Can anybody explain to me about "nibbana" and how it is different form "nirvana"?

Are there views about it and ways to get to it?


5 Answers 5


Nirvana (Sanskrit, also nirvāṇa; Pali: nibbana, nibbāna - it's all the same word)

Extinguishing the fires

In the Buddhist tradition, nirvana is described as the extinguishing of the fires that cause suffering. These fires are typically identified as the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya). For example, Rupert Gethin states: Literally nirvāṇa means ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ [...] What the Pali and Sanskrit expression primarily indicates is the event or process of the extinction of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. At the moment the Buddha understood suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation, these fires were extinguished. This process is the same for all who reach awakening, and the early texts term it either nirvāṇa or parinirvāṇa, the complete ‘blowing out’ or ‘extinguishing’ of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion. This is not a ‘thing’ but an event or experience. Contemporary Buddhist scholar Ajahn Sucitto emphasizes that when these fires are extinguished, the mind is freed. Ajahn Sucitto states: The metaphors associated with nibbāna often liken it to the blowing out of a fire. When it is no longer burning, the fire has “nibbāna’d”—the elements on which it was based are no longer in a state of combustion. This may seem like sterility and lifelessness from the viewpoint of the fire, but from the perspective of the elements it means life and potential. That is, when the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion are extinguished, the mind is free to operate in terms of its fullest capacity.

Freedom from suffering

In the Buddhist view, when the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya) are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end. The cessation of suffering is described as complete peace. Bhikkhu Bodhi states: The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbāna (nirvāṇa), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion.

Freedom from rebirth

In the Buddhist view, the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya) are the forces which propel the cycle of rebirth (samsara). When these fires are extinguished, freedom from rebirth is attained. Bhikkhu Bodhi states: For as long as one is entangled by craving, one remains bound in saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death; but when all craving has been extirpated, one attains Nibbāna, deliverance from the cycle of birth and death. Paul Williams states: Nirvana is broadly speaking the result of letting-go, letting-go the very forces of craving which power continued experiences of pleasure and inevitably suffering throughout this life, death, rebirth, and redeath. That, in a nutshell, is what nirvana is. It is the complete and permanent cessation of samsara, thence the cessation of all types of suffering, resulting from letting-go the forces which power samsara, due to overcoming ignorance (thence also hatred and delusion, the 'three root poisons') through seeing things the way they really are.

During life and after death

In the Buddhist tradition, a distinction is made between a person's experience of nirvana during their life and after their death. These two aspects of nirvana are described as: Nirvana during life Pali: sa-upādisesa-nibbāna Sanskrit: sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa Also translated as: nirvana with remainder; nirvana with residue Indicates the experience of someone who has experienced nirvana in their lifetime but still remains in their physical body Nirvana after death Pali: an-up ādisesa-nibbāna Sanskrit: nir-upadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa Also referred to as: nirvana without remainder; nirvana without residue; or parinirvana Indicates the experience of nirvana for someone after their death

Nirvana in this life

In the Buddhist tradition, it is believed that a practitioner can achieve nirvana during their life, or at the moment of death. When a practitioner experiences nirvana during their life, this experience is referred as nirvana-in-this-life, or more traditionally, "nirvana with remainder" (Pali: sa-upādisesa-nibbāna; Sanskrit: sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa). Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin explains: Like the Buddha, any person who attains nirvāṇa does not remain thereafter forever absorbed in some transcendental state of mind. On the contrary he or she continues to live in the world; he or she continues to think, speak, and act as other people do—with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom. This condition of having extinguished the defilements can be termed ‘nirvāṇa with the remainder [of life]’ (sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa/sa-upādisesa-nibbāna): the nirvāṇa that comes from ending the occurrence of the defilements (kleśa/kilesa) of the mind; what the Pali commentaries call for short kilesa-parinibbāna. And this is what the Buddha achieved on the night of his awakening. The experience of nirvana-in-this-life is said to result in a transformed mind that has the following qualities: free from negative mental states peaceful non-reactive

Free from negative mental states

The experience of nirvana-in-this-life is said to be free from all negative mental states. For example, Walpola Rahula states that one who has achieved nirvana is "free from all ‘complexes’ and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others." Damien Keown states: Nirvana [...] involves a radically transformed state of consciousness which is free of the obsession with ‘me and mine’. Rupert Gethin states: Any person who attains nirvāṇa [...] continues to think, speak, and act as other people do—with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom. Contemporary Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sucitto states: When the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion are extinguished, the mind is free to operate in terms of its fullest capacity. Anam Thubten states: Nirvana or whatever you want to call it means the complete deconstruction of all of our rigid mental patterns and habits as well the deconstruction of all of our limiting beliefs. This deconstruction creates a space for true inquiry. When we open our hearts and our minds completely, we are in a place where we can experience something new, a new truth, a new reality, a miracle that we haven't experienced in the past. We can see things differently and they present new, expanded opportunities, new horizons.


