehicle, nirvana is said to be “unlocated” or “nonabiding” (apratiṣṭhita), staying in neither samsara nor nirvana.
Five paths and ten bhumis
The Mahayana commentary the Abhisamayalamkara presents the path of the bodhisattva as a progressive formula of Five Paths (pañcamārga). A practitioner on the Five Paths advances through a progression of ten stages, referred to as the bodhisattva bhūmis (grounds or levels).
Mind/consciousness of the liberated person
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From the Mahayana point of view, an arhat who has achieved the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle will still have certain subtle obscurations that prevent the arhat from realizing complete omniscience. When these final obscurations are removed, the practitioner will attain nonabiding nirvana and achieve full omniscience [lower-alpha 25]
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.
In some Mahayana/Tantric texts, nirvana is described as purified, non-dualistic 'superior mind'. For example, the Samputa Tantra states:
Undefiled by lust and emotional impurities, unclouded by any dualistic perceptions, this superior mind is indeed the supreme nirvana.'
Four attributes of
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 attributes which make up nirvana. 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.
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.
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.
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.
According to 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.’
Within the discourses
Within the Buddhist tradition, there are many discourses (Pali: suttas)—the written records of the teaching of the Buddha—in which the Buddha explains the meaning of nirvana (Pali: nibbana).
Extinction of attachment, aversion, and delusion (Samyutta Nikaya 31)
The Samyutta Nikaya 31,1 states:
- “The extinction of greed, the extinction of hate, the extinction of delusion: this indeed is called Nirvana.”
Extinction of thirst (Saṃyutta-nikāya I)
- "Calming of all conditioned things, giving up of all defilements, extinction of “thirst”, detachment, cessation, Nibbāna." (Saṃyutta-nikāya I (PTS), p. 136)
- "O bhikkhus, what is the Absolute (Asaṃkhata, Unconditioned)? It is, O bhikkhus, the extinction of desire (rāgakkhayo) the extinction of hatred (dosakkhayo), the extinction of illusion (mohakkhayo). This, O bhikkhus, is called the Absolute." (Saṃyutta-nikāya I (PTS), p. 359)
- "O Rādha, the extinction of 'thirst' (Taṇhakkhayo) is Nibbāna." (Saṃyutta-nikāya I (PTS), p. 190)
Extinction of aging and dying (Sutta-nipata)
The Sutta-nipata states:
- 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.
The liberated mind (Majjhima Nikaya)
Majjhima Nikaya 2-Att. 4.68 states:
The liberated mind (citta) that no longer clings' means nibbāna.
The highest happiness (Dhammapada)
Outside of all conceivable experience (Yamaka Sutta)
In the Yamaka Sutta (SN 22.58), the monk Sariputta clarifies the experience of Nirvana-after-death. As the sutra begins, a monk named Yamaka has the mistaken impression that a person who attains nirvana "does not exist" after death. Sariputta explains that this is not the correct view; the correct view is that nirvana-after-death is outside of all conceivable experience. Through a series of questions, Sariputta leads the monk Yamaka to admit that he cannot pin down the experience of an arahant after death. Yamaka comes to realize that the only accurate statement that can be made about nirvana-after-death is "That which is stressful (dukkha; suffering) has ceased and gone to its end."[web 4]
Neither passing away nor arising (Udana 8.1)
In the Nibbana Sutta (Udana 8.1), the Buddha states:[web 5]
- 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 (dukkha; suffering).
Neither reborn nor not reborn (Aggivacchagotta Sutta)
In the Aggivacchagotta Sutta, the Buddha discusses the experience of a buddha after their death. (This state is described as nirvana-after-death or paranirvana.) In the sutta, the Buddha states that the experience of such a person can not cannot be described in any of the following ways: as being reborn after death, not being reborn, being and not being reborn, or neither being nor not being reborn.
- Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass and timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound).
- Even so [...] any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata [the Buddha] would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form [...] the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply.
Smith and Novak state:
- 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:
- 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:
- 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.
- 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
Moksha is a Sankrit term that is also used to indicate liberation. It is most commonly used in the Hindu tradition.
This term is also used in some Buddhist traditions to denote aspects of liberation. For example, the Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism provides the following definition for the term vimoksha (identified as a synonym for moksha):
- "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 7]
- 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."
- 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."
- The Dalai Lama states: "The ultimate aspiration of a practicing Buddhist is the attainment of nirvana. The emphasis is within oneself."
- Daniel Goleman states: "The fundamental goal of Buddhist practice is the achievement of nirvana."
- 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 [...]"
- 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."
- Donald Lopez states: "Nirvana is [...] the oldest and most common designation for the goal of the Buddhist path "[web 1]
- Bhikkhu Bodhi states: "Nibbana is the ultimate goal of the Buddha's path. The Buddha says 'Just as the water of a river plunges into the ocean and merges with the ocean, so the spiritual path, the Noble Eightfold Path, plunges into Nibbana and merges with Nibbana.'"[web 2]
- Ajahn Pasano and Ajahn Amaro state: "From the Buddhist viewpoint, the realization of Nibbana is the fulfillment of the highest human potential – a potential that exists in all of us, regardless of nationality or creed."
