AN1.625 Discernment of body is discernment of the deathless


But when there is no more birth there will also be no more death.


Suppose we try to understand “the deathless” to mean a fully awakened state of mind, and think that that awakened state is something the arahant achieves upon the attainment of nibbana. Why would this be called a deathless state? The arahant will die, and when the arahant dies, any awakened state of mind the arahant is experiencing will come to an end.

Even if you think that nibbana simply entails that there will be no more lives to live after the present one, that doesn’t seem to give one much reason for calling nibbana a deathless state. Because the arahant still has one more death to undergo.


If I don’t identify with the death of a certain physical body, then maybe it’s not my death after all.


Deathless is indeed that there is no longer a possibility of death for me because there is no conceit for whom death applies. The five aggregates for an ariyan will still fall apart, but this is no longer a concern,as it was for a ordinary person.
The aggregates were never belonging to anyone, anywhere and there was never an anyone in any aggregate, anywhere.

In that sense the deathless is the absence of the possibility that an ‘I’ will die, it’s a certainty i.e the assumption of self will fade. Therefore, body-mindfulness should be revealing that, if discerned correctly.
It should reveal, without doubt, that the nature of the body is and always was impossible to own or access, and that it’s falling apart is completely indifferent to an assumption of self.

The ending of the assumption of self is also the final death, the no longer a possibility of death, or the presence of the deathless.
The sotapanna can be said to be the beginning of the fading away of conceit, thus the presence of the deathless is apparent when Right view is present. As he continues body-mindfulness ,the presence of the deathless will become even more apparent/developed.

Discerning the presence of body mindfulness is the presence of the unforgettable, irreversible Discernment /knowledge of the deathless, which is the irreversible knowledge of the body i.e even if one forgets about body mindfulness, the knowledge of the body and the deathless remains effortlessly, even if there is a thought of something else. Forgetfulness then, cannot induce ignorance, because one already knows the deathless.

I can’t seem to read that sutta any other way, as in ,when there is discernment of body mindfulness, then there will, at a later stage, be the Discernment/knowledge of the deathless, which will disappear when I am not mindful.


Could you elaborate on what you mean by cessation of phassa here, practically speaking? It seems to me that cessation of phassa would also mean cessation of consciousness ( vinnana ), ie no awareness or experience, nothing - oblivion.

Possibly, though IMO it’s not just identification with the body which is a problem. I also think that survival instinct plays a part.


A sutta that dives into this subtlety is AN6.61 In the Middle

“Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle. And craving is the seamstress, for craving weaves one to rebirth in this or that state of existence. That’s how a mendicant directly knows what should be directly known and completely understands what should be completely understood. Knowing and understanding thus they make an end of suffering in this very life.”

Contact is progressive. There is full contact and the lightest of touches immediately relinquished. My hypothesis is that we should think of contact as a spectrum, not an absolute as in the game of tag. The evidence supporting that hypothesis is that throughout the suttas qualifications abound and demarcations are not rigid.


Yes it means the cessation of awareness. Not death, or anything like that. The six senses stop. No arising. is nibbana.


I assume you are describing a temporary meditative state here? Clearly the Arahant still functions in the world, he/she still sees, hears, feels etc - the six senses continue to “work”. The difference for the Arahant is the lack of craving, aversion and delusion.

I’m not sure. In the EBTs the formula for phassa looks pretty functional, it’s just the meeting of the three - sense-organ, sense-object and sense-consciousness. This sounds like something that either happens, or doesn’t. I wonder if it is more to do with appropriate and inappropriate attention, or guarding the senses?


When avijja is present, contact is NOT just sense organ,sense object and sense consciousness; it is rather ‘i am’ contacted by a sense object which is ,‘for me’ through ‘my’ eye while ‘i am’ conscious.
It’s self centered.
Phassa is the ignorance in regard to those aggregates, and that is already what is happening all the time,if you are an ordinary person, we are born that way, so to speak.

