On Encountering Nibbida

There’s at least one sutta where the Buddha says something to the effect, I’m not remembering the exact details correctly, if you don’t do your practice as a monk effectively, you miss out on the joys of the holy life, and you miss out on the joys of a householder. At least a householder can still enjoy the householder joy.

Anyone know the exact sutta?

Maybe that’s a curse rather than a blessing? There’s no greater motivation to find a way out of suffering than when we experience great suffering in the conventional sense.

I hope all of you with even the slightest inclination to ordain give it a try. You can always disrobe if it doesn’t work out. Being a layperson, even a lay person who frequently stays at monasteries, is a different experience.


Maybe AN 5.41?

AN 4.62 is another one.


Thank you @Brenna for opening this great topic :pray:

I don’t think it is a term found in the sutta, but I think samvega is sometimes used to describe this state of disenchantment. See for example this essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
Affirming the Truths of the Heart - The Buddhist Teachings on Samvega & Pasada

I guess they are commentarial terms? [Edit: actually they are found in the suttas, see post 32, thank you Venerable Dhammanando]

What I noted is that these feelings are their ebbs and flows, but my pratice was at its best when the feelings were the strongest. And they have been induced by some undesired changes in my life. This is when I really understood how ‘dukkha’ can lead to ‘faith’ and help us to go in the right direction and give us energy. Now these feelings are fading away… :worried: I am trying to find ways to cultivate them (the feelings of samvega), to rekindle them, but it’s not easy.


I used to be depressed by the amount of all kinds of suffering in the world, but it changed over time. The depression arises as a result of feeling futility and frustration, that one cannot DO anything to reduce the suffering or stupidity of people, that one has no power to effect change and must helplessly observe… It took a long time to accept that that is just the nature of life - that that is the way humans behave, and that there is nothing to change, but that the Noble 8FP, is the way to cease suffering.

This was all related to EXPECTATIONS… As Ajahn Brahm often says - lower your expectations… At fist it sounded crazy…but expectations come from view of self and conditioned beliefs as to how things should be. When one realises that the ideals we had are just conditioned then one can start to disentangle. I think it is actually a great opportunity for moving along the path. To be able to abide with equanimity is a sublime state



:pray: Yes, indeed, but so much easier said than done!

For me it’s really difficult to experience dispassion with regards to sensual pleasures without making myself suffer. I think that in order to see dispassion without becoming depressed one needs to have a really solid foundation of sila, samadhi, and panna (which other people have mentioned in this thread), which is why I think that most people who experience such disenchantment go to monasteries. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi Ayya, thanks so much for your response. I’m so sorry that you’ve encountered this reaction in monasteries. :pensive:

:pray: :blush:

This reminds of a passage from MN 14, trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Even though a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasure provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, as long as he still does not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, he may still be attracted to sensual pleasures. But when a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasure provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, and he attains to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures … apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, then he is no longer attracted to sensual pleasures.

Ehrrmm. Not a massive one other than familial and societal pressures. I am, indeed, going to spend January at a monastery, and might spend more time elsewhere after that. But actually deciding, ‘ok, I’m going to go stay at a monastery long-term without any plan to leave’ isn’t something that I’ve been able to do yet.

Yes, I think it’s this one! Thank you!

Best of luck! You can do it my friend!


Saṃvega and pasāda are both sutta terms. In fact they even have suttas named after them:

Saṃvega Sutta, SN46.57 — “A Great Thrill”. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:
Aggappasāda Sutta, AN4.34 — "Confidence"
Aggappasāda Sutta, Iti90 — “Foremost Faith”


I agree @Aranya :heavy_heart_exclamation: So Brenna, I hope you don’t mind but I added “metta” as a tag under the title.

Ayya Aranya, thank you very much for your honesty and heartfelt comment. It’s beautiful. :smiley: :hibiscus::heartpulse:

These are the sorts of things I grapple with too.

In particular I also feel myself struggling with the following:

The thing that helps me deal with this at present is this sense of walking on two parallel paths. The first one leads me to the 8 Fold Path as it ought to be practised. The second one is firmly rooted in samsara.

