Nibbāna 16: Take Your Choice

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The previous section began to explore the direct meaning of the word Nibbāna in terms of the Theravāda Suttas. It seems plain enough in that light. But the commentators didn’t appreciate the deeper connotations of Nibbāna in the context of Dependent Origination (paṭicca samuppāda), so they developed a new etymology of their own.

The speculative misinterpretation of the commentators is based on South Indian yoga philosophy, specifically the approach of Śāṇkarācārya. He used grammatical word jugglery to redefine the words in the Buddha’s original teaching to support their views. Yoga philosophy is based on development of the will, whereas the Buddha’s approach is through direct observation of what is. These two approaches couldn’t be more different, yet many people confuse them.

The Buddha’s method transcends will through consciousness; transcends control through direct observation. According to the Buddha, Nibbāna is realization of the cessation of becoming. Existence is said to be an elevenfold fire; the entire existence is a raging fire. Lust, hate and delusion are fires. Therefore Nibbāna may be best rendered as ‘cessation’, ‘appeasement’ or ‘extinction’. Once the fire of becoming is extinguished, what more is needed?


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Dev Jacobsen

Musician, author and yogi, developer of Palingenics.

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