Is Nibbana mere annihilation ?

As a precaution we have to repeat that Nibbana cannot be understood through words or expressions or study of the text. One has to understand Nibbana by actual realization. However, in order to convey some idea of the goal to which his teaching points, the Buddha resorts to words and expressions. He uses both negative and positive expressions, and to get a balance idea of Nibbana both types of expressions have to be considered. Otherwise you will come away with a one-sided, distorted picture of Nibbana.

The Buddha speaks of Nibbana primarily by way of terms negating suffering: as cessation of suffering, cessation of old age and death, the unafflicted, the unoppressed the sorrowless state, and so forth.

It is also described as the negation of the defilements, the mental factors that keep us in bondage. So Nibbana is described as the same as destruction of greed hatred and delusion. It is also called dispassion (viraga), the removal of thirst, the crushing of pride, the uprooting of conceit, the extinction of vanity.

The purpose behind the Buddha's negative terminology is to show that Nibbana is utterly transcendental and beyond all conditioned things; to show that Nibbana is desirable, that it is the end of all suffering, and to show that Nibbana is to be attained by eliminating defilements. The use of negative terminology should not be misunderstood to mean that Nibbana is mere annihilation, a pure negative attainment.

To correct this one sided view, the Buddha also describes Nibbana in positive terms. He refers to Nibbana as the supreme happiness perfect bliss, peace, serenity, liberation, freedom. He calls Nibbana 'the Island', an island upon which beings can land, which is free from suffering. For those being swept away helplessly towards the ocean of old age and death, it is a place of safety and security.

It is also described as a "cave" which gives safety from the dangers of birth and death. Nibbana is called the "cool state" - coolness which results from the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion.

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