Nirvana Buddhism

Nirvana (Sanskrit IAST: nirvāṇa; Pali: nibbāna) is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism that means "extinction" (from the fire of passions, ignorance) or "liberation" (from the saṃsāra, the cycle of reincarnations).


From Sanskrit (devanāgarī: निर्वाण), a calque of the Pali Nibbāna (निब्बान) meaning "extinguishing" of a flame or fever, etymologically "ex-spiration " and by extension "appeasement" and then "liberation".

This word became, in Chinese 涅槃 nièpán, in Vietnamese niết-bàn, in Japanese 涅槃 nehan, in Korean 열반 yolban, in Tibetan myang-ʼdas or myan-ngan ʼdas-pa (lit. : to pass beyond suffering), in Thai นิพพาน nípphaan and in Khmer និព្វាន nipean.

Acceptance in Buddhism

In its Buddhist meaning, which is the most common today, this term refers to the end of Buddhist practice, Awakening (bodhi). It is beyond description and can only be defined negatively as the end of ignorance, the essential factor in conditioned coproduction, and the three cravings: desire for the senses (kāma-taṇhā), desire for existence or wanting to live (bhava-taṇhā), and desire for annihilation (vibhava-taṇhā).

Nirvāṇa is a form of completion that can be compared, according to the texts, to the extinguishing of a flame (individuality or sense of self): just as one cannot define a fire that does not burn, one cannot define a person who has "exsuffered" the aggregates of existence (desires, volitions, misconceptions) that drag an unawakened person from rebirth to rebirth.

A less negative definition is that of total and permanent inner peace, which comes from detachment. The acquisition of this "state" (which is defined as a "non-state") is said to be possible during life, or possibly at death.

The rather popularized public idea of nirvāṇa as a "paradise" where one would continue to exist after death is contradictory to the Buddhist thesis of non-self and the emptiness of phenomena and the Absolute. Therefore, one can neither "enter" nor "remain" there. Nor is nirvāṇa death, but rather the end of the belief in a permanent autonomous ego.

Related terms are: awakening, extinction, liberation, enlightenment, deliverance, absolute emptiness, supreme peace, ultimate reality. According to Philippe Cornu: "One should not confuse nirvana and awakening, even if these notions are intimately linked.

Nirvana is directly related to liberation from suffering and conditionings, whereas Awakening is a phenomenon of a cognitive nature that implies the full manifestation of wisdom, that is, the direct and non-conceptual knowledge of Reality as it is.".

According to Buddhadasa, "Nibbana has absolutely nothing to do with death. The word 'Nibbana' means 'freshness'.

In the past, when it was just an ordinary word in everyday language, it already meant "freshness. When it is used in the language of the Dhamma, in a religious context, it still means "coolness", but in reference to the cooling or extinguishing of the burns caused by kilesa (emotional reactions), whereas in ordinary language it means the cooling of the burn of a fire on the physical plane. "

For Hīnayāna Buddhism, nirvāṇa is "the other side," which "exists" as opposed to the cycle of becoming, the saṃsāra, whereas for Mahāyāna Buddhism nirvāṇa and saṃsāra are ultimately the same, due to the non-duality of the nature of things.

There are at least two types of nirvāṇa:

nirvāṇa with remainder of existence (Pali: sa-upādisesa-nibbāna, Sanskrit: sopādhiśeṣa nirvāṇa): that which an arhat or buddha obtains in the course of his or her life ;

nirvāṇa without remnant of existence (Pali: an-upādisesa-nibbāna, Sanskrit: nirupādhiśeṣa nirvāṇa): also called parinirvâna (Pali: parinibbāna), or complete extinction, upon the death of an arhat or buddha.
The Cittamātra school of Mahāyāna adds two other types:

prakṛti-viśuddha-nirvāṇa: all beings are in originally pure nirvāṇa;
apratiṣṭhita-nirvāṇa: "unfixed" nirvāṇa, that of the bodhisattvas who remain neither in samsâra nor in nirvāṇa, for the sake of sentient beings.

Nāgārjuna in the Stanzas of the Middle Way by Excellence points out that "nirvana is nothing but common reality, seen from another angle, " and we read in The Great Concentration and Penetration of the Great Master Tiantai: "Earthly desires are enlightenment; the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. " through the practice of Daimoku.

Acceptance in Hinduism

The same concept also exists in Hinduism, but it is preferably named moksha (or mukti, laya), the term nirvāṇa being less often used there.

In Jainism

As with Hinduism, the term nirvana is generally used in Jainism as a synonym for the word moksha, which can be translated as: enlightenment, awakening, liberation. This stage, this state is reached when the individual has destroyed all his karma, all his attachment to the earthly world and its consequences.

Liberation in the Jain theory can only be achieved when the death of the physical body occurs; it should be noted that for the Digambara current, only men can achieve it. These theories should not make us forget that fasting and meditation are the paths to salvation, which must be followed while respecting the Mahavratas: the vows of Jainism, and the Three Jewels.