Bhikkhu Bodhi on Nibbāna

Hello Venerable! :pray:

Sāriputta still perceiving beyond ’the all’, (not in any plane of existence) has nothing to do with ”me” or ”my” logic.

The same applies to Viññāṇa anidassana, and it being
”outside the allness of all” (invisible).

Anidassanaṁ is a reference to the entire path and a synonym for Nibbāna, as you can see in my post above:

And what is the invisible?

The ending of greed, hate, and delusion.

Anidassanaṁ has nothing to do with any formless realm as I also pointed out in the post above.

There is no ”my” logic in all of this since we are already in Atakkāvacara territory.

I don’t know why you insist on branding me as an eternalist when MN 1 specfically says that one should not delight in Nibbāna and not think of Nibbāna as ”me” or ”mine”.

I do not view Nibbāna ”as an eternal heaven”.

Even if you claim that cessationists somehow differ from annihilationists since annihilationists have a sense of an ”I”, ”Me”, ”Mine” and ”Self” compared to cessationists;

If you read SN 22.81 carefully you will see that the annihilationists/cessationists mentioned in it, already see the khandhas as not-self (which is only taught by The Buddha) - so there is really no difference at all.

In the sutta SN 22.81 The Buddha refutes both the eternalist and cessationist views.
(Just like he always did :+1:)
The entire sutta is about ending the defilements in this very life, Nibbāna.

Great. To be sure…i did not mean that you said something that he would disagree with. I shared it to say that he also agreed with what you said.

In Uncommen Wisdom he said:

"Mostly, the defilements are on top. They’re the boss. It is only when we begin to see things as they really are that the Dhamma starts getting stronger. As the Dhamma gains strength, the defilements
have less chance to interfere. By persisting diligently in the practice of Dhamma—and it’s very hard work—one can eventually break through to a natural state of total freedom. The Buddha called it “Nibbāna.” Nibbāna is what we all really should be. It’s there within us all the time, but we just don’t recognize it. If we can clear away all traces of ignorance and defilements, what’s left will be Nibbāna"
(page 182)

He also says in the same book:
“Nothing we experience is fixed and immutable; all is flowing and changing. Nibbāna is the one permanent reality that does not change”. (page 240)

He also said

"Also, it isn’t that we destroy the self through meditation, but that we come to understand that the self is an illusion. No destruction of self takes place because there’s nothing to destroy. It’s rather like trying
*to destroy a shadow. Seeing through the illusion, on the other hand, reveals the mind’s true nature. Fundamentally, the element of Nibbāna is there within us already. It must be there; if it wasn’t there already we couldn’t possibly reach it, because Nibbāna is not subject to arising. The Buddha stated very clearly that whatever arises must cease, which means that Nibbāna must be there within us all the time. Otherwise, it would have to arise at some point in time, which is incompatible with its nature of being unchanging. This is the true nature of Dhamma, the Dhamma in the heart" (page 242/243)

I have seen this is the message of many many buddhist teachers. To think about Nibbana as something that is not there yet, is wrong. To think about it as something that will arise in the future or is a constructed result of our effort is wrong. That is what many teachers share.
And i believe this is consistent with EBT too. Nibbana is not like some constructed state, a house, that will also decay and cease and is still liable to arise, change and cease.
The asankhata element is never explained this way.

@Green @HinMarkPeng

Why call it the mind? Why call it the heart? Why call it ‘inside’ of us? You’re referring to nibbana I take it so why are you using these words? What benefit comes from using these words or describing nibbana in this way?

Can you see how those who are wary of an eternalist view; those who are wary of identifying the citta as the self; those who are wary of reification of nibbana; would be put off or be concerned with such a description?

