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Theosophical Encyclopedia


(Tṛishnā) The English spelling of a Sanskrit word (trsna) meaning “thirst” or “strong desire.” It is one of the twelve nidanas (“causes of existence”) in the Chain of Dependent Origination (Pali paticcyasamuppada, Sk. pratiyasamutpada). Sometimes tanha (“craving”) is substituted for trsna. In some of Buddha’s sermons the desire is likened to a fire. It is this characteristic of human nature which draws us back repeatedly into rebirths as we “thirst” for or desire the pleasures of sensuous experience. The Buddhist search for liberation from the wheel of rebirth involves overcoming this “thirst” or this “fire” of desire. The attainment of nirvana, literally, involves “blowing out” (nir-va), i.e., extinguishing, that “flame” (or overcoming that “thirst”). It is a complete misinterpretation of Buddhism to claim that nirvana means total extinction or annihilation of consciousness.

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