The path and the goal are nirvana

The goal of Buddhism is the attainment of awakening, liberation, or, as it is called in early Buddhism, nirvana. What is nirvana?

Nirvana is the cessation of suffering. Nirvana, the end of suffering, is the third of the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha. As you probably know, the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha is the truth of duhkha, suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Suffering or the unsatisfactoriness of conditioned existence should be seen. The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering, which is craving. Wherever there is craving, there is suffering. Craving is to be transcended or let go. The Third Noble Truth is the peace of nirvana, which comes from the end of craving. When one lets go of craving, suffering ends. Nirvana is to be experienced and known. The Fourth Noble Truth is the path, which is to be followed.

These four truths, along with dependent origination, can be said to comprise the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. The Four Noble Truths can be applied to any situation, and by doing so, the peace of nirvana can be found anytime and anywhere.

When a difficult, unpleasant, unwanted or uncomfortable situation is encountered, this can be recognized as suffering, dukha. When duhkha—unsatisfactoriness— is accepted for what it is, and is known fully, its origination in craving is naturally seen. The very nature of unsatisfactoriness is seen to be the desire for something else than what is happening.

When craving is seen as the source of suffering, it can be dropped, or transcended. Whatever is occurring can be faced simply and directly without craving or pre-formed ideas of what should or should not be.

When what is occurring is faced simply and directly without craving for it or pushing against it, the natural experience is peace. Peace, or nirvana, is the natural condition when craving is absent.

With peace, or nirvana, a path opens through the ups and downs of life. This is a path of simplicity, awake presence and integrity because it is based on inner peace, and it is directed to peace. From peace and to peace, one walks a path of fearlessness, dignity and joy, a noble path, the path of the Buddha.