SuttaCentral

Nibbida versus Aversion

An image from the suttas that always comes to mind when I think of nibbidā is from AN 7.49:

When a bhikkhu often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of unattractiveness, his mind shrinks away from sexual intercourse, turns back from it, rolls away from it, and is not drawn toward it, and either equanimity or revulsion [pāṭikulyatā] becomes settled in him. Just as a cock’s feather or a strip of sinew, thrown into a fire, shrinks away from it, turns back from it, rolls away from it, and is not drawn toward it, so it is in regard to sexual intercourse when a bhikkhu often dwells with a mind accustomed to the perception of unattractiveness.

Pāṭikulyatā here seems to be a synonym for nibbidā, and although it can mean revulsion, it can also mean “reluctance”. When I think of some of the unwholesome activities I used to engage in during my pre-Dhamma days, I don’t feel aversion toward them, but I do feel a reluctance and a desire to steer clear.

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But on which grounds do you equate nibbida and paṭikulyatā, where are they treated as synonyms? I understand that you make this connection in your mind as they both mean an ‘away-from’, but the connection with nibbida as an important doctrinal term should be based on some suttas, no?

Otherwise what keeps me from equating pamojja, piti, sukkha, ananda - because they all express some kind of positive ‘pleasant state’?

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I am not sure that they can compared. Perhaps like this; if aversion and greed are two vectors with opposite directions, Nibbida is out of the paper or out of the plane of aversion and greed.

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I’ve often seen Buddhists (Eastern and Western, others and myself!) rationalize continued involvement in bad situations under the excuse of “cultivating upekkhā” or “practicing patience” or (worst of all) “exercising compassion.”

So I just wanted to point out that the Buddha often praised good relationships and conducive environments and never spoke in praise of cultivating friendship with fools nor sticking around in environments unsuitable for striving. Bodhisattvas take note: There’s nothing “noble” about self-sacrifice!!

MN2 outlines the difference—what afflictions are to be endured and which afflictions are to be avoided:

What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by enduring? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, bears cold and heat, hunger and thirst, and contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things; he endures ill-spoken, unwelcome words and arisen bodily feelings that are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, distressing, and menacing to life. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not endure such things, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who endures them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by enduring.
What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by avoiding? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, avoids a wild elephant, a wild horse, a wild bull, a wild dog, a snake, a stump, a bramble patch, a chasm, a cliff, a cesspit, a sewer. Reflecting wisely, he avoids sitting on unsuitable seats, wandering to unsuitable resorts, and associating with bad friends, since if he were to do so wise companions in the holy life might suspect him of evil conduct. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not avoid these things, there are no taints, vexation, and fever in one who avoids them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by avoiding.

So this gives us our measuring stick between patience and avoidance, nibbida versus aversion: are we avoiding this situation because it’s painful or because it’s connected with the unwholesome?

Interestingly, both physical repulsion and moral disgust use the same part of the brain. So, the training here isn’t so much to kill off our capacity for disgust, but is rather to (re)train it to be automatically avoidant of what is unwholesome and unbenefitial. In short, to be wise.

In this way, disgust becomes our ally on the path instead of our hindrance. Aversion becomes nibbida as wisdom flowers.

I hope that helps to clarify somewhat. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thankyou Ven Khemarato :slight_smile:

I’ve come to a similar understanding (mostly :rofl:)

It really helped sort it out by looking at the presence or absence of hindrances and in combination with intention.

I also think that the definitions I had for Nibbida and Aversion were out of alignment with what appears to be the common view. I was adding a few different things into the mix - Now it is clearer. Aversion = the negative form of craving (the craving to not have) - Ill will and delusion are present
Nibbida = distaste (etc) for the unwholesome, including weariness for the conditioned - neither ill will nor delusion are present.

