4. Nirvāṇa | Vaibhashika


4. Nirvāṇa

Nirvāṇa’s real existence

In Sarvāstivāda, Nirvāṇa is a "distinct positive entity" (dravyāntara).

It is "an ontologically real force that is acquired by the practitioner when a given defilement is completely abandoned."

This force ensures that the defilement's acquisition will never arise again.

Master Skandhila’s definition indicates how this real entity has a positive presence, which is said to be "like a dike holding back the water or a screen blocking the wind."

Vaibhāṣika holds that the real existence of Nirvāṇa is supported both by direct perception and by scripture which depict the Buddha stating that "there is definitely the unborn."

Sautrāntikas disagree with this interpretation of scripture, holding that the unborn simply refers to the discontinuity of birth (Janma-pravṛtti),

and thus it is a mere concept referring to the absence of suffering due to the abandoning of the defilements and thus it is only relatively real (prajñaptisat).

However, Saṁghabhadra argues that "it is only when the unborn is conceded to be a distinct real entity that it is meaningful to say 'there is'.

Besides, if there were no such entity, the Buddha should have simply said 'there is the discontinuity of the born.'"

According to Vaibhāṣika, Nirvāṇa must be an ultimately real existent

- because no real supporting phenomena can be found which could serve as the basis on which to designate Nirvāṇa as a relative existent (as the aggregates serve to designate the self as relative, for example).

Also, if Nirvāṇa is not a real force, then beings could not give rise to delight in Nirvāṇa and disgust towards Saṁsāra, for Nirvāṇa would be inferior in terms of existence.

It would also mean that the Buddha had been deluding everyone by speaking of non-existents in the same way that he spoke of the existents.

Furthermore, if Nirvāṇa was unreal, it could not be one of the 4 Noble Truths, since a non-existent cannot be said to be true or false.

An Ārya is said to directly see the 4 Truths, including the 3rd Truth of duḥkha-nirodha (the end of suffering, i.e. Nirvāṇa) and wisdom cannot arise with regard to a non-existent object.