On Encountering Nibbida

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.


Thank you for this. It’s a very down-to-earth way of looking at monasticism—I’ll keep this phrase in my mind. :slight_smile:

I would just add that (and I’m sure you think similarly!) the suffering experienced in lay life is usually non-stop (and probably increases for people who don’t follow Buddhist practices), while monasticism (or intense practice) very possibly decreases suffering. :slight_smile:


Ah yes, but you also have a lot more time and a lot less distractions to really see the suffering you do have. The habits we hide and distract ourselves from have nowhere to hide.


I had the thought today, about how incredibly talented the common person is at creating a continuous stream of activities and stimulation. When you really look at it, and especially these days, for every single minute of a common person’s day, there is something that is actively being done—be it on Facebook, working, watching TV, listening to music, texting. Almost not a single minute of not doing anything.

It is to the point, and probably many have heard such comments, that a few minutes—let alone a whole hour—spent doing nothing is unbearable.

How can you live with yourself if you are distraught when not continuously being stimulated by various things? Are similar people not dependent on these specific activities for their “well-being”?

I think when someone can be fine doing nothing—just being—as well as comfortable with their own thoughts, that it is quite an achievement. A simple achievement, but definately not an easy one. :slight_smile:


At the risk of straying from the OP but probably still relevant to Brenna’s situation…

This is one of the things that I think has finally convinced one of my family members that what I’m doing is not ‘the easy way out’. They have problems sitting still for 2 minutes. The idea of a 3 month retreat was out of range! It’s certainly not easy.


I am a bit confused as to why nibbidā is being conveyed as something negative and even painful. Nibbidā is beneficial and useful—it’s a wholesome (kusala) mental quality encountered on the path.

How do you view drinking alcohol, large parties, smoking pot, fast food, paying $150 for a meal at a 5-star restaurant, expensive jewelry and so many other things?

Are you not disenchanted by these things? Is the repulsion—being a much more accurate term for nibbidā—that unbearable? If you do encounter similar things as above, is the nibbidā not a helpful indication to instead do wholesome activities?

If you are feeling aversion towards something unwholesome, then stopping the activity would be the best option (such as trading an unpleasant but high-paying job for one that you actually like). Obviously, if you have a great job and life, but you still experience nibbidā and repulsion, then considering ordaining might be a good idea (if you have an awful life, ordaining might also be a good idea, but your problems might also follow you).

However, I’m just saying (to everyone in the thread, not necessarily Brenna) that thinking that the dukkha you are experiencing is due to nibbidā might be incorrect, and that it might rather be just plain ol’ clinging (upādāna). :slight_smile:

Blaming dukkha on external factors (such as lay life, or anything else) isn’t really the right approach. Dukkha is due to taṇhā—sensuous craving (kāma-taṇhā), craving for existence of life/anything (bhava-taṇhā) and craving for non-existence of life/anything (vibhava-taṇhā).

And most importantly, monasticism is not necessarily a lack of external problems or problems, it’s a lack of activities taking up the time you could be using to practice more. :slight_smile:


Something I just remembered…
A few years ago I asked a question regarding dispassion towards lay life at the end of a relevant sutta class by Ajahn Brahmali. His advice was something like

don’t let go all at once, you’ll go crazy.

When I fall into the trap of trying to force dispassion and renunciation I remember this. Thank you Bhante


Some times you have to go cold turkey. In my experience. cases like smoking and consuming alcohol.


I meant in terms of letting go of lay life. Agreed on bad habits


This is such an amazing thread! I’ve been reading it and feeling with pretty much every post! It gives me a lot to contemplate about, and there is so much gratitude!

It is so courageous of you, @Brenna, to discuss all your doubts in public like this; be assured, you’re not the only one to benefit from it! There is so much that has deeply impressed me in this thread that I can’t repeat it all here.

Just one thing from the later strata of the thread I’d like to mention:

… and the whole post that follows.


