Bhikkhu Bodhi on Nibbāna

I wasn’t responding to your post. Just giving my interpretation of the passage in question. Feel free to ignore me! I’m not a Theravadin, and the text I translated wasn’t a Theravadin text. Nagarjuna, for instance, was responding to Sarvastivadin Abhidharma, and the sutra being quoted was a Sarvastivadin sutra. They were very much about svabhava theory, as were many other Indian lines of metaphysics.

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Jasudho, if, like AN10.7 says, there is no world experienced or known, nor another world, how can there be still vinnana? Vinnana can only arise when there is something sensed. There is no reason to believe there is still vinnana in what AN10.7 describes.

It is very obvious that AN10.7 does describe the cessation of the world, of all what is perceived via the senses. The cessation all what is felt. The cessation of sense vinnana’s. But, like another sutta also says, this stilling of all formations, may not be seen as a black out, or some state of unconsciousness. There is still perceiving. That is the message, and not only of this sutta’s. Sorry to see that this message is not welcome at all.

This is also consistent with what many buddhist teachers share from their own practice and realisations. It is not only Sariputta’s experience that when the phenomenological world ceases, this is perceived. It is the experience of Maha Boowa and also many mahayana, vajrayana teachers that the stilling of all formations, the cessation of the world, the end of all sensing and feeling, is still known. It is known as ultimate peaceful and unburdened, the end of suffering.
For me it is very clear the EBT exactly also teach this.

That the stilling of all formations, the peace of cessation cannot be known, there is really no sutta that support this interpretation. But i can see this all relies on the idea that vinnana and mind are the same.
And so, when vinnana ends, it is assumed that all capacity to know must have ceased too.

I believe all these debates come down to this. I believe, vinnana’s arise in the mind. It is not that when there is no sensing, feeling and perceiving, there is not mind. The perception of a sound, a moment that ear-vinnana’s arises, that arises in the mind. It cannot arise without mind.

Maybe we can discuss this, because i think that is where is all comes down.

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Yes, and why would that be wrong? Take AN10.81…when the mind is freed from all adventitous defilements , from lobha, dosa and moha, according the sutta’s, it shows to be liberated, freed, detached from all khandha’s, birth and death. It has become without limits. This is also exactly what Maha Boowa teaches and many other teachers.

It is very clear for me, we must first of all have a correct understanding of what mind is. I believe, all these debates start from a wrong view of what mind is, in which mind is consired as being something that is limited to a place, time, person etc. In other words, the perspective of grasping, attachment, identification.

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@Green I think you have hit the nail on the head.

Mind is just a term for the 4 mental aggregates, without any of the 4 mental aggregates, there is no mind.

@Green I am not sure if you catch this yet. The cessation of perception and feeling where there’s also no consciousness, thus no mind is different from directly perceiving nibbāna as ven. Sariputta illustrated. The former is able to be accessed by non returners who mastered the formless attainments as well, but the latter is only by arahants.

They are different samadhi states.

In cessation of perception and feelings, since there is no experience, the person would just recall how he got in and out with a noting that time has passed in the outside world when she is in it, but internally no sense of time is felt at all. Like a time skip to the future. Retroactively she can know that there’s no mind in it.

The importance of people here discussing death of arahant is because the samadhi on perceiving nibbāna is only possible while the arahant is still alive and not after death. Those who ignore the distinction of before and after death then proceed to posit that what is experienced before death is the same as after death. Whereas it’s actually no mind to experience anything after death for the arahant.

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This is about the freedom of an arahant, who is still alive with the senses and aggregates. There is nothing in this sutta that says anything about another kind of consciousness or mind that is eternal and which is the basis for viññāna.

Folks who argue for in favor of an eternal mind or timeless citta tend to ignore the many suttas and teachings given by the Buddha in which it is clearly and repeatedly stated that any and all forms of consciousness/mind (citta, mano, viññāna), are impermanent, dukkha, and not-self.
One example among many is MN35:

"‘Form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are impermanent. The five aggregates are mentioned as if the listener is expected to know them.
‘rūpaṁ, bhikkhave, aniccaṁ, vedanā aniccā, saññā aniccā, saṅkhārā aniccā, viññāṇaṁ aniccaṁ.
Form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are not-self.
Rūpaṁ, bhikkhave, anattā, vedanā anattā, saññā anattā, saṅkhārā anattā, viññāṇaṁ anattā.
All conditions are impermanent. All things are not-self.’
Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā, sabbe dhammā anattā’ti."

