Cessationists mistake Asaññasattāvāso for Nibbāna

This is an offshoot from another thread. :pray:

Exactly, and yet despite these quotes the unconscious states are still considered somewhat ”dukkha-free.” according to you. The quotes apparently do not apply to these states since you wrote:

But when the Buddha says that rupa loka and arupa loka are also somewhat dukkha-free and a disciple can stay the entire duration in such a plane before Nibbāna - you throw a fit as if I were making up stuff and reject every notion as if rupa loka and arupa loka involves an immense burden of dukkha too difficult to handle.

Exactly, so during these meditations where the 5 senses apparently cease in the first jhana one then reflects that ”consciousness is impermanent and dukkha.”

If it is even possible to reflect at all? I don’t know.

Anyhow, given that there is also apparently no perception of light in rupa loka jhanas together with the whole repulsion one has against the remaining conscioussness (now that the 5 senses have ceased) -

If we take all this into consideration one most likely enters:

  • Asaññasattāvāso - which is state in rupa loka where one only has a form but no mind at all.

Even if you disagree, you don’t see how novices could easily mistake Asaññasattāvāso for cessation when meditating?

The only way to truly avoid this happening is by entering the arupa loka realms and knowing that one is in arupa loka.

But when claims are being made that suicide victims end up in the formless realms and even insects during the destruction of kama loka end up there I don’t think we are talking about the same thing when we say arupa loka/the formless realms.


No dukkha while in those states, but the fact that they are impermanent makes them not “dukkha-free” I think was the point. :pray:

Which leads to a question for me: @Jasudho would you say dreamful sleep is as “dukkha-free” as deep dreamless sleep? I’m guessing you would say no. But can you articulate why? :pray:

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No one is throwing a fit.
I understood you to state that these states were free of dukkha. Now you’re saying “somewhat dukkha-free.” Big difference.

It’s not about when this reflection occurs, it’s about the fact of it.


The Pāli suttas do not state that the formless attainments are necessary for liberation.

No, because clearly there’s more pleasure and pain (nightmares!) during dreaming.

Again, I don’t wish to push the dreamless sleep example too far. It was offered simply as a way to point to how cessation, with the lack of sensory stimulation in dreamless sleep, can point to ease and the ending of dukkha in full cessation.


No no, I only adapted my writing to your way of stating that dreamless sleep is somewhat ”dukkha-free” - all those realms that the Buddha mentions in AN truly has no dukkha at all according to him, it is the fact that they will come to an end that makes them dukkha in the first place.

But the actual experience while it lasts involves zero pain/sorrow/suffering - only pleasant and nothing but pleasant. To the point that a disciple can stay the entire duration if they wanted to.

That is why I feel you missed my point and went straight to ”everything and all is dukkha”.

It was the following that sparked everything:

Yet not even the rupa loka inhabitants knew they were impermanent until the Buddha showed up and told them. So when you claim to be able to directly experience this truth of impermanence (including through inference.) in realms that have 0% dukkha during the entire duration there which is immense, I felt the need to ask exactly how? And also what your definition of dukkha is, because unconscioussness certainly isn’t.

That you view jhanas and the corresponding planes of existence as dukkha is something I don’t understand given what the Buddha had to say and the lack of pain/sorrow/lamentation in these planes.

While unconscious states are on the contrary somewhat ”dukkha-free” according to you.

It is a waste of time, this Dhammawheel thread is a prime example:


Citations, please.

Disagree with 0% dukkha.
I don’t care about duration, as I posted earlier, and think it’s not necessary to the purpose of the Teachings.

I’m not interested in getting into philosophical speculations of the duration of arupa realms, etc.
My point is
– I see nothing in the Nikāyas that state that anything other than nibbāna is free of dukkha, including any formless realms
– the suttas I cited regarding bhava clearly point to their being based on ignorance and craving and are hence not free of dukkha
– dukkkha is not restricted to pain and sorrow, as you say, but is broader than that, as cited in AN with the three types of dukkha.

Hi, I have analyzed here based on a helpful video on the various levels of nothingness.

There’s a clear difference between Parinibbana and the Asaññasattāvāso.

