Enjoying Nibbana?

I have recently come across two different interpretations of Nibbana.

One seems to look at Nibbana as a state in which everything is hunky dory (or, as we say in German, “all in butter”). One is now living as one should, the world is no longer a prison, and one has generally arrived at nature’s prescribed goal for humankind. This is what some of the later lectures of Ajahn Buddhadasa seem to come down to.

The other, probably more in line with the Suttas, especially the MN, seems to say: As long as you’re enjoying it, it’s not yet Nibbana.

Most of us, I assume, would subscribe to the second oppinion. But my question is rather: Which are the underlying doctrines for each view, and where exactly do they differ?

A penny for your BI.

SN 36.31

I probably quote this sutta too often, but it is just that good. Given that an ordinary person can access rapture, happiness, equanimity and deliverance, all tied to the world of the five senses, those could easily be mistaken for some notion of success. Yet, it may have nothing to do with any development in Dhamma.

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I said this on another thread recently, but I think it applies equally well here. I’ll go back to a scene/image that popped into my head reading the myriad threads on this forum debating what asankhata and nibbana refer to:

Imagine a group of monkeys in a room all with their hands in a monkey trap furiously grabbing at some delectable something that is in their grasp. All the monkeys are arguing. Why? They are debating about what that thing in their grasp is… how it feels, the odor wafting from it, what it might taste like, what it might sound like, what it might look like etc. They give it names and argue over whose name and description is the most precise. All of them are just soooo sure that if they could only find a way to get their hands out of the trap and show all the other monkeys the treasure; they’d win the argument and have the treasure!

That’s how I envision these debates/questions/threads about what asankhata and nibbana refer to. In a sense, to have an answer to these types of questions is to have your hand still in the trap. And seeing how I’m answering, clearly I still have my hand in the trap. One day I hope to let go. Let’s see. :joy: :pray:


In a way, your answer makes a lot of sense, teacher (as usual).

Because if we think of Nibbana as the unconditioned element, then that unconditionendness (is that an English word?) probably means that it “neither does exist nor does not exist”, which in turn means that it can not be known like conditioned elements can be known.

Still something is implied here - Nibbana “is” even if it doesn’t exist. This may bring us into trouble with other doctrine, like the cessationist view …

I have a solution to this, but I will not share it in the forum. It’s kind of heretical :sweat_smile:

Oh, but now you have to share it :joy: :pray:

Well, we’ve been there before. It would imply some ultimate spiritual reality “in” which one “dwells” if all ties to dependent origination have been cut (= Nibbana).

But there are some problems even with this. Our basic bodily functions to stay alive are dependently originated, so such a state would seem impossible. Unless of course “we” were something very different from our biological bodies …

No need to take this further. I’m the first to admit that I don’t really have a full grasp of it myself.

I think the wisdom here is that they are actually the same.

“One is now living as one should, the world is no longer a prison, and one has generally arrived at nature’s prescribed goal for humankind” BECAUSE they’ve stopped this enjoying (indulgence); that is the exact goal or solution.

My related text will be MN13.

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Can you find this “we” in our biological bodies? I cannot.
Can you find this “we” apart from our biological bodies? I cannot.
Can you find this “we” in our minds? I cannot.
Can you find this “we” apart from our minds? I cannot.
Can you find this “we” in the combination of our bodies+minds? I cannot.
Can you find this “we” apart from the combination of our minds+bodies? I cannot.

If it can’t be found in any of these ways, then what exactly does this “we” refer to?


Well the implication would be that our minds are somehow part of that ultimate reality that “is” nothing, rather the condition of all that is, including dependent origination which would have to be seen as an “accident” happening within that ultimate reality (or what is known in ancient Greek philosophy as “emanation”).

Just to clarify, I do not currently hold this view myself. But your post really tempted me to reflect along this avenue again. Probably shouldn’t have.

This sounds to me like trying to describe the thing in the monkey’s grasp :joy:

Mind is dependently originated and conditioned. I have no idea what this “ultimate reality” would refer so that this thoroughly dependent and conditioned thing could be part of it. Usually we call dependent and conditioned things a part of samsara not “ultimate reality”. :pray:

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Plotinus kind of answers it if you feel like reading 900 pages :sweat_smile: :pray:

So just for those confused now, here is Ajahn Thanissaro’s solution to the problem.

In short:

Even though we must always keep in mind the fact that descriptions of unbinding are a form of objectification, and for that reason should not be clung to as awakening nears, we can still use them as incentives to get on the path, confident that the goal is more than worth all the effort it requires.

Oh? Have you ever seen ‘mind’? Why are you so sure that mind is originated. What is that originated mind? Where do you rely on? Scripture, tradition, reasoning, thinking, to answer what is mind?
For example, if you are unconsciousness is mind gone? Is mind thinking? Is mind a stream of sense moments? What is mind? A mere epiphenomena?

In the above quote I am referring euphemistically to 4 of the 5 khandhas which are quite famously links in the Buddha’s description of dependent origination where they arise and cease according to conditions.

If you’re asking if I’ve ever visually seen a mind, then no I can’t say I have. If you ask why I say that 4 of the 5 khandas arise, then I’d answer that I know that several suttas say as much. It is a foundational teaching of Buddhism.

I actually haven’t been able to pinpoint and find any of the four when I subject them to penetrative analysis. This is one way in which I know that mind is definitely conditioned although it relies upon logical inference.

The inability to find a thing via penetrative analysis is dependent upon it being a conditioned phenomena. The conditioned nature of a thing is dependent upon it not being discernible via penetrative analysis. These are two sides of the same coin. Understanding this gives me confidence that mind - like all phenomena - is definitely dependently originated and thoroughly conditioned.


The mind does not necessarily have to go together with spirit or impersonal self. If it is there and unconditioned you wouldn’t be able to recognize it because of the exact reason you yourself gave.

Hmm, can you explain what you are referring to? :pray:

That conditioned elements are “two sides of the same coin”, as you put it, meaning they are dual while everything unconditioned is not (and therefore can not be perceived).

Ah, I fear you’ve misunderstood my ineloquent and unartful ramblings? Let me try again. The two sides of the coin are:

  1. The inability to find a thing via penetrative analysis
  2. The conditioned nature of a thing

In some circles the first is referred to as ‘emptiness’ or ‘sunyata’ or the lack of essence/substantiality/intrinsic existence. The second refers to dependent arising. Emptiness and dependent arising are two sides of the same coin.

The flip side of this coin (bad pun/analogy) is that an unconditioned thing should be easily findable for anyone who looks with penetrative insight. If ‘mind’ were such an unconditioned thing, then it should be easy or even trivial to verify by looking. If it were an unconditioned thing it would have independent and permanent existence. However, no such thing can be found that we could label mind.

Mind is not an unconditioned thing, but mind is a thing. A thoroughly conditioned and empty thing that arises and ceases do to causes and conditions. Hope this clarifies :pray:


Is it possible that a sense vinnana can arise without mind as forerunner?

Yes, and this can be seen too. Vinnana refers to a moment you become actutely aware of a specific sound, idea arising, smell etc. We can see these moments arise and cease. These are grasping moments.

I have a bit problem with this. When you ignite a piece of paper with a match, you see a flame arising. What is the use of the penetrative analyses that the flame after deep penetration of its nature, cannot be found, while your house burns down to ground?

Or dependend on a wrong method? Are this not mere dimensional issues?
If i seek a stone with a microscope ofcourse i cannot find it. And ofcourse, if i zoom in on whatever object it cannot be found anymore and pinpointed. But does it mean anything?

I still hope we can discuss these things one day in a more open way and look deeper into what mind is.
I agree with those buddhist who feel that the totallity of Dhamma relies on understanding of what mind is.

Regarding Nibbana, i believe Nibbana can also been seen as the state in which one has dropped all bagage collected in endless lives. What is bagage? Asava, kilesa, anusaya, tanha. That all represents the past. Our thinking, speaking, acting is often ruled by the bagage of the past. It is not original.

Bagage weighs on the heart. Bagage refers to things that have been collected and become our own. Nibbana can also be seen, i believe, as the relief of heart of one without that load. Finally, one can breath. Freed. The bliss of Nibbana is the ultimate relief of heart, i believe. And i have no doubts that is not something of the mental sense, mind-consciousness. That knows stillness but that is not the same as relief of heart. There can be no relief in the head. Liberation is something of the heart.

Are the khandha’s bagage? I believe so. In a more subtle way they are also bagage and past. When vinnana establishes also a feeling establishes. And also that is a load, a kind of bagage, a weight. Even without defilements, i believe.

But i am not sure what the mind of the Buddha is. As you know it is also detached from vinnana.
From all khandha’s. This is the heart. The heart is detached now from eye, ear, nose, smell, tactile and mind consciousness. Do khandha’s that moment still weigh on the heart?

Enjoy can be a loaded word.

The arahants do freely enjoy the bliss of the deathless. As in ratana sutta:

Dedicated to Gotama’s dispensation,
Ye suppayuttā manasā daḷhena,
strong-minded, free of sense desire,
Nikkāmino gotamasāsanamhi;
they’ve attained the goal, plunged into freedom from death,
Te pattipattā amataṁ vigayha,
and enjoy the quenching they’ve freely gained.
Laddhā mudhā nibbutiṁ bhuñjamānā;

bhuñjamāna is the word here, it means eating/ consuming/ enjoying.

But indeed, for before arahanthood, they need to abandon the lesser enjoyment for the better one, according to classical Theravada, even a stream enterer needs to abandon the enjoyment of the fruition absorption of the stream entry to get to higher path and fruits.

And there’s the perception of non delight in the whole world.

There’s also the Jhānas which is said to be the bliss like nibbāna.

Burgs who’s a student of Pa Auk often says that Jhāna is temporary cessation of suffering. As Jhānas is still impermanent and thus subject to the suffering of change and conditionality, I have to assume he means at least gross suffering and the mental suffering from having a sense of self. As he put it, in Jhāna, there’s only one object for the mind, no bhavanga for the sense of self there. So the object, knower separation is gone, the mind is merged with the object.

He also said another state of meditation which is also a temporary cessation of suffering, which can be more blissful than Jhānas, which he calls just abiding in awareness itself. He uses the term dhammakāya, for this basic awareness, we call it consciousness. He got this from the tibetan teachers. Just rest effortlessly in the awareness. In the seen there is only the seen, in the heard, only the heard, in the sense, only the sensed and known only the known.

No sense of self in that experience, so there’s also no sense of separation between knower and known, even though the object is not single object.

Having seen a Facebook friend of mine having this state and been posting for years now, it’s not hard for me to believe that this state exist. Burgs also call this the awakened experience itself. It’s also commonly called non dual experience.

The trouble is, getting to this state doesn’t entail seeing nibbāna, that means one can be there but still not yet a stream winner, but due to the lack of sense of self (not all the time as that state is also impermanent), the practitioner may think that they are at least a stream enterer.

Nibbāna, according to Burgs is the cessation of conditioned things. Seeing nibbāna is seeing the conditioned things ceases, as well as their causes ceases, so no more arising. The is the awareness which witness this Nibbāna, which he call the dhammakāya, classical Theravada call it the lokuttara citta, path knowledge. Sutta calls it arising of the dhamma eye. It is this that makes one knows the true nature of parinibbāna, even though there’s no awareness which witness parinibbāna as it is also the ending of the awareness which knows both samsara and nibbāna.

It’s possible to have wrong views of the nature of parinibbāna, nibbāna, what is counted as stream entry, etc and thus one can reach deep levels of happiness without sense of self but still not gone beyond.

Arahants, having totally dismantled the sense of self, would have the mental bliss of nibbāna of just pure experience without a sense of self impinging on the experiences, but even then, they would call Jhānas and other absorptions, samadhi as happiness in the here and now.

Burgs clarified that dhammakāya is not nibbāna. Those who have seen dhammakāya may abide in them, but if they don’t take path knowledge, they are still having the underlying tendancy for the sense of self and all those suffering to come back and get entangled in samsara to suffer. So either they go become stream enterer or eventually drop back into suffering, there’s no permanent abiding in dhammakāya.

I believe many Mahayana practitioners or mahayana influenced practitioners may have made the same mistake of thinking that dhammakāya is safe ground. It could also explain why their “attained” bodhisattva, a
Arahants, even Buddhas can abide in dhammakāya until they come out and help people. From the Theravada perspective, these are not real attainments as they are still temporary, subject to fall away from.

Just in case dhammakāya becomes mystical, it’s just consciousness for us. Burgs called it the ground of being, that which all things arises from. When he uses this mahayana language he says the mind (the other 3 mental aggregates) appears in awareness (consciousness).

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