This is such a great perspective! Thank you so much for this! :hibiscus:

No reason to apologise. Thank you so much for sharing your story which is indeed amazing! Much mudita :heart: :heart: :heart: :smiley:

I see myself as very fortunate that I have the possibility to take part in establishing this monastery in Belgium. If this wasn’t the case I don’t know where I would end up - maybe with something similar to what @mpac is doing…

@Brenna, whatever you decide or try, I am with you! :heartpulse::cherry_blossom::heartpulse:


@brenna, I feel for your desire to become ordained. I used to feel this a lot too. But feeling I need to be there for my kids held me back from ‘tipping over the edge’. It would have been good for me but negative for them. Something held me back- so I think there might be wholesome reasons for not ordaining as well. I also remember that ordaining isn’t necessarily forever. We don’t know the reasons why people return to their lay lives - sometimes the motivations are unconscious. I don’t know if you believe in kamma- I believe it takes an amazing amount of positive kamma to become ordained. Not that it should hold you back, but we don’t necessarily know what currents are shaping the future, creating obstacles in the here and now.

I’m should also let you know -it is five aggregates here and in Bhikkhuni-land they also only have the five aggregates, which are tilakkhana!

ps- not to put a dampner- just a few things to throw into the decision-maker. :wink:

with metta


This is an incredible post, thank you so much for sharing! I can’t imagine the amount of self-discipline it must take to be able to live this kind of renunciate lifestyle on one’s own! One of the reasons I love monasteries is because they have the Vinaya, they have a discipline that is enforced for monastics; i.e. breaking a rule entails a specific consequence. I’m super terrible at keeping sila on my own. :sweat_smile: Right now the 5-precepts are doable enough for me. Of course, sila isn’t perfect for me in monasteries either…but it’s a gradual training.

Also, community (I’m discovering) is very important for me. I often fantasize about going off somewhere and living by myself in nature, and then I realize I would probably spend all my time lying on the couch eating ice cream. But good on you that you’re able to make it work!

Thank you! :pray: This is very helpful!

Thank you, Anagārikā Pasanna! :heart: Your journey and advice has been immensely helpful to me this past year (your first video on entering monastic life made me cry!). I’m trying not to rush into anything, but the conditions of lay-life feel exceptionally unproductive. It’s probably just me that’s unproductive but, as I wrote above, adapting lay-life and keeping good sila outside of monasteries is hard for me. :upside_down_face:

Well yeah, the disenchantment of things (for me) is a craving for a different or more beneficial life.

Thank you, Anagārikā Sabbamitta! :pray: :heart:

It’s so wonderful and compassionate of you to put your children first! Some people coughTheBuddhacough did not have such a quality. :smirk:

Haha yes of course! I’m not under the impression that ordaining will magically remove all suffering. I know (to a certain extent) what I would be getting myself into.


I hope my posts on nibbidā aren’t giving a wrong impression. It’s just that, in quite a lot of posts, the Pāli word nibiddā is being misinterpreted and given new definitions (and what you quoted was for these reasons, as well as being addressed to everyone in the thread).

If you plan on ordaining, I very much encourage you! :slight_smile: At the same time, I’m also encouraging you (and generally speaking as well) to look closely at your intentions, since it’s important to ordain for the right/wholesome reasons, such of wanting a better life, wanting the life of a monastic, having the opportunity to practice more and so on (and not mainly out of wanting to run away from lay life). Although this might not be the case for you at all, I thought it was important to mention.

With mettā (and a small amount of tough love/mettā). :grin:


Warm hearted greetings Brenna,

Perhaps at the particular vantage of less than two weeks from full ordination (if the conditions remain aligned) I might comment.

It was about five years ago I went to my teacher at a wonderful meditation center in Minnesota, USA, after the most recent bhikkhu had visited the center, wistfully saying, “I wish this were possible for women.” It was with a sense of sadness that I said this, seeing a way of life that seemed so aligned with my aspirations, but not seeing it available to me. A female, in her forties, in not-ideal health, didn’t seem to be the conditions conducive to becoming a forest monk.

