Does “all Dhammas” include Nibbāna?

Regarding this part about what I said regarding “not self” instead of “no self”/“self does not exist”/“self is illusion”/“self is a conditioned dhamma”, you seem trying to tell me that “not self” is too, just “the same idea”/“another theory about ‘self’”.

However, the Buddha always said about “not self” and he also told us not to make theory about “self”. So, if “not self” is also just “another theory about ‘self’” as you suggested, then the Buddha would have made a contradiction in what he said.

And since we can’t accept that the Buddha would have made a contradiction in what he said, we can conclude that “not self” is not just “another theory about ‘self’” as you suggested.

Maybe that kind of argument as above can convince you, or maybe not.

You can read more about that in a quite old topic that I have created and already brought up other kinds of argument here.

So, please again, as with Yeshe Tenley, I will have to ask you to excuse me from going into that topic.

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Yeah I was suspecting. It’s partially because you didn’t read the context of the whole thread, so it’s fine. My original long post I mentioned you in was over the meaning of dhamma and saṅkhāra in the three characteristics.

Yes. However, this is possible:

disagree on the meaning but agree on the phrasing

And my goal was discussing the meaning, and the meaning of that does matter.

I think one can say we do not only experience or know sense-objects, or individual formations or phenomena. For example, we are also able to know the global sphere in our mind and that mind feels contracted, open, heavy and dark, flexible, scattered, concentrated, rigid, joyful etc, the cittanupassana.

It is not really refering to a practicular phenomena but more to our global state of mind, more the way we are present in the world at that moment. I do not think this can be seen as a mental phenomena.

I think that Nibbana is something likewise. It is not sensed as some particular phenomena or sense-object. It is not that the mental sense has Nibbana as object. It is more like that even the mental sense has let go, and even that sense contact has changed. There is just nothing burdening the mind.
It is more like the usual (heavy) load is gone, i think.

I believe…whatever i sense in my head it is not Nibbana.

You say “you can know global spheres” but you also say “this can’t be seen as a mental phenomenon”.

Are you not also able to know things which are outside of your mind or mental phenomena such as concepts, people, or sensual objects? Why would a positivist mental phenomenon have to happen in order for you to perceive it. If you notice “lack of stress” then you have known this name or object “lack of stress”. If you know what “nothing” refers to in this sentence then you’re perceiving it, therefore you’d perceive all of those mental qualities or states. It would also come with an optional view that “those things are happening to me”.

Not literally. You don’t actually have a literal apple in your head when you see it. You also wouldn’t have a ‘lack of an apple’ in your head when you notice the apple is missing.

I mean, one can notice an emptiness in the head. A stilling. But Nibbana is more something of the heart. Like a burden that falls away from the heart, not from the head.

In some buddhist traditions they also warn against practicing to long this kind of mental calm and emptiness of the head. Probably it is more like one practices bhavanga at these moments or something that is close to this. Real calm is of the heart.

Hi Venerable, sorry for taking so long to reply. I do appreciate the care you have put into this. It is great to see people so passionate about the true meaning of the Buddha’s message. You deserve a reply, even if just a short one.

I have read your latest post, but I have to admit I am still unconvinced anattā can be applied to the post-parinibbāna “state”. Everywhere in the suttas anattā refers to the nature of existing phenomena, not to a “state” of cessation. Yet in the end I don’t think it is an important point. Understanding Dhamma is not about labelling, but about real events.

I am now inclined to think of sabbe dhammā anattā as a kind of catch-all that, apart from all saṅkhāras, includes anything outside the scope of saṅkhāra. Humans seem to be willing to do anything to maintain the illusion of a self, finding some sort of existence wherever they can, whether it’s in Nibbāna, in concepts, in the brahminical conception of the deathless, or in whatever else the ever-creative human mind can come up with.

I hope you will forgive me for not replying to anything else in your post. I am not sure if much good would come of it. I don’t think there are any fundamental differences in how we view this. Anyway, thanks again for your engagement. I appreciate it!

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Namo Buddhaya!

This OP question is tricky because the word dhamma, as is used in the sutta method, is used differently by buddhists & outsiders.

For example there are texts where outsiders ask about sabbe dhamma and by sabbe dhamma they can only mean sabbe sankhatadhammā and nibbana is then explained as the end of sabbe dhamma.

However if one is a buddhist then sabbe dhamma includes the asankhata dhamma which is that in dependence on what nibbana is discerned as the end of sabbe sankhatadhammā.

