Parinirvana Buddhism


Parinirvāṇa, Sanskrit term meaning final nirvāṇa (pāḷi: parinibbāna; Chinese: wúyú nièpán 无余涅槃; Tibetan: yongs su myang 'das) refers in Buddhism to the end of the physical existence of a person who has attained enlightenment (bodhi) and the entry into the complete nirvāṇa of a buddha or arhat.

At the dissolution of the five aggregates (bodily form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness), perfect nirvāṇa is attained, whereas nirvāṇa, "attained" in the course of life, does not prevent the aggregates from continuing to exist until physical death, "as the potter's wheel continues to turn as a result of the impulse received."

The end of existence

The parinirvāṇa is also called in the Pali canon anupādisesa nibbāna, "nirvāṇa without remnant of existence," or bhavanirodha, end of existence. It is the final victory over suffering (duḥkha), in accordance with the four noble truths.

It should not be thought (at least from the Theravada point of view) that this is any "state," let alone any survival. As the Theravādin monk Ajahn Brahmavamso explains:

"What happens after parinibbāna? After complete extinction, all knowledge (viññāna, citta, manas) ceases, as does everything that can be known (nāmarūpa), and with them also ceases all descriptions and words. There is nothing else to say. To say that there is "nothing" does not even make sense, lest we interpret "nothing" as "something" or "someone."

Wanting nirvāṇa or parinirvāṇa to be something more than cessation is an effect of the thirst (Tṛṣna) for existence, the false idea of "self" (ātman) that has not been overcome. In the Kotthita Sutta, Kotthita asks Sāriputta if there is "something else after the six senses disappear without remainder."

Sāriputta replies that it is "complicating what is uncomplicated," for this amounts to reintroducing the six senses (and especially thought) where they no longer belong (since they have ceased and disappeared).

Parinirvāṇa of the historical Buddha

Two texts describe the parinirvāṇa of the historical Buddha: the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, and the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra of the Mahāyāna.

The parinirvāṇa of Śākyamuni Buddha constitutes the twelfth and last of the acts of his earthly life, which according to tradition occurred as follows:

In the rainy season, on his eightieth birthday, the Buddha fell mortally ill. Shortly thereafter, he gave his last major sermon to his disciples, "The Thirty-Seven Wings of Enlightenment.

After giving his teachings to the congregation, the Enlightened One set off in the direction of Vaiśāli. As he gave the monks the Three Instructions (śīla "morality," samādhi "concentration," and prajñā "wisdom"), the earth shook, indicating that he would soon pass into the parinirvāṇa.

The Buddha then went to Kuśinagara and built himself a seat between two sāla trees. Then, with his back to the north, he lay down on his right side. As he was about to pass into the nirvāṇa, he gave his last precepts to his disciples, such as those on mindfulness and the three marks of existence.

Having finished what he had to say, he absorbed himself in the four degrees of meditation, culminating in the final and ineffable state of nirvāṇa.

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