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Brief Essay on the Path of Deliverance or Nirvana

The Path to Deliverance and Nirvana together represent the second trend, Nirvana being not only a counter-process of cessation of the cyclic order of existence (i.e. the twelve links in reverse order) but the furthest discernible point of the progressive one.

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This process is set forth briefly in the third and fourth Aryan Truths, the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (=Nirvana) and the Truth of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering, as well as at length in another set of twelve links which is continuous with the first one in the same way that a spiral winds out of a circle. Conditioned by suffering (duhkha, the ‘decay-and-death’ of the first list) arises faith (sraddha); condi­tioned by faith arises delight (pramodya); conditioned by delight arises joy (priti); conditioned by joy arises serenity (prasrabdhi); conditioned by sere­nity arises bliss (sukha); conditioned by bliss arises concentration (samadhi); conditioned by concentration arises knowledge and vision of things as they really are (yathabhuta-jnanadarsana); conditioned by knowledge and vision of things as they really are arises disgust (nirvid, nirveda); conditioned by disgust arises dispassion (viraga); conditioned by dispassion arises liberation (vimukti); and conditioned by liberation arises knowledge of the destruction of the in­toxicants (asravakshaya-jnana).

The whole process can be experienced within a single lifetime. The Path is usually formulated, however, not in terms of the twelve ‘higher’ links but in various other ways, such as the Three Trainings (trisiksha), or Morality (sila), Meditation (samadhi), and Wisdom (prajna); the Aryan Eightfold Path; and the Six or Ten Perfections (Paramita).

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Despite the fact that the connection of these formulations with the doctrine of Con­ditioned Co-production is often lost sight of, the fact that the Path is essenti­ally a sequence of progressively higher mental and spiritual states, and that the practice of the Dharma consists above all in the cultivation of these states, is in all of them made sufficiently clear for practical purposes.

As the doctrine of Conditioned Co-production is not a theory of causation in the philosophical sense, there is no question of whether, in the case of either the Round or the Path, the succeeding link is identical with the preceding one or different from it. The Buddhist position is simply that conditioned by, or in dependence on A, there arises B. To say either that A and B are identical, or that they are different, is an extreme view, leading in one case to externalism (sasvatavada) and in the other to nihilism.

For Buddhism neither the category of being nor the category of non-being possesses ultimate validity. The Dharma is the Mean. As applied to the process of Conditioned Co- production this signifies that the one who is reborn and the one who died, and the one who gains Enlightenment and the one who followed the Path, are in reality neither the same nor different persons. Rebirth takes place but nobody is reborn; Nirvana is attained, but nobody attains it. Thus the doctrine of Conditioned Co-production involves that of anatma or no-self.

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