In this sutta, it would have been a perfect time for the Buddha to have taught about a different sort of consciousness, or mind, or whatever, that transcends the aggregates and senses.
But he didn’t. And, importantly, in all the suttas he never clearly a did.

Also viññāna is not restricted to the six sense fields, as you appear to believe. For example, in DO it reflects the stream of consciousness from a prior life that combines with nāma-rūpa in the womb – clearly before the arising of the senses.
And once again, this teaching by the Buddha reveals the conditionality of all these processes.
No teaching about DO ever mentions an external mind or consciousness. See DN15.

I understand that there is debate about eternal-mind and cessation here and in other Buddhist circles, and I respect how people can come to different views on this, especially when they follow the teachings of their teachers.

It seems that folks who adhere to a timeless eternal mind either dismiss the suttas that clearly point away from this, or choose to follow teachings outside the suttas, or, claim there is “knowing” while negating there is any consciousness in which to know, or cite rare examples in the suttas which are open to various interpretations and often in verse, such as DN11.
And even then, they ignore the last lines of verse in which the Buddha speaks of the cessation of consciousness.
And all this is up to each of us to decide. I respect that!

While I gratefully benefit from the teachings of a number of teachers, I also look to the Teacher of Teachers.
And the Nikāyas and Āgamas are as close as we can get to the Buddhavacana.

I do not see it like this. Perceptions, feelings, vinnana’s arise in the mind and between these 3 no seperation can be made (MN43). In practices there is no difference between an arising ear-vinnana and a perception of a certain sound. It is not that when no eye, ear, smell, taste vinnana’s arise, the mind is gone. I think the same with tactile vinnana’s and mental vinnana’s. I think it only means that mind is experienced as extremely empty and stilled now. Extremly suble because there is aggregation and thee is no aspect of coming and going at all anymore experienced now. I believe the Buddha refers to all this as…the Truth is hard to see.

What would it even mean when the mind can be detached from the 4 mental khandha’s if mind is the four mental khandha’s? Can you not ignore this question because i have no idea what this would mean.

or like Dhp1 says:
All phenomena are preceded by the mind, Created by the mind. And have the mind as their master.

When vinnana’s/perceptions/feelings arise in a defiled mind they are seen/grasped at as me, mine, my self. If the vinnana’s arise in a pure mind this does not happen. If this does not happen vinnana’s/perceptions/feelings just come and go, arise and cease, but mind does not. This is stable.

This is the problem that @Green is referring to. The 4 mental aggregates are your definition of “mind” and the is fine if the definition is consistent. What the Thai forest tradition refers to has “heart” is not the same. The mental aggregates are expressions of the “heart” but not the heart. Luang Poo Tate, in an effort to clarify the matter he would use the word Mano for heart and Citta for mind (but I admit, even he was a little inconsistent with the terminology). Essentially, the Citta is the activity of the heart. The heart’s intrinsic nature being still, it is differentiated in this way. This impure heart is the progenitor of Lokadhatu. The pure heart, cleansed of defilement, is what remains when Nirodha is achieved. This heart is pure, radiant and solitary, beyond duality.

Hello, :pray:

I disagree with this because the human realm is Kama Loka and Sāriputta was beyond all the elements too:

"There I entered into concentration in such a manner that I was neither perceiving earth,
nor water,
nor fire,
nor air,

First we have to conclude who is actually speaking, Baka Brahma or The Buddha?

If we take the following from MN 49 into consideration where The Buddha explains that there are higher Rupa Loka realms that Baka Brahma does not know or see:

But there are three other realms that you don’t know or see, but which I know and see. There is the realm named after the gods of streaming radiance, There is the realm named after the gods replete with glory … There is the realm named after the gods of abundant fruit, which you don’t know or see.

We can conclude that Baka is obviously not saying anything at all about the formless realms later on, because he doesn’t even know and see the higher Rupa Loka realms to begin with(!)

So it is obviously the Buddha who is saying:
”Consciousness where nothing appears, infinite, luminous all-round”.

