Nibanna, the Deathless, and Self


Could you give some examples of this?




read Sadhana of Tagore; who, even as brahmo, summarized the gist of Hindu creed.

scientific naturalism of modern buddhism - art of living of Goenka - noble eightfold path seen by Batchelor as some kind of nibanna in kama loka; when it only leads to liberation of citta - vipassana movement, that preaches wrong paradigm of bare attention, as welcoming all kind of emotions from the external.

All these secularist movements, not only preach buddisms that do not let one go further than second jhana; but also, do not even allow one to enter first one.
Seclusion means to transcend external ayatanani by entering internal one (like body-breath).
Secular buddhisms advocate making one ayatana with external and internal ayatanani.
Their seclusion is nonsense. It is just wishful thinking, that cannot and will never lead to proper result.


This seems a little odd to me. I am rather new to Buddhist practice, but with few exceptions, all the individuals who have instructed me on Vipassana meditation are ordained Buddhist monks from Thailand and Southeast Asia (i.e., not Westerners who have adopted Buddhist practice well into their adulthood). It seems to me that Vipassana is common in majority Buddhist countries in South and Southeast Asia and is taught among “religious” (not secular) monks in good standing. Or am I missing something?


Maybe this:


Thank you for this article which I read straight away. I understand that the pedigree of Vipassana lies in a school of thought that departs in certain ways from traditional Theravada practice. However, to say that all practitioners of Vipassana are divorced from Buddhist teachings I think is to paint with too broad a brush. I certainly see that some of the so-called mindfulness movement pays only scant attention to Buddhist principles. But from my experience there are many (numbering into the millions) of sincere Buddhists who genuinely endeavor to live a Buddhist life in which Vipassana techniques play a role. This would include large number of monastic sanghas that embrace Vipassana meditative practices.

I should add that the article’s author seems to imply that any practice which does not involve monasticism is a departure from pure Buddhist teachings. That is to say, there is an implication in the article that only true renunciation and adoption of a monk’s life is fully consistent with Buddhist teachings. I suspect that this might be an ideal, but not one that even the most devout monastics would claim as the sole means for following the Buddha’s teachings.

One other observation: I am a scholar with a doctoral degree, so the academic approach taken by Sharf is not entirely foreign to me (although my training is not in Buddhist Studies which is Sharf’s field). I understand that Sharf is staking out a theoretical claim for the purposes of distinguishing the historical development of different Buddhist traditions. His points are well taken, but to argue that all Vipassana techniques are to be associated with modern mindfulness practices would seem to be more an analytical exercise than a statement of empirical fact. Traditional Buddhist teachings and Western mindfulness techniques as enshrined, for example, in mindfulness-based stress reduction may in theory be two entirely distinct things, but well-intentioned Buddhist teachers (monks included) have and are making sincere efforts to incorporate mindfulness meditation into traditional Buddhist teachings.


Maybe you’re wrong!


They never claimed to be Buddhist- often a mix of EBT, Mahayana and perhaps Hindu philosophy.

I’m more concerned about Buddhist ‘Vipassana’ (insight) traditions which are actually Samatha(tranquility meditation) -as they would misrepresent wisdom teachings.

with metta


Sharf says:

Mahasi designed this method with lay persons in mind, including those with little or no prior exposure to Buddhist doctrine or liturgical practice.

Perhaps most radical was Mahası’s claim that the
cultivation of liberating insight did not require advanced skill in concentration
(samatha) or the experience of absorption (jhana ). Instead, Mahası placed emphasis
on the notion of sati, understood as the moment-to-moment, lucid, non-reactive,
non-judgmental awareness of whatever appears to consciousness.

And this is absolutely not what one finds in EBT suttas with parallels, like SN 54.13.

11th step of anapanasati is samada (sam-ā-√ dhā - lit. placing with) brought by abhippamodaha (gladdening) citta.
Pleasure of the mind corresponds also to piti and sukkha born of “placing oneself in citta” in second jhana.
Both abhippamodaha & piti and sukkha happens before release (vimuncati) or transcendence (ekodibhava) of citta, in next step.
Sam-ā-√ dhā means placing oneself (in this case: in citta). It does not mean “concentration”.
It is pro-active attempt to reach contemplative citta. To place oneself in citta.

Right after is 12th step of anapanasati.
This is realease of citta from mano and other internal ayatanani. This is vi-muncati (vi- √ muc).
This is “not mine” part. (SN 22.89).
It corresponds to second jhana’s cetaso ekodi-bhava (transcendence of citta).

Then comes vipassana which is contemplation of “not-one’s ownness” of this phenomena.
Anicca in this context means “not-one’s ownness”, and not impermanence. This is second meaning of (a) nicca.
This is abandonment of the “I”.

This is proper translation.

This is vipassana.
And you can’t attain vipassana by just letting external “get in”, like in bare attention.


More likely to be both, as they go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other.
The word different confirms segregation…that is between conditioned/unconditioned…delusion/non-delusion.
Furthermore, the fabricated are not permanent and can be transcended, so this would appear as blockage…hence conditioned/delusion…yet words are used to describe within this…yet we grasp to them as real.
Ultimately, there should be only the unconditioned.