Nirvana is described as a state of perfect peace that comes when all negative mental states are eliminated. For example, Walpola Rahula states: He who has realized the Truth, Nirvāṇa, is the happiest being in the world. He is free from all ‘complexes’ and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others. His mental health is perfect. He does not repent the past, nor does he brood over the future. He lives fully in the present. Therefore he appreciates and enjoys things in the purest sense without self-projections. He is joyful, exultant, enjoying the pure life, his faculties pleased, free from anxiety, serene and peaceful. Damien Keown states: It is clear that nirvana-in-this-life is a psychological and ethical reality, a transformed state of personality characterized by peace, deep spiritual joy, compassion, and a refined and subtle awareness. Negative mental states and emotions such as doubt, worry, anxiety, and fear are absent from the enlightened mind. Saints in many religious traditions exhibit some or all of these qualities, and ordinary people also possess them to some degree, although imperfectly developed. An enlightened person, however, such as a Buddha or an Arhat, possesses them all completely.


In the state of nirvana, the mind is no longer reactive. Phillip Moffitt states: Nibbana literally means "cooled" and is analogous to a fire that's no longer burning. Thus, when there is cessation, your mind no longer burns in response to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant in your life; it isn't reactive or controlled by what you like or dislike. Ringu Tulku explains: Someone who has attained [...] the state of nirvana, will no longer react within the pattern of aversion and attachment. The way such a person sees things will be nondualistic and therefore non-conceptual. [...] When this dual reaction is gone, nothing is haunting or fearful anymore. We see clearly, and nothing seems imposing, since nothing is imposed from our part. When there is nothing we do not like, there is nothing to fear. Being free from fear, we are peaceful. There is no need to run away from anything, and therefore no need to run after anything either. In this way there is no burden. We can have inner peace, strength, and clarity, almost independent from circumstances and situations. This is complete freedom of mind without any circumstantial entanglement; the state is called "nirvana" [...]. Someone who has reached this state has gone beyond our usual way of being imprisoned in habitual patterns and distorted ways of seeing these things. Ajahn Sucitto states "qualities like calm, clarity, and kindness are all enhanced [...] the tinder and the sparkiness of the heart are removed."

Nirvana after death

In the Buddhist view, when an ordinary person dies and their physical body disintegrates, the person's consciousness passes onto a new birth; and the person is reborn in one of the six realms of samsara. However, when a person attains nirvana, they are liberated from ordinary rebirth. When such a person dies, their physical body disintegrates and their consciousness is said to be completely liberated. They are not reborn in the ordinary sense. Their consciousness does not take rebirth into a physical form.
Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin explains: Eventually ‘the remainder of life’ will be exhausted and, like all beings, such a person must die. But unlike other beings, who have not experienced ‘nirvāṇa’, he or she will not be reborn into some new life, the physical and mental constituents of being will not come together in some new existence, there will be no new being or person. Instead of being reborn, the person ‘parinirvāṇa-s’, meaning in this context that the five aggregates of physical and mental phenomena that constitute a being cease to occur. This is the condition of ‘nirvāṇa without remainder [of life]’ (nir-upadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa/an-up ādisesa-nibbāna): nirvāṇa that comes from ending the occurrence of the aggregates (skandha/khandha) of physical and mental phenomena that constitute a being; or, for short, khandha-parinibbāna.[f] Modern Buddhist usage tends to restrict ‘nirvāṇa’ to the awakening experience and reserve ‘parinirvāṇa’ for the death experience. The experience of nirvana-after-death (paranirvana) is said to be beyond words or description. Walpola Rahula explains: Nirvāṇa is beyond all terms of duality and relativity. It is therefore beyond our conceptions of good and evil, right and wrong, existence and non-existence. Even the word ‘happiness’ (sukha) which is used to describe Nirvāṇa has an entirely different sense here. Sāriputta once said: ‘O friend, Nirvāṇa is happiness! Nirvāṇa is happiness!’ Then Udāyi asked: ‘But, friend Sāriputta, what happiness can it be if there is no sensation?’ Sāriputta’s reply was highly philosophical and beyond ordinary comprehension: “That there is no sensation itself is happiness’.

No words to describe the experience

In the Buddhist view, there are no words to describe the experience of nirvana-after-death. Walpola Rahula explains: Now another question arises: What happens to the Buddha or an Arahant after his death, parinirvāṇa? This comes under the category of unanswered questions (avyākata). [Samyutta Nikaya IV (PTS), p. 375] Even when the Buddha spoke about this, he indicated that no words in our vocabulary could express what happens to an Arahant after his death. In reply to a Parivrājaka named Vaccha, the Buddha said that terms like ‘born’ or ‘not born’ do not apply in the case of an Arahant, because those things—matter, sensation, perception, mental activities, consciousness—with which the terms like ‘born’ and ‘not born’ are associated, are completely destroyed and uprooted, never to rise again after his death. [Majjhima Nikaya I (PTS), p. 486]

Physical existence is like a fire gone out

When a person who has reached nirvana dies, their physical existence is compared to a fire that has gone out. Walpola Rahula explains: An Arahant after his death is often compared to a fire gone out when the supply of wood is over, or to the flame of a lamp gone out when the wick and oil are finished.[Majjhima Nikaya I (PTS), p. 487] Here it should be clearly and distinctly understood, without any confusion, that what is compared to a flame or a fire gone out is not Nirvāṇa, but the ‘being’ composed of the Five Aggregates who realized Nirvāṇa. This point has to be emphasized because many people, even some great scholars, have misunderstood and misinterpreted this simile as referring to Nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa is never compared to a fire or a lamp gone out.