Anyway, here’s another take on it, from classical Theravada point of view, which holds Jhanas to be deep Jhanas, Parinibbana is total cessation of mind (corpse left behind, not really an issue), and also acknowledges that there’s the Asaññasattāvāso. I may have anticipated your questions, so I asked the Na uyana teachers a few days ago.

Difference between Asaññasattāvāso and cessation of perception and feelings, is that the cessation attainment is only for max 7 days, both have bodies, no mind, but Asaññasattāvāso can be super long. Only arahant and non-returners attain to cessation of perception and feelings, whereas the beings reborn in Asaññasattāvāso are not freed from delusion. Thus from their previous mind moments, which has the underlying tendancies of greed, hatred, delusion, the mind which arises when they fall from that is also unenlightened. The mind of an arahant or non-returner who entered into cessation of perception and feelings after emerging is also freed from the fetters they have cut off.

Asaññasattāvāso beings also have life faculty, whereas the arahants after death have no more bodies with life faculty.

So to focus too much into absence of mind alone is not enough, the underlying causes for mind to arise again, the defilements etc are very important part of Nibbana to be considered as well. So for an arahant who knows greed, hatred, delusion has been cut off, I don’t think there’s a risk for them to mistaken asaññasattāvāso as parinibbana.

Again, because you conflate the deep Jhanas issue with parinibbana is total cessation, which leads me to conclude that you’re in the camp of Jhana lite and parinibbana is something, but not nothing, something hard to describe etc. This fits in with Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s view as far as I know, and possibly others like him. There’s also monks who take the position of Jhana lite and parinibbana is total cessation, like my preceptor, Bhante Ariyadhammika.

Likely there’s also representatives of Jhana is deep and parinibbana is not nothing, but I hesitate to quote who, since I haven’t actually read a lot of contemporary teacher’s works.

Thus, please do see one issue as it is, and not conflate them, but in this case, you are indeed using both as a support for your speculation on the OP title.

Just a remark that it’s amazing the amount of viewpoints about Jhana and parinibbana can go when people move away from classical Theravada, but amongst the EBT people, the Ajahn Brahm and sutta central monastics (possibly not all) are still inline with the classical Theravada on these 2 issues.

Also, in deep dreamless sleep, it’s not without consciousness. As classical Theravada says, there’s still the Bhavanga mind there. The only time(s) without mind are in the Asaññasattāvāso, cessation of perception and feelings, and parinibbana. So, this leads me to conclude that even under Anaesthesia where it’s deeper than dreamless sleep, there’s still some mind there. I read recently that anesthesia patients don’t think time has passed as opposed to waking up from sleep, one knows time has passed. So too with the state where all mind ceases like cessation of perception and feelings, where there’s no experience, there is no sense of time flow.

Anyway, it would be interesting if someone who can read minds can verify if people under anesthesia still have some bhavanga mindstream there.

So parinibbana is not comparable to dreamless sleep. It’s much deeper. See the video on 9 levels of nothingness to see how deep nothing can go.

Mind seems to be as vague as a concept as aliveness. What can be called alive? I tend to see it like this that such terms that are introduced to understand things, model things, order things with the analytical mind, do not point to anything else but ourselves. It are merely our own inventions. Like the invention that we are humans and not animals. Pure invention. Or the invention that when one has vinnana one is alive and all that has no vinnana is not alive. Or when there is some kind of metabolism there is aliveness, and not without. Or the invention that this is the Netherlands and this is Germany. One can only invent such things and then invest in them as if this is all real knowledge and real . But what does this investment even mean? Why would one support such inventions?

I have also seen the sutta mention a life force.

Where do these concepts point to?

As far as I know, the asaññasatta are one of the most obscure beings/realms in the canon, only mentioned here and there. Most of what people assume about them is based on the commentaries. Do they exist at all? If so, what are they? Are they really unconscious their whole life? Who knows, all we really have in the early text is their name, not too much more. So any argument based on their nature is necessarily very thin.

