nirvana (nērvä´nə), in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth. The word in Sanskrit refers to the going out of a flame once its fuel has been consumed; it thus suggests both the end of suffering and the cessation of desires that perpetuate bondage. Epithets of nirvana in Buddhism include "the free," "the immortal," and "the unconditioned." Nirvana is attainable in life, and the death of one who has attained it is termed parinirvana, or complete nirvana. This has often been interpreted as annihilation, but in fact the Buddhist scriptures say that the state of the enlightened man beyond death cannot be described. Nirvana in the different Indian traditions is achieved by moral discipline and the practice of yoga leading to the extinction of all attachment and ignorance. See also karma.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Nirvana: Selected full-text books and articles

Breaking the Circle: Death and the Afterlife in Buddhism By Carl B. Becker Southern Illinois University Press, 1993
Buddhism & the Contemporary World: Change and Self-Correction By Nolan Pliny Jacobson Southern Illinois University Press, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Nirvana: The Aesthetic Center of Life"
The Vision of Buddhism: The Space under the Tree By Roger J. Corless Paragon House, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Complete Openness"
Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism By Eric Cheetham Charles E. Tuttle, 1994
The Awakening of Faith, Attributed to Aasvaghosha By Aasvaghoosa; Yoshito S. Hakeda Columbia University Press, 1967
Buddhist Meditation By Edward Conze George Allen and Unwin, 1956
A First Zen Reader By Trevor Leggett; Trevor Leggett Charles E. Tuttle, 1960
Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes By Melford E. Spiro Harper & Row, 1970
Librarian’s tip: "The Goal:Nirvana" begins on p. 56
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