Definition of Nibbana

I am still struggling to get my head around the different concepts of Buddhism and how they fit together. I have come up with a hypothesis that would show how they perfectly do, without any philosophical contradictions.

At some point I may not spare you with my theory. I shall draw parallels to antique Gnosticism to elaborate. But when it is finished I plan to first submit it to @Vensonata for his oppinion.

At this time I am left with one possible weak link in my theory. It concerns the exact definition of Nibbana. Here is where you could help me. :slightly_smiling_face:

I am wondering:

Is Nibbana usually defined as the state preceding and leading to ultimate extinction after physical death (while still counting as a guarantee for full extinction to then take place), or does Nibbana constitute the full realization of extinction already completed during lifetime?

Thank you all. :pray:

Hello there.

This is a very basic question. In short: Nibbāna is ending of defilements/asavas during lifetime. Parinibbāna is full extinguishment of kandhas after death.

If you want to check it in the sources, here you go:

Ajahn Brahmali - What the Nikāyas Say and Do not Say about Nibbāna:

Direct link do PDF:


Yes These two kinds of nibbāna are also called “with/without residue” (Sa/An-upādisesa nibbāna) (See Bhikkhu Bodhi, As It Is Lecture 6)


Thank you. That is what I was hoping to hear :pray:

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Lord Buddha uses for the most part phenomenological descriptions, but regarding asankhata dhatu - which is synonymous with nibbana, apart description that no arising, no disappearing or no change while it stands is evident, not much more can be said …

But since it is everlasting present most of descriptions aim to help in removing the obstacles of realisation of it. And so nibbana is described as cessation of being, cessation of conceit “I am” cessation of the states of greed, hate and delusion.

The additional advantage of such approach is that common man to certain extent can verify most of such descriptions and see their actuality, but assertion about timelines and changeless reality cannot be verified - at least at beginning of the practice - and so it requires substantial amount of faith.

And it is an important point, since in Christianity all is hanging on believe in God, once his existence is doubted all ethics collapses. Perhaps it is also hard to believe that states of greed, hate, and delusion can be entirely removed from experience, but at least you know more or less what the Dhamma is about.

Of course since every common man is absolutely certain that he exists, to understand that nibbana is cessation of existence is, as a matter of fact, much more difficult than “merely” believe in asankhata dhatu.

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Nibbana is defined as Anuppada Nirodha. Cessation of the
arising of unarisen dhammas is called Nibbana.

Past dhammas has aready ceased.
Paccuppanna dhammas cease as they arise. It is khanika nirodha.
Therfore what will cease with Nibbana is the dhammas that are due to arise. That is why Nibbana ia called Anuppada Nirodha.

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This might not be the most appropriate word.

Extinction implies the ending of some ‘thing’ or some ‘one’… viz the destruction of an existing ‘being’. Hence it is likely to lead to the error of annhilationism. (DN1)

‘Extinguishment’ is, IMO a better word choice. It implies the ending of a natural process, not the destruction of an existing ‘being’… more in tune with the implications of dependent origination, IMO.

Nibbana, IMO is simply the realization of the Truth. This can be stated in many ways and has many different implications - but in one of the ways of stating it can be that Nibbana is the cessation of Ignorance of how the underlying process of ‘I, me and mine’ making creates Suffering based on Craving by way of Dependent origination.

Seeing sense stimuli just as they are, without creating a ‘Self’ out of these natural processes is Nibbana (Ud1.10).

At this point since there is no more a delusion of “Me”, hence there is no more restlessness to know the Truth about “Me”, no more craving for existence/ non existence of “Me”, no more conceit of “Me in relation to the world”, no more lust/ aversion related to “Me getting/ not getting this or that”, no more views regarding “Me” as an entity based on the 5 aggregates or a “Me” who can be purified by rites or rituals… and no doubt regarding the truth of the Teaching - ie. all 10 fetters are shattered.

Realizing the Truth at the moment of Nibbana, the Realized One knows that a “Me” in relation to the world can never again arise. The process of DO has ceased. The 4 Noble Truths have been completely understood. The holy life has been lived. What had to be done has been done. With the light of Wisdom, there is no more Ignorance and no more Craving. Hence there will be no further rebirth.

There is of course, the winding down and the eventual cessation of the underlying processes of the 5 aggregates… this is Parinibbana. But that is not the main event. At Death, all that is ceasing are natural processes.

The complete breaking of the 10 fetters and the realization of the Truth has already occurred at the moment of Nibbana.

The moment of Nibbana is the climax of the show, Parinibbana is just the epilogue.


I just don’t think that this is possible. Take, for example, a toothache. Or going hungry.

Toothaches are of course still possible as well as going hungry. But do those things have to be accompanied by identification with them as “my” toothache and “I” am going hungry? What might the experience of a toothache or hunger be like in the complete absence of “my” toothache or “I” am going hungry? What might the experience be like with complete and total dispassion towards the toothache and hunger? I think the Teacher is inviting us to find out :slight_smile: :pray:

Is there any sutta in the Canon where the Buddha describes his enlightenment with respect to the three characteristics? I do not know of any. From what I know, he always described it instead in terms of 4NT.