I like to share another perspective on this:

What you perceive is, i feel, that we humans have an intuitive understanding that there is something stable, constant, not desintegrating, and this is what we seek. Buddha also. We seek peace of heart.

We might be confused about what is stable and how to arrive at that what is stable. But that is only humane and according Buddha also what other beings are confused about. We share this avijja with all beings.

This does not impy that the search for something constant, for the Truth, for what is not seen arising, ceasing and changing (asankhata) is wrong, i believe.

So, I do not think it is really about maintaining the illusion of a self but we all seek something stable, constant. This search for Truth is what we maintain.

Buddha shows us this Path to the constant, the stable (SN43). His message , for me is: one can only arrive at the constant, the stable, the not-desintegrating by, at first, removing the view that anything produced, made, constructed, can be stable. One must see and understand that all that is liable to arise, is also liable to cease. So, making, producing, constructing cannot be the Path to the stable, the constant, the not-desintegrating, peace.

In other words, the stable cannot be arrived at via grasping and clinging. It can only be arrived at when clinging is gone and there is no desire anymore at all for becoming nor producing this or that temporary state, nor a desire for becoming non-existent.

It is not really the maintaining of the illusion of a self what is going on, i feel. What humans really maintain, what their heart maintains is the desire for peace in a world on fire. One can also say like Buddha did…we all long for a home for ourselves. That is what we maintain.

Buddha’s teachers also, but they had a wrong idea of home, seeing jhana, a temporary state, as home.
Buddha had another intuitive understanding of home and that guided him and brought him home.

I feel, what our hearts really want is this home. Buddha found it. The goodness, the purity, the amazing, the other shore, Enlightening, peaceful, the Truth, Nibbana, home.

It is not only intuitive, it is logical too, because in thinking about what is possible one dabbles in dualities & symmetries
Up & Down
Ugly & Beautiful
Symmetrical & Asymmetrical

And so one ponders whether duality itself could be one side of two opposing real categories.

Duality & Singleness

Such singleness would be thought of as a supersymmetry because that is the logical counter to denoting the duality of the symmetrical & asymmetrical.

Such supersymmetry has neither symmetry nor asymmetry, neither ugly nor beautiful, neither arising nor ceasing, neither mind nor world, neither name nor form, neither up nor down, neither here or there, neither birth nor death, neither before nor an after, neither the visible electromagnetic spectrum of light nor darkness.

It is not merely real but an irreducible super-reality, a singleness categorically different to normal reality.

To a putujjhana this is incomprehensible because he thinks ‘how can one reality know another reality?’ And so he concludes that this has to be some figure of speech in that nobody could ever come to know such a thing to be real.

Ariyans understand that any reality is somehow known to itself, like this constructed has mind & world through which the world & mind are discerned. As to this other reality, they describe the discernment of one as analogical to the discernment of another, something otherwise beyond conjecture, to be directly known & experienced by smart people here & now.

And so they don’t think that one reality comes to know another. Rather that the cessation of one is the coming into play of another. And they use the analogical knowing & whatnot to explain that they talk in terms of there being analogical pleasure & discerment.

The putthujjana has direct knowledge only of one thing which changes, the sotapanna has direct knowledge of two wherein one doesn’t change.

It’s kind of like comparing a fish to a frog, in that to an extent, they know different realities in a qualified sense, but obviously neither fish nor a frog knows the unmade which is a categorically different reality in a definitive sense, sotapanna does.

As i understand the sutta method

It’d be parallel to analogical saying

That an amphibian, for as long as he has not emerged from water only has contact with water arise for him and so his contact is only with water.

Whereas after having emerged from water, having discerned dry land, and having again submerged himself back into water, there is then contact with dry land that was not there before.

I believe sutta does this here

"When a monk has emerged from the cessation of perception & feeling, three contacts make contact: contact with emptiness, contact with the signless, & contact with the undirected. Kamabhu Sutta: With Kamabhu (2)

I can give examples

All phenomena is translated as sabbe dhammā here

The Blessed One said, "Monks, if those who have gone forth in other sects ask you, ‘In what are all phenomena rooted? What is their coming into play? What is their origination? What is their meeting place? What is their presiding state? What is their governing principle? What is their surpassing state? What is their heartwood? Where do they gain a footing? What is their final end?’: On being asked this by those who have gone forth in other sects, this is how you should answer them:

"'All phenomena are rooted in desire.[1]

"'All phenomena come into play through attention.

