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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F071-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

The aim of the spiritual life was already described as nirvāṇa before the rise of Buddhism around the fifth century bc, but it is in the Buddhist context that it is most well known. In earlier Buddhist works and in popular usage to the present day it refers to the goal of Buddhist discipline, reached by systematic training in morality, meditation and intellect. That goal consists of the final removal of the disturbing mental elements which obstruct a peaceful and clear state of mind, together with a state of awakening from the mental sleep which they induce. Such an awakening (often referred to in English as ‘enlightenment’) enables a clear perception of fundamental truths, the understanding of which is essential to mental freedom. Later, the term was often applied more narrowly to a specific aspect of the awakened condition – that aspect of this experience which was considered to be unchanging, that is, an element which is not the product of either mental construction in particular, or of causes and conditions in general.

Citing this article:
Cousins, L.S.. Nirvāṇa, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F071-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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