- Goldstein is quoting from the final paragraph of the Maha Saropama Sutta; see Maha Saropama Sutta.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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."
- 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.”"
- 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."
- 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
- 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."
- Damien Keown states: "When the flame of craving is extinguished, rebirth ceases, and an enlightened person is not reborn."
- 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."
- 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).
- 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 died, a ‘final nirvana’ from which he would not be reborn.
- Gethin cites: Dhammapada-atthakathā ii. 163; Vibhaṇga-atthakatha 433.
- Nirvana is described as a state of perfect peace that comes when all negative mental states are eliminated. For example:
- Bhikkhu Bodhi states: "The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbāna (nirvāṇa)."
- Ajahn Sucitto states: "Nibbāna [...] is the ending of sorrow and delusion, and it is supremely peaceful."
- Joseph Goldstein states: "It is also described as the deathless, absolute peace, freedom, and so forth."
- Lama Surya Das states: "Nirvana is inconceivable inner peace, the cessation of craving and clinging."
- Ringu Tulku states: "We can have inner peace, strength, and clarity, almost independent from circumstances and situations."
- Thich Naht Hahn states: "Nirvana teaches that we already are what we want to become. We don't have to run after anything anymore. We only need to return to ourselves and touch our true nature. When we do, we have real peace and joy."
- Rahula cites: Saṃyutta-nikāya I (PTS), p. 5
- Rahula cites: Majjhima-nikāya II (PTS), p. 121
- 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.)
- 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".
- 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.
- 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. 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."
- 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.
- 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.""
- 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.
- See for example the Jhana Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- 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.
- 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. The Canon does not support the identification of the "luminous mind" with nirvanic consciousness, though it plays a role in the realization of nirvāṇa. 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."
- Some texts present the Mahayana path in three stages. For example, the Tibetan teacher Pabongka Rinpoche presents the path in three levels (or scopes); he states: "The subject matter of these teachings can be included in the various paths of the three scopes. The small scope covers the causes to achieve the high rebirth states of the gods and humans: the ethics of abandoning the ten nonvirtues, etc. The medium scope includes the practices that will cause one to gain the definite excellence of liberation— such practices as abandoning [the first two of the] four truths, engaging in [the last two of these truths], and the practice of the three high trainings. The great scope contains the practices that bring about the definite excellence of omniscience— such practices as the development of bodhichitta, the six perfections, etc. Hence, all this subject matter forms a harmonious practice that will take a person to enlightenment and should be understood as being completely without contradiction."
- Walpola Rahula states: "We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world. Therefore, in 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in Colombo unanimously decided that the term Hinayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc. This is the brief history of Theravada, Mahayana and Hinayana."[web 3]
- Gethin footnote: Also Śrīmālādevī 78–94; and Lankāvatāra Sūtra 63; cf. Herbert V. Guenther (trans.), The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (London, 1970), 4–6.
- Gethin footnote: On the notion of ‘skill in means’ see Michael Pye, Skilful Means (London, 1978); Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism, 143–50.
- From the Mahayana point of view, the nonabiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana is superior to the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle:
- The Padmakara Translation Group states: "It is important to realize that the term [nirvana] is understood differently by the different vehicles: the nirvana of the Basic Vehicle, the peace of cessation that an Arhat attains, is very different from a Buddha’s “nondwelling” nirvana, the state of perfect enlightenment that transcends both samsara and nirvana."
- Thubten Thardo (Gareth Sparham) states: "The term “non-abiding nirvāṇa” indicates that a fully awakened buddha is utterly free from saṃsāra, yet due to compassion has not entered into a more restricted form of nirvāṇa that precludes continued activity within the world."
- Erik Pema Kunsang states (based on teachings by Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche): "The lesser nirvana refers to the liberation from cyclic existence attained by a hinayana practitioner. When referring to a buddha, nirvana is the great nondwelling state of enlightenment which falls neither into the extreme of samsaric existence nor into the passive state of cessation attained by an arhant."
- Rupert Gethin states: "For the Mahayana becoming a Buddha generally involves attaining what is characterized as the ‘unestablished’ or ‘non-abiding’ (apratiṣṭhita) nirvāṇa: on the one hand the knowledge of a buddha that sees emptiness, is not ‘established’ in saṃsāra (by seizing on birth as an individual being, for example), on the other hand the great compassion of a buddha prevents the complete turning away from saṃsāra. So ultimately he abides neither in saṃsāra nor in nirvāṇa."
- Thrangu Rinpoche states: "The samadhi with the union of samatha and vipasyana fully developed will free one from the bondage of samsara so one attains a state of nonabiding nirvana, which is Buddhahood.
- Peter Harvey states: "An advanced Bodhisattva who has experienced Nirvana does not rest content with this. He turns again to samsara in the service of others, which the Mahayana-samgraha calls his ‘non-abiding’ (apratiṣṭhita) Nirvana, not clinging either to samsara or to Nirvana as something supposedly separate from this (Nagao, 1991)."
- Contemporary translator Jeffrey Hopkins provides the following analogy:"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."
- Buswell & Lopez 2013, Kindle loc. 44535.