Both have different aspects that are automatic habit. Both have suffering. Both can offer relief. Neither are sure things - they’re both prone to change right now.

Currently one has a great deal of power and influence over my choices. But the other is gaining ground and as a consequence the samsaric path is losing some of its ability to give me pleasure.

Thus I feel myself in this middle place…where I’m not getting enough pleasure from the samsaric path and I’m not getting enough pleasure from the Dhamma path. It can be a grimy, boring, irritating, grey sort of place.

What do I do? Well…not much. I try and see it as an opportunity to cultivate patience. I carry on with my Practise best I can and with a sense of faith that it will begin to take over and provide me with the power to let go happily. I also make a big deal about even the smallest shreds of joy etc. that my Practice provides me with and I allow myself to notice the lack of fulfillment in the other path - this is scary sometimes because it means trusting that this place of limbo won’t stay this way forever.

It is also an opportunity to grow Metta but as @Aminah said, this can be an unpleasant experience, particularly in these sorts of circumstances.

But sometimes desperation can do wonders for one’s metta practice! I remember once being in a situation where I had to be with a particular group of people for a while and I was constantly feeling irritable and angry and I was terrified of losing my cool. I recognised that my speech was oozing out of my habituated thoughts, so out of desperation, for a period of a couple months or so, I kept repeating the words “may all beings be happy”, over and over again in my head. Even if I was thinking of something else, these words were there in between other thoughts; my last thoughts before I went to bed, the first when I woke up. Sometimes it was very difficult and tedious…but I was frightened enough of my own anger to continue. It was a very worthwhile experiment! I learned quite a bit - mainly because I felt quite a bit - of both anger and metta.

Right now in my life, I don’t feel the need for this. Right now, I feel more a sense of being patient. I am a bit cranky but it’s not bad enough for me to go over the top and practice in that way - which can be a rather controlling way to go about things…but desperate times…

When I first started practising Metta I hated it. Because it felt so alien. And then when it started to feel nice, I paradoxically started to notice how much non-metta like emotion I had been repressing and not feeling and therefore not being honest about!! The mistake I made was not carrying on with the thing!! I should’ve kept going regardless - but I identified too much with those negative emotions and not enough with the positive metta ones. This would be my advice to my younger self!

Nowadays, metta is just a low level pleasant hum most of the time and I am okay with that. :slight_smile: I understand this won’t always be like this…sometimes it will feel worse and other times better.

I remember something Bhante Sujato said once: metta is simple. And he also said something like: if you notice unpleasant feelings/thoughts/emotions, don’t go to them, this time (in this current meditation) is not the place for solving your problems. I hope I’m not misrepresenting him in saying this but at anyrate, that is what I remember and while I was stunned and challenged by the latter, I took it on board. As for the former, well, it took me a whole lot longer to begin to feel what it meant.

Brenna, thanks for this lovely thread! It’s so useful for all of us. It’s lovely to hear from monastics too. You might, perhaps, want to tag a few in if you want more responses from them - but it’s up to you, it’s your party and a very nice one it is too. :tada: :slight_smile: :heartbeat:

Wishing you all the best, with much metta and also mudita - because this is not a bad place to be in, think of it as growing pains and you’re not alone…a bunch of us, all over the planet probably, are going through this with you. :heartpulse: :hibiscus: :heartpulse: :hibiscus: :heartpulse:


I should clarify that this doesn’t mean that other emotions/thoughts aren’t present…just that I’ve stopped valuing them as actively as I used to.


The one thing that I find which really helps, is smiling. I did a Bhante Vimalaramsi retreat online and another one with Doug Kraft through his Easing Awake retreat on his youtube channel and they teach that we can smile to help lean the mind in a positive and happy direction to get the mind into a bright and happy state before and during meditation and all day.

Here is Doug Kraft’s channel if you haven’t come across it. It’s a really really great retreat that we can all do at home along with the end of day dhamma talks. It’s 8 days and one of the best things I’ve ever done. Much different than Goenka Vipassana retreats and there are unique challenges of doing a retreat at home by yourself. I can personally attest to many of the 11 benefits of Metta that the Buddha espoused. I noticed my complexion became serene and my eyes became incredibly white, bright, clear and just open and peaceful looking. I was able to wake up early and feel incredibly rested, for the first time in decades and went to bed peacefully with peaceful dreams if I had them.


