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Jul 19th
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Home Teachings Rebirth What is Nibbana

What is Nibbana

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Article Index
What is Nibbana
Is Cessation Nibbana
The Uncaused
Modes of Production
The Bliss of Nibbana
Description of Nibbana
The Realization of Nibbana
Where is Nibbana
How can One Realize Nibbana
All Pages



Nibbāna is extremely subtle and hard to describe. It is not a place like heaven or paradise. The Arahants and Buddhas do not "enter" nibbāna when they die. Nibbāna is not annihilation of the self, since the so-called 'self' does not exist — though attaining nibbāna entails the annihilation of egoism. It is blissful, but there is no feeling associated with it. In fact, because there is no feeling in nibbāna it is truly peaceful. Only Noble Ones can know what nibbāna is really like, but we can understand fairly well by inference and constant practise of insight meditation.

The more we understand what suffering is, the better we can appreciate the value of nibbāna, which is the end of suffering. For example, if you burn your hand it is very painful for some time afterwards. However, when the burn heals you don't feel the pain any more. The absence of pain is a subtle kind of happiness; because there is no pain there now, you feel at ease.

To get the taste of nibbāna we should practise constant mindfulness. One who practises constant mindfulness of the body knows the taste of nibbāna. When the mind is racing out of control, as it usually is, we don't experience any real peace. The whole day we are busy with this and that: thinking, planning, scheming, worrying, fretting, reminiscing, fantasising, etc. When we are truly mindful, the mind is almost silent and purified to a great extent from mental defilements. If you can gain good concentration for one or two hours you will be able to understand how blissful nibbāna would be. Then you will surely long to attain it, and give up worldly ways of thinking, and all worldly ambitions.

First, we must understand how desirable nibbāna is, and how profoundly unsatisfactory sensual pleasures are. Some people ask, "Isn't the desire for nibbāna just another kind of craving?" No, it is not. The desire for nibbāna means the desire to be free from greed, hatred, and delusion. It is the spiritual quest that is latent in all human beings. We must awaken the thirst for understanding. The desire for freedom is a wholesome mental state called 'chanda iddhipada,' which is opposed to desire.

Below are some extracts about nibbāna from "The Debate of King Milinda" in which I abridged the translation of the Milinda Pañha. The Milinda Pañha is an ancient Pali book compiled in the form of a dialogue between a Buddhist Sage, Nagasena, and a Bactrian Greek King, Milinda or Menander. There is good reason to suppose that the dialogues described in the Milinda Pañha did actually take place, at least in some form.


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