[作者] 坦尼沙罗尊者



by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu


We all know what happens when a fire goes out. The flames die down and the fire is gone for good. So when we first learn that the name for the goal of Buddhist practice, nibbana (nirvana), literally means the extinguishing of a fire, it's hard to imagine a deadlier image for a spiritual goal: utter annihilation. It turns out, though, that this reading of the concept is a mistake in translation, not so much of a word as of an image. What did an extinguished fire represent to the Indians of the Buddha's day? Anything but annihilation.

According to the ancient Brahmans, when a fire was extinguished it went into a state of latency. Rather than ceasing to exist, it became dormant and in that state unbound from any particular fuel it became diffused throughout the cosmos. When the Buddha used the image to explain nibbana to the Indian Brahmans of his day, he bypassed the question of whether an extinguished fire continues to exist or not, and focused instead on the impossibility of defining a fire that doesn't burn: thus his statement that the person who has gone totally "out" can't be described.

However, when teaching his own disciples, the Buddha used nibbana more as an image of freedom. Apparently, all Indians at the time saw burning fire as agitated, dependent, and trapped, both clinging and being stuck to its fuel as it burned. To ignite a fire, one had to "seize" it. When fire let go of its fuel, it was "freed," released from its agitation, dependence, and entrapment calm and unconfined. This is why Pali poetry repeatedly uses the image of extinguished fire as a metaphor for freedom. In fact, this metaphor is part of a pattern of fire imagery that involves two other related terms as well. Upadana, or clinging, also refers to the sustenance a fire takes from its fuel. Khandha means not only one of the five "heaps" (form, feeling, perception, thought processes, and consciousness) that define all conditioned experience, but also the trunk of a tree. Just as fire goes out when it stops clinging and taking sustenance from wood, so the mind is freed when it stops clinging to the khandhas.

Thus the image underlying nibbana is one of freedom. The Pali commentaries support this point by tracing the word nibbana to its verbal root, which means "unbinding." What kind of unbinding? The texts describe two levels. One is the unbinding in this lifetime, symbolized by a fire that has gone out but whose embers are still warm. This stands for the enlightened arahant, who is conscious of sights and sounds, sensitive to pleasure and pain, but freed from passion, aversion, and delusion. The second level of unbinding, symbolized by a fire so totally out that its embers have grown cold, is what the arahant experiences after this life. All input from the senses cools away and he/she is totally freed from even the subtlest stresses and limitations of existence in space and time.

The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable, even in terms of existence or nonexistence, because words work only for things that have limits. All he really says about it apart from images and metaphors is that one can have foretastes of the experience in this lifetime, and that it's the ultimate happiness, something truly worth knowing.

So the next time you watch a fire going out, see it not as a case of annihilation, but as a lesson in how freedom is to be found in letting go.


我们都了解火焰熄灭的情形。火尽烟散寂然无迹。因此我们初次了解到涅槃(nibbana/nirvana)这个词作为佛教的修持目标其字面意思是火焰的熄灭, 会感到作为一个灵性追求目标很难想象有比彻底消亡这个形象更致命的了。不过对于涅槃概念作这般理解实际上是一个误会并非在文字上而是在形象上。对于佛陀时代的印度人来说熄灭之火代表了什么? 绝对不是消亡。

根据古老的婆罗门信仰火焰熄灭时进入一个潜在阶段。 它并非停止存在而是处于静态在这个不受燃料束缚的状态下扩散开来弥漫于空间。 当佛陀用这个比喻对当时印度的婆罗门人士讲解涅槃之意时绕过了熄灭之火是否继续存在的问题而是侧重于说明要定义不燃之火是不可能的因此他关于一个彻底熄灭者的称谓也是不可描述的。

但是佛陀在对自己的弟子讲解时更多地用涅槃的形象作为自由的象征。当时的印度人似乎都把燃烧之火看成动荡、有依赖性、禁锢状态燃烧时执取、又受缚于燃料。为了点火必须把它抓获(seize) 火在放弃了(let go)燃料之后便自由从动荡、依赖、禁锢中获得解脱宁静、不受制约。 这就是为什么巴利文诗偈中反复以熄灭之火的形象作为自由的比喻。实际上个词属于火的一组类比相关词汇另有两个。Upadana意为执着也指火从燃料中获得的滋养。 Khandha不仅指界定一切缘起经验的五蕴之一形态、感受、辨知思维、意识而且还指树干。 正如火停止执着、停止从木料获取滋养便熄灭了; 心终止对五蕴的执着时便获得了自由。 

因此涅槃这个形象之下的内涵是指自由。巴利论藏追溯其动词的词根为解脱(unbinding),也支持这个观点。怎样的解脱?  经文中描述了两个层次。一个是此生的解脱以火已熄灭、余烬尚温为象征代表已证悟的阿罗汉有视觉听觉敏感于喜乐但已脱离了贪、瞋、痴。第二个层次的解脱以火焰灭尽、余烬已冷作为象征代表了阿罗汉此生以后的经验。来自感官的一切输入冷却下来/她从时空存在的最细微的苦与局限中获得了解脱。






Source : http://www.theravadacn.org/


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