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Buddhist nirvana is a major concept in the Buddhist faith, and the eventual goal of all Buddhists. Unfortunately, according to many Buddhists, it is something which cannot be described without experiencing it, and people who have attained nirvana have ascended above earthly concerns such as telling other people what nirvana is like. A number of philosophers and religious practitioners have explored the concept of Buddhist nirvana and what it may entail, and there have in fact been some lively debates about this idea in the Buddhist community.
When someone reaches nirvana, it means that he or she has broken free of samsara, the cycle of reincarnation and suffering which characterizes all life on Earth. In addition to being free from suffering, the individual is also beyond obsessions and earthly concerns. He or she has a high level of wisdom and compassion, and has reached a state of perfect peace with all life. For Buddhists, nirvana is the highest state one can attain, and it can take a very long time to reach this state.
Buddhists distinguish between a state of nirvana reached during life, and the state which emerges after death. People such as the Buddha allegedly achieved nirvana during their lifetimes through intense asceticism, prayer, and faith, and they were in turn rewarded with the “final nirvana” which occurs in the afterlife. When someone attains nirvana in life, he or she is supposed to be easy to identify, as this spiritual state tends to make one stand out.
The term “nirvana” literally means “to extinguish,” although the term refers to the extinction of life as one knows it, not to a final end. Buddhists strive to attain Buddhist nirvana by following the Eightfold Path and other precepts of their faith, and many believe that they have no way of knowing how long they have been on Earth, working towards eventual nirvana. It is also believed that people must achieve enlightenment in order to reach Buddhist nirvana, but that enlightenment is not necessarily an automatic ticket to nirvana.
Buddhism is practiced in a number of different sects all over the world, and some Buddhists have a very distinctive approach to the concept of nirvana which may not be accepted or believed by other Buddhists. Buddhist nirvana is also distinct from the nirvana which is included in many Hindu sects. Although the concepts are similar in many ways, they are achieved differently, and they have a different end result.