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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Annihilation

The dictionary defines “annihilate” as, “to reduce to nothing.” In connection with Buddhism, Western Orientalists have often regarded NIRVANA as a state of complete annihilation, but this has been disputed by many Buddhists, scholars and theosophists. Even early Buddhist sutras have clarified this, such as the Lankavatara Sutra, which states: “Nirvana does not consist in simple annihilation and vacuity” (The Buddhist Bible, ed. Dwight Goddard, 1932, p. 170).

Helena P. BLAVATSKY wrote that, “According to the Eastern idea, the All comes out from the One, and returns to it again. Absolute annihilation is simply unthinkable” (CW XIV:418). She also stated that, “annihilation means, with the Buddhistical philosophy, only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be; for everything that bears a shape was created, and thus must sooner or later perish, i.e., change that shape; therefore, as something temporary, though seeming to be permanent, it is but an illusion, Maya . . . (IU I:290).

Thus annihilation, in Eastern philosophy, must always be understood in terms of the dissolution of a form or manifested state, and not a state of absolute nothingness.

The word annihilation has also been used in relation to the ultimate attainment of Islamic Sufism called fana. But again, this refers to the extinction or dissolution of the self and attain a transcendent state of awareness. Christian mysticism refers to this as Union with the Divine.

 

P.S.H./V.H.C.

 

 

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