Nirvana (devanāgarī: निर्वाण nirvāṇa) is a central concept in Indian religions. The word literally means "blowing out"—referring in the Buddhist context, to the blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion, or simply of all consciousness. In sramanic thought it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy it is the union with Brahman through mokṣa.
H. P. Blavatsky rejected the idea that Nirvana merely means the extintion of all consciousness:
Very often we are confronted with the statement: “you talk about Nirvāna. What is Nirvāna? It is an extinction, it is just like a flame that is blown out from the candle; there remains nothing. Nirvāna—‘the flame out’.” I had how many times to have disputes and discussions about that. I said it is not that at all. It is that every particle of matter, of that which may have form in our conception or be conditioned or limited, everything disappears to make room for one homogeneity, and for the one absolute spirit. But this spirit is not at all; it is non-consciousness for us, but it is absolute consciousness there.
Nirvana (Sk.). According to the[ Orientalists, the entire "blowing out", like the flame of a candle, the utter extinction of existence. But in the esoteric explanations it is the state of absolute existence and absolute consciousness, into which the Ego of a man who has reached the highest degree of perfection and holiness during life goes, after the body dies, and occasionally, as in the case of Gautama Buddha and others, during life.
[W]hat is the good of a virtuous life, full of privations and suffering, if the only result of it is to be annihilation at the end? If even the attainment of that supreme perfection which leads the Initiate to remember the whole series of his past lives, and to foresee that of the future ones, by the full development of that inner, divine eye in him, and to acquire the knowledge that unfolds the causes [Nidānas] of the ever-recurring cycles of existence, brings him finally to non-being, and nothing more— then the whole system is idiotic, and Epicureanism is far more philosophical than such Buddhism. He who is unable to comprehend the subtle, and yet so potent, difference between existence in a material or physical state and a purely spiritual existence—Spirit or “Soul-life”—will never appreciate at their full value the grand teachings of the Buddha, even in their exoteric form. Individual or personal existence is the cause of pains and sorrows; collective and impersonal life-eternal is full of divine bliss and joy for ever, with neither causes nor effects to darken its light. And the hope for such a life-eternal is the keynote of the whole of Buddhism.
Damodar K. Mavalankar questioned the use of the term Nirvana "as a synonym for annihilation", and explains:
Yes: it is annihilation, not of the spiritual Ego, but of the lower principles in man, of the animal Soul, the personality which must perish. . . . A careful study of the Fragments of Occult Truth and other literature on Esoteric Theosophy knows that these lower principles are destructible and must therefore be annihilated. . . . the white magician, by his training as described in the Elixir of Life, gradually kills his lower principles, without any suffering, thus extending over a long period their dissolution; and his Manas identifies itself with his higher — the sixth and seventh — principles. Every tyro in Occultism knows that the sixth principle being but the vehicle of the seventh — which is all-pervading, eternal essence — must be permanent. From the foregoing remarks it is evident that it is the black magician whose lot is annihilation; while the adept, the white magician, enjoys the blissful condition of absolute existence where there is no pain or pleasure, no sorrow or joy, since these are all relative terms, and the state is one of supreme bliss; in short the latter enjoys an immortality of life.
According to Mme. Blavatsky "there are two kinds of Nirvâṇa: the earthly, and that of the purely disembodied Spirits". In one of his letters, Master K.H. said that Nirvana is experienced in the "seventh state of matter".
In Buddhism, parinirvāṇa is the final nirvana, which occurs upon the death of the body of someone who has attained complete awakening (bodhi). The parinirvana (Pāli: parinibbana) of Gautama Buddha is described in the Mahāparinibbāna sutta.
Blavatsky regarded this as a misunderstanding. She wrote that this view is,
An exoteric and frequent mistake. Nirvana may be reached during man’s life, and after his death in the Manvantara or life-kalpa he belongs to. Paranirvana (“beyond” Nirvana) is reached only when the Manvantara has closed and during the “night” of the universe or Pralaya. Such is the esoteric teaching.In her writings, the term "paranirvana" is used to refer to the state the universe enters at "the great day of Be-with-Us", when:
. . . everything becomes one, all individualities are merged into one, yet each knowing itself, a mysterious teaching indeed. But then, that which to us now is non-consciousness or the unconscious, will then be absolute consciousness.
In Paranirvana — when Pralaya will have reduced not only material and psychical bodies, but even the spiritual Ego(s) to their original principle — the Past, Present, and even Future Humanities, like all things, will be one and the same. Everything will have re-entered the Great Breath. In other words, everything will be ‘merged in Brahma’ or the divine unity.
During the course of the manvantara it is said that there is a "Ring Pass-Not" that prevents embodied consciousness from entering in this state.
- Nirvāṇa at Theosopedia
- Nirvana - A Study in Synthetic Consciousness by George S. Arundale
- Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 339.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 232.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 432.
- Damodar K. Mavalankar, "White and Black Magic," Supplement to The Theosophist vol 5 (February, 1884), p. 42.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 436, fn.
- Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 119 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 407.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 345, fn.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 134.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 405.
- Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 385.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 265-266.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 53.