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Nirvana is a popular concept in Indian religions that symbolizes the ultimate state of soteriological release and liberation from suffering (also known as dukkha or samsara). In most Indian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism), this concept of Nirvana is similar to an individual achieving Moksha or Mukti.

All Indian religions stipulate that this state of Nirvana is associated with a form of perfect freedom, highest happiness, serenity, and liberation from worldly attachment and suffering. This state of release also denotes the ending of samsara (eternal cycle of rebirth).

In Hindu philosophy, Nirvana refers to the realization of the union of Atman and Brahman’s identity. In Jainism, this theory stipulates the release of a soul from karmic limitations and suffering. In the Buddhist belief, this state stands for a realization of non-self and emptiness inside an individual, marking the end of rebirth, thus allowing the process to go on.

In order for one to achieve this status, an individual is asked to get rid of three primary psychological evils: Dwesha (anger), Moha (delusion), and Raga (greed, desire).

The term Nirvana is found in almost all primary religious texts in India. These readings refer to a state of profound peace of mind, which is acquired alongside Moksha. In most contexts, this state symbolizes an individual’s liberation from suffering after an elaborate spiritual practice or Sadhana ritual. This liberation from suffering is the ultimate goal in most spiritual practices of the Indian culture. It is known by different terms such as Nirvana, Mukti, Moksha, and Kaivalya.

History Of Nirvana

The foundational scheme under Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism is that “the eternal aim is the timeless and precious state of moksa, or, as first referred to by the Buddhists, Nirvana.” Even though the term occurs extensively throughout religious literature, this theory is primarily related to Buddhism. Most scholars believe that this concept was adopted by several Indian religions only after it became popular in Buddhism. Even though different faiths have their interpretations and meanings associated with the term, its origins can be traced back to Buddhism.

Moksha The notion of Moksha is associated with Vedic culture and its extensions. It is connected with the idea of immortality and timelessness. Moksha is a concept that underlies the structure of timelessness and “the spokes of the invariable but incessant wheel of time.” People started believing in the idea of life after death only after they realized that this afterlife might consist of going to the worlds of their ancestors or the worlds of God.

According to most Vedic texts, the idea of life was always followed by an afterlife in heaven or hell. Whether a person gets to live this afterlife in hell or heaven is based on their cumulative score of merits and demerits. However, this idea was criticized by many for its permanent nature. As a result, Vedic thinkers introduced the notion of an afterlife that stands in proportion to an individual’s merit. However, when this calculation runs out, this individual returns to their worldly life and is reborn. The idea of achieving complete freedom from this endless cycle of life, death, rebirth, and re-death is known as Moksha. One’s life after death and rebirth is known to be dependent on their karma.

Nirvana In Buddhism

Nirvana is the earliest term used to describe Buddhism’s ultimate soteriological goal — release from the cycle of rebirth or samsara. This term can be translated as ‘blowing out’ or ‘quenching.’ The Buddha was believed to have experienced two types of Nirvana — one at enlightenment and another at his death. The first one was called Sopadhishesa-Nirvana, which is Nirvana with a remainder. The second one was called Pari Nirvana or anupadhishesa-Nirvana, which is Nirvana without a remainder, or the final Nirvana.

In the Buddhist belief system, Nirvana refers to a state where rebirths and suffering cease to exist. It is associated with the extinguishing of ‘three fires’ or ‘three poisons’ — Dvesha (aversion, hate), Moha (ignorance, delusion), and Raga (greed, sensuality). It is a state that denotes the cessation of all afflictions, actions, rebirths, and suffering that usually come as a consequence of afflictions and actions.

In Buddhism, liberation denotes a lack of any awareness of the self. Similarly, Nirvana is also described as achieving an identical state of emptiness. While many believe that Nirvana refers to a condition in which one eliminates desire from their life, Buddhist texts have asserted that it is much more than that. Nirvana is “the object of the knowledge” on the Buddhist path of being.

Nirvana In Hinduism

The soteriological term Nirvana is found in texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Nirvana Upanishad, which were most likely to be composed in the post-Buddha era. This concept is explained differently in Buddhist and Hindu literature. Hinduism agrees with the idea of Atman – the soul, self, while Buddhism opposes it. In Hinduism, this concept is associated with the knowledge of an authentic self (Atman) and the acceptance of its universality.

In Hinduism, this concept of Nirvana exists in association with the soteriological idea of Moksha, which denoted one’s liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This liberation is a consequence of self-knowledge and the eternal connection of Atman (soul, self) and metaphysical Brahman. The word Moksha means free, let go, release, and liberate. According to ancient traditions, there are several paths to achieving this state of Moksha. The three primary ones are — jnana-marga, the way of knowledge; bhakti-marga, the direction of devotion; and karma-marga, the path of action.

Nirvana In Jainism

According to this term’s definition in Jainism, one of the disciples of Mahavira explained Nirvana as – “There is a safe place in view of all, but difficult to approach, where there is no old age nor death, no pain nor disease. It is called Nirvana, or freedom from pain, or perfection, which is given all; it is the safe, happy, and quiet place the great sages reach it. That is the eternal place. Those sages who have to reach it are free from all sorrows. They put an end to the stream of their existence.”

Nirvana In Sikhism

The theory of liberation or the ending of one’s suffering is a part of teachings in Sikhism. Appearing as the term ‘Nirban’ in Sikh texts, this notion is associated with the extinction of the cycle of rebirth. The more commonly used term for this concept is Mukti or Moksh, which hints at a state of salvation. In this state, individuals are directed to devote their energy and time to God for liberation from the endless cycle of rebirths.




Imamiah Angel