Blog entry by Alan Chapman

by Alan Chapman - Friday, 16 July 2021, 1:40 PM
Anyone in the world


Nirvana refers to concepts that are difficult to explain in English language, and rather different from 'Western world' ways of thinking and living.

The OED (rev 2005) definition is:

nirvana - noun (mass noun) - Buddhism - A transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma. It represents the final goal of Buddhism. 

[and separately] - an ideal or idyllic state or place.

ORIGIN from Sanskrit nirvana, from nirva, 'be extinguished', from nis 'out' + va 'to blow.

The 1933 OED offers older indicators of original Western interpretation, and says: 

Nirvana - also -wana [Nirvanawana] 1836 a. Skr. nirvana blowing out, extinction, etc. In Buddhist theology, the extinction of individual existence and absorption into the supreme spirit, or the extinction of all desires and passions and attainment of perfect beatitude.

Very interestingly and revealingly, the 2005 OED also offers:

Nirvana principle - noun - Psychoanalysis - yearning for a state of oblivion, as a manifestation of the death instinct.

Interestingly also, the capital N is used in Nirvana principle, because it is a formal scientific term, while the capital N has been dropped to lower case in the 2005 entry simply for 'nirvana', whereas the 1933 OED considers capital N appropriate for its Nirvana entry.

I wonder, can 'Western language and science' reliably interpret and teach Eastern and ancient language and concepts?

Are there some distortions in the translation?

Do we see a negative reframing of ancient/Eastern Nirvana in the OED and the psychoanalysis definition of the Nirvana principle?

I wonder, the original Eastern and ancient understanding of Nirvana is positive - that is, Nirvana is a part, and an ultimate goal, in human spiritual growth to transcendence, peace, and freedom from pursuit of things we desire.

Whereas the Western interpretation seems biased towards using the word and concept nirvana/Nirvana as a vague metaphor 'nirvana - an ideal or idyllic state or place' - or a negative 'yearning for oblivion' and 'death instinct'.

death - taboo or transcendence

I've written much about this switch or reframing.

It's complex, but in essence, fearlessness = love, and this is extraordinarily powerful individually and collectively.

Western education, societal conditioning and thinking, and parenting too, seem mostly to encourage a fear of death among people.

Eastern and ancient ideas about death are very different.

Remember that the opposite of fear is not hate, it's love.

Fearlessness enables love of others, self-love, growth, personal resilience, calm, gratitude, vulnerability and abundance.

Fear tends to prompt insecurity, distrust, and a resistance to personal growth towards the acceptance of our own mortality.

Fear makes it more difficult for us to 'let go' of who we are and what we possess - much of which is a conditioning of us all from when we are born - and this denial that we will one day die and leave the living world is shown to others, especially to our children.

Humans have created very big powerful systems of greed and addictions.

In many ways these systems kill millions preventably and prematurely every year, and damage our natural world.

Perhaps this is because so many people live increasingly fearfully, distrusting and conflicting with others, rather than living fearlessly, gratefully, trustingly and lovingly.


[ Modified: Friday, 16 July 2021, 1:55 PM ]