In Buddhism, we speak of nirvana which is the cessation of all suffering. Nirvana, first of all, it means the cessation, the extinction of all suffering. But our suffering come from our wrong perceptions, avidya, misunderstanding. And that is why the practice of meditation, the practice of looking deeply has the purpose of removing wrong perceptions from us. If you are able to remove wrong perceptions, you will be able to be free from the afflictions and the sufferings that always arise from wrong perceptions. You have wrong perception on yourself and on the other, and the other has wrong perception on themselves and on you and that is the cause of fear, of violence, of hatred. That is why trying to remove wrong perceptions is the only way to peace. And that is why nirvana is, first of all, the removal of wrong perceptions. And when you remove wrong perceptions, you remove the suffering.
And to meditate deeply, you find out that even ideas like being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, are wrong ideas. If you can touch reality in that, you realize that suchness, ultimate reality is free from birth, from dying, from coming, from going, from being, from non-being. That is why nirvana is, first of all, a removal of notions, of ideas that serve the ways of misunderstanding and suffering. If you are afraid of death, of nothingness, of non-being, because you have wrong perceptions on death and on non-being. The French scientist, Lavoisier, said there is no birth, there is no death. He had just observed reality around him and come to the conclusion that "Rien ne se crée, rien ne se perd." ("Nothing is created, and nothing is destroyed." (Nothing is born, nothing dies.))
When you look at a cloud, you think that the cloud is a being. And later on when the cloud become the rain, you don’t see the cloud anymore and you say the cloud is not there. And you describe the cloud as non-being. But if you look deeply, you can see the cloud in the rain and that is why it’s impossible for a cloud to die. A cloud can become rain, snow or ice, but a cloud cannot become nothing. And that is why the notion of death cannot be applied to reality. There is a transformation, there is a continuation, but you cannot say that there is death because in your mind to die means from something, you suddenly become nothing. From someone, you suddenly become no one, and so the notion of death cannot apply to reality, whether to a cloud or to a human being.
And the Buddha did not die. The Buddha only continued by his Sangha and by his Dharma. And you can touch the Buddha in the here and the now. That is why ideas like being born, dying, coming and going, being and non-being should be removed by the practice of looking deeply. And when you can remove these notions, you are free and you have non-fear. And non-fear is the true foundation of great happiness. As far as the fear is there in your heart, happiness cannot be perfect. And that is why nirvana is not something that you get in the future. Nirvana is the capacity of removing wrong notions, wrong perceptions, which is the practice of freedom. Nirvana can be translated as freedom, freedom from views. And in Buddhism, all views are wrong views. When you get in touch with the reality, you no longer have views. You have the wisdom. You have a direct encounter with the reality. And that is no longer called "views".
All afflictions and the sufferings arise from wrong perceptions. And wrong perceptions are, in other words, ideas, notions, views, or ignorance which cause delusions, illusions and misunderstanding. Furthermore, afflictions and sufferings arise because wrong perceptions, ideas, notions and views are for distinctions, separations, discrimination, or the duality. And all of these are human creations. That's why nirvana is the extinction of wrong perceptions, all views, or all notions. For that, mindfulness, concentration and insight are the effective methods.
Thích Nhất Hạnh