Bhikkhu Bodhi on Nibbāna

Why should I take your word for it here? SN51.15 says, “giving up desire”, not “not existing.” The issue here is not to interpret the texts. The issue is that NgXinZhao’s argument applies to either intepretation/position.

It isn’t hard to understand that someone doesn’t understand what nibbana is, it is enough to make one assumption about him, namely: he is a puthujjana.

But in practice, it is hard to understand which judgement about one’s understanding what nibbana is, is made by one who understands what nibbana is, and which is made by one who doesn’t understend what nibbana is.

Theoretically at least it should not be hard to understand by introspection that one is a puthujjana and so doesn’t understand what nibbana is, but in practice most of scholars and even other Buddhists cannot resist temptation to speak about nibbana in very authoritative way without arising of the knowledge of the Four Noble Trusts.

Not my word. Are you saying the Buddha didn’t teach for the ending of dukkha?
The sutta was offered to differentiate craving from desire to practice the Path – to end dukkha.

The way I read that sutta is not imposing a distinction, but rather erasing a superimposed distinction. The sutta clearly points out that desire to end dukkha must also be given up. Why? Because that desire itself leads to dukkha. The superimposed distinction that must be erased? That somehow desire and dukkha are distinct. Indeed, Ananda says in that sutta that the very purpose of the holy life is to give up desire.

The proper distinction isn’t between desire and dukkha, but rather between desire and the mere aggregates; desire and the world’s pretty things.

I don’t think the matter under debate is whether the goal is ending dukkha, but rather getting to the heart of what ending dukkha actually means. Those who equate dukkha with the mere aggregates and the completely void, hollow and insubstantial six sense faculties risk generating desire to truly end these insubstantial things; where no such true ending is possible. But this desire itself to truly end something that cannot truly end must be given up. You cannot arrive in the proverbial park of no-desire while still carrying this desire around. :joy: :pray:

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Right. But the sutta also points to the need for skillful desire (chanda) to get to that point. Another way to look at it is healthy motivation to engage the practice.

We agree that the arahants no longer need to practice the Path and they have no craving.
But to say chanda is not needed before this is to put the cart before the horse.

As before, we respectfully disagree about this point. Whatever is anicca is dukkha.
SN35.1: " What’s impermanent is suffering. Yad aniccaṁ taṁ dukkhaṁ

We could turn this around and say those who do not see the aggregates as fundamentally dukkha will not be able to fully let go of them.



Yes, I recognize this claim as very well articulated. The claim and counterclaim I think can be formulated like this:

  1. Is it possible to totally give up desire for the aggregates (either craving for their continued existence or craving for their non-existence) while not seeing the aggregates as fundamentally existing as dukkha incarnate?

  2. Is it possible to totally give up desire for the aggregates (either craving for their continued existence or craving for their non-existence) while seeing the aggregates as fundamentally existing?

This is I believe our disagreement boiled down in the clearest terms I’m able to muster. You say no and yes. I say yes and no. :joy:



Very interesting… Maybe this will expose aspects of that sort of claim: his body still exists after death in the form of decomposed matter. Does that matter? Why not? Was his body him? It does still exist now (some of it in stupas). Is the decomposed matter of his body only that remains or are there specs of his sensation and mental aggregates floating around as dust? Are the aggregates purely physical in this way? Does existence in some physical state not include the body? I can’t see how anything else could “remain”. Could he be abiding in cessation of perception and feeling forever? What does existence in some state really mean…

Sorry if this is too off topic, but this is funny because ideas of Greek transcendental Beauty, where one goes beyond reproduction and the impermanence of life into permanence, influenced Christianity’s idea of the path to God and heaven. The Greeks easily could have gotten this from Indian culture, which would be a watered down version of enlightenment, going beyond rebirth and impermanence (not necessarily into permanence). When you compare the other parts of these theories it’s surprisingly close. If you remove the labels, it’s a belief that evolved long enough to seem contradicting.

Anyway the actual arguments from missionaries in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s talk are, as usual, presumptuous strawmans (strawmen?). It’s unfortunate how some cultures didn’t promote debate as much as Indians did, but that’s how things are.

Indeed haha

The Buddha taught that the deep and profound teachings will be the first to disappear and perhaps this is the reason! :sweat_smile: So much petty squabbling by blind people on the internet touching different parts of the elephant! :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I do not think so…If ones sees the cessation of existence as Nibbana, and one also believes that there is nothing remaining when an arahant dies, and one desires this cessation of existence, that is, i feel, just the same as desiring non-existence. It is the same as what someone in great pains longs for. To cease and not feel anything anymore. That is also what mere cessation believers long for, right?