We all have a sense of self, also a Buddha, in the sense that if we do not protect the body against sunburn we all know “I” will feel the results. IF i start teaching and no one understands me, I will become tired, troubled. There is still a normal sense of self that wil reap results.
If one would loose this sense of self or me, would one really be wise?

I think, the problem is, asmi mana is seen as a sense of self but this is not true. Asmi mana is the sense of ego. Very different. In Zen one would say…asmi mana is the sense of self that a small contracted mind has. That is very entity like, quit solidified.

But the sense of self of openess, big mind, is different. More subtle and less entity like. It is more like presence, a kind of light.

If one looses this last sense of self that is called depersonalisation and an illness of the mind.

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Yes, it is hard to understand how pain could arise without any sense of “I” am feeling pain or this is “my” pain. I certainly have not had this experience. Yet I don’t rule it out as impossible.

Similarly, it seems hard to understand if someone had this kind of mind without any “I” making or “mine” making how they might be able to protect the body against sunburn. I do admit struggle in trying to understand this and again I don’t claim any direct experience of this.

My hypothesis is that it is something like this: in the absence of “I” or “mine”, then some other motivating factor must be involved in making sure the body is not destroyed in the sun. That other motivating factor, from what I can discern must come from lifetimes of cultivating the four immeasurables. The wish for the body to aid sentient beings in finding true happiness. The wish for the body to aid sentient beings in finding true respite from suffering. The wish for the body to aid sentient beings in finding true joy and true equanimity. Like that. Basically, it is the exchange of the sense of self for all pervading compassion and altruism. Again, I haven’t experienced this, but it does make some rationale sense to me. If it isn’t Nibbana it sure sounds like a better state of mind than I have right now :wink:

Good luck and may you find out what the definition of Nibbana is! :pray:

Nirvana is the total release from the proximate causes of stress born of insight into the four foundations of mindfulness whilst alive.

Insight entails realising the mechanisms by which mind, body, feelings and phenomena function or come to be as well as come to experience pain, stress, dissatisfaction, worry and suffering (defined as the mental story told about such). The mind coursing in nirvana realises how internal or external feelings can impact peace of mind and thus develops immovable calm in response. One such sees how unhelpful thoughts perpetuate stress. One sees how clinging to ones form can cause troubles dependent upon context. To unhelpful views. Context here is key, because the 5 aggregates are also the means to discern wisdom.

Often, the mind suffers because of its views that are not in alignment with things as they are.

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When one’s suffering in such circumstances has peaked, and one realizes - there is absolutely nothing that ‘I’ can do to relieve ‘my’ pain and ‘I’ let go and surrender completely and totally … that is when one experiences, temporarily the cessation of ‘I’ and a taste of ‘Suchness’. - a temporary satori.

It has been described by many people ranging from Ajahn Brahm (Who ordered this truckload of dung, ‘Toothache’ pp 57-59) to Viktor Frankl (Man’s search for meaning, pp 59-61).

It can be experienced personally, given appropriate external circumstances and an appropriate Mind state.


Seeing the three characteristics is one of the many ways to Nibbana. eg:

When you perceive impermanence, the perception of not-self becomes stabilized.
Aniccasaññino, bhikkhave, anattasaññā saṇṭhāti.
Perceiving not-self, you uproot the conceit ‘I am’ and attain extinguishment in this very life.”
Anattasaññī asmimānasamugghātaṁ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme nibbānan”ti.

:rose: :pray:

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Maha Boowa, a Theravada Thai Forest teacher described it like this:

"Although the bodily pain was obviously very strong, I could see that the citta was calm and unafflicted. No matter how much discomfort the body suffered, the citta was not distressed or agitated. This intrigued me. Normally the kilesas join forces with pain, and this alliance causes the citta to be disturbed by the body’s suffering. This prompted wisdom to probe into the nature of the body, the nature of pain and the nature of the citta until all three were perceived clearly as separate realities, each true in its own natural sphere.
I saw clearly that it was the citta that defined feeling as being painful and unpleasant. Otherwise, pain was merely a natural phenomenon that occurred. It was not an integral part of the body, nor was it intrinsic to the citta. As soon as this principle became absolutely clear, the pain vanished in an instant. At that moment, the body was simply the body—a separate reality on its own. Pain was simply feeling, and in a flash that feeling vanished straight into the citta. As soon as the pain vanished into the citta, the citta knew that the pain had disappeared. It just vanished without a trace"
(arahattamagga-arahattaphala, page 20/21

I find it interesting that Maha Boowa saw that the citta defines feeling as being painful and unpleasant. It seems to suggest that feeling is just feeling and it is the citta that defines feelings as painful and pleasant. That would suggest that there is not something like an unpleasant feeling.

He also says that pain is is not intrinsic to the citta. Maybe feeling even isn’t?