I must emphasize that Nibbana cannot be understood through
words or the study of texts. One has to understand nibbana
by actual realization. That said, the Buddha does resort to
words and expressions in order to convey some idea of the goal
to which his teaching points.
To get a balanced idea of nibbana, the Buddha uses both negative
and positive expressions.
The Buddha speaks of nibbana primarily in terms of negating
suffering — as cessation of suffering, cessation of old
age and death, the unafflicted, the unoppressed the sorrowless
state, and so forth.
defilements is the end of all suffering.
Nibanna is also described as the negation of the defilements
greed hatred and delusion that keep us in bondage. It is also
called dispassion (viraga), the removal of thirst,
the crushing of pride, the uprooting of conceit, the
extinction of vanity.
Nibbana is not mere annihilation, a pure negative attainment.
The Buddha's negative terminology shows us that nibbana is
utterly transcendental and beyond all conditioned things, that
eliminating defilements is the end of all suffering.
The story of the turtle and the fish
The desirability of Nibanna The Buddha also describes nibbana in positive terms.
He refers to nibbana as the supreme happiness, perfect bliss,
peace, serenity, liberation, and freedom. He calls nibanna:
the island — an island upon which
beings can land which is free from suffering. For those being
swept away helplessly towards the ocean of old age and death,
it is a place of safety and security.
a cave which gives safety from
the dangers of birth and death.
the "cool state" — coolness
which results from the extinguishing of the fires of greed,
hatred and delusion.
the shelter, the refuge, the further shore.
Nibbana is attained by the arahant (the liberated one) in
Living as an arahant In the first stage, the arahant extinguishes
greed, hatred, ignorance and of all other defilements in
this present life. What remains, the residue, is the five aggregates
that constitute his present life.
To understand the experience of the arahant, the experiential
side of Nibanna, we can look at if from the point of view
of the three basic aspects of human experience:
The affective side — the side of
feeling and emotion. With the abandoning of all forms of
attachments the arahant is free of agitation, restlessness
The arahant is also in a state of
complete equanimity, with perfect
balance of mind. He is not shaken by the changes of the
world ("the eight worldly winds"): gain and loss,
fame and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain.
The arahant's mind is pervaded with immeasurable
loving kindness and boundless compassion. This is
the state of nibbana in terms of feeling and emotion.
The arahant's has broken free entirely from the cycle
of actions and reaction. He performs volitional actions but
these acts are not kamma, they are mere activities. They
do not leave a trace on the mind, like the flight of birds
across the sky
Knowledge, understanding The arahant has complete knowledge and
understanding. He is fully awakened. He sees things as they
truly are. He is no longer misled by the distortions, projections,
perversions born of
The arahant after passing away Nibbana attained by an Arahant with his passing away,
with the breakup of his body, what we conventionally call death.
Final Nibbana is not a state of annihilation, since there
is no self to be annihilated or extinguished. What we
call the Arahant is a dependently arisen process of becoming,
and the attainment of final Nibbana is cessation of this
process of becoming. To try to speak about what lies beyond
the ending of this process is to venture outside the boundaries
of conceptualization, outside the boundaries of language.
The Buddha says:
From this we see that concepts cannot conceive the 'inconceivable'
and the mind cannot measure the 'immeasurable'.