Meditative states of AN 10.6-7?

Hello everyone!

I apologize if I’m asking something trivial, but I could not find any previous discussions about it.

What exactly are the meditative states described by the Buddha in AN 10.6-7 and AN 11.7-8 (and repeated in AN 11.18-21?)


It is my understanding that beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception there is only Nibbana and total cessation, so how could there still be perception and awareness?

The sutta seems to imply that one can be aware in Nibbana, however that sounds a bit unorthodox considering that Nibbana is usually described as the transcendence of consciousness itself. Am I incorrect?

Thank you

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Welcome to the forums, Giovanni! :slight_smile:

Would you mind putting in some links to the suttas you’re asking about? That makes the topic easier to discuss and it clarifies which translation you’re working from.

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Hi Erik,
Yes sorry, I have edited the post including the link to AN 10.6. Thanks!

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Hello there.

My interpretation is such, that in pali canon Nibbana is sometimes presented as “end of all phenomena”, but on the other hand as “highest bliss”.

In my interpretation vinnana means knowing. So the Nibbana is the end of “knowing”. But knowing is just a process of consciousness. It doesn’t mean that there is “nothing”, cause emptiness is bliss, which can be seen that deeper the cessation of things in jhanas - the deeper the bliss. And the end of knowing is the highest bliss, cause knowing was the last ripple on emptiness, last movement that disturbed the ultimate stillness.

In other words, you doesn’t need to “acknowledge” bliss of emptiness for it to be present. I think this is the greatest paradox of Nibbana.

Just as jhanas are result of letting go, you don’t need to have vittaka or vicara for second jhana to be present, “to be there”. The more you let go of control, the more the jhana is stable and present. In the same way, I believe you don’t need vinnana for Ultimate Emptiness to be present. It is very paradoxical, but it is the same mechanism as with letting go of control in jhanas, but taken to ultimate level in Nibbana as letting go of knowing. You let go of the ripple of knowing, but still the ultimate bliss of emptiness “is there” without acknowledging it. I cannot find another understand of Nibbana as ending of vinnana and being highest bliss at the same time as Buddha presented it.

In this sutta Buddha probably recollected that this state was something profound. End of knowing - but still something absolutely profound and blissful - hence he was “perceiving” that state in recollecting it as “the best”.

But annihilationist oriented interpretators will probably not accept such understanding. These are just my 2 cents based on my own understanding of suttas. :slight_smile:

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Thank you for your thoughts @Invo.

What’s even more interesting is how Ven. Sariputta explains the same state in AN 10.7:

"…And I didn’t perceive this world in this world, or the other world in the other world. And yet I still perceived.”

“But at that time what did Reverend Sāriputta perceive?”

“One perception arose in me and another perception ceased: ‘The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.’ Suppose there was a burning pile of twigs. One flame would arise and another would cease. In the same way, one perception arose in me and another perception ceased: ‘The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment. The cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.’ At that time I perceived that the cessation of continued existence is extinguishment.”

One flame would arise and another would cease? That’s some obscure meaning.

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My guess is that it refers to stream entry, i.e. the experience that makes one understand what nibbana actually is and means.

Assuming that jhanas and the immaterial attainments are powerful experiences (states of immersion), and that stream entry is a powerful experience, perhaps part of the point of these suttas is to make sure practitioners don’t mistake jhanas or immaterial attainments for stream entry?

I don’t read it as being aware in nibbana. To me it makes sense that the understanding that ‘nibbana is cessation’ is not the same as nibbana, but that when an arahat dies the understanding of what nibbana is perishes with the five khandas.

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Just as a disclaimer, I don’t have any personal knowledge / direct experience of nibbana so take this with a grain of salt.

The simile makes sense to me like you would flip a light switch on and off to see what it does. I.e. perhaps Ven. Sāriputta is experiencing cessation (wherein nothing can be known), and then moving out of that cessation, whereupon the knowledge ‘cessation of continued existence is nibbana (extinguishment)’ can be known.