Phassanirodha is when there is no longer the assumption in regards to eye,forms and eye-consciousnes; they are no longer self centered. They ,for the arahant, still operate just as before, beyond control, and not belonging to anyone anywhere. The gratuitous assumption of ‘thats for me, this is mine, I am this’ has been removed ,in the arahants case.
When contact ends, it is the ignorance which goes not those aggregates.

To get to phassanirodha, yoniso manasikara is most definitely needed. The ability to indirectly know (abhijanati) those aggregates as they really are and not as you perceive them to be (bhava).

If you do not abhijanati those aggregates or if you assume the senses and their objects, then phassa is there i.e YOU are contacted, you are assumed to be the centre, owner of salayatana. (You don’t even think about it, it’s a default)

Ignorance in regards salayatana determines phassa,
(Salayatana paccaya phasso) i.e MY salayatana=I AM contacted.

AN6.63 - Phassa is the source of craving for ‘the wanting of sensual pleasures’.
The fact that I assume that I can have the pleasure from the senses which are mine( avijja of salayatana); automatically determines the assumption that I am in a position to receive the sensual experiences (avijja of salayatana determines phassa),and this is what keeps the hope of getting sensual pleasures alive.

You can keep telling yourself that, the senses that you perceive are not yours,or that the body is ugly etc and this will last for as long as you determined to do so,but you will still be perceiving with ignorance i.e with avijja you will be applying the right knowledge (things are not mine) in the wrong place. You will be trying to force those right perceptions on to your perceptions which are already fully enclosed within ignorance. E.g like sticking a label the says ‘not-mine’ on something that you already think is yours,
or as though you can change those things into what they already are.
They are inherently already what they are, one just doesn’t fully understand that.

If one understands those aggregates through/with yoniso manasikara, there will be no need to ‘apply’ any perceptions of anicca,dukkha or anatta, because the Knowing (abhijanati) of what the aggregates are, will reveal their nature…
Which is unattractive, not wanted, suffering, not mine, beyond ones control.

Knowing and understanding the aggregates rightly, reveals what they are; NOT while one is assuming the aggregates, you must apply anicca dukkha anatta on them so that hopefully one day you won’t suffer anymore. For it is not the aggregates which are the problem, it is ones lack of Understanding.

And so what is important…AN2.126
“There are two conditions for the arising of right view.
“Dveme, bhikkhave, paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā uppādāya.
What two?
Katame dve?
The words of another and proper attention.
Parato ca ghoso, yoniso ca manasikāro.
These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.”
Ime kho, bhikkhave, dve paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā uppādāyā”ti."

We already have the ‘words of another’, from the Buddha, which just leaves ‘yoniso manasikara’ to be done; and if it’s done correctly, then those ‘words’ will apply to the right things i.e when you know things correctly, then anicca dukkha anatta (and the deathless)will make perfect sense, you won’t have to try and convince yourself.


I also am not sure.

However, there is MN121, which addresses this subtle distinction as follows:

They understand: ‘Here there is no stress due to the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, or ignorance. There is only this modicum of stress, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’

Unfortunately, contact is not mentioned, but you will notice that this statement contains both “no stress” and “modicum of stress”. This to me suggests a parallel between the “lightest of touches, relinquished” and “modicum of stress”. We see the same blurring with AN6.61 In the Middle with the subtle distiction between “origin of contact” and “contact”. If one searches for the exact boundary between the two, one is lead to ever more subtle considerations. Given that the noble search ends, it can end in one of two ways: the boundary is found, the boundary disappears.

A very similar situation happens in AI, where neural network activation (i.e., contact) happens at an arbitrary designated threshold. Indeed, one might say that after contact we all become robots. :rofl:


I find this interesting as it could be seen as a confirmation of Nagarjuna’s thesis.

The Buddha taught that in this fathom-long body is ‘the world’ i.e. we will not know the world by traveling to the far reaches of outer space.

It follows from this, that samsara is something associated with the body - if the ‘world’ that the the Buddha identifies exists in relation to this physical formation with its mental components.