One might think that @DKervick just happened to understand. So I hope anyway.

To understand what ?

The slow motion “quantum leap”, so to speak, that represents 11th, 12th, and 13th steps of anapanasati - Or 2nd jhana.
The transcendence towards citta, and its liberation.
That is to say placing oneself with (or in) citta.


My present view is that all of the most convincing and authoritative sutta descriptions of the path to the end of suffering and of the culmination or goal of the path - the complete cessation of suffering - present it as a gradual process of liberation or release from all of the worldly objects of conscious contact and attachment. This process is described using the available metaphors of the time: it could be seen as the cutting of “fetters” that tie one to those objects, or as the “purification” of the stream of mental experience by eliminating from it the defilements, taints or impurities that cloud it. I think these are all just different metaphorical ways of attempting to describe the same path of spiritual progress. We gradually achieve a sense of separation from, or detachment from, everything we normally experience.

“Worldly” objects include not just the appearances or forms of the sensory realm, and do not just include the mental objects or thoughts perceived by the “inner eye” of consciousness of mind objects, but also includes more refined objects - the “realms” or “spheres” or “planes” of existences beyond the sensory realm, such as the realm of infinite space etc. - at least if we are to grant as much authority to the passages describing the arupa attainments as we do to the passages describing the four jhanas. There is room for much debate and disagreement here, because some scholars argue that the arupa attainments are a non-Buddhist teaching that were somehow incorporated into the Buddhist texts. But in any case, we can say that whatever can possibly be experienced as an object of any kind of consciousness, the path to the end of suffering involves achieving an experience of “release” from any sense of being attached to or bound to that object, and from any sense that it either is, or belongs to, oneself.

At some stage before complete liberation, the aspirant will experience everything they contemplate as detached from, or other than, themselves, but will still have a subtle sense of some “I” or “self” that is separate from all of those objects, and is somehow contemplating them. And this by itself will be a burdensome sense of suffering, since one is still ensnared in the struggle to understand what this self is, and how it perceives itself, and where it came from and where it is going, and one still has the persistent anxious concern to preserve that self, and “arm” it against all possible threats from something that is not the self. But eventually, that last sense of an elusive self is eradicated, and the last, remaining burden is lifted. That perfectly happy and blissful state - a kind of egoless samadhi - is, I believe, what the Buddha was talking about when he said, “this, just this, is the end of suffering.”

I personally believe that the doctrine of the “arahant” seems to have evolved somewhat from its earliest sense in the suttas merely to refer to an especially saintly and well-behaved follower of the Buddha into something far grander. The texts portray the post-enlightened Buddha as a person of surpassing kindness and equanimity, who nevertheless occasionally experiences what appears to be certain kinds of suffering and annoyance: an incapacitating backache, exasperation with noisy and contentious monks, and feelings of sadness and loss following the death of his closest friends and disciples , and also to possess a more or less normal sense of self that he expresses with frequent uses of the word “I”. My view is that the suffering-free, or “nibbanic” state was extended by pious religious doctrine into something that was completely permanent - here we get metaphors like that of the palm stump, etc. - so that after achieving that state these “arahants” walked around in the world in a complete state of permanent nibbanic detachment. I think a more realistic interpretation is that the attainment of nibbana, while deeply life-altering and pacifying, is not a completely permanent end of suffering. Suffering is gone completely only so long as one remains absorbed in that egoless samadhi which lies at the end of the path to the cessation of suffering, but can return once one emerges from that state. One who has achieve the end of suffering once will know how to re-attain and prolong it, and will want to spend as much time as possible in that state - as we can see the Buddha did. I know this is not an orthodox view, but I think it makes better overall sense of the depiction of the life of the Buddha in the suttas.

Also, there is no direct way of drawing conclusions about the physical, “mental” or metaphysical basis of the nibbanic state - or the lesser attainments - simply by attending to how they are experienced subjectively. For example, many people are known to have experienced “out-of-body” experiences, especially following severe physical injuries, or when in states of agonizing pain, in which they seem to become “unmoored” from their body and its pains, and view the body from an external perspective - above and close by. The fact that such experiences occur is not much evidence for thinking that there really is some kind of floating entity that “detaches” from the body and then “looks at it” from a few feet away. OBEs have been stimulated in the laboratory by different kinds of techniques: brain stimulation, pharmacological substances and virtual reality hookups. By the same token, if one is immersed in a state of deep samadhi in which one feels or experiences “detachment” or unboundedness from all physical things, even from all of physical space, and in which the very sense of self has been suspended, it doesn’t follow that there is some entity that really is literally “detached” from the physical world.


This, just this, is the end of suffering” is far from being the end of story.
It is just liberation of citta.

However, nibbana is stilling of sankhara.
And in sankhara niddana, (at top of paticcasamuppada,) we have Saññā & Vedanā.
Which is what one is supposed to transcend in 9th jhana.

Scholars that deny nine jhanas, are, I suppose the same that reject transcendence of citta (or any transcendence), which is gist of suttas.

Scholars, hum !
I know people who have screwdrivers, and who believe they are engineers. I believe they should be kept at screwing things.

