Buddhists perceive life as samsara, that signified limitless wandering in this world and the various transitions that are interconnected. These transitions are affect by each other. There is a continuous cycle of cause and effect. As the Buddha becomes enlightened, he both – recognizes all his previous lives and takes nothing from one life to the next. The correct terminology used is rebirth as opposed to reincarnation. Therefore the aim of Buddhism is to break from samsara and reach Nirvana.
Nirvana is a paramount concept in Buddhism and is the highest aim of the Theravada-tradition. This term has several interpretations, that are listed below:
- Literal Meaning – Blowing out or quenching. The Buddhist philosophy talks of three fires or the three poisons:
- Passion – Raga
b. Aversion – Dvesha
c. Ignorance – Moha
The journey of extinguishing of these fires, leads to Nirvana.
- Absence of activity of mind
- Elimination of desire
Nirvana in this lifetime – The mind of clear of any mental negativity. One is peaceful, happy and non reactive.
Nirvana after death – There is no further re birth.
Whereas in the Mahayana Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to attain Buddhahood. A Buddha comes into the world again to help other beings. This is the concept of “non-self” and “impermanence”. Nirvana is perceived as a “deathless” realm, in which there is no time and no “re-death.”
Nirvana is therefore – liberation, or release from samsara. Below are few notable points.
Eightfold path – Following this path, leads to the practice of dhyana as the three fires are extinguished. As long as one is entangled by desire, one is stuck in the cycle of birth and death.
Post the three fires are extinguished, there is the “residue of fuel”, which however is not “burning”. Then there is the final nirvana, or parinirvana or “blowing out” at the moment of death, when there is no fuel left.
There is little understanding of what happens with one who has reached nirvana after death. As the five aggregates vanish, one does not merely reach the state of “nothingness”, as one believe it to be.
Four stages of enlightenment
In Theravada Buddhism there are four progressive stages that culminate in full enlightenment.