Now I’m experiencing nibbida for too much thinking :rofl: :exploding_head: :joy: :smile: :slight_smile:

Thank you everybody for your generosity in contributing and sharing
:pray: :pray: :pray:

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Oh, I wasn’t trying to do anything quite so linguistically ambitious as you might assume. :slightly_smiling_face: That’s why I said “seems to be”. Also, to my mind, synonyms don’t necessarily equate; they often just partially overlap in meaning.

My intention was only to point out a word that could indicate the possibility of repulsion without aversion.

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If it makes you feel any better, the Chinese translators generally agreed that nibbida means something ranging from being tired, apathetic, sated, or even disgusted (in the context of things like overeating). That’s what informs my reading of the term.

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Aversion doesn’t bear recalling and therefore interrupts mindfulness.

DN33:3.3.29: Furthermore, a mendicant is mindful. They have utmost mindfulness and alertness, and can remember and recall what was said and done long ago.

When my grandkids fight and “hate each other,” I sit them down and ask them to recall and restate what the other said. Works every time. Peace happens. Or maybe it’s just too painful to be around Grandpa.

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Thank you @Akaliko and @Gabriel : sadhu x3 ! :pray:
Nibbida is clearly different from aversion in your wonderful explanations coming from suttas. Seeing /“feeling”/ being mindful of the danger of some behaviors make us disillusioned. Being influenced by samadhi, it seems non-conceptual in nature.

In my experience , the danger is when samadhi and the “seeing clearly” wear off as the mind is more prone to judge and make a mental stance (ie. sankhara) on the objects of disillusionment.
At this moment we are back into aversion and the conditioned cycle, even more so when we think this aversion is nibbida.

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And this is why this exploration is so important - so that one can clearly understand :slight_smile:

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Looking at the AN10.60 sutta With Girimananda, there is the following passage

“And what is the perception of non-desire for all conditions? It’s when a mendicant is horrified, repelled, and disgusted with all conditions. This is called the perception of non-desire for all conditions.” - Sujato translation

  1. “And what, Ānanda, is the perception of impermanence in all conditioned phenomena? Here, a bhikkhu is repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by all conditioned phenomena. This is called the perception of impermanence in all conditioned phenomena." - Bodhi translation

Is this Nibbida for the conditioned?

So this Nibbida can also be really strong ‘horrific, repellent, repulsive, disgusting, humiliating’, regarding everything conditioned. (And hence zero desire for rebirth of any kind in any realm, ever).

I had some confusion as I had assumed Nibbida did not get quite so strong, and when it got to the level of revulsion, disgust etc that it must have crossed over into aversion. But I see now that the key to it is the absence of Kilesas together with seeing clearly :slight_smile:

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Hi @Viveka and @Akaliko,

I’ve been rereading this thread and notice with interest that nothing has been said about the vedanā attached to each. It doesn’t seem possible for aversion to be without negative vedanā (in English at least a negative feeling is part of the definition of the word). I would assume that nibbidā (since it develops out of samādhi and clear-seeing (?sampajañña) carries neutral vedanā.

Is this right? Or is it more a case of upekkha replacing vedanā altogether? EG

4.1Those ascetics and brahmins who have directly known form in this way—and its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation—and are practicing for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding form [etc]: they are practicing well.
Ye hi keci, bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā evaṃ rūpaṃ abhiññāya, evaṃ rūpasamudayaṃ abhiññāya, evaṃ rūpanirodhaṃ abhiññāya, evaṃ rūpanirodhagāminiṃ paṭipadaṃ abhiññāya rūpassa nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya paṭipannā, te suppaṭipannā.

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There is definitely a feeling attached to recognition of impermanence in the developing stages, later it becomes equanimity. But that feeling (loathing) must be kept in balance by other subjects of contemplation, in particular the breath.

“But if, when a monk’s awareness often remains steeped in the perception of inconstancy, his mind shrinks away from gains, offerings, & fame, bends away, pulls back, and is not drawn in, and either equanimity or loathing take a stance, then he should realize, ‘I have developed the perception of inconstancy; there is a step-by-step distinction in me; I have arrived at the fruit of [mental] development.’ In that way he is alert there.”—AN 7.46

Step-by-step distinction= 8 insight knowledges.