The science of smiling is pretty awesome and worth looking at.


Well, may you find much peace and happiness however things go :anjal:


Sounds like a great avenue of investigation… I did not really ponder that aspect of things yet. Promising, thanks.

The balance is indeed tricky to find. Sense pleasures can be abandoned more easily once one has access to spiritual pleasures (e.g. MN14). But spiritual pleasures can be accessed only when desires for sense pleasures are put aside for a while (e.g. AN6.73 or first jhana pericope). So this create a situation when we are temporarily without sense pleasures but not yet with spiritual pleasures! And the problem of lay life is that sense pleasures are so easily accessible that we go for them as soon as things get tough… Hence, one of the goal of the holy life is to reduce access to sense pleasures and the desire for them:

SN38.16 Difficult to Do
"Friend Sariputta, what is difficult to do in this Dhamma and Discipline?"
“Going forth, friend, is difficult to do in this Dhamma and Discipline.”
“What, friend, is difficult to do by one who has gone forth?”
To find delight, friend, is difficult to do by one who has gone forth.”
“What, friend, is difficult to do by one who has found delight?”
“Practice in accordance with the Dhamma, friend, is difficult to do by one who has found delight.”
“But, friend, if a bhikkhu is practising in accordance with the Dhamma, would it take him long to become an arahant?”
“Not long, friend.”

Thanks! :sweat_smile:

Great news that they come from the suttas! Thanks Bhante :pray:


A lovely post Kay, Thank You.

I hope you don’t mind if I say that what stood out for me in this passage, was the desire to have ‘enough’ pleasure, either from Samsara or Dhamma. Why would this be so? It may well just be me, but whenever I hear people are searching for happiness as a result of their practice, I wonder if this isn’t just reinforcing our conditioned mind. After all the Buddha taught the means to be free of suffering - this doesn’t necessarily equate to being happy as is generally understood in western cultures. ( I do recognise that what you wrote are only words that arose quickly and that I may have attributed meaning that you never intended.)

I know this gets a bit pedantic, but the type or flavour of happiness is very important. The active, tumultuous happiness of Samsara leads to suffering. Even the rapturous delight that can come from deep meditation can lead to suffering if one craves for it with the conditioned mind afterward and doesn’t achieve it and is therefore trapped in conditional thoughts. The ‘happiness’ (in my opinion and understanding) that results from being free of suffering is calm, peaceful, and even as Aranya says in the below quote - boredom. It’s a type of being fed up, watching the turmoil and chaos of Samsara…

For myself, the positive side of Nibbida is the relief of not being constantly subject to the conditions that are Samsara. The ‘joy’ that comes from knowing that there is an escape from suffering. Even if these glimpses only happen infrequently… the memory of knowing how things really are and knowing that escape is possible is enough. Even knowing that everything in our conditioned reality is impermanent, is enough. :smile: So no matter where one is on the path to liberation… just knowing that there is an end to all conditioned things, just as there is an arising of all conditioned things… I’m sorry if I’m not being clear and concise… but knowing this constant arising and passing away, and the suffering inherent in Samsara , is enough to arouse compassion for all conditioned things (physical, feelings, thoughts) is enough to negate the averse feelings towards them - and of course ourselves/myself as one of those same conditioned phenomena. Even my quite disgusting body gets my compassion as it is the vehicle that allows my mind to understand the 4 Noble Truths and to follow the Noble 8fold Path.

I sincerely hope that I haven’t acted against the spirit of this forum by the directness and unguardedness of this post - especially as I am new here. Please delete or edit as seen appropriate.

May all beings be free of suffering :slightly_smiling_face:


You’re welcome :slight_smile: and in turn, I thank you too :slight_smile: Your post is quite lovely too. :anjal:

Lol yes, but I think it’s good to clarify things with each other and because we can’t see each other and are not in each others’ presence and it is so easy to use the same words and mean different things. Also because we are basically words on a screen and we don’t know each other, I think it’s more important to be extra gentle. Which you have been and beautifully so…thank you for this. :anjal:

In answering this question I am drawing on EBTs, my (limited) experience and teachings from monastics whom I respect (like Ajahn Brahm for instance).

If I don’t have some kind of pleasure to keep me going, I think I would fall into a pile of inactive depressed goo… And thus end, with great gooeyness, my Buddhist Practice.

There are a couple of things I want to say here:

  1. The first is in reference to this

I agree with this but would like to add that, as I’ve heard from reliable sources, true neutrality and true calm are to be experienced in true equanimity; which is to be experienced somewhere around the 3rd and 4th Jhanas! Thus when I feel calm and happy in my ordinary life, it’s generally more on the side of happiness (or sadness) than neutrality.

  1. Our minds are hard wired to look for happiness. And because of conditionality, because of anatta, we are not in control of our minds as much as we think we are. We can’t help looking for happiness - whether it be through contentment, peace or whatever other form.

  2. Happiness is a necessary prerequisite to usefully deep meditation. The more one engages in a gradual training that climbs up the slope of ever increasing wholesomeness, the more one becomes happy (admittedly, the higher up you go, the subtler the flavours of happiness are). Thus Buddha in the EBTs did make certain kinds of wholesome mental happiness, not just allowable, but necessary.

  3. Happiness born of wholesomeness is incredibly energising and empowering to the mind. Deep meditation doesn’t just become possible, it just happens. And then you come out and feel even happier - only it’s subtler and more refined - and even more energised.

Sure for most of us these states aren’t sustainable and recognising their impermanence and conditionality is a key part of understanding how to make them return again and again… So that they inform our sila, they continue to arise (instead of all the other things that normally arise in our minds!) and so that we can finally get somewhere worthwhile - like Stream Entry!! - in our Practise.

  1. I don’t equate boredom with happiness. I see it as a negative emotional state that sometimes arises along the way. It is related to aversion, because we don’t appreciate whatever it is we are bored by. We are drawn away from, but not powerfully enough and generally with dullness instead of clarity. For me, boredom ought to be replaced with a more useful positive emotion, but if this doesn’t feel possible, then it is to be borne patiently and with whatever kindness is possible. Generally this patient kindness seems to trick the mind into a more postive and useful emotional state!

My Practice, in a general sense (not in the specific sense of experiencing boredom for instance) and sometimes in a quite specific positive sense is breathtakingly fascinating. Even the boredom, put within context of everything else interests me greatly. This is what makes me take up the happiness of the 8 fold path and put aside the boredom inducing, unfulfilling happinesses of samsara.

I remember Ajahn Brahm saying something along the lines of: happiness is the glue that keeps the mind in deep meditation, and it is essential to the deep letting go experienced in entering Jhana.

So going back to

@Brenna, personally, if I was in your shoes, this is exactly what I would do. Samsara is not going to easily let you off the hook…monastic life might give you the type of container you need to climb up that happy, wholesome incline of the gradual training with more safety and stability. You don’t have to stay forever, but there’s a good chance your experiences and time there will inform your life and Practice forever. Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure I can confidently speak for everyone here in saying that, we all wish you well.

mpac, with thanks and please do feel free to question anything else…you do it so skilfully. :slight_smile: It’s impossible with just a few posts here and there (even if one rambles on as much as I do!) to convey what we feel, think, experience and how we percieve and activate our Practice. We do need to ask each other and share more. And of course, we don’t all need to agree! :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

With much metta


Just wanted to share a quote from the text I mentioned above, it’s how Thanissaro Bhikkhu defines samvega:

The oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.

I had a glimpse of that once, in the midst of suffering, and I feel sooo grateful for it. These few words carry so much meaning.

Anyway back to OP questions!

This makes me think to this inspiring saying from an elder (Thag19.1) :slight_smile:

Oh, when will I stay in a mountain cave,
Alone, with no companion,
Discerning all states of existence as impermanent?
This hope of mine, when will it be?

Oh, when will I stay happily in the forest,
A sage wearing a torn robe, dressed in ochre,
Unselfish, without desire,
With greed, hatred, and delusion destroyed?

Oh, when will I stay alone in the wood,
Fearless, discerning this body as impermanent,
A nest of death and disease,
Oppressed by death and old age;
When will it be?


Well, nibbida is a revulsion, and then dispassion happens right before a noble attainment. One had indeed better take care with how they phrase their claims! :no_entry: so I think nibbida’s place in the the progression makes it a very good place to hold a discussion.

In my case, there was 15-year-old kid traumatized by Crohn’s Disease, followed by two decades of hunting through things I would describe harshly - so, charitably, their utter lack of helpfulness in my case.

In the article about nibbida that Piya Tan wrote, there was some discussion about how some people respond with discomfort at the translation ‘revulsion, disgust’, but this has always been something I’ve experienced; and, being well-placed scholastically:

There are some cases in which a person overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, grieves, mourns, laments, beats his breast, and becomes bewildered. Or one overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, comes to search outside, 'Who knows a way or two to stop this pain?’ I tell you, monks, that suffering results either in bewilderment or in search. This is called the result of suffering.

Lots of …complicated maneuvers, over the ensuing years. After a quick jaunt down to Santi (no photos, alas) I ended up as a university custodian (a modern monastery, in a way & if I try at it :wink:).

I’m not a religious person, and maybe some of you will know this about me. But, as I was searching about, something caught my eye, and due to this (along with some Dhammic twists on empiricism, SN 54.9 & MN 144, etc.) I settled in.

Perhaps another term related to nibbida is samvega, urgency. They were already present, but - given the centrality of developing citta - developing epilepsy has strongly invigorated both of them, with both body and now mind experiencing something of an above-average degeneration.

Nibbida, indeed!



No worries, Kay, I don’t mind at all.

This is just beautiful!

Yeah, I feel the most metta when I am in nature, and when I feel one with all of the living beings around me. But when I have to sit down and wish myself well I just get bored. :sweat_smile: I guess, as you say, it’s important to just keep going.

Good idea! Dear Venerables @Vimala, @sujato, and @Brahmali, if you have anything to add it would be much appreciated. :pray:

Anumodana! Same to you, Erik!

Aww, thank you for this Kay! :blush: You’re giving me Shia Labeouf vibes:

But really, the desire to ordain is so strong for me that it might just end up happening. And it is so lovely to have your (and everyone’s) support. :hugs:


Just throwing this out there… That there might be a ‘middle way :wink:’ regarding practice ie not just full on normal social living or ordination.

For personal health reasons, living in a monastery is not an option for me. So over the past 20 years I have created an environment of my own, where I can pursue the N8FP with minimal distractions.

For almost 20 years I have lived alone (dog as companion), in an isolated place in the australian bush. For the first 15 years I would only have contact with another person once a fortnight or less. In this environment it was easy to abide by the 8 precepts with no problem at all. Honestly though, at this stage of practice I didn’t even know the precepts existed. It was all about meditation, contemplation and a search for the Truth of things.

I still had the obligations of a householder, ie money and procurement of things for living, engaging in necessary social systems eg healthcare etc.

Anyway as time progressed, and I felt the burdens of living / suffering - the desire for greater renunciation kept growing. As it wasn’t feasible for me to join a monastery - the only option was to try to adapt my environment ever more to be able to resemble a life dedicated to the N8FP.

It did indeed take quite a large shift of mind to slough off a number of the ‘householder’ responsibilities that I still had. But once I made the decision, it was actually quite easy. So now I have a passive income stream (must have had some very good Kamma to enable this to happen :slight_smile: )

The biggest shift in perception or attitude or feeling - whatever it was - came when a friend of mine commented… “but you have already given up so much…” I realised then that renunciation wasn’t about giving anything up! It was about reducing the burdens! It was about reducing the suffering. It literally felt like I had been living encased in a lead armour… and to emerge from it - to discard it was like this huge weight was removed… a lightness of being… Don’t misunderstand me - this isn’t a permanent state for me and I easily get sucked back into conditioned and habitual behaviour lol :smile:

At this time, I went to see Ajahn Brahm speak - just a day (vessak) in Melbourne. Kamma in action :smiley:. Within moments, and for the first time in my life, I was ready to commit to a teacher and Buddhist Sangha. Prior to this, though I had attended a number of different Buddhist temples, there was always enough doubt to prevent me making the committment. In some ways I felt some Nibbida towards the specific practices or approach.

I now realise, just how completely, the forest tradition is part of me. And I am so grateful for finding such wonderful supportive communities online !!! Thank-you !! I so appreciate your dedication to follow and spread the word of the Buddha. It is only due to the online availability of Dhamma teachings that I have been able tospend the last couple of years deepening my knowledge of suttas and learning skillful ways of developing practice. Thank-you. This is the Triple Gem in the digital age :smiley:

Sorry very long winded… The point I set out to make is that there are many ways to implement changes in our lives. The barriers to practice are all in our own control! Truly! This isn’t just hypothetical or a theory… it is totally practical in nature. It helps if one first sets the goal, and then looks at possible ways to implement it. It may also take a while to organise - eg to change where one lives, how one gets money to survive, etc etc etc… But it is do-able. The suggestions of extended trials of monastic life are very good advice. I suppose my solution has been to create a situation where I am on a permanent self retreat :slight_smile:

@Brenna Perhaps a really honest and deep exploration about what is stopping you. What is the perceived ‘risk’, what are the perceived barriers? Also to very deeply investigate your goal - to unpack it down to the component parts… Then you can begin to construct an environment or move to an environment that works for you.

Much Metta to you @Brenna, and much Metta and Gratitude to this community


PS. One last practical example of how to turn the experience of aversion, revulsion, Nibbida into something very useful.

As Ajahn Brahm says… keep exploring - in - in - keep exploring inside. So as much as I can, EVERY time I experience a negative reaction to something I turn it into an opportunity to look inside and figure out why. Eg someone says something dismissive or mean and I feel sad and/or self righteous or prideful. Only a matter of seconds if superficial, maybe of hours or days if deeper, but the realisation that this suffering is due to view of self - to attachment to self, allows it to disappear :slightly_smiling_face:

So choose a time frame, a month or a day or part of a day, to do this kind of practice. The feeling of Nibbida then becomes a trigger for exploration. Now every time I meet with something that causes suffering, I am actually grateful because it is an opportunity to put the path into practice. I have found it much easier to use the sensations of suffering for this, but I am also doing it with regards to sensations of happiness. This is proving more challenging, because we are so conditioned to want to keep happiness - crave for it’s continuance which of course causes suffering.

This can also be applied to large scale social things, such as natural disasters, refugees, wars, human trafficking etc etc. Endless opportunities for practice and moving along the path.



Hello Brenna :slight_smile:
I get it. For years I bounced between trying to find happiness in the world and the dispassion and seeing it as hollow. I guess I still do. I’m not claiming of any level of attainment. :smiley: I would try for greater and greater hits of worldly pleasure and step back from my practice in the hope that I could ignore the dispassion. Then one day the causes and conditions fell into place and I couldn’t do it any more. It was too much.

The disinterest in the pleasures of lay life yet living in lay life can be an immense source of suffering. The fact that society and family, the people who care about us, see such value in these things which we can see through is hard on the heart. It’s hard on the heart when you first take robes too. Many senior monastics have spoken about this and how tough the first few years are. You’re trading one sort of suffering for another. For me the search has just changed. It feels more wholesome and beneficial.

Whether in lay-life or as a new monastic, cultivating compassion for one’s suffering and that this is the state of all beings is so important. Knowing the heart, being with the heart. It seems more instinctive that repeating meta phrases over and over again.

You are always welcome to message me anytime and have a chat. Hopefully, you can exit lay-life a bit more gracefully than I did! Be patient and keep the intention. Keep setting up the causes and conditions for your switch to happen and it will.

Sending big waves of mettā


This is such an important point. On every level…

We expect so much of ourselves… and those we care about or hold in high regard. Often completely impossible standards.

I want to clarify that what I mentioned earlier about continually questioning and searching within - it is without judgement - accepting it as normal conditioning - not to blame or measure against expectations, but just to observe and be aware.