This process of
birth and death continues ad infinitum until this flux is transmuted,
so to say, to nibbanadhatu, the ultimate goal of Buddhists.
The Pali word
Nibbana is formed of Ni and Vana. Ni is a negative
particle and vana means lusting or craving. "It is called
Nibbana, in that it is a departure from the craving which is called
vana, lusting." Literally, Nibbana means non-attachment.
It may also be
defined as the extinction of lust, hatred and ignorance, "The
whole world is in flames," says the Buddha. "By what fire
is it kindled? By the fire of lust, hatred and ignorance, by the fire
of birth, old age, death, pain, lamentation, sorrow, grief and despair
it is kindled."
It should not
be understood that Nibbana is a state of nothingness or annihilation
owing to the fact that we cannot perceive it with our worldly knowledge.
One cannot say that there exists no light just because the blind man
does not see it. In that well known story, too, the fish arguing with
his friend, the turtle, triumphantly concluded that there exists no
Nibbana of the
Buddhists is neither a mere nothingness nor a state of annihilation,
but what it is no words can adequately express. Nibbana is a Dhamma
which is "unborn, unoriginated, uncreated and unformed."
Hence, it is eternal (dhuva), desirable (subha), and
In Nibbana nothing
is "eternalized," nor is anything "annihilated,"
According to the
Pali text references are made to Nibbana as sopadisesa and
anupadisesa. These, in fact, are not two kinds of Nibbana,
but the one single Nibbana, receiving its name according to the way
it is experienced before and after death.
Nibbana is not
situated in any place nor is it a sort of heaven where a transcendental
ego resides. It is a state which is dependent upon this body itself.
It is an attainment (dhamma) which is within the reach of all. Nibbana
is a supramundane state attainable even in this present life. Buddhism
does not state that this ultimate goal could be reached only in a
life beyond. Here lies the chief difference between the Buddhist conception
of Nibbana and the non-Buddhist conception of an eternal heaven attainable
only after death or a union with a God or Divine Essence in an after-life.
When Nibbana is realized in this life with the body remaining, it
is called sopadisesa nibbana-dhatu. When an arahat attains
parinibbana, after the dissolution of his body, without any
remainder of physical existence it is called anupadisesa nibbana-dhatu.
In the words of Sir Edwin Arnold:
From a metaphysical
standpoint Nibbana is deliverance from suffering. From a psychological
standpoint Nibbana is the eradication of egoism. From an ethical standpoint
Nibbana is the destruction of lust, hatred and ignorance.
Does the arahat
exist or not after death?
The Buddha replies:
arahat who has been released from the five aggregates is deep, immeasurable
like the mighty ocean. To say that he is reborn would not fit the
case. To say that he is neither reborn nor not reborn would not fit
One cannot say
that an arahat is reborn as all passions that condition rebirth are
eradicated; nor can one say that the arahat is annihilated for there
is nothing to annihilate.
a scientist, writes: "If we ask, for instance, whether the position
of the electron remains the same, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether
the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no'; if we
ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether
it is in motion, we must say 'no'.
has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of man's
self after death; but they are not
familiar answers from the tradition of the 17th and 18th century science."