Such a conclusion, however, is one-sided and superficial. The Buddha himself rejected and cautioned against the two extremes of philosophical dualism. One extreme being etemalism or existence and the other being annihilationism or non-existence. Though this was usually taught with reference to the existence or non-existence of the personality after death, it is equally appropriate to Nirvana. The whole tradition of Theravada Buddhism has emphatically rejected the nihilistic interpretation of Nirvana, and a significant portion of the writings of the famed Fifth Century Theravadin scholar, Buddhaghosa, was directed at refuting the notion of Nirvana as non-existence. 1
Perhaps most significant is that the Buddha and many of his disciples experienced Nirvana; that is, they were aware of it, as the Buddha said, 'here and now in this present life'. And in the suttas we find statements that the Buddha and the other arahants2 'enjoyed the peace of Nirvana'. It is referred to by such terms as 'profound', 'deep', 'hard to see', 'hard to comprehend', 'peaceful', 'lofty', 'inaccessible to ratiocination', 'subtle', 'the true', 'the other shore', 'to be known by the wise'. 3 In the Dhammapada the Buddha is quoted:
'There is no fire like lust, No crime like hatred; There is no misery like the constituents of existence, No happiness higher than the Peace of Nirvana. 'Hunger is the worst of diseases, Component existence is the worst of distresses; Knowing this as it really is (the wise realize) Nirvana the highest bliss. Health is the highest gain; Contentment is the greatest wealth. A trusty friend is the best of kinsmen; Nirvana is the supreme bliss.