Notes on the text
These notes, edited by Alastair Wilson, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Day's Work, as published and frequently reprinted between 1898 and 1950.
The term that has become famous in the West is nirvana, translated as passing away or dying out—that is, the dying out in the heart of the fierce fires of lust, anger, and delusion. But nirvana is not extinction, and indeed the craving for annihilation or non-existence was expressly repudiated by the Buddha. Buddhists search for salvation, not just nonbeing. Although nirvana is often presented negatively as 'release from suffering', it is more accurate to describe it in a more positive fashion: as an ultimate goal to be sought and cherished.A more concise, and perhaps more appropriate, definition for this case, is taken from the current Merriam-Webster Dictionary: 'a place or state of oblivion to care, pain, or external reality'.
In some early texts the Buddha left unanswered certain questions regarding the destiny of persons who have reached this ultimate goal. He even refused to speculate as to whether fully purified saints, after death, continued to exist or ceased to exist. Such questions, he maintained, were not relevant to the practice of the path and could not in any event be answered from within the confines of ordinary human existence. Indeed, he asserted that any discussion of the nature of nirvana would only distort or misrepresent it. But he also asserted with even more insistence that nirvana can be experienced—and experienced in the present existence—by those who, knowing the Buddhist truth, practice the Buddhist path.
It matters not how strait the gate,Henley was editor of the National Observer, in which appeared Kipling’s Barrack Room Ballads.
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.