But is the Buddha really talking about the second formless realm of boundless conscioussness?

  • For the Buddha to disappear from Baka but still having his voice heard, The Buddha didn’t have to enter a distinctly different world of existence like arupa loka, a higher rupa loka plane is sufficient for the task.

  • Also let us not forget the fact that one can’t teach dhamma to any of the beings in arupa loka:

Furthermore, a Realized One has arisen in the world.

But person has been reborn in one of the long-lived orders of gods.

This is the fourth lost opportunity for spiritual practice.

  • Which means that if one can’t teach dhamma while in the formless, how could the Buddha ”teach Baka a lesson” FROM the second formless realm?

Then I used my psychic power to will that my voice would extend so that Brahmā, his assembly, and his retinue would hear me, but they would not see me. And while vanished I recited this verse:

‘Seeing the danger in continued existence—
that life in any existence will cease to be—
I didn’t affirm any kind of existence,
and didn’t grasp at relishing.’

  • Anidassanaṁ is a synonym for Nibbāna and the entire path, not a description of boundless conscioussness (the second formless realm).

If we take The invisible (Anidassanañca) …,

that in which nothing appears …
Anidassanañca vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi anidassanagāmiñca maggaṁ.
Taṁ suṇātha. Katamañca, bhikkhave, anidassanaṁ …pe….

and put it in its proper full context

    • We get the following:

Mendicants, I will teach you the invisible and the path that leads to the invisible. Listen …
And what is the invisible?
The ending of greed, hate, and delusion.
This is called the invisible.
And what is the path that leads to the invisible?
This is called the path that leads to the invisible.
And what is the path that leads to the invisible?
Immersion with placing the mind and keeping it connected. … Immersion without placing the mind, but just keeping it connected. … Immersion without placing the mind or keeping it connected. … Emptiness immersion. … Signless immersion. … Undirected immersion. … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world. … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of feelings … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the mind … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that bad, unskillful qualities don’t arise. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that bad, unskillful qualities are given up. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that skillful qualities arise. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that skillful qualities that have arisen remain, are not lost, but increase, mature, and are fulfilled by development. … A mendicant develops the basis of psychic power that has immersion due to enthusiasm, and active effort. … A mendicant develops the basis of psychic power that has immersion due to energy … immersion due to mental development … immersion due to inquiry, and active effort. … A mendicant develops the faculty of faith, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the faculty of energy … mindfulness … immersion … wisdom, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the power of faith … energy … mindfulness … immersion … wisdom, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the awakening factor of mindfulness … investigation of principles … energy … rapture … tranquility … immersion … equanimity, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops right view … right thought … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right immersion, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. This is called the path that leads to the invisible. So, mendicants, I’ve taught you the invisible and the path that leads to the invisible. Out of compassion, I’ve done what a teacher should do who wants what’s best for their disciples. Here are these roots of trees, and here are these empty huts. Practice absorption, mendicants! Don’t be negligent! Don’t regret it later! This is my instruction to you.”


Well, if lobha, dosa, moha are removed, are they removed from mind or not? Does mind suddenly become a non-mind when they are removed? And isn’t this definitive removal of lobha, dosa and moha from mind described as Nibbana. So how can Nibbana not be the mind that is totally released from all limiting factors and has become a mind without limits? It has become here and now freed from birth and death. Here and now it is also detached from vinnana’s arising and ceasing in the mind. (AN10.81).

But you see it still as a limited mind, i believe. You still think about this mind as personal, local, coming and going, a stream of vinnana’s etc. Is that correct?

I also feel that claiming an eternal mind is not coorect. A mind without limits cannot really be objectified as this and that. We want to grasp what cannot be grasped. And that obsession creates that we start to see this mind without limit as eternal, but that is not really appropriate too.

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No, the senses and aggregates and mentality factors are still present. But imo we need to be careful about reifying “mind” into a “something.”

Freed from ignorance, craving, and identification with the aggregates and senses, but not yet free of the experiencing of them. That happens with final nibbāna.



Agree, but actually the mind can never really be objectified.

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then there is mental contact, mind consciousness etc. it can get super subtle to neither perception nor non perception.

This is where that tradition goes astray. To create anything eternal out of non eternal things is to fall into eternalism.

