gate gate paragate parasaṃgate bodhi svāhā:
“Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond—this is perfection.”
Most people have heard this famous verse about the Buddha. But what does it mean? The word gone has several senses. It can mean departed; gone away. Or it can mean missing, unavailable or finished; my cup was gone. Which is it here? Most people would probably guess the first meaning, but actually it is the second.
When the Buddha attained parinibbāna at the death of his physical body, he didn’t just go away; he disappeared entirely, never to return. Actually, since the time of his enlightenment he was already gone.
But he didn’t go anywhere. Nibbāna is not a place, but a state of non-becoming. Once one ‘goes’ to nibbāna, unlike most beings they do not return to this world. I have written in a recent post in the Ultimate Wisdom series (Nibbāna is Nowhere):
So naturally the deluded worldlings project their profit motive on those who are in the Holy Life: ‘Why should one attain Nibbāna? What is the purpose of trying to attain Nibbāna? What is the use of Nibbāna?” Rather than rejecting such questions, the scholars brought in periphrastic phrases like nibbānaṃ pana āgamma: ‘on reaching Nibbāna’ just to answer them. They like to say that ‘on reaching Nibbāna’, somewhere far away, sometime in the future, craving will be destroyed.
But nibbāna is not somewhere far away; it is nowhere at all. That means that nibbāna is also, at least potentially, anywhere and everywhere. Before enlightenment, it seems that nibbāna is nowhere. Once one attains that state of non-becoming, nibbāna is wherever one goes.
Most of us spend our lives fabricating states of being that lead to suffering, decay and death. Then when the body is finished, we begin new cycle of becoming, take a new form according to our means and abilities, and do it all over again. An enlightened person is freed from this cycle. He learns to take control over the process of becoming, and gradually attain higher and higher states until he can stop becoming altogether.
This is the Noble Path, and it is open and available to anyone who cares to stop suffering. All you have to do is read the teaching of the Buddha and apply them to your life. If you read our books and other posts here, you will find ample help for doing so. May you attain nibbāna!
Dictionary: no longer present; departed • no longer in existence; dead or extinct • no longer available • informal in a trance or stupor, especially through exhaustion, drink, or drugs
Thesaurus: 1 away, absent, off, out; missing, unavailable.
2 past, over, over and done with, no more, done, finished, ended; forgotten, dead and buried.
3 used up, consumed, finished, spent, depleted, at an end.
4 an aunt of mine, long since gone: dead, deceased, expired, departed, no more, passed on/away; late, lost, lamented; perished, fallen; defunct, extinct.