The path utilizes conditioned phenomena, and it is the feeling of loathing that deflects the mind towards the unconditioned.

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I’m not sure vedana is related, exactly because it’s not clear how it relates to ‘emotion’/‘feeling’ in English. Nibbida, because it is so close to nibbana, should be beyond vedana.

Also see suttas like MN 74

Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.

Evaṃ passaṃ, aggivessana, sutavā ariyasāvako sukhāyapi vedanāya nibbindati, dukkhāyapi vedanāya nibbindati, adukkhamasukhāyapi vedanāya nibbindati; nibbindaṃ virajjati, virāgā vimuccati. Vimuttasmiṃ, vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti.

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I believe Vedana is tied to craving/aversion - ( pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) - that stimulates ‘movement’ as a reaction/response.

My understanding is that Nibbida is about seeing things clearly, not related to having the like/don’t like response, but recognising the ‘unwholesome’ for what it is, and, from a point of wisdom, not associating with it, seeing cause and effect clearly. So from this perspective it evokes disgust, distaste etc

Here is a response from Mat that may be helpful :slight_smile:

Also the linked chart may be useful

Some useful stuff here as well :slight_smile:

Metta, and happy exploring :smiley: :sunflower:

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Given discernment is one of the 7 treasures

couldn’t the two examples be seen as more a reflection of discernment than different responses to nibbida?

In the first case, where monks are fighting and not responding to his skillful means to reconcile, he rightly discerns the actions are deserving of nibbida.

In the second case, a person is going through a perfectly normal bodily function. Buddha rightly discerns there is no cause for nibbida. Nibbida never comes up in his thinking.

Thank you for sending me off looking up words in
Pali and pondering your question! :smiley: And everyone, please feel welcome to correct whenever my contributions are wrong or simplistic. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Really well put :slight_smile: I think you’re spot on. Nibbida is a result of discernment. Of clearly seeing the causes and effects and discerning wholesome, from unwholesome, and feeling repelled from the unwholseome. Aversion is a reaction based on ‘pleasant, unpleasant, neutral’ perceptions.

IMHO this is a great community for this. When I first found my way here, less than 3 years ago - I didn’t even know what an EBT was :smile: Personally, integrating prior practice and experience into the context of EBT’s, has been an incredible gift… All the disparate bits of the jigsaw start to make sense, and the beautiful message/teaching of the Buddha Dhamma takes shape :slight_smile:

As such, I have boundless gratitude to the members of this community, for being good kalyanamittas, and it is a pleasure to serve, to make sure it is available to all others intersted in the Buddha Dhamma :thaibuddha: :dharmawheel: :revolving_hearts:

May your journey be swift and joyful :pray:

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Whilst I’ve found what’s been said about nibbida and aversion very helpful, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask what the Buddha said and very useful to collect up what the texts say about what the Buddha gave as his reasons for going away. :pray:

I remain a bit on the fence about the way the discussion developed in the thread; there seems to be a premise that assumes we can know what the Buddha had in his mind behind the words he spoke. Please correct me if I’ve misread the thread.

It would be good if you could elaborate on this :slight_smile:

Certainly my recent comments have not been about that initial question at all… That was just one of the initiating triggers for exploring the issue, and the discussion has evolved from there. Looking at it now, I see that the initial questions really highlighted, and then clarified, some misunderstandings that I had.

If however, the statement below appears too confident.

I take your point on board, and should clarify that this is just how I understand this at this point in time… perhaps my current understanding is just as deluded as the initial questions were :smile: :smiley: :smiley:

I was referring to comments that I think were made by your interlocutors rather than by yourself. I’ll come back and read the whole thread again soon, and answer properly then. :slight_smile: