Is it better to burn out or fade away?

AN 4.34 b. sujato

Fading away 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, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.

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

Those who have confidence in the teaching of fading away have confidence in the best. Ye, bhikkhave, virāge dhamme pasannā, agge te pasannā. Having confidence in the best, the result is the best. Agge kho pana pasannānaṃ aggo vipāko hoti.

thanissaro Udana

8:9 Dabba (1) (Dabba Sutta)

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then Ven. Dabba Mallaputta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, “Now is the time for my total unbinding, O One-Well-Gone!”
“Then do, Dabba, what you think it is now time to do.”
Then Ven. Dabba Mallaputta, rising from his seat, bowed down to the Blessed One and, circling him on the right, rose up into the air and sat cross-legged in the sky, in space. Entering & emerging from the fire property, he was totally unbound. Now, when Dabba Mallaputta rose up into the air and, sitting cross-legged in the sky, in space, entered & emerged from the fire property and was totally unbound, his body burned and was consumed so that neither ashes nor soot could be discerned. Just as when ghee or oil is burned and consumed, neither ashes nor soot can be discerned, in the same way, when Dabba Mallaputta rose up into the air and, sitting cross-legged in the sky, in space, entered & emerged from the fire property and was totally unbound, his body burned and was consumed so that neither ashes nor soot could be discerned.
Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:
The body broke up,
perception ceased,
feelings went cold1
fabrications were stilled,
has come to an end.

  1. Following the reading vedanā sītibhaviṁsu from the Burmese and Sri Lankan editions. In support of this reading, see MN 140 and Iti 44. The Thai edition reads, vedanā-pīti-dahaṁsu: feeling & rapture were burned away.
  2. The word “all” here functions as a lamp, modifying both “feelings” and “fabrications.” See Ud 1:3, note 1.
    See also: DN 11
    1. fade away
    1. burn out like V. Dabba!
    1. don’t matter, I’ll take nirvana whether it comes easy, hard, ugly, slow ,or fast.

0 voters

From the song “Blaze of Glory” by Joe Jackson:

“And they say it’s a tragic story
He just wasn’t there one day
But he went out in a blaze of glory
And you and I - you and I just fade away”

Blaze Of Glory lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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OK, well if we’re going to be quoting songs, I was pretty sure that the OP was referring to this one:

My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
My my, hey hey

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Lots of good music in Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young. The attached wiki article presents an interesting “dialogue” between John Lennon and Neil Young about the burn out or fade away lyrics. Hey Hey - Wikipedia,My_My(Into_the_Black)

In terms of nibanna seeking: one had better be prepared and ready for either option, otherwise welcome to one’s next rebirth…

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Thanks for that. An interesting “conversation”.

The link was complex enough not to work properly when just pasted, so here it is again:,My_My(Into_the_Black)

Lenon’s comments are sadly ironic, given his early death, and the lyrics in Dylan’s tribute:

Shine your light
Movin’ on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

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Which inspired the intro to this:

To atone for my continuance of off-topic-ness I’ll be the first to vote in the poll. :slight_smile:

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There is some sutta in which a disciple comes to the Buddha and says that it’s time for him to leave since his parinibbana is near. The Buddha quietly acknowledges and replies that he could leave. The monk then goes away and breathes his last under a small bush or a tree, completely alone. An anonymous death that is the polar opposite of how the world treats death these days, where people don’t want to be left out and rush to join some mourning mob and repeat meaningless phrases like: Rest in Peace.

I think to fade away and disappear from everything is the reasonable way out. Both in external things like possessions, social attachments, involvements, activities etc. and internally too, by attaining cessation of eons of conceit, corruption, craving and agony.


I only vaguely recall what some of the original songs from which “burn out /fade away” derives from might sound like, but certain expressions are just very catchy and hard to forget. I just make sure to reprogram my perceptions to give it a positive spiritual connotation.

Here, what attracted my attention was Ven. Sujato’s clever translation of “fade away” for viraga. most people probably go iwth a variation of “dispassion”.

Quotes like AN 4.34 really solidify my belief that “Dhamma” is not “phenomena”, but “dhamma viraga”, the buddha’s teachings/principles that lead directly to dispassion…nirvana.

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