Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
is the highest bliss, a supramundane state of eternal happiness. The
happiness of Nibbana cannot be experienced by indulging the
senses but calming them.
Nibbana is the
final goal of Buddhism. What is Nibbana then? It is not easy to
know what Nibbana really is; it is easier to know what Nibbana
Nibbana is not
nothingness or extinction. Would the Buddha leave his family and kingdom
and preach for 45 years, all for nothingness?
Nibbana is not a
paradise. Several centuries after the Buddha, some of the Buddhist sects
began to introduce Nibbana as a paradise. Their purpose of equating
Nibbana with a heavenly world was to convince the
less-intellectually-gifted and to attract them to the
teachings of the sect. Striving for Nibbana came to mean looking for a
nice place where everything is beautiful and where everyone is eternally
happy. This might be a very comfortable folktale, but it is not the
Nibbana that the Buddha experienced and introduced. During His time the
Buddha did not deny the idea of paradise as it was presented in the early
Indian religions. But the Buddha knew that this paradise was within
Samsara and the final liberation was beyond it. The Buddha could see
that the Path to Nibbana led beyond the heavens.
If Nibbana is not a
place, where is Nibbana then? Nibbana exists just as fire
exists. However, there is no storage place for fire or for Nibbana.
But when you rub pieces of wood together, then the friction and heat are
the proper conditions for fire to arise. Likewise, when the nature in
man's mind is such that he is free from all defilements, then Nibbanic
bliss will appear.
You can experience Nibbana.
Until you experience the supreme state of Nibbanic bliss, you can only
speculate as to what it really is. For those who insist on the theory, the
texts offer some help. The texts suggest that Nibbana is a
supra-mundane state of unalloyed happiness.
By itself, Nibbana
is quite unexplainable and quite undefinable. As darkness can be explained
only by its opposite, light, and as calm can only be explained by its
opposite, motion, so likewise Nibbana, as a state equated to the
extinction of all suffering can be explained by its opposite?the suffering
that is being endured in Samsara. As darkness prevails wherever
there is no light, as calm prevails wherever there is no motion, so
likewise Nibbana is everywhere where suffering and change and
impurity do not prevail.
A sufferer who scratches
his sores can experience a temporary relief. This temporary relief will
aggravate the wounds and cause the disease to be enhanced. The joy of the
final cure can hardly be compared to the fleeting relief obtained from the
scratching. Likewise, satisfying the craving for sense-desires brings only
temporary gratification or happiness which prolongs the stay in Samsara.
The cure for the samsaric disease is Nibbana. Nibbana is an
end of the cravings which cause all the sufferings of birth, old age,
disease, death, grief, lamentation and despair. The joy of Nibbanic cure
can hardly be compared to the temporary Samsaric pleasure gained through
fulfilling the sense desires.
It is dangerous
to speculate on what Nibbana is; it is better to know how to
prepare the conditions necessary for Nibbana, how to attain the
inner peace and clarity of vision that leads to Nibbana. Follow the
Buddha's advice: put His Teachings into practice. Get rid of all your
defilements which are rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion. Purify
yourself of all desires and realize absolute selflessness. Lead a life of
right moral conduct and from all selfishness and illusion. Then, Nibbana
is gained and experienced.
A well-known Mahayana
Buddhist scholar, Nagarjuna, says that Samsara and Nibbana
are one. This interpretation can easily be misunderstood by others.
However to state that the concept of Samsara and Nibbana are
the same is to say that there is no difference in voidness of component
things and the unconditioned state of Nibbana. In accordance with
the Pali Tipitaka, Samsara is described as the unbroken
continuation of the five aggregates, four elements and twelve bases or
sources of mental processes whereas Nibbana is described as the
extinction of those relative physical and mental sources.
However, it is
admitted that those who gain Nibbanic bliss, can experience it during
their existence in Samsara. In any case, after their death, the
link with those elements will be eliminated, for the simple reason that Nibbana
is unconditioned, not relative or interdependent. If there is to be
anything at all after Nibbana, it would have to be 'Absolute
You must learn to be
detached from all worldly things. If there is any attachment to anyone or
to anything or if there is any aversion to anyone or anything, you will
never attain Nibbana, for Nibbana is beyond all opposites of
attachment and aversion, likes and dislikes.
ultimate state is attained, you will fully understand this worldly life
for which you now crave. This world will cease to be an object of your
desire. You will realize the sorrow and impermanence and impersonality of
all that lives and that does not live. By depending on teachers or holy
books without using your own effort in the right manner, it is difficult
to gain realization of Nibbana. Your dreams will vanish. No castles
will be built in the air. The tempest will be ended. Life's struggles will
be over. Nature's process will have ceased. All your worries, miseries,
responsibilities, disturbances, burdens, physical and mental ailments and
emotions will vanish after attaining this most blissful state of Nibbana.
To say that Nibbana
is nothingness simply because one cannot perceive it with the five senses,
is as illogical as to say that light does not exist simply because the
blind do not see it.
attainable in this present life. Buddhism does not state that its ultimate
goal could be reached only in life beyond. When Nibbana is realized in
this life with the body remaining it is called Sopadisesa Nibbana.
When an Arahant attains Pari-Nibbana, after the dissolution of
the body, without any reminder of physical existence, it is called Anupadisesa
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