Thanks @Gabriel for bringing this sequence to the conversation, as I was going to do myself., and for your exhaustive research and list of suttas! Wonderful.
@Viveka, as these sequences always show things in the order they occur, it’s useful to note that nibbida comes in to play at quite a deep level of practice, and is quite profound, based on the knowledge of how things are, which is gained from samadhi. This means it’s based on clarity of mind, and is a wisdom faculty, it’s not a mind tortured by repulsion or unpleasant feeling, which would certainly be more akin to aversion. Aversion is the sort of thing we feel towards worldy things and so is also mixed up in all those wordly states of mind, disgust, anger, resistance etc. But in these sequences, when nibbida appears, the mind has already been prepared through a series of blissful states, which ripens in wisdom. As in the Cetana Karaniya Sutta, where a meditator does not have to ‘make a wish’ to progress, it is a natural sequence:
…‘May I feel bliss!’
It’s only natural to feel bliss when your body is tranquil.
Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vediyati.
When you feel bliss you need not make a wish:
Sukhino, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ:
‘May my mind be immersed in samādhi!’
‘cittaṃ me samādhiyatū’ti.
It’s only natural for the mind to become immersed in samādhi when you feel bliss.
Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.
When your mind is immersed in samādhi you need not make a wish:
Samāhitassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ:
‘May I truly know and see!’
‘yathābhūtaṃ jānāmi passāmī’ti.
It’s only natural to truly know and see when your mind is immersed in samādhi.
Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ samāhito yathābhūtaṃ jānāti passati.
When you truly know and see you need not make a wish:
Yathābhūtaṃ, bhikkhave, jānato passato na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ:
‘May I grow disillusioned!’
It’s only natural to grow disillusioned when you truly know and see.
Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ yathābhūtaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ nibbindati.
When you’re disillusioned you need not make a wish:
Nibbinnassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ:
‘May I become dispassionate!’
These type of sequences make me think we shouldn’t force nibbida to arise, it appears naturally at the right time due to causes and conditions. It is a process filled with wisdom and
beautiful logical causality; not something that is arrived at through will power.
And so, mendicants, the knowledge and vision of freedom is the purpose and benefit of dispassion. Dispassion is the purpose and benefit of disillusionment (nibbida). Disillusionment is the purpose and benefit of truly knowing and seeing. Truly knowing and seeing is the purpose and benefit of immersion. Immersion is the purpose and benefit of bliss. Bliss is the purpose and benefit of tranquility. Tranquility is the purpose and benefit of rapture. Rapture is the purpose and benefit of joy. Joy is the purpose and benefit of not having regrets. Not having regrets is the purpose and benefit of skillful ethics.
Some people seem to think that putting practices of repulsion (often calling these ‘nibbida’) at the centre of their practice will make for a quicker journey towards enlightenment but I often see these types (there is a type!) are coming from a place of anger and harshness, self harming tendencies, and an almost fetishised asceticism.
In the Fire Discourse we have quite a lot of nibbida for sensory experience. But again, this is something directed toward the high end of the path, note the use of the phrase “learned noble disciple/sutavā ariyasāvako”, this is not an ordinary person, but someone who has already reached a high level of insight. This isn’t to say we can’t aspire to such understanding and practices, but rather that we shouldn’t make these things prematurely relevant to ourselves! (me included obviously!)
Burning with the fires of greed, hate, and delusion. Burning with rebirth, old age, and death, with sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.
‘Rāgagginā, dosagginā, mohagginā ādittaṃ, jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi ādittan’ti vadāmi.
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with the eye, sights, eye consciousness, and eye contact. And they grow disillusioned with the painful, pleasant, or neutral feeling that arises conditioned by eye contact.
Evaṃ passaṃ, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako cakkhusmimpi nibbindati, rūpesupi nibbindati, cakkhuviññāṇepi nibbindati, cakkhusamphassepi nibbindati, yampidaṃ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṃ sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā tasmimpi nibbindati … pe …
And while this discourse was being spoken, the minds of the thousand mendicants were freed from defilements by not grasping.
Imasmiñca pana veyyākaraṇasmiṃ bhaññamāne tassa bhikkhusahassassa anupādāya āsavehi cittāni vimucciṃsūti.
This last stanza, to me, shows the wisdom aspect of “not grasping” (anupādāya). An image I often bring to mind when I think about nibbida is a hand letting go, a turning away, a releasing, or dropping of something because it is seen for what it is and not wanted. In this sense, the translation of nibbida as disillusion or disenchantment seems appropriate. It is based on wisdom not feeling, which is too much a part of disgust or reulsion, although some teachers really emphasise this aspect, maybe overly so perhaps due to translations that encourage this view… Then, after the ungrasping of nibbida follows the dispassion (viraga) which is the hand not wanting to pick it up again!