Nirvana – Buddha’s Philosophy – Philosophy Optional

Nirvana is the summum bonnum of Buddhism. It is a state of enlightenment, commonly described as cessation of suffering. Literal meaning is “blowing out”. It is attainable here in this very life, and in this body. It implies the extinction of all cravings and impressions that lead to rebirth. Thus it is a cessation of the vicious cycle of Samsara, and end of the five skandhas of

In Buddhist Philosophy, Nirvana is the state of extinction of suffering and not of existence. It is given in third noble truth. Nirvana is not inactivity.

  • Positively, Nirvana is identified with bliss.
  • Negatively, it is the wearing out and dissociation with all affliction such as greed, delusion etc.

The Hinayana ascribes only to the negative definition of Nirvana, while the Mahayana school identifies both Samsana and Nirvana as two relative states of being, with the Samsana as the state of becoming and Nirvana as the end of becoming.

In the Buddha Philosophy, two states of liberation are described : i.e

  • Saupadhisesa : Where mental dispositions end (Nirvana)
  • Anupadhisesa : Where the body is also discarded, and all the being is extinct (Parinirvana)

Thus, Nirvana is described as Annihilation (Blowing out of the flame) of Existence. In order to gain Prajna or the state intutive transcendental realization that leads to Nirvana, Buddha laid down the 8 fold path in his fourth noble truth. (One who follows 8 fold path and altars.)

The eight fold path is:

  • a) Samyak Dristhi : Correct perception about four Noble truths
  • b) Samyak Sankalp : Correct resolve to end suffering and seek the truth.
  • c) Samyak Vak : Refinement of speech
  • d) Samyak Karmanta : Resisting from five sins of killing, lying, stealing, intoxication etc on the Pancha Shila.
  • e) Samyak Ajiva : Livelihood by honest means
  • f) Samyak Vyayam : Effort to prevent negative thoughts and retain positive thoughts.
  • g) Samyak Smriti : Right mindfulness.
  • h) Samyak Samadhi : Concentration and Meditation whose final stage is complete detachment, equanimity and indifference

Similar to Jainism :

Knowledge : Prajna
Conduct : Shila

Buddha avoids systematic metaphysics. Earlier Buddhism avoided speculative thought. Rather it was based on empirical evidences aided by the Sansar. However, Buddhist scholars have addressed many metaphysical issue (they only avoided speculation). Buddha discouraged its individuals from indulging in speculation because it is fruitless and it distracts from true awakening. He is silent because :

  • a) He emphasizes on self awakening. Only by self effort can wisdom be awakened that can cleanse the self of psychological defilement.
  • b) He says that both affirmative and negative positions regarding these questions are based on the attachment or misunderstanding of the aggregate theory (Panchskandha)
  • c) Reality is beyond sensory experience, i.e it cannot be described in language.

However Buddha’s silence doesn’t indicate misology of philosophy. He rather addresses many metaphysical issues with his teachings of PsP, Nairatmyavad, rebirth, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering etc.

Criticism :

  • If everything is continuously changing, shouldn’t the Universe have a first cause? He doesn’t give the cause of “ignorance” in the psp-chakra.
  • If soul is simply an aggregate : Who is in bondage? What gets liberated? Why is it in bondage? Is it part of its natural flow?
  • Memory : Means existence of a permanent synthesizing subject without which knowledge should be impossible.

Astangika Marga leads to three types of training:

  • Training in Wisdom
  • Ethical Training
  • Training in Concentration (Through Four Stages)

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