In the book, What the Buddha Taught, Walpola Rahula writes on page 65, "It is the vague feeling 'I AM' that creates the idea of self which has no corresponding reality, and to see this truth is to realize Nirvana, which is not very easy."

I understand this to mean that 'Nirvana' is "seeing a particular truth". Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that not seeing this truth is to not achieve Nirvana, and that losing sight of this truth is to lose Nirvana.

So, is Nirvana an attitude or capacity or insight that can be lost, or is it a solid destination or eternal achievement as some claim/hope?

  • This question is different because it starts with an unambiguous quotation from a highly respected monk who does much to debunk the Eternalist perspective that so often dominates less specific questions on this subject.
    – user809
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


It'll be very difficult to define Nibbana within our mundane scope of dualistic concepts of temporal/eternal. That's why the suttas refer to Nibbana as an "apophasis" (the use of negation language to express a transcendental supramundane state that is ineffable that we can only 'touch' by personal experience truth or reality, such as awakening or nibbana). An example from Samyutta 43 where the Buddha said: "There is, monks, that base where there is neither earth, nor water, nor heat, nor air; neither the base of the infinity of space, nor the base of the infinity of consciousness, nor the base of nothingness, nor the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; neither this world nor another world; neither sun nor moon. Here, monks, I say there is no coming, no going, no standing still; no passing away and no being reborn. It is not established, not moving, without support. Just this is the end of suffering."


Completely in agreement with @santa100.

If I am to add to it, it is like a singularity where all conventional laws break down. So what happens beyond on in this state cannot be communicated through conventional wisdom or language.

Nirvana is the experience beyond the singularity. Once you experience it you have experienced it. You cannot unexperience it. Say you have gone and see Rome. This is a fact. Is it possible to turn back time so you have not seen Rome. Not possible. Likewise once you have seen what is beyond the singularity you cannot be made to be brought to the state where you have not seen it.

Also you experience Nirvana when you are in Pala Samapathi. When you come out of it you don't experience it but the fact you have seen it will not change. Since you know how you got there you can get to it when you want. This experience has a lasting impression / imprint on you. So your ways will change once you come out of the Samapathi.

To further elaborate. The lasting impression is like once your where in Rome had a life changing experience. This sticks.

  • If it is experience, can I forget it? Because I can forget how it was in Rome.
    – anoniim
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 11:35
  • No you cannot. Will update answer. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 12:39

When Public Broadcasting recently televised a documentary about the Buddha, one of interviewees mentioned to the effect that states of Nirvana come and go. Observing people walking down the street: "Is that person Buddha, Is that Buddha ? Buddha ?" Asking ourselves may be a healthy search for truth.

Also, many people often experience transitory moments of extreme clarity such as when they are near death or even doing very ordinary things.