What is Nirvana?
Volumes have been written in reply to this quite natural and simple question; they have, more and more, confused the issue rather than clarify it. The only reasonable reply to give to the question is that it can never be answered completely and satisfactorily in words, because the human language is created and used by mass of human beings to express things and ideas experienced by their sense organs and their mind. A supermundane experience like that of the Absolute Truth is not of such a category.
Nevertheless we cannot do without language. Therefore attempts were made to express it in negative terms rather than in positive terms -a less dangerous mode perhaps; 'Extinction of Thirst', 'Uncompound', 'Unconditioned', 'Absence of Desire', 'Cessation', 'Blowing out' or 'Extinction'.
Let us consider a few definitions and descriptions of Nirvana as found in the original Pali text:
'It is the complete cessation of that very 'thirst', giving it up, renouncing it, emancipation from it, detachment from it.'
'Calming of all conditioned things, giving up all defilements, extinction of thirst, detachment, cessation, Nirvana.'
'O bhikkhus, what is the Absolute? It is, O bhikkhus, the extinction of desire, the extinction of hatred, the extinction of illusion. This, O bhikkhus, is called the Absolute.'
'O Radha, the extinction of thirst is Nirvana.'
'O bhikkhus, whatever there may be things conditioned or unconditioned, among them detachment is the highest. That is to say, freedom from conceit, destruction of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the cutting off of continuity,the extinction of thirst,detachment, cessation, Nirvana.'
And further referring to Nirvana the Buddha says:
'O bhikkhus, there is the unborn, ungrown, and unconditioned. Were there not the unborn, ungrown, unconditioned, there would be no escape for the born, grown, and conditioned. Since there is the unborn, ungrown, unconditioned, so there is escape for the born, grown, and conditioned.'
'Here the four element of solidity, fluidity, heat and motion have no place; the notions of length and breadth, the subtle and the gross, good and evil, name and form are altogether destroyed; neither this world nor the other,nor coming, going or standing, neither death nor birth, nor sense-objects are to be found.'
'Therefore O bhikkhu, a person so endowed is endowed with the absolute wisdom, for the knowledge of the extinction of all dukkha is the absolute noble wisdom.'
'This his deliverance, founded on Truth, is unshakable. O bhikkhu, that which is unreality is false; that which is reality, Nirvana, is Truth. Therefore. O bhikkhu, a person so endowed is endowed with this Absolute Truth. For, the Absolute Noble Truth is Nirvana, which is Reality.'