There is a state of existence which is beyond all the influences of matter. This is perpetual happiness of mental bliss, absolutely free from all kinds of suffering & not subject to the forces of decay and death.
Like all other ultimate factors of the universe, Nibbana is only discernible to the mind; we cannot understand Nibbana in terms of our five environment sensations. In order to comprehend the nature of Nibbana, it is essential that we should, in the first instance, comprehend the nature of all the ultimate factors of the universe.
There are altogether 82 different factors constituting the universe & of these, 28 come under the category of matter, and the balance 54 belong to the category of mind. By sifting the different factors belonging to both categories, we can arrive at the primary factors of the universe and, from thence, we could proceed to our examination of Nibbana.
The elements consist of 13 elements of inanimate matter and 15 elements of animate matter. The four great abstract elements, abstract earth, abstract water, abstract air & abstract heat; the sky or space element, the five projective elements (Gochara rupa), and the three feature elements (Lakshana rupa) are the 13 elements of inanimate matter. Animate matter consists of the five reflective elements (Pasada rupa), the heart elements, the evolution element, the 2 sex elements, food element, 2 motion elements (Vinnatti rupa) and the 3 condition elements (Vikara rupa).
On the combination of the four great abstract elements, the 9 other abstract elements of inanimate matter emerge; and when the forces of mind are brought to bear on such a combination, the 15 elements of animate matter come into existence. It is therefore, possible to say that the four great abstract elements are the primary elements of matter and the balance 24 abstract elements are secondary elements of matter.
We may also analyse the 54 mental factors of the universe into their primary and secondary categories. The 54 mental factors are divisible as; 1 of mind (Chitta), 52 of mental currents of thoughts (Chaythisika) & 1 of Nibbana. Without the mind, thoughts cannot appear, and without mind and thoughts, Nibbana cannot occur. We may, therefore, say that the mind is the primary factor amongst the 54 mental factors of the universe and the 52 currents of thoughts and Nibbana are the secondary mental factors. Our task now is to see how the secondary mental factors result from the primary mental factor, namely, mind.
The currents of thoughts (Chaythisika) are merely sub-divisions of the mind and, therefore, mind and currents of thoughts have to be considered together. This leaves us with the mental factors of the universe divided into 2 broad categories: mind is one, & Nibbana is the other. The word "Mind" is merely the collective name given to the 52 different mental currents; a separate entity which could be distinguished as "Mind" does not exist. We could, thus, confine ourselves to the examination of mental currents in our effort to understand Nibbana.
The 52 mental currents have to be sifted according to their functions. There are 7 currents occurring at active strength continuously throughout every beat of mind and, as such, they are considered in the class known as common currents (sabba chitta sadharana). Immediately preceding the occurrence of our thoughts or sensations, 6 other currents spring into active strength & these are known as supplementary currents (pakinnaka). The 13 currents thus springing into activity bring us 39 different sensations of which 14 belong to the category know as sensations of defilement, and the balance 25 belong to the category of sensations of purity (Kusala chaythisika). Of all the mental currents, only the 14 currents of defilement can be destroyed completely.
There are 3 currents belonging to the category of defilement currents which control the strength of the balance 11 currents of defilement. These are named the current of ignorance (Moha), current of greed (Lobha), and the current of hatred (Dwesha). In like manner, there are also 3 currents of purity which control the strength and incidence of the rest of the currents of purity. These are: the current of knowledge (Amoha), the current of benevolence (Alobha), and the current of loving sympathy (Adwesha).
The process of attaining Nibbana consists of removing the forces of the currents of defilement & of them, the most difficult currents to remove are the currents of ignorance, greed & hatred. If all traces of ignorance, greed & hatred are removed from our mind, the other currents of defilement cannot exists in our mind & therefore, all the 14 currents of defilement would disappear. The mind cleansed in this manner realizes Nibbana.
In order to remove the currents of defilement, the only method is to increase the strength of the forces of the opposing currents of purity. Loving sympathy destroys hatred; benevolence destroys greed; and knowledge destroys ignorance. Ignorance is the cause for the appearance of all defilement, and knowledge is causing the appearance of all currents of purity. The primary factors amongst the 39 currents of sensations, therefore, are the currents of ignorance and knowledge.
In the mind of a person who is about to achieve the state of Arahat ( a person who is about to realize fully the state of Nibbana) the currents of ignorance and knowledge are locked in mortal grip. No sooner is the last bond of ignorance breached by bringing to bear the last charge of knowledge necessary for full enlightenment, then the state of Arahat is reached and Nibbana realized.
Thereafter, it is only a matter of time for the aspirant to attain the actual matter less and painless existence of perpetual happiness and bliss, which is the Nibbana accruing to him after death!