Is it true that after you reach enlightenment you simply vanish into the vast space of existence, and you simply cease to exist?

Kind of like, when you have not attained to enlightenment you keep on returning and being reincarnated, but if you reach enlightenment and stop being reborn don't you just cease your existence and die forever?

If I remember correct the Buddha did not know what happens to an enlightened person after his death, or am I wrong?

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    Welcome to Buddhism.SE :) Mar 20, 2015 at 16:10
  • 2
    It might be the death of the ego.
    – Orion
    Mar 22, 2015 at 5:33

7 Answers 7


By asking if a person or someone reaches Nibbana is implying that people/persons exist meaning that one is not dealing with ultimate reality but instead with conventional reality.

In ultimate reality there is no person or being that gets enlightened.

Take the "i, me, you, him, her, it" out of the sentence and just observe what is left -> Enlightenment happens. Enlightenment is reached.

The unconditioned, Nibbana cannot be understood by conditioned language or logical reasoning. In other words the unconditioned cannot be grasped or understood by using tools from the conditioned realm.

The unconditioned must be experienced and comprehended through insights into reality.

If another view is taken which is that when enlightenment happens the self is destroyed, that view is flawed too. Why? Because there didnt exist a self in the first place so there is nothing that gets destroyed. Instead what happens is that it is realized through insight meditation that a self is nowhere to be found.

In this book "What Buddhists Believe" by Ven. K. Sri Dhammanda, on p. 70-74 there is a chapter about what happens to a Buddha after death. Its a conversation between the Buddha and Ananda where 4 propositions are mentioned. They are;

  • A Tathagata exists after death;
  • A Tathagata does not exist after death;
  • A Tathagata exists and yet does not exist after death;
  • A Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death’

A Tathagata is a Buddha. You can read a bit more about the meaning of the word here.



Are you not vanishing into the vast space of existence right now? Have you ever existed? Nibbana is the ultimate renunciation...Until you let go of wanting to exist or not wanting to exist you will not abide forever without suffering. Nibbana means no more suffering but death, birth and life means the suffering continues. We cant understand this until we have practiced virtue and seeing things as they are.


My understanding is the term rebirth was used metaphorically in early buddhism . Buddhism practised current times may be slightly different in many ways ,because it was many many years after the death of buddha the great king Asoka retrieved the teachings and made the efforts to propagate it. and pressures from hindu elites to keep the religion not to go against hindu teachings many times ended up in persecution of buddhism by hindus and ultimately the near death of the religion in india.

Consider rebirth like this You are not the same person now comparing to what you where at the age of 10 or 20 ,so humans change many times during their lifetime and each change is a birth of new personality,

and at a certain age it is possible to achieve a state of mind where you don't have craving,suffering etc..you have a supreme knowledge and you attain a stage where your mind is calm as still water, (It may not be possible for every one but Buddhism emphasize on keep trying. ) and it is the death of personality changes not person,the cycle of personality changes ceases and you are in a state of supreme consciousness . Thats my view others may disagree. but i think all these jataka tales mentioning of buddhas reincarnation are stories to teach moral lessons.

The various realms mentioned in buddhist cosmology is thus easier to understand, devas are considered to live in higher realms ,while naraka or hell the realm of greatest suffering. Consider them as state of mind ...if a person is suffering from mental illness then he is living in Naraka or hell...I think the realm of Atata or shivering hell ..may be related to to some neurotic illness ,neurosis causes hand to shiver when the person is very anxious. So all these are planes of existence ,these planes exist in the mind and also in real world. It is both mental and physical.

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    Yes I had the same view about the Jataka tales,but so many modern buddhist teachers claim that it is real and that it can be verified by achieving the fourth Jhana so I dont really know I dont have such experience
    – George
    Mar 20, 2015 at 18:03
  • past lives are knowable, requiring great steadiness of samadhi.
    – sova
    Mar 21, 2015 at 6:42
  • Rebirth as a cycle of consciousness en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – jathin
    Mar 21, 2015 at 14:47
  • Also here indianetzone.com/29/…
    – jathin
    Mar 21, 2015 at 14:52
  • It would be great to have more references that support this historical info.
    – eric
    Apr 24, 2015 at 22:23

You don't have to pursue enlightenment. You can just continue as you are.

According to Buddhism, while you maintain your craving for life, you will be reborn endlessly. You won't remember your past lives, yet you will always possess something of them. Even after the universe ceases after hundreds of billions of years or more, it will come back (for another aeon), and you will be reborn too. And you can be reborn in various realms, from hell, to animals, to ghosts, to humans, to angels (devas) and more. It goes on forever.

But it's not all adventure. According to the Buddha, all of these are impermanent (no everlasting happiness) and all of these are also suffering. Existence is suffering. Why? You are born, suffer from diseases, suffer consequences of actions, experience roller coasters of emotions, lose all your loved ones, grow old, and die. And repeat. This goes on forever.

This is not a pessimistic or morbid view. Yes, you can live life to the fullest. You can embrace and look forward to all the happy moments and time spent with your loved ones. But it will definitely not last. Unhappy moments too will come and go. And you will experience these endlessly without break. But this only describes human lives. In other types of lives, the outlook could be different.

If you don't see existence as suffering, then you don't have to seek enlightenment. But if you do, then for you, enlightenment would be the ultimate death of suffering.

If your concern is regarding what lies ahead, in Nirvana, then Buddha has explained that too in Samyutta Nikaya 43 as "the unfabricated (unborn?), the uninclined, the truth, the far shore, the subtle, the very difficult to see, the unaging (eternal?), the stable, the unintegrating, the unmanifest, the unproliferated (nippapancan), the peaceful, the deathless, the sublime, the auspicious, the secure, the destruction of craving, the wonderful, the amazing, the unailing, the unailing state, Nibbana, the unafflicted, dispassion, purity, freedom, the unadhesive, the island, the shelter, the asylum, the refuge, the destination."

Nirvana holds the promise of a secure, peaceful, permanent refuge which is free from suffering.


If you are talking about what happens after death, then this seems to be what Buddhism is talking about.

If you are talking about Nirvana in this life, then no, unless you believe one becomes unconscious upon reaching Nirvana.

The question here is what does "you" mean? Is it the bare fact of consciousness, or is it the mental/emotional complex you identify with and that influences so much of your experience? The former "you" goes on, the latter "you" ceases, and it's this latter "you" that's the cause of your pain.

This vanishing into the vast space of existence is the removal of the illusory barrier that separates us from the world, the illusory subject/object distinction.


No because it is the letting go of something that never existed in the first place...

It is like unknotting a knot.

If I remember correct the Buddha did not know what happens to an enlightened person after his death, or am I wrong?

People always miss the point that the Buddha talks about The Thirty-One Planes of Extensive as early as Theravada and then the biggest revelations about post-mortem events... in Tibetan Buddhism where the Buddha's incarnation teaches about the stages of death--including how to break free of them.


"It been already said as no-self. For no-self death cannot apply. Even birth, old age cannot apply"

To die means thing still exist there. If there is not anything left, fire is extinguished, how can one say death, birth, old age are realities?

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