Nibanna, the Deathless, and Self


The wise men in India
50,000 years ago
they already knew
that the current universe was 14 billion years old

Science, with all its modern means … confirms it … today.

There was then no one of the scientists, not even the oldest religions there were, there were no computers or laboratories.


I think…, what was written in the Prajna-paramita Sutra ( apart from the fact that this sutra is not included in the category of the Early Buddhist Suttas ), but it seems that the truth of this sutra has been scientifically confirmed, in the sense that, according to NASA’s mapping, the largest part of the whole universe is an empty space ( approximately 70 % ), and even that empty space is not completely empty but contains a cosmic energy, called as the Dark Energy, the rest contains the Dark Matter, Hydrogen and Helium gases elements, galaxies and other elements that heavier like planets, comets, asteroids and others

The dark energy and the dark matter which are the two biggest parts of the universe, are most likely the raw material for forming the other elements, which we all know as well as the physical universe. Which is confirms the truth that ‘Form’ does come from ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Emptiness’ can produces ‘Form’…


Rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ; rūpām na pṛthak śūnyatā śunyatāyā na pṛthag rūpaṃ; yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā; yad śūnyatā tad rūpaṃ.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,
Emptiness is not differ from form, form is not differ from emptiness,
Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.

( Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutram )

Sabbe dhamma anatta

All of the dharmas ( both conditioned or unconditioned things ) are not self.

( Dhammapada )

The Heart Sutra speaks of the concept of ‘Emptiness’ while the Dhammapada speaks of the concept of ‘Non-Self’, but in my point of view, these two concepts seems to relate to one another. My opinion is that :

Emptiness means that all phenomenons and structures of the universe don’t have an ‘absolute and unchanging core’, so there is no ‘core’ at all, it’s totally ‘empty’.

While Non-Self means that all phenomenons including the structure of the universe don’t have a ‘core of self’ or ‘personality’, and even phenomenons referred to as ‘consciousness of beings’ are actually not a ‘core of self’ but more like an ‘illusory of self’.

If these two concepts are all linked to the concept of ‘Nibbana’, then it is fits, Nibbana is also empty of the ‘core of self’, even an absolute universal laws such as the laws of physics are also empty of ‘the core of self’, these laws are ‘Impersonal’, as Stephen Hawking said…


And this concept is scientifically acceptable, because the Universe along with the mechanism of the Laws of Physics that works in it are completely free from the nature of ‘personality’ or the ‘core of self’, so it can be said that the Universe doesn’t have any plan nor intention for every event that happens or will happens in it.

Jacques Monod, a French scientist have said it :


Emptiness in a Buddhist context is not a “ground of being” or source of form, or whatever. It’s just the nature of form and the other aggregates. This is the meaning of “emptiness is only form”.


Maybe you’re right, but the values ​​of the real truth must be universal, because there should be no dichotomy between the ‘religious truth’ and the ‘scientific truth’, so if a religious dogma could simultaneously accommodates the need for scientific explanation, then it might not hurt, in fact, I think that’s where the value is. Thank you… :slight_smile:




Also, in the suttas, emptiness (suññata) is not the nature of form or the aggregates. It seems to be a meditative attainment. The later Mahayana conception of emptiness as the lack of essence or “own-being” is not addressed in the two major discourses on suññata.



The Suññataloka Sutta describes the emptiness of the world:

It’s true though that in the suttas the focus is on anatta, a close relative of sunnata.


I may be misunderstanding what you are saying, but my understanding of Buddhism suggests that the opposite of ‘death’ isn’t ‘life’, as it is in many philosophies (both Eastern and Western). In Buddhism, the opposite of ‘death’ is ‘birth’, both of which are contained within ‘life’. Is that your understanding too?


That sutta just says that the world is empty of a self and what belongs to a self. That’s just another way of saying the world contains no selves or anything that belongs to a self, a basic and fundamental doctrine in the EBTs. Later Mahayana thought decided that “self” meant something far broader, like “essence” or “independent substance” or “thing possessing own-being”, and turned the Buddhist doctrine that there are no selves, and so the world is empty of selves, into the grander metaphysical doctrine that the whole world is empty of … well, sort of everything.

Also, I don’t think the EBTs really lend themselves to the interpretation of paticcasamuppada as a theory about the way everything is interconnected in some system of “interbeing”. Its a theory about the way suffering arises in the individual.


Seems to me that this was actually a response to Abhidhammic theory about svabhāva (own-being/essence of “things”/dhammas), and in many ways (not all) the early Prajñāpāramitā was a return to the EBT.


It’s a rejection of that theory, yes. But neither of them is an EBT doctrine, I would say. The Buddha just didn’t have that much to say about the epistemological and metaphysical questions that preoccupy systematic philosophers in all ages. The Buddha was interested in a limited range of phenomena open to the inward investigation and mindful attention of the suffering individual, and directly related to liberation from that suffering. The teaching is about how we make conscious contact with the sensual forms that pass before our outer and inner senses, and then conceptualize those forms, feel and respond emotionally to them, thirst after them, cling to them, build them into our anxious and fearful sense of self and possession, and as result shroud ourselves in the samsaric stream of birth and death, and become part of that stream of misery.

I don’t think the Buddha had the slightest interest in whether a piece of gold had an essence, or an own-nature, or whether the space in which the gold exists was the same or different from the matter of the gold itself, or whether the time comprising its existence was composed of atomic moments or was indefitely divisible, or whether all the gold in the universe is connected together in Indra’s net of mutually interdependent interbeing. These are all the later papanca of the tribe of philosophers and scholars, who always have problems understanding the meaning and purpose of spiritual guidance as opposed to bodies of intellectualizations.

All the Buddha cared about is whether or not a person suffers because they are attached to the gold and conceptualize it as “mine”. And that suffering depends on how they respond to the sight of the gold or thoughts about the gold - how they feel about the gold and how they think about their relationship to the gold, and what those thoughts and feelings then do to them. Liberation involved shutting down that engine of suffering, the bewildering phantasmagoria of contending feelings and theoretical constructions, not using it to build a better bunch of theories.


The Buddha called Nirvana the unborn. I’ve always found that fascinating.




Deathless means no death, but “death” cannot happen without “birth”…one must follow the other (under delusion)…a duality. Deathless therefore is beyond duality where there is no birth or death…a dimension also called the "unborn ".


There is, monks, an unbornunbecomeunmadeunfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.

and how that relates to self vs non-self

The “deathless” is considered to be unconditioned…hence beyond name and form.

what is it that experiences it?

In some text, it notes it as awareness. The Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness…so this is Nibbana without residue.
Therefore Nibbana with residue is that of an Arahat with restricted awareness.


Exactly. According to Rev. Walpola Rahula’s What The Buddha Taught, Nirvana is a state of perfect non-duality between ourselves and the Ultimate Truth:

Because Nirvana is thus expressed in negative terms, there are many who
have got a wrong notion that it is negative, and expresses self-annihilation. Nirvana
is definitely no annihilation of self, because there is no self to annihilate. If at all, it is
the annihilation of the illusion, of the false idea of self. It is incorrect to say that
Nirvana is negative or positive. The idea of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ are relative, and
are within the realm of duality. These terms cannot be applied to Nirvana, Absolute
Truth, which is beyond duality and relativity.
Chapter 4 - What The Buddha Taught


Yes, there is a broadening of scope from the personal to the universal - though I do see sunyata as a natural extension of anatta, even a logical conclusion.


What exactly do you mean by “Ultimate Truth” here?