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Nirvāna literally "extinction" and/or "extinguishing" (ie, of the passions) is a mode of being that is free from mind-contaminants (Kilesa) such as lust, anger or craving. It is thus a state of great inner peace and contentment - the end of suffering, or Dukkha. The Buddha in the Dhammapada says of Nirvana that it is 'the highest happiness'. This is not the transitory, sense-based happiness of everyday life, but rather an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment.

The Buddha describes the abiding in nirvana as 'deathlessness' (Pali: amata or amaravati) or 'the unconditioned' and as the highest spiritual attainment, the natural result that accrues to one who lives a life of virtuous conduct in accordance with Dharma. Such a life (called Brahmacarya in India) dissolves the causes for future becoming (Skt, Karma; Pali, Kamma) that otherwise keep beings forever wandering through realms of desire and form (samsara).

There are many synonyms for Nirvana, as shown by the following passage:

World Honored One, the ground of fruition is bodhi, nirvana, true suchness, the Buddha-nature, the amala-consciousness, the empty treasury of the Thus Come One, the great, perfect mirror-wisdom. But although it is called by these seven names, it is pure and perfect, its substance is durable, like royal vajra, everlasting and indestructible. (Surangama Sutra IV 207)


Nirvāna (Pali nibbāna) in sutra is "bhavanirodha nibbānam" (The cessation of becoming means Nirvāna). Nirvāna in sūtra is never conceived of as a place, but the antinomy of samsāra (see below) which itself is synonymous with ignorance (avidyā, Pāli avijjā). “This said:

‘the liberated mind (citta) that no longer clings’ means Nibbāna” (Majjhima Nikaya 2-Att. 4.68).
Nibbāna is meant specifically as pertains gnosis that which ends the identity of the mind (citta) with empirical phenomena. Doctrinally Nibbāna is said of the mind which no "longer is coming (bhava) and going (vibhava)", but which has attained a status in perpetuity, whereby "liberation (vimutta) can be said".

It carries further connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. The realizing of nirvana is compared to the ending of avidyā (ignorance) which perpetuates the will (cetana) into effecting the incarnation of mind into biological or other form passing on forever through life after life (samsara). Samsara is caused principally by craving and ignorance (see dependent origination) . Nirvāna, then, is not a place nor a state, it is an absolute truth to be realized, and a person can do so without dying. When a person who has realized nirvāna dies, his death is referred as his parinirvāna, his fully passing away, as his life was his last link to the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara), and he will not be reborn again. Buddhism holds that the ultimate goal and end of samsaric existence (of ever "becoming" and "dying" and never truly being) is realization of nirvāna; what happens to a person after his parinirvāna cannot be explained, as it is outside of all conceivable experience.

Undefinable nature

Gautama Buddha sometimes refers to nirvāna as/ amata ("Immortality" Im-Mortalis, A-mata):

“This is immortality, that being the liberated mind (citta) which does not cling (to anything)” (Majjhima Nikaya 2.265)
Ergo the freed mind is equal to Nibbana in Buddhist doctrine. Elsewhere the Buddha calls nirvāna 'the unconditioned element' (i.e., that which is not subject to causation). Nirvāna in doctrinal citation the "subjugation of becoming" (bhavanirodha nibbanam) and is relavent to Ignorance (avijja) only, such that Samsara is the will/mind (citta) in ignorance, and Nirvana/Nibbana the will/mind devoid of said ignorance; it can only be experienced in direct Subjective gnosis. While some of the associated effects of nirvāna can be identified, a definition of nirvāna can only be approximated by what it is not. It is not the clinging existence with which man is understood to be afflicted. It is not any sort of becoming. It has no origin or end. It is not made or fabricated. It has no dualities, so that it cannot be described in words. It has no parts that may be distinguished one from another. It is not a subjective state of consciousness. It is not conditioned on or by anything else.

It should also be noted that the Buddha discouraged certain lines of speculation, including speculation into the state of an enlightened being after death, on the grounds that these were not useful for pursuing enlightenment; thus definitions of nirvāna might be said to be doctrinally unimportant.

In the Samyutta Nikaya (SN43:14), the Buddha describes Nibbāna as:

“the far shore, the subtle, the very difficult to see, the unaging, the stable, the undisintegrating, the unmanifest, the unproliferated, the peaceful, the deathless, the sublime, the auspicious, the secure, the destruction of craving, the wonderful, the amazing, the unailing, the unailing state, the unafflicted, dispassion, purity, freedom, the unadhesive, the island, the shelter, the asylum, the refuge...”
At the end of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta in Dīgha Nikāya, the Buddha describes Success of Four Paṭṭhāna Meditations as: “One who is honest to himself and practice this four Paṭṭhāna Meditations without a delay, he should be willing to achieve Arahat or Anāgami level, in seven days to seven years in time which would ultimately direct to Nirvāna”

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