There is mano and there is citta.
Who discriminates nature of each, and nature of entanglement between two, is one of gists of Buddhism.

“First, Susīma, comes knowledge of the stability of the Dhamma, then comes knowledge of Nibbāna”
SN 12.70
Also see 12.34

Stability in Indian philosophy entails something that is not not liberated. Something that is constrained.
It can be impermanence- It can be unliberated citta (not to be able to discern external & internal - mano & Citta with what people call wisdom (paññā/discernment).

Higher jhanas are “seen” through citta.
This is how comes knowledge of nibbana.

This is not me interpretating.
This is suttas with parallels, correctly translated. With bit of lnowledge of Indian philosophy.

We are not really bound to objects in kama loka. We are bound to external ayatanani. And in kama loka (somewhat called “the world” in Buddhism), ayatana is field of “sensory” experience.

Once we leave “world” of senses, orchestrated by mano (MN 43) - being in the upekkha (upa_īkṣ) of citta, that is to say to “see” or “think” with (or just having vedanā & saññā in) citta - “scent”, fetter of the “I” might remain.
Up to oneself to get rid of that, to become arahant, and to get rid of all pain and pleasure of “world”, through third and fourth jhana.
This egoless upekkha (not samadhi), is indeed end of suffering, as stated in proper suttas.

Dwelling in higher jhanas does not mean that one cannot go back to “the world” of forms.
Lord Buddha pari-nibbana (before-nibbana) is about going to ninth jhana, then come back to die in the fourth (SN6. 15).



I wish we would stop using ‘suffering’ for dukkha. Whatever arahants or the Buddha might have experienced, the end of dukkha was not a state of mind but never to be reborn again. The ‘suffering’ hence is an existential ‘suffering’, not back-pain.

When we say ‘suffering’ we automatically compare it to our normal experience of pain-hurt-discomfort. And while a lot of it is transcended by the spiritual path we can get this also with a lifelong supply of painkillers (or ‘suffering-killers’), and if I killed myself I would also end this body-mind’s suffering in a profound way.

The Buddhist equation only works if what is ended is what in German is termed ‘Welt-Schmerz’, i.e. ‘world pain’ - a far more existential suffering due to the state and mode of existence.

Or again in short: ‘suffering’ is causing misunderstandings and I find it better to maintain the alien nature of this concept (in the western discourse) by keeping the pali term ‘dukkha’.


A wise friend of mine opined that pain is a sensory experience. Suffering is a negative attachment to pain. This has been a very useful distinction for me in my practice. Why suffer attachment to a temporary condition? A needle prick from an immunization is pain that lasts only a moment. The mental dread of getting a shot is an attachment to something that is impermanent. Which complicates the path towards Nibanna more, a shot in the arm or a fear of needles? The answer seems quite obvious.


Recently came across another description of some of the characteristics of nibbana by the Buddha in DN 28 that seems interesting – undefiled freedom of heart. I wonder if the pali word for heart in this sutta is citta? Not sure.

“The Buddha knows by investigating inside another individual: ‘By practicing as instructed this individual will realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.’ This is unsurpassable when it comes to the different degrees of responsiveness to instruction.”


Yes, that’s why I have always felt that what the Buddha was teaching was not simply a path to the end of dukkha, but a path to the most perfect and sublime happiness - the happiness that manifests itself fully when all dukkha has been eradicated. Etaṃ santaṃ, etaṃ paṇītaṃ.

Without the hope and possibility of happiness, Buddhism just degenerates into a sad and sick suicide cult.

I think dukkha is just the opposite of sukkha. It’s the “bad stuff” - all of it - from the most emotionally abstruse existential anguish and despair, to ever-present sense of sadness or grief pertaining to mortal finitude and impermanence, to all of our fears about the numerous things that can go wrong, to the coarse pain when you drop a hammer on your toe or you don’t get the dessert you ordered in a restaurant. There is a suffering-free state where none of that misery and bad stuff is present, and where there is only pure, supreme and non-sensory bliss or unsullied happiness.



‘By practicing as instructed this individual will realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life, and live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.’

‘ayaṃ puggalo yathānusiṭṭhaṃ tathā paṭipajjamāno āsavānaṃ khayā anāsavaṃ cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharissatī’ti.

Here it is “cetovimuttiṃ” that is translated as “freedom of heart”.

There are several related threads:

I am always amazed when searching D&D the extent to which the same topics come back around.


I don’t think it’s clear, given that descriptions of the First Noble Truth include bodily pain ( an example of dukkha-dukkha, or ordinary suffering ).
The Arrow Sutta does distinguish between bodily pain ( the first arrow ) and the associated mental anguish ( the second arrow ), though of course being struck by any arrow sounds painful.


There is no doubt in my mind actually, but it would be good to hear some opinions. From a few suttas we know that the Buddha had back pain.

Also a few Arahants killed themselves (‘took the knife’) because of a chronic / non-improving disease. Then monastics asked the Buddha if it’s okay and he replied that is was okay because they were Arahants.

Yes, physical pain is also somehow covered by ‘dukkha’ - but it’s not the essential aspect.