In the Buddha’s teachings the Buddha always contrasts the nature of samsara with the natures of Nirvana.
Samsara (our world of suffering) is characterized by the 3 characteristics – anicca, dukkha, anatta. In other words:
- Impermanent things that we crave for and seek to grasp, lead to suffering when they decay and die and are separated from us.
- If something is impermanent then it is imperfect – it is unsatisfactory and leads to suffering.
It follows that anything with these 2 characteristics are not worthy of being regarded as Self (anatta) – not worthy of being regarded as who you really are.
Nirvana on the other hand, is what happens when these samsaric characteristics impermanence and suffering are overcome:
- If you no longer have anything impermanent – then only the eternal remains.
- If you no longer have any suffering – what’s left must be happiness – the eternal, never-ending bliss of Nirvana.
- And if everything that is not-self is abandoned – what’s left must be your real Self:
Kasyapa, according at the time one becomes a Tathagata, a Buddha, he is in Nirvana, and is referred to as permanent, steadfast, calm, eternal, Self (Atman).
The Mahabheriharaka Sutra, cited in Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism, SUNY Press, 1991, by Florin Giripescu Sutton, p71.