So maybe it’s like a sequence of ‘directly experiencing nibbana, which is no experience at all’ -> ‘coming out of that cessation and understanding that the cessation was nibbana’ -> repeat

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I think it all comes down to what we mean by “being aware”. If it’s an act of consciousness directed at an object like every samsaric way of knowing then surely no. But if its some form of ultimate emptiness that transcends everything we know, including time and space and any form of mental processing like “knowing”…

as Buddha said:

Ārogyaparamā lābhā,
nibbānaṃ paramaṃ sukhaṃ;
Aṭṭhaṅgiko ca maggānaṃ,
khemaṃ amatagāminan”ti.

“Health is the ultimate blessing;“
extinguishment, the ultimate happiness.
Of paths, the ultimate is eightfold—
it’s safe, and leads to the deathless.”

https://suttacentral.net/mn75/en/sujato

There is only this that is not emptiness, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’

Whatever ascetics and brahmins enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness—whether in the past, future, or present—all of them enter and remain in this same pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness.

So, Ānanda, you should train like this: ‘We will enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness.

That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, Venerable Ānanda was happy with what the Buddha said.

https://suttacentral.net/mn121/en/sujato

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I don’t quite understand what you mean here. To me, awareness is part of the khandas. When the khandas cease, no more awareness :slight_smile:

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I think there is no reason to argue about it, I think it all comes down to different understanding of word “awareness” and ineffable, unproliferated and paradoxical nature of Nibbana :slight_smile: I really respect your stance :anjal:

I’ll just say that if it is not awareness, but still it is “Ultimate supreme emptiness” and “Highest happiness”, I’m fine with it being not awareness :slight_smile: And I think that is the point of the teaching of vinnana as kandha that is anicca - to don’t cling to any state of awareness/knowing, and arrive at the ineffable/unproliferated eventually.

Then Venerable Ānanda went up to Venerable Mahākoṭṭhita, and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, Ānanda sat down to one side, and said to Mahākoṭṭhita:

“Reverend, when these six fields of contact have faded away and ceased with nothing left over, does anything else exist?”

“Don’t put it like that, reverend.”

“Does nothing else exist?”

“Don’t put it like that, reverend.”

“Do both something else and nothing else exist?”

“Don’t put it like that, reverend.”

“Do neither something else nor nothing else exist?”

“Don’t put it like that, reverend.”

“Reverend, when asked these questions, you say ‘don’t put it like that’. … How then should we see the meaning of this statement?”

“If you say that ‘when the six fields of contact have faded away and ceased with nothing left over, something else exists’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated. If you say that ‘nothing else exists’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated. If you say that ‘both something else and nothing else exist’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated. If you say that ‘neither something else nor nothing else exist’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated. The scope of the six fields of contact extends as far as the scope of proliferation. The scope of proliferation extends as far as the scope of the six fields of contact. When the six fields of contact fade away and cease with nothing left over, proliferation stops and is stilled.”

https://suttacentral.net/an4.174/en/sujato

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:anjal: I agree there is no point in arguing about it. We’ll have to find out for ourselves if we want to be sure anyway :slight_smile:

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Yes! :slight_smile: From the bottom of my heart I wish “you” a swift realisation of arahanthood! :smiley: :heart:

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@Erik_ODonnell @Invo
That’s what I was going to write too: I guess we’ll just have to meditate and see :wink:

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“You” too! :grin:

I actually feel quite uplifted by this courteous and amiable talk so I’m going to go meditate IRL and then call it a night.

Be well!