"'All phenomena have contact as their origination.

"'All phenomena have feeling as their meeting place.

"'All phenomena have concentration as their presiding state.

"'All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.

"'All phenomena have discernment as their surpassing state.

"'All phenomena have release as their heartwood.

"'All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.

"‘All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.’

“On being asked this by those who have gone forth in other sects, this is how you should answer.” Mula Sutta: Rooted

Extinguishment is here said to be the end of sabbe dhammā and so delineated & divorced from what ends, eg feeling.

However in the teaching of the Tathahaga it is included, but outsiders wouldn’t know this.

Here examples

“This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me.” Ayacana Sutta: The Request

To teach dhamma here means to teach the DO and cessation-extinhuishment as a removal of taints

take a mendicant who, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end. To this extent the Buddha spoke of the dhamma apparent in the present life in a definitive sense.”

Here also a two fold explanation of what constitutes attaining dhamma in this sasana.
And so nibbananirodha and the asankhatadhatu are dhamma in that these are things taught & proclaimed by the Tathagatha.

It is also evidently drawn out from the famous
Sabba sankharā anicca
Sabbe sankharā dukkha
Sabbe dhamma anatta

Anicca describes one category
Dukkha describes one category
Anatta describes two categories (sankharā & asankhata)

If one did not say sabbe dhammā anatta then it would lean much towards there being a dhamma which is atta apart from dukkha where the cessation of dukkha would be apprehended as true self.

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Probably you will see me as a fool, or stubborn, or like someone who only fabricates his own Dhamma, like many, but still i share how i see it because it makes sense to me and also see this in the sutta’s.

A worldling knows Nbbana. All beings do. It is impossible to not know Nibbana.
But…Nibbana is like the air we breath. We all know that there is air but are almost never aware of it.

Nibbana is like the air we breath. It is to normal to get noticed. Its presence is too self-evident to be not fully ignored. I believe the situation is like that.

That what in our lives, in our experience, is most self-evident, most normal, most usual, most simple, most common, that is Nibbana. And that is exaclty why we have failed to see till now.
It is not that Nibbana is something exotic it is exacly the opposite of that. It is ultimate simplicity and common and most close to us. But that does not mean that it is not deep, hard to see, amazing etc.
Because it is so close to us, exactly that is why it is hard to see. Phenomena are not really close to us and not hard to see.

Ayway, mind can be very oriented and obsessed by what comes and goes. Then it is like the mind has still an external orientation. It is obsessed by what it sees. It is aware of what it sees. It is aware of what comes and goes. But it remains unaware of her own seeing nature. One can also say, i feel, that we are often oriented upon what mind manifests or produces, but we remain unaware of the nature of mind itself as that what produces. In other words, what is mind as forerunner (Dhp1) of all phenomena?

Mind as forerunner is here described:

If the mind gets an internal orientation it does not only see phenomena arising, it also sees what is not seen arising. Or maybe it is better to say that it has found the Middle between an external and internal orientation but it is not fixed.

(Oh, what will be thrown at me now :blush:
I am gonna crawl under my blacket, afraid, scared of what comes).

Thanks for the final response. To finish the discussion I have to say likewise, Ajahn, I am not convinced that anattā can’t be applied to nibbāna. It seems very logical that it can. To deny this (I’m not saying you are) is to effectively say nibbāna is some sort of self. Now, whether this is what sabbe dhammā anattā was originally meant to tell us is another matter, as I’ve said from the start.

Most importantly for me, if we take anatta to mean “not a self”, then at least logically it is applicable to nibbāna. I think you’ll agree with that. Therefore, I think your earlier statement that noble ones would not call nibbāna anattā is also not correct. Surely they could, if they understand the term to mean “not a self”.

Finally, as to what sabbe dhammā anattā means, I’ll repeat my argument that

  • if we first have “sabbe sankhārā dukkhā/aniccā”, but then "sabbe dhammā anattā*,
  • and there are texts which essentially say that there are two dhammas: the sankhārā and the a-sankhārā (i.e. nibbāna),
  • then it seems logical to conclude that “sabbe dhammā” means both the sankhārā and the a-sankhārā.

There is nothing in the suttas that contradicts this conclusion. And any alternative interpretations in this thread, I have found not convincing and not backed up by the suttas any more than this.