- Goldstein 2011, pp. 158-159.
- Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 887-888.
- Goleman 2008, Kindle Locations 5513-5517.
- Goleman 2008, Kindle Locations 3538-3539.
- Smith & Novak 2009, pp. 51-52.
- Ajahn Sucitto 2010, pp. 162-163.
- Ajahn Pasano & Ajahn Amaro 2008, p. 25.
- Gethin 1998, p. 75.
- Williams 2002, pp. 47-48.
- Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 163.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2011, p. 25.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Kindle Locations 5188-5193.
- Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 1025-1032.
- Lopez 2001, p. 47.
- Harvey 1990, p. 61.
- Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 1013-1016.
- Gethin 1998, pp. 75-76.
- Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 1095-1104.
- Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 1016-1025.
- Anam Thubten 2009, Kindle loc. 362-365.
- Lama Surya Das 1997, p. 76.
- Ringu Tulku 2005, pp. 34-35.
- Thich Nhat Hanh 1999, p. 140.
- Moffitt 2008, Kindle Locations 1654-1656.
- Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 1105-1113.
- Gethin 1998, p. 76.
- Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 1059-1073.
- Harvey 1995, p. 87.
- Buddhaghosa andÑāṇamoli, 1999, p. 750, n. 3.
- See Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism , Buddharakkhita (1996b).
- Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli, 1999, p. 1.
- Buddhaghosa and Ñāṇamoli, 1999, pp. 1,7.)
- Satipatthana Sutta, DN ii.290
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu's commentary to the Brahma-nimantantika Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 91.
- Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 93.
- 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
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- 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.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- See also Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind.
- Ajahn Brahmali, bswa.org.
- Rupert Gethin objects to parts of Harvey's argument; buddhistethics.org.
- 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.
- Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro, The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on nibbāna, page 131. Available online at abhayagiri.org.
- 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.
- Thanissaro Bhukkhu's commentary on the Brahma-nimantanika Sutta, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, page 355. ISBN 978-81-208-0880-5
- Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, pages 354-356. books.google.com ISBN 978-81-208-0880-5
- See Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism, DN 11
- Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom. Dharma Publishing, 1997, page 322. Lindtner says that Nagarjuna is referencing the DN.
- Peter Harvey, Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha. In Karel Werner, ed., The Yogi and the Mystic. Curzon Press 1989, page 100.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism.
- Harvey, page 99.
- Steven Collins, Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism. Cambridge University Press, 1982, page 207.
- Guenther, The Problem of the Soul in Early Buddhism, Curt Weller Verlag, Constanz, 1949, pp. 156-157.
- Pabongka Rinpoche 2006, Kindle loc. 1790-1796.
- Gethin 1998, pp. 228-229.
- Dudjom Rinpoche 2011, Kindle loc. 8211-8215.
- Khunu Rinpoche 2012, Kindle loc. 1480-1482.
- Tsele Natsok Rangdrol 1987, p. 114.
- Gethin 1998, p. 232.
- Thrangu Rinpoche 1993, p. 125.
- Harvey 2012, p. 137.
- Duckworth 2011, Kindle loc. 430-436.
- Jeffery Hopkins (author). "The Dalai Lama at Harvard: Lectures on the Buddhist Path to Peace." Snow Lion Publications.
- Takpo Tashi Namgyal, Mahamudra Shambhala, Boston and London, 1986, p.219
- William Edward Soothill, Lewis Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1997, p. 328. Digital version
- Yamamoto, Mahayanism, pp. 141, 142
- Yamamoto, Mahāyānism, p. 165
- Yamamoto, Mahāyānism
- Etienne Lamotte, tr. Sara Boin-Webb, Suramgamasamadhisutra, Curzon, London, 1998, p.4
- Smith & Novak 2009, p. 51.
- Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 934-953.
- Verse 204, nibbanam paramam sukham
- Aggivacchagotta Sutta; In the Buddha's Words, p367-369. Bhikku Bodhi
- Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Kindle Locations 5193-5198.
- About T K Parthasarathy (February 8, 2011). "Working Towards nirvANa and New Humanity (1 of 2)". Advaita Academy. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Ajahn Pasano; Ajahn Amaro (2008), The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbāna, Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation
- Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala
- Anam Thubten (2009), No Self No Problem (Kindle ed.), Snow Lion
- 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 (2007), Nibbana (PDF), Hong Kong Insight Meditation Society
- Bhikkhu Bodhi (2011), The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering (Kindle ed.), Independent Publishers Group
- Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha (Kindle ed.), Independent Publishers Group
- Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (1999), "Introduction", in Buddhaghosa; Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, trans., Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification, Buddhist Publication Society, ISBN 1-928706-01-0
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2013), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle ed.), Princeton University
- Duiker, William J.; Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2008). World History: To 1800.
- Duckworth, Douglas (2011), Jamgon Mipam: His Life and Teachings (Kindle ed.), Shambhala
- Dudjom Rinpoche (2011), A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom: Complete Instructions on the Preliminary Practices, Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group (Kindle ed.), Shambhala
- Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press
- Goldstein, Joseph (2011), One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism (Kindle ed.), HarperCollins
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