Apart from the worldview someone may have, it is exactly the same delight, desire, the same prospect.

finally i will not feel suffering anymore. Finally all ends for me

While according sutta’s the Buddha teaches the Path to the Uncondioned, according you he teaches the Path to Non-Existence. The Path of Reducing All Lifestreams to mere nothing.

Well, what a great light in the world! Excuse my cynical tone.

Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi has had these ideas for years. I responded to them here: CLICK. In short, the words ayatana and dhatu do not have the ontological significance the venerable assigns to them.

Any transcendentalist interpretation of this passage therefore relies on the word āyatana alone. Before coming to any weighty conclusions, we should therefore determine whether āyatana necessarily refers to a state of existence. We find that it does not.


It seems that Ven Bhikkhu Analāyo isn’t cessationist as well. In his last book „The Signless and The Dethless” in the chapter „Annihilation and Happines” he discuses the SNP5.7:

“One who has come to an end—do they not exist?
Or are they free from disease for eternity?
Please, sage, answer me clearly,
for truly you understand this matter.”

“One who has come to an end cannot be defined,”
replied the Buddha.
“They have nothing
by which one might describe them.
When all things have been eradicated,
eradicated, too, are all ways of speech.”

According to his interpretation, this passage express apophatic nature of Nibbana. Nibbana is not a thing graspable by language, but it is not simple nothing. He also tackles the cessationist position:

Since Upasīva’s query concerned either annihilation or an eternal condition, it seems that he should be envisaged as operating under the assumption that there is a self. Hence, there may have been an additional need to clarify that there is no self in the first place to be extinguished or perpetuated. But that is also not beyond the reach of language, as the teachings on the characteristic of not self, found among the early discourses, show.* Thus, the reply to Upasīva does not fit the assumption that Nirvana is a mere nothingness but much rather conveys an utter transcendence that is completely beyond the reach of language and measurements.
*An instance where the Buddha reportedly remained silent on the topic of the self, found in SN 44.10 at SN IV 400,17 and its parallels SĀ 961 at T 2.99.245b12, SĀ2 195 at T 2.100.444c4, and Up 9031 at D 4094 nyu 88b6 or P 5595 thu 136a3, appears to be due to pedagogical reasons rather than the limitations of language; see in more detail Anālayo 2023.

There is much more to say about this book. It deserve separate discussion.


Threads like this I think should make it very clear that differences in such topics have very little to do with distinguishing between extant Buddhist traditions at the granularity of Theravada and Mahayana. It seems there is widespread disagreement inside of Theravada with many different viewpoints and similarly for Mahayana regarding issues such as this. One can find Mahayana and Theravada practitioners advocating all the different viewpoints presented in this and other threads of a similar nature. :pray:


Then whose?

How did you reach that conclusion?

Yes. The sutta pointed out that the craving/desire to practice the Path is itself a craving/desire, yet on the whole one can still reach a state free from desire. How is this relevant to my original point?

All these problems come from reifying nibbana or the aggregates.


The response was to:

With all due respect to Ananda, the Teacher said you can’t actually arrive at the park while desiring either continued existence or non-existence :slight_smile: :pray:

Yes, but still, how is what you were saying directly relevant to what I said? I think I may know what point you want to make, but I think you need to be more explicit.

Agree. But I’m not sure who is saying otherwise.
But there needs to be desire/motivation to practice and cultivate the Path.

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Either Ananda said it or the translators mistook a tense, but the sutta in question seems to say that once one arrives at and presumably enters the park then (past tense after arriving/entering) one gives up the desire to arrive/enter? Maybe that is true of parks, but I don’t think it is true if the park is “no-desires allowed” park.

My hypothesis is that the gradual giving up of desire happens long long before arrival and it is momentum that actually carries you in. It is kinda more like you start walking and then at some point well before you arrive you hop in a wheel barrow that carries along your previous momentum and then when you arrive at “no walking park” that momentum carries you in :wink: :joy: :pray:


The use of desire here is virtually a synonym for motivation in this context. And, of course, this is not the only sutta to shed light on this.
Even non-returners need to continue to practice the Dhamma so as to fully let go of self-view. So there has to be some intention/motivation to do this.

As in AN 4.69: