Nirvana

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Nirvana (Skt. nirvāṇa; Tib. མྱ་ངན་ལས་འདས་པ་, nya ngen lé dé pa; wyl. mya ngan las 'das pa) - literally ‘extinguished’ in Sanskrit and ‘beyond suffering’ in Tibetan; enlightenment itself. It is the state of peace that results from cessation, the total pacification of all suffering and its causes.

Subdivisions

As a blanket term, 'nirvana' indicates the various levels of enlightenment attainable in both the Shravakayana, Pratyekabuddha yana and Mahayana, namely, the enlightenment of the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and buddhas. It should be noted, however, that when nirvana, or enlightenment, is understood simply as emancipation from samsara (the goal, in other words, of the Hinayana), it is not understood as buddhahood. As expounded in the Mahayana, buddhahood utterly transcends both the suffering of samsara and the peace of nirvana. Buddhahood is therefore referred to as ‘non-abiding nirvana’, in other words, a state that abides neither in the extreme of samsara nor in that of peace.[1]

Patrul Rinpoche, in his commentary on the Abhisamayalankara, explains that the texts of the Madhyamika tradition mention four types of nirvana:

  1. natural nirvana, which is the inherent state of everything.
  2. non-abiding nirvana, which is the great nirvana beyond both ordinary samsaric existence and the lesser nirvana of the basic vehicle.
  3. nirvana with remainder, which is the realization attained by the arhats of the basic vehicle who have not yet relinquished their psycho-physical aggregates.
  4. nirvana without remainder, the consummate realization of the arhats of the basic vehicle, who have passed into a state of cessation, leaving their pscycho-physical aggregates behind.

References

  1. From the glossary in the Treasury of Precious Qualities translated by Padmakara Translation Group.

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