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Let me explain how I understand it. Beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception there is cessation of perception and feeling which is the same as cessation of continued existence.
Transcendence of consciousness does not mean a cessation of it. Rather it means that consciousness is understood for what it is. That is to understand that it arises depending on name & form and therefore to appropriate it as “I” and “mine” is ignorance. It is this ignorance which obstructs our view of the four noble truths. and when ignorance ceases wisdom arises which is Nibbana.
With Metta

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The ultimate criterion in Theravada is to experience something not only conceptually, but in the body. It is a common mistake on the forums for practitioners to get involved in trying to interpret suttas which are directed at arahants rather than those intended for beginners. In MN 121 the Buddha describes the steps between the meditation on earth and the immaterial states to Ananda in practical terms. Even before the meditation on earth there is the stage of overcoming the perception of human society in favour of the perception of wilderness, which is applicable to most practitioners here. The Buddha points out that in achieving that step from a subject to a more refined one, the reduction in stress should be noted. That is an experience in the body, and is what can and should be striven for by western Buddhists here.

Giovanni wrote: I apologize if I’m asking something trivial, but I could not find any previous discussions about it.
I do not see the topic as trivial at all. These are highly significant suttas. If it is not frequently discussed, it is because one cannot get one’s head around these suttas, easily.
At the end of Sandha sutta it says, not even gods can understand this meditation.

’Homage to you, O thoroughbred man. Homage to you, O superlative man — you of whom we don’t know even what it is dependent on which you’re absorbed.'

So how could the average human? I’ve heard folks say Sandha is not jhana at all. Go figure.
In this category Sandha is the coolest sutta, it talks about donkey meditation vs sage meditation or

the unbroken colt vs the excellent thoroughbred horse

AN 11.10

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an11/an11.010.than.htmlSujato SuttaCentral

Example of donkey meditation

"An unbroken colt, tied to the feeding trough, is absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!’ Why is that? Because as he is tied to the feeding trough, the thought does not occur to him, 'I wonder what task the trainer will have me do today? What should I do in response?’ Tied to the feeding trough, he is simply absorbed with the thought, 'Barley grain! Barley grain!

"In the same way, there are cases where an unbroken colt of a man, having gone to the wilderness, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, dwells with his awareness overcome by sensual passion, obsessed with sensual passion. He does not discern the escape, as it actually is present, from sensual passion once it has arisen. Making that sensual passion the focal point, he absorbs himself with it, besorbs, resorbs, & supersorbs himself with it"

I thank you earnestly dear Giovanni for bringing these suttas into the spotlight.
With love

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Giovanni you wrote regarding the sutta: AN 10.7 Sariputta
“One flame would arise and another would cease? That’s some obscure meaning

I understand it to mean perceptions of the Arahant arise and cease without anything to cling to. The Arahant’s consciousness is non-established. The Arahant though nibbanized, still has a container, until it decays. In DN 1, we read:
"the body of the Tathagata remains, bhikkhus, but its connection with being (bhava) has been severed, as long as the body remains, gods and men see him; when the body breaks up, after life has been exhausted, gods and men do not see him"
While the body remains however, his neural networks are intact. CNS does its job. Epinephrine - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
ACH, GABA, adrenaline, numerous chemical messengers persist.
Some like adrenaline produced by adrenal glands functions peripherally too i.e. outside the brain, it functions as a hormone. These can contribute to physical pain, say if overstimulated. Thus while the Arahant does not react to emotional stimuli, since there is no person there, physical pain caused by malfunctioning biochemical activity, can afflict him/her. Buddha suffered from back injury. MN 53.
“Ananda take over the sermon, my back hurts” Excerpt:

“Annada, speak to the Sakyans of Kapilavastu about the disciple in higher training who entered upon the way. My back is uncomfortable. I will rest it”
Soteriologically speaking Arahant does not exist, neither not exist, biochemically speaking he exists.
For us, firmly entrenched in the idea of existence, the image of such a being, how he perceives, fluctuates in our minds, hence the difficulty of coming to terms with profound dhamma of this sort, under discussion. Buddha emphasized the practice of Right Samadhi, at his death bed, "one last message he left us with"
How can I call myself a buddhist, earnestly, unless I make his last wish, come true? These suttas are illuminating instances of Right knowledge and Right deliverance of the tenfold path, MN 117, gained via negotatiting Samma Samadhi
With love

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