Is Buddhism the Only Path to Nirvana?

Can this passage be used to show that there are paths to Nirvana, other than Buddhism?

“Those who teach a Dhamma for the abandoning of passion, for the abandoning of aversion, for the abandoning of delusion; their Dhamma is well-taught. Those who have practiced for the abandoning of passion, for the abandoning of aversion, for the abandoning of delusion; they have practiced well in this world. Those whose passion… aversion… delusion is abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising: they, in this world, are well-gone.”

The householder responds: “How amazing, sir. How astounding, that there is neither extolling of one’s own Dhamma nor deprecation of another’s, but just the teaching of the Dhamma in its proper sphere, speaking to the point without mentioning oneself.” (Anguttara Nikaya 3.72)

The world can’t even come to a consensus on what Nirvana is.


Probably not.
But don’t follow Deepak Chopra!

Hindus believe in Nirvana too.

What they called Nirvana is what Buddha called Brhma or the radiant consciousness.
Hindus called it is the highest self.
Buddha taught not self.

For an example of how a person might come to… well, I don’t know if it’s Nibbana or not, but at least a similar-to-Buddhist understanding, without knowing anything of the teachings of the Buddha… see Russel Williams’ Not I, Not Other Than I.

That’s somebody saying , you can’t know for sure !

You can.
At the beginning you have to extrapolate form what you know.

Let’s go and have some drinks !

The Buddha is pretty straightforward on that matter:
MN 11

Bhikkhus, only here is there a recluse, only here a second recluse, only here a third recluse, only here a fourth recluse. The doctrines of others are devoid mn.i.64 of recluses: that is how you should rightly roar your lion’s roar.

MN 13

Bhikkhus, I see no one in the world with its gods, its Māras, and its Brahmās, in this generation with its recluses and brahmins, with its princes and its people, who could satisfy the mind with a reply to these questions, except for the Tathāgata or his disciple or one who has learned it from them.


Yes, I think so. And I think there is substantial evidence of people awakening to the same experience as Buddha teaches - outside the Buddhist teachings - whether that be Christianity, Islam, Taoism, or simply through their own investigation.

I think the EBT’s offer a wealth of instructions and guidelines for practice - which is a great advantage over religions in general. On the down side, Buddhism offers a wealth of guidelines and instructions for practice that can get in the way simply because of the sheer amount of material available.

Well the Buddha didn’t really teach Buddhism, he taught the Dhamma, and I guess I would argue that any path that leads to true awakening is the Dhamma; and although it may not be in the exact same way, in AN10.95 he’s pretty clear that they at least go through the same basic formula.

The 84,000 Dhamma doors are a metaphor to basically state that there are innumerable paths to enlightenment. In the Mahayana it is referred to as doors and in the Pali Canon it is referred to as the 84,000 teachings (Khuddaka Nikaya, Theragatha 1024). This is a representative teaching to the Buddha’s tolerance for other religions. Anyone following any religion who is basically a good, moral person is assured to reach that religion’s goal, which is typically heaven. In the Buddhist cosmology there are several heavenly realms all of which are attainable by members of any religion.
(from KN, Theragatha 1024)
The Complete Book of Buddha’s Lists – Explained. David N. Snyder, Ph.D., 2006.

82,000 (teachings) from the Buddha I have received;
2,000 more from his disciples;
Now 84,000 teachings are familiar to me.
— the Venerable Ananda,
in Theragatha 17.3 (vv. 1024-29)

This thread makes interesting reading:

According to Bhikkhu Pesala:

In the commentaries (atthakatha) it is explained the following way:

Sutta pitaka = 21,000 dhammakkhandhas
Vinaya pitaka = 21,000 dhammakkhandhas
Abhidhamma pitaka = 42,000 dhammakkhandhas

The Abhidhamma wasn’t around the time when Ven Ananda was alive. Therefore he couldn’t have said 42,000 of the 84,000 where in the Abhidhamma pitaka.

With metta

Thank you for your responses. While I don’t have a position, one way or another, on whether those outside Buddhism can attain Nirvana, the passage I cited in the OP provides food for thought.

I have a fair knowledge of most of other religions. I have never come across any teaching comparable to Buddha’s teachings such as four noble truths, dependent origination etc.


The idea of an ultimate liberation is not Buddhist, it was introduced already in older Indian texts as the Chandogya Upanishad or the Shatapata Brahmana. The older traditions called it mokṣa, the Pali mokkha can be found quite often, a few times even in the same context with nibbana.

For one freed by craving’s destruction, / with the cessation of consciousness
the emancipation (mokkha) of the mind / is like the extinguishing (nibbana) of a lamp. (AN 3.90, similarly AN 7.3, AN 7.4, SN 6.15, DN 16)

The term nibbana as such is used by Buddhism of course, but Jainism as well. Who used it first is not clear. So accordingly there are different paths to some sort of nibbana.

But I guess your question is: are there different paths to the Buddhist nirvana? Even though your quote and a few others in the suttas open the possibility for non-Buddhist nirvanas I think it’s safe to say that in the EBT there is only one path (the NEP) and only the Buddha as the ultimate guide.

If the Christian, Advaitan, Sufi, etc. liberations are comparable to the EBT-nirvana can be solved only on a conceptual level (they’re very different) and other than that, on a phenomenological level, the question I’m afraid is not solvable.


Maybe we can judge the teachings of other religions by their fruits:

"As for the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’: You may categorically hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’"

I agree. Nevertheless, all major religions that I can think of teach something along the lines of: virtue is important - worldly pursuits should be turned away from - the mind should enter into silence and contemplation - and that through this process there is a transformation that takes place - and that transformation is worth doing. I think in Christianity this process is described more among its mystics than directly in the Bible (that is kind of a guess) - this is not my area of expertise.

I read it in the sense that we could use our analytic skills to see if other paths and doctrines align categorically with the Dhamma and could contain the instructions of the mahamuni himself. But, such discriminative analysis can’t be used to validate a different path entirely, since the end result, the goal, varies wildly.

If Nibbana is taken as the declaration of the Buddha when he turned the wheel (Unshakable is the liberation of my mind. This is my last birth. Now there is no more renewed existence.), then there is nothing other than the Path which he taught that can lead to it. Both the goal and the means are so thoroughly at odds with the ways of the world that it takes a fair amount of weeding away gross attachments and views in the mind to see and accept his Teaching.

Thank you for your response. Honestly, I don’t want to give my full opinion about other religions, because I don’t want to be hurtful or offensive. In this thread, I am just trying to ask questions.