Finally, I fail to reconcile how you don’t include nibbāna in sabbe dhammā yet still say “I am now inclined to think of sabbe dhammā anattā as a kind of catch-all that, apart from all saṅkhāras, includes anything outside the scope of saṅkhāra.” Nibbāna is outside the scope of saṅkhāra, so according to this is also called anattā.


I think one can also approach this way:

  • Water is itself without defilements. Does this state that water has a self-nature? I feel, it states that defilements must be seen as adventitious, not self, alien to water. That is also why they can be removed. This removal requires a method, a Path. When as result of this Path all what is adventitious to water is removed, water does not cease. It is now itself. It arrives at its original pure state, which one can call the true nature of water or just water.

  • We are without defilements. Does this state that we have a self-nature? I feel, it states that defilements must be seen as adventitious, not self, alien to us. That is also why they can be removed. This requires a method, a Path. When as result of this Path all what is adventitious to us, is removed, we do not cease. We are ourselves. We arrive at an original pure peaceful, dispassionate state called Nibbana. Which one can call the true nature of ourselves.

You must not read this as if it holds some doctrine of self. What it upholds is Buddha’s teachings that defilements are adventitious, can be removed, and one can arrive at purity, a sublime state of supreme peace which Buddha searched, arrived at and called Nibbana.

Now, only suffering is lost. Not we ourselves. We feel more alive and ourselves then ever before. We have lost reactivity. We have lost the burden of all the bagage we collected in so many lifes and ruled our thinking, speech and actions.

We have always known that our being fettered to all this inner drifts and conditionings is not really being authentic. Now this is gone we really feel ourselves. We have entered hearts purity. We have overcome the slavery of habitual forces. We have freed ourselves. We have finally come fully to life. We are now more alive then ever before, like the Buddha. We feel healthy even when are physically sick and old. Only this full aliveness can end dukkha. Reason never can.

Yes, i feel, it is very well possible that people really know and see that reactivity, habits, conditionings are not really authentically you. If one can make a difference between what is bagage and what is authentic does this impy a doctrine of self of does it only mean that one knows the difference between purity and defilement? I believe that.

We all have an inner understanding of purity, of Nibbana. And nobody has learned us this. Is belongs to nature.

We may just be rehashing old arguments, but perhaps it is worth it. Let’s see what comes of this.

It’s phenomena that are, theoretically, either self or nonself. Nibbāna is not a phenomenon.

I am not sure if I agree even with this. It’s just that “not a self” is a suitable description of phenomena, not of the absence of phenomena. Does the following sentence make sense: “The absence of phenomena is not a self”? It is inconceivable to take emptiness as a self, and so calling it “not a self” is confusing. As I have said before, the resulting confusion may cause one to think of Nibbāna as a phenomenon, which would be counter to my (and your!) understanding of the suttas.

But what exactly does asaṅkhatā (not asaṅkhārā ) mean in this sort of context? We really only have one fairly clear definition, which is found at AN 4.34:

Yāvatā, bhikkhave, dhammā saṅkhatā vā asaṅkhatā vā, virāgo tesaṃ aggamakkhāyati, yadidaṃ madanimmadano pipāsavinayo ālayasamugghāto vaṭṭupacchedo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.

“Non-desire is said to be the best of all things whether conditioned or unconditioned. That is, the quelling of vanity, the removing of thirst, the abolishing of clinging, the breaking of the round, the ending of craving, non-desire, cessation, extinguishment.”

First, it’s saṅkhatā and asaṅkhatā, not saṅkhārā and asaṅkhārā. This minor difference does actually matter in this context. The qualities referred to above in AN 4.34 (and also at AN 5.32 and Itivuttaka 90) relate to the state of arahantship, not to the “state” of Nibbāna that follows the death of the arahant. It does not make sense to speak of arahantship as asaṅkhārā, but it does make sense to call it asaṅkhatā. Arahantship is asaṅkhatā in the sense that it is irreversible. The ending of defilements and the cessation of the sense of self do not depend on conditions or causes; they are final.

What we have here, then, is that sabbe dhamma anattā refers to what is saṅkhatā (= saṅkhārā) plus the state of arahantship. This could perhaps be interpreted to mean that the arahant does not discover a self or become a self. Maybe the point is to counter the idea that awakening is equivalent to the discovery of the true self. What matters for the present discussion, however, is that it does not appear to say anything about the post-parinibbāna “reality”.

Arguments from silence are not strong, as you have often pointed out.

Yes, this is a significant weakness. Still, I don’t think it is enough to refute my argument. It is hard to know exactly how they regarded words such as saṅkhārā and dhammā, and what the relationship was between them. It seems quite likely to me that we are missing nuances.

Well, we are having problems agreeing on whether Nibbāna is part of sabbe dhammā. I say it’s not, but I have to admit that another view may be possible. If the other view is right, then certainly Nibbāna is nonself. In other words, I will argue for my view, but will not go so far as to say that your view is impossible.

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Dear Ajahn, I thought we were winding this down :slight_smile: but OK, one last reply by me.

This seems the crux of our disagreement. To me, this makes perfect sense to say. The absence of all phenomena isn’t anything ontologically positive. It’s not a feeling, it’s not a thing… it’s not a unicorn! And it’s not a self. Because it is not a self, it is quite literally not/non/without (an-) self (attā).

To ask the same kind of question: would it make sense for you to say that the absence of phenomena is without suffering (which is just the same as saying, it is not suffering or it is non-suffering)? If so, then you may understand how to me it makes just as much sense to say it is without self (or not a self/non-self). If not, then I don’t understand what exact difference you perceive between a self and suffering in this regard. Both are ontologically asserted “things” that don’t exist “in” nibbāna.

Nibbāna is without suffering, even if suffering only applies to phenomena. Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to me to say “without self” doesn’t apply to nibbāna. It’s without suffering, and it is without self.

In other words (sorry for pressing the point), if you agree that anattā is not just a strategy but also an ontological truth about the absence of a self, then I just don’t understand why are apparently unwilling to say that this truth is still true after the cessation of phenomena.

Of course, there is a difference between a self and suffering, namely that existing phenomena are also without a self, just like nibbāna, but unlike nibbāna are suffering. However, this doesn’t change the simple logic that nibbāna is also without a self. I think we discussed the difference between the three characteristics earlier (whether they are ontologically positive or negative), and you acknowledged it may have something to do why the third characteristic (anattā) is treated differently. But from this difference, it doesn’t logically follow that nibbāna is not without a self, is not anattā.

The absence of phenomena also is absent of a self, is my bottom line on this. Hence, nibbāna is anatta.

With a-sankhāra I just mean asankhatā dhammā. I used this shorthand for sake of simplicity, so others not familiar with the linguistic connection between sankhata and sankhāra could follow along more easily. You say it makes no real difference in this discussion, which is just what I meant when I said “essentially”. (In an earlier edit I had a-sankhāra-ed but that looked too clumsy.)

Earlier in the topic I did say that it seems arahantship/enlightenment (i.e. nibbāna while alive) is also included in asankata, if not being the primary intended referent. Still, this also points to an absence of certain phenomena, namely craving/delusion. This is also not a self.

Regardless, this sutta you quote doesn’t give an exhaustive definition of asankhata. It just says the ending of craving is the best asankhata dhamma, for whatever exact reason, not that the ending of craving is the only asankata dhamma. Clearly, the absence of all phenomena (i.e. parinibbāna) is also an absence of sankhata dhammas, so can also be designated as asankhata.

This was not an argument for my own position. It was to say that any counterarguments against this position have not debunked this particular line of thinking, which was the main textual argument given not only by me but also others, including a few in this very thread. In such a case it is valid to point out silence, I believe. I’m just saying that this argument hasn’t been disproved in any way.

To be pedantic :D, one of your main arguments has been that nibbāna is not specifically called anattā, which actually is an argument from silence. It has some weight, but of course doesn’t disprove that nibbāna absolutely can’t be called anattā. (Although again, it is described as “not mine” in MN1, which I think is close enough to anattā, especially from the pragmatic/strategic point of view.)

My main problem, as I’ve pointed out a few times, is certain specific objections to this that were given to this. Particularly, the objection that nibbāna absolutely can’t be called anattā. As I said, I’m not 100% sure whether what I am defending is what sabbe dhammā anattā is meant to convey, nor can I ever be.

Hello. What if it’s not an argument by silence? I’ll also add something, which is my opinion on how to reconcile with seeing something as self which is outside the five aggregate.

Suppose a person, experiencing the hardship of life, thought to themself “this life is difficult and distracting, with suffering,” so they strongly wished “If only I were enlightened!”, and they added even more suffering to their life by desiring this, since their hopes are not met. It seems that struggling for enlightenment is going the opposite way from it.

What is this person’s antidote? What should they understand in order to give up desire for enlightenment? By understanding that enlightenment doesn’t happen to them; not theirs; not themself…

Not having wisdom, having delusion,
if someone sees nibbāna as self,
this happens: “I desire nibbāna”.
Ironically, they wouldn’t cross over.

I think you all agree enlightenment couldn’t possibly literally be self, so taking this as true…

Why would someone desire the absence of phenomena,
pain to go away, ending of existence, nothingness?
Is it not because they take those as ‘things’, and take that as self,
even though they aren’t actually self?

We see the absence of stuff as tangible,
but they aren’t actually.
We see feelings as tangible,
but they aren’t actually.

Yet people do take emptiness as self. How could that even be? What’s their antidote? Besides understanding that it’s just empty.

What solves this: enlightenment and emptiness not technically being self for one reason or another is just on the philosophical talking level. Is that really what not-self is about, something that’s meant to be real, life-changing, beyond words? What about the characteristic and quality of someone’s five aggregates itself?

Let’s say we can desire something and see something as self which is only from the five-aggregates, and it’s useless to say that anything outside of it is not-self, since it doesn’t involve our life at all. Now how could nibbāna be not-self?

Given that, what should the person desiring enlightenment hear as their antidote?

We are ‘trapped’ by the subjective experience, it’s everything you could possibly say is “me”, you can’t really truly touch anything outside of it, for that touch lies within that experience. That interface with the world is where this plays out: they have a thought, perception, mental formation, feeling, opinion, or view about nibbāna (without experiencing it since it’s not an experience, just like many other things like hatelessness, shameless, painless, pleasureless, blind). For the record, the divide between inside and outside is nonsense; you = nature (that’s part of why not-self is true).

If we necessarily only desire something from the aggregates, the phrase “nibbāna being not-self” would be impractical if you don’t consider that it was just referring to what you think it feels like or perceiving it beforehand, so it could really mean “perception of nibbāna is not-self”, which is more useful.

When someone sees dhammā as self or not-self (yadā paññāya passati), that “seeing” is within experience, so this isn’t explicitly a philosophical declaration.

So it’s down to taking “is” as “literal equivalence”, or taking it as “seen as”. There’s sutta talk that supports both of these at the same time, but it’s vague to divide/classify it exactly, especially since Indian systems of thought tend to take that as the same (that’s one possible reason I think “dhamma” was used, an approximately equally vague word).

It’s hard to see how something outside of the five aggregates can be taken as self, yet one takes such things as self constantly from their internal perspective. The food itself that one desires is outside of aggregates, only existing through the interface of the senses as smell, taste, or thought.

Just like saying “mangoes are not-self” is a bit weird, and isn’t included in the anattalakkhana sutta, since it’s obvious that literal plant matter isn’t whatever “self” is and a mango also is not an experience. Therefore what that phrase should probably usefully mean is “the taste/thought of mango is not-self”. On a practical meaning-of-text level, I read both of these phrases the same, and I think our mind doesn’t actually distinguish between the two without deep awareness - seeing the seen as merely the seen, a sight and the knowing of that sight totally separate. I would still actually say something like “enlightenment/a mango isn’t me or mine, so why desire attaining/eating it” to myself if I found myself desiring it.

You can also still take food as self and suffer if the food were actually a hallucination and doesn’t actually exist in physical reality. The objects in video games and the internet aren’t real yet people get really angry over it.

Thoughts of the past, future, even present, although they are trying to represent events on a timeline, of course, they are just thoughts. The seen is just the seen, the thought is just the thought. Thoughts of nirvana are just thoughts. You can’t truly touch anything “permanent”, it turns out, only thoughts of permanent things.

So, when someone sees/thinks of nothing, absence of feelings, or the absence of suffering/nibbāna, this seeing/thought is within the aggregates, then it’s part of vedanā before desire etc. We constantly desire stuff that doesn’t actually exist, in my experience. Not getting what you want is suffering. Like desiring the ending of a feeling, dead/absent relatives, nihilism, lost times, a feeling that we don’t have, physical objects elsewhere. We may see all of those as existent, but it’s just some kind of mental object, and it doesn’t exist, maybe even physically.

Hopefully my suggestions may be of use for you to be peaceful.

May I add, Ven. Brahmali, it is supremely helpful for lay people like me who just started delving into Pali a short while ago. (That is, for the translation aspects.) So I’ve greatly appreciated the essay and resultant thread. :heart_eyes: :pray:t2:


If anyone said that to me, I would think that they:

(1) are messing around, or
(2) have lost the plot, or
(3) have in mind some sort of poetic meaning that is not supposed to be taken literally.

My point is - and this is the case even if you replace unicorn with, say, BMW - that it just sounds weird. I would wonder what on earth is going on. “The absence of all phenomena is not a BMW”, although not illogical in the strictest sense, is such a ridiculous statement that one is tempted to either rejects it outright or just get confused and interpret it completely wrong: “I wonder, perhaps the absence of phenomena just means absence of certain phenomena, like the six classes of consciousness, but not the special BMW consciousness?” You get where I am coming from! :slightly_smiling_face:

But even this is very rare in the suttas. And I think this is exactly for the reason you are hinting at, that is, one needs to be careful referring to the absence of things as happiness, because this too can very easily end up as a reification of Nibbāna. That the Buddha still seems to do this - although only very occasionally - must be because the overcoming of suffering is so central to his core teaching of the four noble truths. Moreover, by saying that the absence of phenomena is happiness he is making the point that all phenomena, in the final analysis, are suffering. In other words, there is an important contrast to be made. This contrast does not exist in the case of nonself. There is no self to be found within phenomena, and there is no need to contrast this with parinibbāna.

In the end I just feel fundamentally uncomfortable calling Nibbāna nonself, even if strict logic may allow it. The presentation of the Dhamma is about more than strict logic.

You need to desire it to get there, even if this means a bit of extra suffering. This is the suffering that gets you out of suffering.

Namo Buddhaya!

Ajahn, i want to ask

Suppose parinibbana is exactly like the annihilationist’s idea of death but without the misconception about what ceases. Meaning same thing as in what people mean saying ‘there is nothing after death’ but without the misconception about what ceases as self or having to do with a self.

Q: In that interpretation, other than a difference delineated on account of what is extinguished, do you agree that no further difference can be delineated between the observed extinguishment of a fire and the altogether extinguishment of observation at parinibbana?

Q2: Do you agree that it follows that the extinguishment of an observed object and extinguishment of observation, both occur based on the same principles?

Q3: Do you agree that it follows that the observed extinguishment of fire has as much to do with the unmade element as does parinibbana?

I think all this follows.

When the fire stops burning, there is then nothing leftover.

We would be uncomfortable atrributing any qualities to the absence of the fire because the absence of fire is neither hot nor not hot, it is neither bright nor not bright, neither self nor not self, rather it is just another way of saying that what ceased has ended and the term ‘was’ applies to it rather than the term ‘is’ or ‘will be’.

If a person asserts that a cessation of observation is principially no different than cessation of a perceived object then we would experience the same uncomfortable in describing parinibbana.

The observed extinguishment of anything describes only the principial change in observation. And parinibbana also describes a change in observation of people who might wit one’s attaining parinibbana. But parinibbana describes also a principial end of observation, this is principially different to any observed extinguishment which is possible because change is possible, the parinibbana is possible because an end is possible, these are two different principles.

The analogy of fire is limited. The discernment of burning and the discernment of not burning are both constructed states and only delineate a change in the constructed. This extinguishment describes discernment of one constructed state as the extinguishment of another constructed state. This extinguishment is possible because one discerns two constructed states as a before & after.

The extinguishment of aggegates is possible because there is also an unmade apart from the constructed states, this extinguishment of dukkha is where neither this world nor another, neither before nor after, etc.

So there are two categories of extinguishment

  1. Principial extinguishment of observation, denoting end of percipience, made possible because there is an unmade.
  2. Principial extinguishment of observed things, denoting change in percipience, made possible because the made is diverse.

If one doesn’t draw this distinction it will be uncomfortable for sure.

The unmade reality is entirely not personal, it has no beings or observers, it’s not an observation, nor a knowing, nor a discernment. It is not a subjective experience where allness of nature is partly experienced through & as it’s constituent. It’s otherwise.

This element, is the exact same element, in the exact same state, makes parinibbana of various beings possible. And it is in no way changed or modified by the extinguishments, nothing is added or modified.

It’s unevoving, not something that underlies or persists parallel to the evolving timeline which it extinguishes, and is not something that follows as an after which would denote a continuation of the narrative about faculties tied to observation & observed objects, the world & subjective experience, proliferation of the narrative about what ceased, papanca beyond salayatanirodha.

I don’t think that i can explain this much better, heavens help🙏