By David Reigle on October 14, 2021 at 1:57 am

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

The term parinirvāṇa, sometimes incorrectly spelled paranirvāṇa in Theosophical writings, is widely used to describe the final nirvāṇa that Gautama Buddha achieved upon his death. It forms the title of scriptures in both Pali and Sanskrit that describe the events around his passing away: Mahā-paribbāna-sutta and Mahā-parinirvāṇa-sūtra (different from the Mahāyāna Mahā-parinirvāṇa-sūtra). He is regarded as having achieved nirvāṇa under the bodhi-tree many years before his passing away. For the many years that he taught after achieving enlightenment (bodhi) or nirvāṇa, it could not be said that he had entered full or complete nirvāṇa. So two kinds of nirvāṇa were distinguished in the Buddhist texts: sopadhi-śeṣa-nirvāṇa, nirvāṇa with the remainder (śeṣa) of the personal existence (upadhi), and anupadhi-śeṣa-nirvāṇa or nirupadhi-śeṣa-nirvāṇa, nirvāṇa without the remainder of the personal existence or body. The latter is what is called parinirvāṇa, the full or complete nirvāṇa that can only occur when the body passes away.

            Grammatical note: The prefix pari, here meaning full or complete, was added to nirvāṇa to make this distinction. The word is not para-nirvāṇa. Even if it was, it could not mean beyond nirvāṇa, as sometimes understood in Theosophical writings. The reason for this can be seen in the explanation of why para-brahman cannot mean beyond brahman or Brahmā, found in the entry on para-brahman.

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