I’ve yet to gain the ability to read another’s mind, but it sure sounds from these descriptions that one is identifying “I” with the mind or the heart and that it is somehow located “inside” of us. I get that you say that you’re not identifying the “I”, but rather you’re identifying nibbana as the mind or heart that is “inside” of us, but then this seems an awful lot like I’d imagine the description from someone who identified the “I” with nibbana, right? :joy:


Something to consider regarding Nirvana is the fact that much of Buddhist literature refers to it in a locative case, and it’s often considered “somewhere” one “goes.” Indeed, this eventually gave rise to the metaphor of the eightfold path being a road to the city of Nirvana. It also calls into question the insistence of reading dhatu as “element” in the expression “nirvana dhatu.” My understanding is that the Pali grammar is ambiguous, which allows people who confine their readings to Pali to believe what they like about it. However, the view of Nirvana that has arisen out of that way of thinking about it doesn’t represent the way ancient Buddhists thought about it. At the very least, there was a diversity of views.

There is a paper by Hiromi Hibata that summarizes the language issues surrounding this: The City of Nirvana.

Over the past five years of translating non-Pali EBTs, I’ve encountered many cases in which a passage or concept is difficult to resolve in one language but not in another. One of the primary values of parallels is not in deciding which texts are valid or not. No, the value is in understanding difficult passages that were ambiguous or corrupted in one text but not in another. It is a valuable way to detect where errors or damage has occurred, and often it can help us reconstruct those passages. It also helps us realize when we, as a community of translators and readers, have gone “off the beam” in how we read some of these expressions and words. Some translations, like the insistence that dhatu must mean “element,” are just not accurate.


Nibbana is sometimes refered to as the destruction/ending/removal of lobha, dosa and moha (SN38.1 and SN45.7). But where are these removed but from mind? Are these not things that are rooted in mind?
If Nibbana is spoken of as removal of lobha, dosa and moha from mind, does mind now become a non-mind?

A texts in sutta nipata (Snp1.11 calls it eternal peace.

That wise mendicant here
rid of desire and lust,
has found the peace free of death,
extinguishment, the imperishable state.

I do believe this peace is no different from the cessation of existence, which is also called Nibbana (AN10.7)

I tend to believe that this peace and impershable state refers to the nature of mind.

I believe one does not have to be weary of eternalism because this eternal peace is not atta and not a person, not a soul, not entity-like but peace-like. If the peace of Nibbana is eternal must we be afraid of that?

To talk about the heart is also wise to make clear that Nibbana has nothing to do with whatever is sensed in the head, in the domain of the mental sense. Even if for some moments, one senses with the mental sense a stillness, an emptiness, peace, calm, this is not Nibbana.
Yes, in that sense i agree with you that talking about Nibbana as inside us, can be misleading.

I also feel we must really make a distinction between atta and asankhata.
Asankhata refers to what is not seen arising and ceasing and changing.
That element or aspect is surely part of Buddha Dhamma and i believe also of our lifes.
I believe there is no person on this world that really can claim he/she sees all arising and ceasing.

Well said and thank you for your post. :pray:

Indeed, dhatu, āyatana, and dhamma, are words in Pāli with many meanings and connotations.
Are the parallels in the Āgamas more clear in their particular contexts?

They are removed from a being and dependent upon being (pun intended!) so removed; an Awakened One arises.

So you might ask; where is this Awakened One? And the answer; as unsatisfactory (or satisfactory depending upon your vantage point!) as it is; is that you won’t be able to find her anywhere! Is such an Awakened One in form? Nope. In mind? Nope. In form+mind? Nope. Separate from form+mind? Nope. And so on.

You’re injecting mind into this which is one of the aggregates. But beings cannot be found in the aggregates. Nor can they be found distinct from the aggregates. Beings can’t be found. Greed, hatred and delusion are removed from a being which can’t be found when looked for.

Instructive! What is rid of desire and lust? The wise mendicant. It is not said the mind of a wise mendicant nor is it said the heart of a wise mendicant. Where is this wise mendicant? Can you find her in the aggregates? Nope. Can you find her distinct from the aggregates? Nope. Where is she?

Which makes me wonder if you’ve identified the mind as the self. Above it refers to the wise mendicant which you take to be equal to the mind of the wise mendicant. Can you see where I’d be concerned?