Source: Wikipedia

  • 2
    Welcome to Buddhism.SE! We don't normally consider answers that are entirely comprised of a quotation as valid... Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 19:33
  • 2
    To further clarify, as per the help page: "Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own".
    – user382
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 19:46
  • @yuttadhammo Thank you for your welcome. My enlightenment about Nirvāṇa can only come by taking refuge in the dhamma which comprises exclusively quotations of those who have gone before. I do not understand why you reduced my closing text that acknowledged en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_(Buddhism) which is a well-worked collection of secondary sources (from which I in turn selected) to a cryptic "Source: Wikipedia". Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 16:46
  • I don't think the fact that your knowledge comes from quotations necessitates the conclusion that you should just repeat quotations when someone asks you a question. Your original citation was "With acknowledgement to Wikipedia", which felt too close to plagiarism, since you didn't identify it as an actual quotation copied directly from a source. You can't just 'acknowledge' Wikipedia, you have to make clear that your text is a direct quote, and that the quote comes from Wikipedia. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 2:06
  • Thank you for your thinking about necessity. There is the case of a post that just names Wikipedia and a post that names a page in Wikipedia. English Wikipedia has over 4 million articles. There is no skill in taking away the page reference that gives much more good information than I have extracted, such as the several dharmic sources for what I posted. I suggest you consider that Wikipedia is not an original source for anything and that various views of nirvana are well elucidated by quotations such as I presented. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 12:58

Nirvana / nibana is when:

  • you have calmed all fabrications
  • you experienced something beyond the 5 aggregates when the fabrications have calmed down
  • your worldly perceptions or ignorance has subsided or changed forever or become very thin thus causing some or all of the fetters to fall off

I'll add one meaning for this word Nirvana, I came across recently (YouTube). It was used in Aasivakam, a pre-Buddhist sramana philosophy / religion. Founder of Aasivakam was contemporary to Buddha / Mahavir.

In Tamil language, it's neer (water) + vannam (color). It's one of 7 colors used to represent 7 stages of enlightenment; black, dark blue, green, red, yellow, white and water color (colorless).

I'm just adding this here for your information, and for others to constructively comment / edit.


With all due consideration,

Nibbana and Nirvana are the same word in Pali and Sanskrit, respectively. As a one-word translation of Nibbana, it is the Unconditioned.

More precisely, all conditioned things are everchanging and transitory, sabbe sankhara anicca, while Nibbana is not a conditioned thing, it is always the same and eternal. Also, all conditioned things produce suffering, sabbe sankhara dukkha, while Nibbana is the complete and permanent absence of suffering. Last but not least, all things, both conditioned and unconditioned, have an impersonal nature, sabbe dhamma anatta, so it is worth noting that Nibanna is not to be confused with any notion of a self.

Concerning the ways to get to it, there are not a multitude, there is only one correct path that leads to the Unconditioned, namely the Noble Eightfold Path. Concerning views, there are many wrong ones, but only one right view, or right understanding, which is the first step on the path leading to Nibbana. Right view is truthfully knowing what is suffering, what is the cause of suffering, what is the eradication of suffering and what is the path that progresses towards the eradication of suffering.

As for a precise explanation of what Nibbana means in relation to the human condition, after completing all the steps on the noble eightfold path, having reached the last step of right attainment or right concentration, samma samadhi, at the last stage, jhana, of the last step, the Unconditioned state is described as "the abandonment of pleasure and the abandonment of pain, the disappearance of delight and distress, feeling neither pleasant nor painful, with completely pure equanimity and mindfulness"

So in the last words of the perfectly enlightened one: "evanescence is the nature of conditioned things; earnestly strive for the one true achievement"


  • Sorry to argue but nibbana is not eternal. Nibbana has been described as consciousness without surface and is not total annihilation of experience. Hence the reason the Buddha refuses to answer what happens after his death. It can be called as permanent release of mind which lasts as long as the body lasts.
    – ukh
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 2:39
  • I.e nibbana is an experience which is devoid of any craving whatsoever.
    – ukh
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 2:43

The definition of Nibanna is as follows:

"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana." — AN 3.32

The way to enter Nibbana is by following the Eightfold Noble Path: right wiev; right resolve; right speech; right action; right livelihood; right effort; right mindfulness; right concentration. Heedfulness leads one to Nibanna.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .