SuttaCentral

Instead of nihilism, Nibbana is the only thing that exists


#90

I would agree if we knew what sabbe dhamma meant. Dhamma is a weird zombie word of the EBT. Coming from ‘support’ and ‘law’ it then meant ‘teaching’ or ‘doctrine’. But it also means ‘thought’, and finally - and I might add this smells like Abhidhamma - it’s came to mean ‘thing’.

So I wouldn’t know what the ‘dhamma’ in sabbe dhamma anatta actually refers to. Do you have a definition found in the EBT?


#91

I don’t have an EBT reference. We can take “sabbe sankhara anicca/dukkha” as comparison. So why is anatta targeted to dhamma not sankhara? Because it also applies to asankhara. What is asankhara? Nibbana. Is there anything else other than nama, rupa, and Nibbana? Not that I ever heard of.


#92

So you mean that asankhara is also anatta? Interesting. Would be nice to see that validated somehow. I understand your reasoning, but you know, it’s always good to have some sutta references…


#93

Asankhara is anatta simply because there is no avijja that causes atta-ditthi.

When there is atta-ditthi, there is formation of the five khandhas. When there is no atta-ditthi, there is no formation of the five khandhas. Nibbana, is simply free from all that.

We can also say that atta is something that can be tainted by avijja and then taken as self. Nibbana is no such thing.


#94

Even when there is sutta reference, the interpretation is up to the reader. That is why I actually prefer late texts like the Visuddhi Magga, commentary, and abhidhamma texts because then can explain a lot that the meaning of the suttas.


#95

This is correct, and well explained by char101. To put in the opposite way:

"‘A person has six properties.’ Thus was it said. In reference to what was it said? These are the six properties: the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, the wind property, the space property, the consciousness property. MN140

Nibbana is not mentioned here, and supports the concept of 'sabbe dhamma anatta’ti.

with metta


#96

Sorry, I can’t follow the argument. Are you relating dhatu and sankhara?


#97

The sutta is saying a person, or conventionally what is misapprehended as atta, is made up of these six elements; “the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, the wind property, the space property, the consciousness property”. It includes everything except Nibbana.

It is quite clear that the five aggregates do get confused for being atta. This happens naturally and due to the presence of craving- what we like we make them ‘me’ or ‘my own’. And if anyone makes Nibbana ‘me’, it is because they are thinking of the concept of Nibbana, without having really seen/experienced true Nibbana. When they do, there is no way they can consider it to be self, because it doesn’t have any features that fabrications (sankhara) have.

with metta


#98

Not me, but my point stands. Having followed this discussion I still think the suttas are ambiguous on the question of whether Nibbana is a transcendent reality, or a state of mind, or something else.


#99

Could you provide some sutta support for this view? Nibbana is usually described as cessation of the taints, not cessation of the aggregates ( except as a temporary meditative state ).


#100

Sankhara is conditioned. Nibbana is unconditioned. Conditioned means to appear dependent on a condition (cause). What is the cause? Kamma. What is the cause of kamma? Avijja. So mental taint is the cause of the appearance of the 5 khandhas. For a sutta source I think there are several suttas about paticcasamuppada and it’s reversal, but I don’t have the number.


#101

Mental pain/dukkha doesn’t arise in one who has reached Nibbāna, but physical pain still can.

Bhikkhus, when the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling, he sorrows, grieves, and laments; he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. He feels two feelings—a bodily one and a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, and then they would strike him immediately afterwards with a second dart, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by two darts. So too, when the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling … he feels two feelings—a bodily one and a mental one.

[…]

Bhikkhus, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament; he does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling—a bodily one, not a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, but they would not strike him immediately afterwards with a second dart, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by one dart only. So too, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling … he feels one feeling—a bodily one, not a mental one.

— SN 36.6


#102

Yes they do; hundreds of times—anattā by itself literally means no/not-self (‘a’ negative prefix, ‘atta’ self).

The Buddha kept silent when asked by Vacchagotta if there was a self because saying so would have resulted in Vacchagotta being more deeply confused (as well as declaring not having a self falling under the annihilationist view).

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta rose from his seat and departed.

Then, not long after the wanderer Vacchagotta had left, the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Why is it, venerable sir, that when the Blessed One was questioned by the wanderer Vacchagotta, he did not answer?”

“If, Ānanda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta, ‘Is there a self?’ I had answered, ‘There is a self,’ this would have been siding with those ascetics and brahmins who are eternalists. And if, when I was asked by him, ‘Is there no self?’ I had answered, ‘There is no self,’ this would have been siding with those ascetics and brahmins who are annihilationists.

“If, Ānanda, when I was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta, ‘Is there a self?’ I had answered, ‘There is a self,’ would this have been consistent on my part with the arising of the knowledge that ‘all phenomena are nonself’?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“And if, when I was asked by him, ‘Is there no self?’ I had answered, ‘There is no self,’ the wanderer Vacchagotta, already confused, would have fallen into even greater confusion, thinking, ‘It seems that the self I formerly had does not exist now.’”

— SN 44.10


#103

The two main and different defintions of the word dhamma are, one, the teachings, and in this context, it is (simply) translated as ‘phenomena’. It’s not Abhidhammic, but repeatidly present in the EBT.

See:

Nibbāna is unconditioned. It is categorically and solely a result (for the lack of a better word) based on the absence of the defilements/fetters (kilesa/saṃyojana) and dukkha—nothing more, nothing less.

You have the common assumption that Nibbāna is a magically blissful state. Nibbāna is probably highly blissful due the complete/absolute absence of dukkha; but not blissful in the way “nirvana” is described by the mainstream.


#104

a current translation is a choise. My question is - how is it backed up? That someone translated dhamma as phenomena is not a sufficient proof. It would need more specific contexts that force us to translate as phenomena. If the context is not specific then the doors for interpretation are open. But then also we cannot make strong assertions about the doctrine based on a really undefined statement like this.

This sounds to me like the more reasonable interpretation. The idea of a substantiated nibbana is in my eyes so alien to the EBT that one would really need a solid backing from various suttas. Not impossible but that backing needs to be produced first.


#105

Phenomena, all things, substance of existence—or its other definition, apart from the Buddhist teachings—laws of existence, structure of reality. Translate it how you want, it essentially point to these three definitions.

Here is the PTS Pāli-English definition of the word dhamma (this is the first few paragraphs, as the whole entry is 4 and a half pages long, which I am not going to quote):

Dhamma1 (m. & rarely nt.) [Ved. dharma & dharman, the latter a formation like karman (see kamma for expln of subj. & obj. meanings); dhṛ (see dhāreti) to hold, support: that which forms a foundation and upholds= constitution. Cp. Gr. χρόνος, Lat. firmus & fretus; Lith. derme (treaty), cp. also Sk. dhariman form, constitution, perhaps=Lat. forma, E. form] constitution etc. A. Definitions by Commentators: Bdhgh gives a fourfold meaning of the word dhamma (at DA i.99= DhA i.22), viz. (1) guṇe (saddo), applied to good conduct; (2) desanāyaṁ, to preaching & moral instruction; (3) pariyattiyaṁ, to the 9 fold collection of the Buddh. Scriptures (see navanga); (4) nissatte ( — nijjīvate), to cosmic (non — animistic) law. — No. 1 is referred to freq. in expls of the term, e. g. dhammiko ti ñāyena samena pavattatī ti DA i.249; dhamman ti kāraṇaṁ ñāyaṁ PvA 211; as paṭipatti — dhamma at VvA 84; No. 3 e. g. also at PvA 2. Another and more adequate fourfold definition by Bdhgh is given in DhsA 38, viz. (1) pariyatti, or doctrine as formulated, (2) hetu, or condition, causal antecedent, (3) guṇa, or moral quality or action, (4) nissatta — nijīvatā, or “the phenomenal” as opposed to “the substantial,” “the noumenal,” “animistic entity.” Here (2) is illustrated by hetumhi ñāṇaṃ dhammapaṭisambhidā: “analytic knowledge in dhamma’s means insight into condition, causal antecedent” Vibh 293, and see Niyama (dhamma°). Since, in the former fourfold definition (2) and (3) really constitute but one main implication considered under the two aspects of Doctrine as taught and Doctrine as formulated, we may interpret Dhamma by the fourfold connotation: — doctrine, right, or righteousness, condition, phenomenon.

[…]

— PTS Pāli-English Dictionary


#106

Nibbana is described in a variety of ways in the suttas. The absence of the taints is certainly a common description, but that absence could be symptomatic rather than definitive. Maybe the absence of the taints is a prerequisite for “accessing” Nibbana.
As I said, I think the suttas are quite ambiguous and open to interpretation.


#107

Post some of these Sutta passages to see. While you’re searching, count all the passages that describe Nibbāna as the destruction of the taints or the abandoning of the fetters (or complete understanding of the truths, resulting in the destruction/abandoning of these). :stuck_out_tongue:

However, it is true that there are other factors associated with Nibbāna—such as the 7 Factors of Enlightenment (bojjhanga)—which comprises perfected rapture (pīti), tranquillity (passaddhi) and equanimity (upekkhā), among others—as well as the perfected faculties, such as concentration (samādhi), mindfulness (sati) and energy (viriya).

Still probably not like the magical and conceptual bliss that random people think of when they hear the word “nirvana”—as if the point of reaching nirvana is to feel the supposed sensual bliss that would entail. :slight_smile:


#108

The reference to a dictionary is okay for many cases, but in the end not sufficient. Where did the dictionary get it from? It has to be shown in the EBT themselves ultimately.

So it doesn’t matter then if Dhamma means Law, Doctrine, Teaching, Thought, Phenomanon, or Thing? I don’t understand. There is no way around searching sutta passages that make clear what the term means


#109

The PTS Dictionary is based on the Suttas (and the Vinaya, the main Commentaries, as well as Pāli language works).