Hello, Can you tell me what nirvana means?

Hello Tom -

Thank you for letting me answer this question.

Your question is a good one. Like many things, the ultimate answer to your question depends on who you ask.

Nirvana is a Sanskrit word which literally means to blow out or extinguish. And so when fire is attached to fuel, it burns. But when there is no more fuel, the fire goes out. The fire in this case is uncontrolled rebirths into samsara which is the unsatisfactory cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. The fuel is the disturbing emotional states that keep us returning to samsara. Such disturbing emotional states are anger, attachment and ignorance.

From the standpoint of my Buddhist practice which is Mahayana Buddhism, Nirvana (as described by His Holiness the 14 Dalai Lama) is a state beyond sorrow, or a state free from cyclic existence.

That means the person who reaches Nirvana no longer needs to be reborn over and over again.

That is about as far as I can go as different schools of Buddhism define Nirvana in specific ways which differ from each other and which I am really not qualified to explain.

I hope that this helps a bit with understanding what nirvana means.

If I can be of any more assistance, don't hesitate to let me know.

In the mean time I wish you many blessings.



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Laurie McLaughlin


I can answer questions about basic Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism and meditation especially how the Buddha's teachings can help us in day to day living.


I have been studying Mahayana Buddhism and meditation since 2001. I have lead meditation classes and retreats for over 5 years. I have lived at a Buddhist retreat center for over 4 years and am currently ordained as a novice Buddhist nun. My nun name is Gyalten Yanghchen.

I hold a BA degree in technical theatre from the University of South Florida.

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