Either way, if one acknowledges that they are fully unconscious, then the forced conclusion is that there is no underlying ‘unestablished’ or 'boundless’state of consciousness to existence. Then, whatever a conscious nibbāna would mean to one, that consciousness has arisen so will cease. Same argument applies to deep sleep or other types of unconsciousness. You can’t say unconsciousness is possible yet claim nibbāna is a type of consciousness, because then nibbāna ceases when arahants go to sleep and reappears again when they wake up, or something like that. In other words, nibbāna can not be more than unconsciousness, because in that case it would be something that has arisen after being unconscious, or something that would cease through losing consciousness.

Also, the asaññasatta are a realm of rebirth, which you can’t attain while in this life. If you acknowledge that having no perception (saññā) means having no consciousness, then a better argument would be that cessationists mistake the cessation of perception (and feeling) for nibbāna. But then, they would argue that it essentially is a temporary “nibbāna”, because there is no escape beyond it and it is implied to be the highest happiness.

PS. Brahma’s are not continually in jhana. Their rebirth is produced because of earlier attainment of jhana but the realm is more than just being continually in jhana. For example, Brahmas still speak but it is said to be impossible to speak in jhana. So you can’t make conclusions about the nature of jhana based on the nature of these realms.


I know what I have to say is unpopular, but for what it is worth my take on this is that at the time of the earliest stratum of Buddhism:

Vinnana = you in that = suffering = sanna(loke) + sankhara(you) = the seen + the heard + the felt + the known

Panna = no you in that = the end of suffering = vinanna - sankhara(you) = only the seen + only the heard + only the felt + only the known

Taste of Nibbana = temporary (during meditation only) panna

Nibbana = stable (rest of the physical life) panna = extinguishment of you in that.

The Atthakavagga, The Undeclared, and the Kalama sutta seem to rule out that the Buddha ever declared that there was a Nibbana or Parinibbana in some eternal sense or what that even means.

Does Parinibbana = Eternal panna (rebirth with Panna)


Does the Buddha not get reborn and is utterly extinguished, not even Panna?


Does the Buddha get reborn with Vinnana?

This surely changed later since the later canon runs roughshod over the undeclared. This is especially strange since not knowing the answers to these questions was deemed unnecessary to walk the spiritual path.

By the way, I am not trying to be a troll by saying this. I truly do not understand how Theravadan, or “religious” Buddhists, can reconcile the claim that the Buddha declared rebirth and an eternal Parinibbana when it flies in the face of the Atthakavagga, the undeclared, and the Kalama Sutta.

Added later. Note that in the Atthakavagga, sannasanni means what in the Parayanavagga is vinnana. Neither perception nor non perception is panna.

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can you quote the sources you claimed that buddha did not teach rebirth?

Rebirth is undoubtedly something that was taught by the Teacher. I’m not sure the comment in question was denying this? Anyway, what rebirth has to do with the topic I’m not sure? :pray:

The great irony here is that I believe in rebirth. To be more precise, given what I believe to be the explanation of consciousness, it makes perfect sense. I also have twice had the experience of “waking up” after a general anesthetic which was completely life changing for me. I am still trying to make sense of it. That said, if I take the Undeclared seriously, the Buddha did not declare it. Likewise, he did not declare a Parinibbana after death.

I either have to take the undeclared seriously or I have to take the declarations of the same points seriously or I have to believe that some of the texts reflect what others believed, but the Buddha did not declare, or I have to believe the Buddha was a hypocrite. I have come to the conclusion that some of the texts reflect what others believed, but the Buddha did not declare.

I have addressed the reasons for favoring this conclusion piecemeal in different posts under different topics. If you would like to discuss that, I can start a new topic given that you would have to dig through many posts in many topics to find them. I’ll leave it up to you. I’m game if you’re game.


Ok. Can you clarify something for me? Do you think the Teacher left rebirth altogether undeclared for sentient beings? :pray:

Yes. He did not argue with the world. The world argued with him.

I see. Ok, it seems we have a difference on this point. I think rebirth was declared for sentient beings many many times in very unambiguous language by the Teacher. At least that is how this limited mind understands the Teacher. An individual existence continues after death for sentient beings. Individual existence only ceases with nibbana where no more rebirth of an individual existence can continue because that individual existence has ceased. :pray:


I believe we are both sincere people trying to understand the Buddha given the lights we have to see by. It is a pleasure conversing with you.