Yeah! We should be worried about reifying nibbana into something it isn’t or identifying the mind as nibbana or the self as the mind or the self as nibbana and so on. Why? Cuz how we going to achieve nibbana when we do that?

Come to think of it… how is any one going to achieve Nibbana if no one can be found when looked for? If we can’t find any one to achieve Nibbana, then how can Nibbana be said to be achieved at all? It is almost like the view of the individual is a thicket ain’t it?

I should hope so! But talk of eternal heart/mind found inside of us that is equal to nibbana… that talk makes the distinction rather fuzzy to my mind! :pray:

Still, they have such a view: ‘I might not be, and it might not be mine. I will not be, and it will not be mine.’ But that annihilationist view is just a conditioned phenomenon. And what’s the source of that conditioned phenomenon? … That’s how you should know and see in order to end the defilements in the present life

Then one key to get it right is to abandon even that thought as quoted above. Therein is the difference between annihilation view which can lead to rebirth vs right view that nibbāna is total cessation.

I see your love of an analytical approach but i do not really love this. I do accept the wisdom that is able to discern but a pure analytical approach is not my thing. I can see that your analytical approach always leads to the same conclusion… that we cannot find this or that under further analyses.
For me, this feels all to theoretical.

I use ‘mind’ in a different way. I do not see vinnana as equal to mind. I see vinnana’s as arising in the mind. Mind is the forerunner of all phenomena (dhp1), also vinnana. Vinnana cannot be seperated from perception and feeling (MN43). So, when a perception of a certain sound arises and cease then you see the arising and ceasing of those ear-vinnana’s.

I believe, vinnana’s represent, as it were, the impression of movement the wave part, the dynamic aspect or element of the mind, that what is seen arising and ceasing.
But i believe mind has also a deep silent non-moving aspect. That what is not seen arising and ceasing. This, as it were, represents the stable aspect of mind.

If mind would only be movement, instable, any sense of calm, stability would be deep illusionairy and evolving towards stability would be like evolving towards even more delusion. But i do not see it like that. Mind that is totaly without grasping is stable of nature. It is never seen arising and ceasing. No one has ever seen it arising and ceasing.

I have always said that the only thing we can possibly do is to focus upon removing defilements and find the wisdom to that. Nibbana will be the natural result. One does not have to worry about that.

If one purifies water one must focus on removing defilements and use techniques that are suited for this purpose. And one does not have to worry that the natural end result of it will be pure water.
This is like having faith in the method.

The same with Dhamma. Hhaving faith in the method one does not doubt that the removal of defilements will result in Nibbana.

This is really all we can do in buddhism, i believe. The idea that one must make Nibbana, construct Nibbana, or that Nibbana is not allready there, sorry, that is, i believe, a bad idea of the Path.
We do not have to worry at all that Nibbana is there and will be the natural results of the removal of all adventitious defilements.

Even an animal has Nibbana as birthright.

Well, we talk about detachment right? Where will you find this detachment? In the blue sky? On the moon? In nature? Where else then in mind that has lost all tendencies to get attached?
MN22, Bodhi, .*.the Tathagata teaching the Dhamma for the elimination of all standpoints, decisions, obsessions, adherences, and underlying tendencies, for the stilling of all formations, for the relinquishing of all attachments, for the destruction of craving, for dispassion, for cessation, for Nibbana.

Where would this otherwise happen then in the mind? Desires arise in the mind, feelings arise in the mind, perceptions arise in the mind, memories, volitional formations, vinnana’s.

I do not like to use the word ‘eternal’ for Nibbana while Snp1.11 says…imperishable state… It is also refered to as the stable, theconstant, the truth, the hard to see, non-disintegrating, etc (SN43).

Words that also resonate in me are: the uninclined, signless, desireless, emptiness.

Maybe you do not feel it is important at all the have some recognition of all this, but i do. I have been in crises so for me this is not all only play. I have really felt the need for safety, refuge, an island. This is no game for me. I do not say, ofcourse, that for you it is, but i feel that the analytical approach lacks a sense of urgency. For me it is to playful.

Anyway, i do not hope you take this all personally. I wish you well and have tried to answer.

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Is it just me? I have no idea what kind of argument the venerable is making here. Like, there just seems to be no logical force to this at all, just a series of seems and supposes and then he says he’s established his point? Am I just missing something?

@yeshe.tenley Again, this is a problem with the use of language. People these days are not as Dhamma smart as they were at the time of the Lord Buddha. Back then, He could give a talk and some listeners would become Arahant or another Ariya, upon hearing the words. This is because they were in tune with what He was saying. The words were less important than the intrinsic meaning that resonated with the listeners. How often does that happen these days? How many people have become enlightened by just reading the suttas? Now, scholars are trying to find meaning through studying word derivations. This being the case, language rather than the fundamental Sacca Dhamma that language is trying to describe has become the focus.
So, back to your point. I use the words “heart” and “Citta” in order to try to convey a meaning that differentiates the pure, solitary mental state with the active, impure mental states. If I have failed to make my point, then I apologise.
Time and space are an illusion and all Dhamma are void of self, so the notion of inside or outside has no foothold in reality. If my words cause you to believe otherwise, then, again this is my shortcoming with the use of language.
It would help if we all had the same definition of words like “mind” and “self”. That way we could be sure we are discussing the same thing. Clearly, yourself and @Green do not share the same understanding of these terms. In such circumstances, it is easy to talk at cross purposes. Again, a problem with language.
Finally, I will stress again that there is no “I”, “self” or “personality” in the Heart or the Citta. It is not “my” Heart or anyone else’s. It is only referred to in this way out of convention and ignorance.
It is just Heart and it is in two forms, pure and impure. When the impurities are cleansed away the pure Heart remains, without ownership or location, unborn and deathless.

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AN 11.7

“Could it be, sir, that a mendicant might gain a state of immersion like this? They wouldn’t perceive earth in earth, water in water, fire in fire, or air in air. And they wouldn’t perceive the dimension of infinite space in the dimension of infinite space, the dimension of infinite consciousness in the dimension of infinite consciousness, the dimension of nothingness in the dimension of nothingness, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. They wouldn’t perceive this world in this world, or the other world in the other world. And they wouldn’t perceive what is seen, heard, thought, known, attained, sought, or explored by the mind. And yet they would still perceive.”
“It could be, Ānanda, that a mendicant might gain a state of immersion like this.

But how could this be, sir?” “Ānanda, it’s when a mendicant perceives: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’

MN 43

“‘Consciousness, consciousness’: Thus is it said. To what extent, friend, is it said to be ‘consciousness’?”“‘It cognizes, it cognizes’: Thus, friend, it is said to be ‘consciousness.’ And what does it cognize? It cognizes ‘pleasant.’ It cognizes ‘painful.’ It cognizes ‘neither painful nor pleasant.’ ‘It cognizes, it cognizes’: Thus it is said to be ‘consciousness.’”“Discernment & consciousness, friend: Are these qualities conjoined or disjoined? Is it possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them?” Discernment & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It’s not possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them. For what one discerns, that one cognizes. What one cognizes, that one discerns. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference between them.“Discernment & consciousness, friend: What is the difference between these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined?”“Discernment & consciousness, friend: Of these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined, discernment is to be developed, consciousness is to be fully comprehended.”

"Friend, with the purified intellect-consciousness divorced from the five faculties the dimension of the infinitude of space can be known [as] ‘infinite space.’ The dimension of the infinitude of consciousness can be known [as] ‘infinite consciousness.’ The dimension of nothingness can be known [as] ‘There is nothing.’“With what does one know a quality that can be known?”“One knows a quality that can be known with the eye of discernment.”“And what is the purpose of discernment?”“The purpose of discernment is direct knowledge, its purpose is full comprehension, its purpose is abandoning.”

If you’re correct, there is no discernment in saññāvedayitanirodha. Although there is discernment in all the jhanas and formless attainments, and also Nibbana itself, you assert that saññāvedayitanirodha is without discernment?

Correct. In the absence of consciousness, feelings, and perception, there is no discernment.

Your prior post to reference the contemplation of Numana, but not the actual experience of it.

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I see some of my above points have been addressed. I’ll attempt to make a stronger counter point here to the idea that awareness/consciousness ceases in saññāvedayitanirodha.

For starters, it is never explicitly stated that consciousness ceases.


For someone who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have been tranquilized.

Ie. “consciousness” has not been tranquilized. If it were the case, why not explicitly say so.

Secondly. We already have a cryptic kind of consciousness existing in the formless attainments. For example, “nothingness” is a percipient attainment. How can that be? How can one transcend “infinite consciousness” and arrive at a “perception” of “nothingness”?

For example, any perception of nothing would entail in and of itself more “nothing”. Thus, the whole experience of nothingness should be a non-percipient experience. And yet that’s not what the Blessed One says.

Further we have “neither perception nor non-perception”. In order for such an attainment to happen, consciousness should in theory not be present. Elsewise, how can one be non-percipient and still conscious. And yet one is not non-percipient in this state either.

I liken it to a non-collapsed wave function of perceptual stimuli. Ie. the perception is understood to exist, but in the absence of consciousness, it is never registered by the mind. Again, the mind seems to be the cryptic knower involved in direct knowledge (ie. not “consciousness”)

So, as with “nothingness” and “neither nor” we have cryptic states of awareness arising. If you’re correct about these states of non-experience then, by all accounts, you should be explaining how “nothingness” is a perceptible attainment. And, also, why one doesn’t simply stop at “nothingness”.

Finally. As before, saññāvedayitanirodha is not explicitly mentioned as not having an element of awareness to it. Furthermore, if it is a simple state of unconscious experience, then every person on this planet briefly experiences saññāvedayitanirodha while falling asleep. How is hypnogognia the “greatest escape” second only to Nibbana itself?

And as I mentioned, all Buddhist attainments including Nibbana are discernible states. It would be odd indeed if saññāvedayitanirodha were not. Where would be the satisfaction in such a state.

Perhaps, “it is exactly because nothing is felt …”

But this brings us back to the cryptic nature of being aware of nothingness.

So, those are the points I wanted to level against the non-experiential concept of saññāvedayitanirodha.

From my perspective, if neither nor is a non-collapsed wave function, then saññāvedayitanirodha is simply the default state of emptiness in the absence of any traces of clinging to perceptions.

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I am not sure how much credit you would give to the commentaries and orthodox Theravada explainations of these, but here goes.

  1. The formless realms are ever refined dropping off of more things. From 4th Jhana to infinite space, all forms are dropped. Object becomes infinite space in the mind.

  2. Turn to see the consciousness, then it becomes infinite consciousness.

  3. See what’s there where there’s no space left it becomes nothingness. Yet there’s still perception, but nothing else.

  4. Neither perception nor non perception is like pouring water out from bottle water, there’s still a little water left clinging to the side of the bottle, so it’s not totally non perception, but there’s also largely empty of water, so there’s not really a perception either.

  5. Then everything ends. As the sutta cited somewhere above implies, there’s no consciousness without perception. With the cessation of perception, there’s no consciousness as well. For the previous level, consciousness is also neither consciousness not non-conscious. Thus it’s not within the 7 stations of consciousness, but it’s within the 9 abode of beings.

  6. Buddhist usage of consciousness is not the normal everyday usage of being awake. Even in deep sleep, and I believe even under anesthesia, there’s still the unconscious or bhavanga consciousness. Only times when consciousness totally is gone are when one gets reborn into the non - percipient realm, or attain to cessation of perception and feeling or after parinibbāna. Given this, I don’t think it’s helpful to think that one can imagine what’s it’s like to be in cessation. It’s beyond normal knowledge, except for those who had been there. Certainly, don’t try to reason by thinking it’s like a dreamless sleep.

  7. Why place so much importance on knowing? Is there some subtle identification of the self with the faculty of knowing?

  8. Ajahn brahm said when these ever increasing dropping off is seen, and what was always there is suddenly no more in that cessation, then one can really know (after coming out) that consciousness is not self, for it disappears. Vanishes.

AN 10.7 already have conscious perception of nibbāna for those who wish to know that nibbāna can be seen, there’s no need to duplicate this for the cessation of perception and feeling.

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I’m admittedly behind on my commentary reading. But I’m willing to give credit where due.

I imagine infinite space as a penetrative insight. I think DN 1 outlines the range to which one can have insight into infinite space. Showing that the pinnacle of that insight is made with the mind by movement of the mind (ie. not by gradual stilling). And I imagine the same is true of infinite consciousness and nothingness (ie. one reaches up with the mind to these exalted states).

With jhana drop off, the elements dropping off are vicarra, vitacca, piti, and sukha. Which makes it hard for me to see a direct relationship between the rupa jhanas and space other than a recourse to the idea that perception is gradually eliminated while going up the jhanas.

Ie. I don’t see how the elimination of the jhana factors entails the understanding of infinite space.

This doesn’t ring true. Even in a perception of nothingness there should be an element of nothingness. As such the experience should be non-percipient (and yet it’s classified as the height of perception). Again, I imagine it to be a penetrative insight of the intellect (as opposed to a gradual dropping off of “things”).

I don’t think this does the attainment descriptive justice. I think a more accurate description would underlie the tendency of sense-consciousness to cling to sense objects. Ie. how the eradication of that tendency would lead to a state of neither nor.

Well. Can you envisage a state of mind so pure that it would transcend all space, time, and dimensions of perception? Could you theorize such a state of mind?

I think knowing dies off in the end. The Arahant has the ten fold path including right knowledge and right Liberation. I think right knowledge is succeeded by right liberation and ultimately comes to an end theoretically speaking.

The water droplet analogy is what I learned from a monk who knows the abhidhamma. If you don’t like it, maybe you can try to attain it and give a better analogy.

Not sure if you catch our drift yet, but there’s no mind in cessation of perception and feeling.

Sounds like reifying nothingness.

If this is true we also have to accept that mental formations, which arise first after one emerges from cessation, can arise in the absence of mind. (MN44)

We’re not supposed to talk about personal attainments. Nonetheless, what makes you think I haven’t already?

I’ve given the following analogy. A photon of light behaves like a wave in the absence of detection. In the presence of detection it acts like a particle.

In the absence of consciousness, the sense fields are undifferentiated. In the presence of consciousness they become identified.

In neither nor consciousness is suspended and so is the subjective awareness - between not perceiving sense media in the conscious way and, in fact, perceiving undifferentiated sense media.

There’s a sutta where Sariputta declares that it is possible that a person who attains cessation of perception and feeling without reaching enlightenment might be born in a state of mind made devas. The listener objects three times and the matter is brought to the Buddha. The Buddha confirms Sariputta’s statement.

Likely the source of the objection is the mistaken view that non-percipience entails “no-mind”. But, why would mind depend on anything?

My point is that it is possible to imagine a type of awareness not confined to space, time, and perception. Such an awareness meets the criteria of cessation of perception and feeling (without adding further assertions about “non-experience”)

Quite the contrary. I’m not trying to make nothingness more real. I’m trying to express that even a nuanced insight into nothingness would regress into a deeper level of nothingness.

Ie. someone on the precipice of nothingness would think:

“This is nothingness!”

Then they would immediately think:

“Even this thought of nothingness is nothinngess!”

And then they would cease to exist.

I think I’ve seen you assert that there is nothing after parinibbana, so this problem is especially problematic for you in particular. Ie. nothingness already contains all the ingredients for experience to cease. And yet the Buddha has gone another three steps beyond nothingness, even going so far as to declare nothingness to be a “perception attainment”.

I don’t see how, given the existence of a full appreciation of nothingness already accounted for along with the attainments, one can assert that nibbana is in anyway related to it. If Nibbana were a kind of nothingness the journey would have ended with Alara Kalama.