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The heart is never born and never dies, so it is not created. It has no personality and cannot be controlled in any way.

Does Nibbana exist? If Nibbana only exists at the of cessation of the khandha, or the elimination of ignorance, then, by definition it currently does not exist. If this is the case, then it must be created at the time of cessation and anything that arises must cease, so Nibbana cannot be the deathless. This argument does not seem to stack up.

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That’s reifying nibbāna as something.

Say if nibbāna is total cessation, nothing, not even perception of nothing, then it cannot be born, or cease, as there’s nothing to arise or cease.

When there’s something which dismantled itself, not subject to further arising again, then what’s left? Nothing. We don’t regard as nothing has arisen due to something ceased right?

Nibbāna exist is just saying that it’s possible to totally dismantle all 5 aggregates to never arise again.

Here is the problem with language. Your saying that there is no such thing as Nibbana until cessation has occurred. Whether you call Nibbana nothing or some other word, it does not matter because, in this scenario, nothing would be conditioned by the ceasing. What is conditioned is not Nibbana.

The Thai forest tradition teachers explanation does not suffer from this problem. They explain things in terms of the Heart or Citta - depending on the teacher. In its pure form the heart is still and solitary. It was not born and will never die. It has the qualities of Nibbana. However, the heart is clouded by ignorance. When the ignorance is removed Nibbana, the heart’s true nature shines through. So Nibbana is not conditioned. It is already there. It is just that ordinary people cannot see it.

This is why Ariyas other than the Arahant can see Nibbana as the ignorance briefly clears. If Nibbana was nothing, at the end of cessation, then seeing Nibbana would not be possible for the other three stages of Ariya.

Indeed, here we agree. The sutta’s talk about a mind detached from all five khandha’s, so also vinnana. This detachment is the end of suffering, the goal of Dhamma. This does not mean that this detached mind is made. It only means that when all causes for attachment are uprooted (anusaya, asava, tanha), then the natural result of that is tat mind is detached now from feelings/perceptions/vinnana’s arising and ceasing. This mind is described as without limits, and as deep, immeasurbale like the ocean, and is called Tathagata.

Well, i think you do. One cannot believe in a mere cessation without anything remaining without treating the mind as something limited, personal, local, seen arising and ceasing.
But fact is, no person in the whole world has ever seen mind arising and ceasing. Because, what must see that?

Maha Boowa, but also many other buddhist teachers describe that there can come a moment that one actually sees that mind is not local nor personal and is much more subtle that we can ever imagine now. But this can never be directly seen with the senses. The mental sense cannot see Nibbana.
Nibbana is notr an object of the senses, and is never somthing that is felt or perceived.

Sense activity created the illusion (vinnana is a magician) that mind is local and a stream of perceptions coming and going. But when all cognition ends (the step after neither perception nor nor perception) and one is still not fallen into some black out, then it can happen that one directly touches the deathless, one becomes it, as it were. Mind gets absorbed into its own nature. At that moment is shows to be self-aware as some field of awareness. No this does not refer to endless vinnana.

I think we must stop talking about eternal mind. The Buddha uses words as the stable, the constant, deathless and unborn, not desintegrating. Those words speak for themselves. Maybe some people do not like it, and want to change the meaning of these words, but it is still quit obvious from many many sutta’s that Buddha never ever sought a mere cessation without anything remaining. The end of rebirth is NEVER explained this way. People interpretate it that way but this surely cannot be found in any text.

Yes, i like it :heart_eyes:

It is like cleaning water. Removing adventitious defilements from water does not create the water. The water is not really made but only defilements are removed. The natural result is clean water.
Same with mind (AN1.51). If one removes defilements it is not really that one makes the pure mind. It is unmade. The natural result of purification is a pure mind.

People think about the Path as going from A to B to C to D but the Path never leaves A. It is only from defiled A to clean A. Those states inbetween are also only A in different stages of defilements

I saw that also Venerable Pannavaddho teaches that Nibbana is already present.

Ajahn Pannavaddho was a good friend of mine for many years. He was devoted to Luang Dta Maha Boowa. There is nothing that I have outlined that he would disagree with.

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It’s been done and is mentioned in a number of suttas.
It ceases temporarily in saññāvedayitanirodha. As in SN36.11