Therefore, Nagarjuna is correct in equating the deathless, discerning the deathless, with knowledge and clear-comprehension of the world - samsara.


If nibbana doesn’t have a physical location it isn’t found in this life or the next. The event of attaining nibbana is different.

It’s beyond ‘existence and non-existence’. The presence of consciousness means existence, right?

I think this would include the six sense bases.


This makes sense - IMO.

The term ‘Nibbana’ is used as a way of thinking and talking about awakening and, it’s consequences.

Birth and ‘death’ don’t apply with regard to Nibbana. Existence and nonexistence does not apply - why? Because Nibbana does not arise and cease, it doesn’t come and go.

When we think and talk about existence and nonexistence, it refers to that which we are aware of - that which exists - and that which we no longer experience directly or, indirectly.

When the presence of something or, someone, is no longer perceived we may say it/they have ceased to exist.

That which never qualified as truly existing in the first place - like a horn on a hare - may also be defined as nonexistent or, a product of the imagination.

In a sense, all perceiving and conceiving is imaginary. A creative process, an invention, a simulation. What else could thoughts and perceptions be?

To ask the question: where is the deathless? Is a case of being bewitched by language! A common cause of confusion in the teachings.

Well said!

Nibbana isn’t an acquisition it’s a diminution. Finally, when all greed, hatred and, ignorance is ‘gone’ and, there’s no ‘more’ conceit, gone is the stain of being. The Arahant cannot be found here/there or, in-between the two.

"Short indeed is this life—

within a hundred years one dies,
and, if any live longer
then they die of decay…

As one who’s waking then sees not
the things that happened in sleep;
so the beloved are not seen—
departed and done their time.

People now are seen and heard
and this are called by name,
but alone will the name remain
in speaking of those gone…

Certainly the wise do not conceive
upon the seen, the heard, and cognized,
nor wish for purity through another,
for they are not attached nor yet displeased." - Jarā Sutta


An interesting passage. I wonder what the modicum of stress here actually involves, given the absence of defilements? Is it related to the three types of dukkha, ie dukkha-dukkha, viparinama-dukkha and sankhara-dukkha?

I assume this clear comprehension of samsara corresponds with the cessation of ignorance ( avijjā )?


I get the impression that when there’s clear comprehension of the world*, this fathom-long body, the mental aggregates, the six sense bases then, there’s realisation of the not-born, the deathless.

Seeing one is also seeing the other?

This seems to correlate in some way with Nagarjuna’s thesis? Nagarjuna seems to teach that when samsara is seen and understood clearly Nibbanic awakening takes place. In fact, they are one and the same?

I’m not saying he’s right but, this is what he appeared to teach.

In order to illustrate what this may be about it might be useful to read the story about the worm in dung*.


*The worm and his lovely pile of dung! - NIRVANADHAMMA


When we gain the understanding that spammers exist with the sole purpose of taking, does spamming stop? No, spamming does not stop. What stops is being spammed. This is cessation of being spammed. Dukkha is just a 2500 year old word for spam.

Do we appreciate spam?
No we do not.
That is the modicum of stress of spam–it is just a form in the world that exists to take from others.
Being subject to spam ceases, but spamming will go on as long as there is craving for what others have. Spam, like the bite of a mosquito, is still an imposition that causes a modicum of stress. Ironically, in that very imposition it provides a gentle and constant test of our equanimity.

Therefore spam really does have value.


“The end of the world” this made me feel that which Zen Buddhists call “little satori”
(transient insight); why ? because obviously this “end of the world” is not a physical/Earthly location, it’s rather something like a “state of mind” (the end of the aggregates?) - for lack of better words…


“being bewitched by language! A common cause of confusion in the teachings”: Well said!


I’m not sure there is a direct correlation, since in the EBTs Nibbana ( the unconditioned ) is described as distinct from samsara ( the conditioned ).

So it’s like a minor nuisance, but not something we get worked up about anymore?

I feel the same way about the other kind of spam. :yum:


Canned Spam is definitely dukkha :blush: