Awakening to Reality as such and being freed from all delusions and difilements is the true meaning of Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit)
The ultimate goal in Early Buddhism is complete and permanent liberation from suffering, that is, the Eternal peace of Nibbana. Buddha clearly states:
“The purpose of this holy life does not consist in acquiring alms, honour and fame. nor in attaining virtue, concentration, or knowledge and insight. That unshakable deliverance of the heart – that indeed, monk, is the object of holy life, that is its essence, that is its goal” (M.I. 197).
The deliverance of heart is the eradication of all defilements of the heart and attainment of perfect purity and absolute freedom.
At the time of his supreme Enlightenment, the Buddha had the absolute true intuitive knowledge regarding the Four Noble Truths. Likewise he realized:
“These are the corruptions”,
“These are the causes of the arising of the corruptions”,
“This, the cessation of corruptions”,
“This is the path leading to the cessation of corruptions”
“Thus cognizing, thus perceiving, my mind was delivered from the corruption of sensual craving , delivered from the corruption of craving for existence, delivered from the corruption of ignorance. Being delivered, I know: “Delivered am I”. I realized: “Rebirth has ended; fulfilled the Holy Life; done what was to be done; there is no more of this state again”.
“Ignorance was dispelled and wisdom arose; darkness vanished and light arose”.
(Maha Saccaka Sutta Majjhima Nikaya – No.36)
Reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of life, Buddha concludes that just as there exists happiness opposed to misery, cold opposed to heat and good opposed to evil, even so there must be a sorrowless and birthless state is opposed to the sorrowful and decaying samsara. This sorrowless and birthless state is Nibbana, deliverance of the heart from defilements and deliverance from suffering. This is the ultimate goal.
Nirodha and Nirvana
When one knows that duhkhas come from past misconceptions and erroneous behaviours, such as holding on to the concept of false self and dualistic views, passions of greed, anger, ignorance, pride and so on, in order to cease these conditionally arisen duhkhas and liberate oneself from the sufferings, the corresponding causes and conditions must then be eradicated. This state of being wherein all duhkhas have been ceased and the ultimate, blissful liberation has been attained is called nirodha (the cessation of duhkha) or Nirvana (the extinction of desire and craving), the Third Noble Truth taught by the Buddha.
Nirvana in Sanskrit originally means extinction of “thirst”. In Buddhism, it is used to indicate the extinction of desire and craving, which is the state of ultimate liberation achieved through awakening, the state of being free of illusions, misconceptions, erroneous greed, anger, and so on. Therefore, awakening to Reality as such and being freed from all delusions and defilements is the true meaning of Nirvana. Nevertheless, in the West Nirvana has often been misunderstood as mere annihilation or as nothingness because it has been compared to a fire or a lamp gone out. It needs to be emphasized that this simile of a fire gone out in the sutra should be more accurately understood as the extinction of the fire
of craving. What is compared to flame or fire gone out is not Nirvana, but the being” composed of the Five Aggregates that realized Nirvana, In Nirvana, the fire of craving has been put out, but the fire of wisdom from awakening to Reality as such has been lit. Thus, Nirvana, does not indicate annihilation, but rather entry into another mode of existence. In this nirvanic mode of existence, one enjoys the following qualities:
Realisation: Realisation of the ultimate truth of emptiness or selflessness in all things and events. Nirvana, is tranquil and calm, unmoved by anything, abiding in the ultimate truth and freedom of emptiness or selflessness.
Bliss: The cessation of all suffering and all causes of suffering. Nirvana is being in the state of ultimate bliss; in fact, nirvana is ultimate bliss.
Liberation: Forever liberated from all bondages. Nirvanic existence transcends mundane existence, is free of reincarnation, and is non-arising and non-ceasing in nature.
Purity: Free of all defilements and afflictions. Nirvana is beyond all terms of duality and conceptuality, free of all self-projections, and intrinsically pure without delusions.
So, to achieve Nirvana, is to achieve the supreme state of mind, from a mind of defilement to one of purity, from duality to the nondual absolute, from conditioned to the unconditioned, from a mundane being to an awakened being; it is also to be forever freed from all delusions and suffering, and is to realize ultimate tranquility and bliss.
Two Kinds of Nirvana
In Buddhism there are two kinds of Nirvana,: that which is achieved byArhats, and that which is achieved by Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.An Arhat is someone who understands the Four Noble Truths, follows the Eightfold Path, has realized the emptiness of the false-ego, has extinguished the roots of greed, anger, and ignorance, thereby transcending the cycle of rebirth. The Arhat has achieved enlightenment, extinguished all wrongs, is immaculate and noble, worthy of offerings from human and heavenly beings, and abides in absolute, eternal bliss. Depending on whether the Arhat completely extinguishes his Five Aggregates or not, the Nirvana the Arhat attains is thus called the Nirvana, with or without remainder.Since birth necessarily leads to old age, sickness and death, which are sufferings, the Arhat wishes only to remain in Nirvana, creating no karma,thereby resulting in no rebirths. However, this also means that once the Arhat enters Nirvana, he makes no more contributions to the well-being of others. The Arhat is content to stay in Nirvana. He does not yet have the all-encompassing wisdom of the Buddha, or the unconditional compassion of the Buddha to liberate all sentient beings. A Bodhisattva is someone who aspires not only to eradicate all wrongs and sufferings, but also aspires to become a Buddha. To do so a Bodhisattva must also vow to master all dharmas and to learn the countless ways to liberate sentient beings. A Bodhisattva works towards this goal by developing unconditional compassion and perfecting the all-encompassing wisdom. When he achieves this goal, he is known as Buddha. The kind of Nirvana achieved by Bodhisattvas and Buddhas is something deeper. These Noble Beings realize that while old age and death are sufferings to ordinary people, they are so only because the mind clings to them. If the mind is always in the present, always non-abiding, then all karmic consequences cannot affect the mind. For example, if someone slanders you, you feel wronged and hurt. But if you do not let their words affect you, then you won’t feel hurt. Truth is truth and it will be known one day. So your mind remains at ease. So a Bodhisattva is not afraid of generating karma, he is not afraid of birth, old age and death. He has such control of the mind that he is unaffected by these events and is willing to take the consequences. Since he has also extinguished all the roots of suffering, he is not bound by rebirths. But due to his compassion, a Bodhisattva continues to take on rebirths in this world in order to master the Dharma, to perfect Buddha wisdom, and to liberate sentient beings.
The great Bodhisattvas realize that suffering is empty, that we are bound not by karma, but by our clinging to karma. Liberation is achieved when the mind is not dwelling on anything, not even Nirvana. To transcend life and death does not necessarily mean to create no karma, to have no morerebirths and to abide in Nirvana as the Arhat understands, but to see that rebirth is nondual from nirvana, suffering is also nondual from pleasure and all phenomena are equal and nondual in nature, so why prefer one over another? So they walk the Middle Way, transcending all sides and dualities.This is the Nirvana of non-abiding, the Nirvana of Bodhisattva and Buddhas.
Our mind is intrinsically pure, unmoving, and self-complete. To attain Nirvana is to restore this original mind. Therefore, to attain nirvana is to look deeply into one’s true nature and enlighten the mind with clarity and stillness in our daily activities. When understanding nirvana this way, nirvana is not something lofty or unreachable; it is really right here in our daily life, in the here and now.