This emotion wasn’t nibbida or samvega, but it seemed a part of the package in the early days of becoming aware of how life was conditioned. I was seeing that the situations of life and how one lived within the situations were important states contributing to whether or not I felt the situation was supportive for practice. At this time, the draw of worldly goods, interesting experiences, and prestige was losing its shine, but I was still going through the motions, because it was the life and lifestyle I had and knew.

Luckily, my wise teacher, told me to just keep practicing and that a bhikkhuni was scheduled to visit in the Spring. I began giving less and less time to the worldly things and spent more and more time at the meditation center, on retreat, and practicing at home.

In response to the question, “Is it possible?” made to the visiting bhikkhuni, I heard the magic words, “It is difficult, but it is possible.” Upon hearing this magical phrase, aspirations fueled the search to answer the new question, “Where is it possible?”

I began the exploration and lay life priorities became aligned with exiting in a kind and non-offensive way. I had a job contract to finish, an apartment lease, lots of books and other things to give away and two cats who would need a good home. There were also family and friends to transition to the idea of me leaving the ‘good life’ I had built and fully living the ‘holy life’ instead.

With the second monastery visit I made, I felt I had found a good community and conditions for practice. I had about six months to go on my work contract and about the same on my apartment lease. I didn’t feel any longer the lay life joy of having an excellent work project and team members and a reasonably convenient living situation. I felt like I wanted to be done. I didn’t need to make any more money, but I had an obligation to work. I didn’t need all the space and amenities of an apartment, but I had a obligation to keep it up. The weariness came, and with it the, “I don’t wanna do this anymore,” whiny mind. It had more of the depressive, “I’ve gotta just put one foot in front of the other.” but also, “for this limited time - so I can do it,” attitude developing.

I wouldn’t call what I was experiencing nibbidā at that point and I talked with a teacher about it.

He suggested I treat all of this as an act of dana. I could view the work I was completing as, not for the paycheck, but for the well being of my colleagues and clients. I could view the care of the apartment and other worldly obligations as the care of those would benefit from its maintenance and distribution. I could practice with mindfulness and metta.

Practicing in this way transformed my exit at work and relationship with my landlords. I was acting from a generous heart and mind and I was seeing the people with compassion and well wishes.

I was already putting care into the giving away and paring down and having ‘transition’ conversations and visits with family and friends. The first month or so of this was very uplifting as I found where my energy and possessions could go and be of benefit to others.

After a while though, the carloads of books, clothing and hats, kitchen equipment, furniture, office supplies, and on and on, made me really see the massive energy expenditure of acquisition, maintenance and, now, redistribution. Very little of those things were simple necessities when really examined. Most of it was to be accepted and acceptable in the mainstream Western World and it was to give me or others comforts and pleasures and distractions.

With heart aligning more and more toward release from the delusion of happiness in worldly ways, I could appreciate the goodness of sharing and caring for people, but didn’t find even that to be more of a draw than the even more productive process of practice for liberation. More than the happiness of generosity, I began finding the joy in having less and holding less.

Just a couple of days before my planned flight to the monastery, a wonderful new home for the cats was found. The night before the flight, a friend followed me to the last donation place, where, with just the night guard and friend as witness, I dropped the car keys in the donation box and exclaimed, “No house, no job, no car - I’m free!”

I’ve not missed the house, job, car, nor even much, those dear cats. I have occasionally missed the ego identity of being able to have those things. That is where the real work of renunciation has been of such value. Seeing all the ways I built up ME, was best done by relinquishing all those worldly props. It has been of much benefit, this stepping outside of lay life and into the space, central to the monastic life, where seeing the props and the process of ME making is the work most “productive”.

I could write more about the other side of coming to monastic life and where the process continues to unfold and new things to relinquish and come to nibbida develop, but this seems enough for now.

May your process of relinquishment be bolstered by metta and compassion, by generosity, and by freedom. Wherever it leads in garments and haircut (lay or monastic), may it also lead to liberation.

With kind regards,
Sister Niyyānikā


For me the step from lay life to monasticism was relatively straightforward. I strongly suspect I have been a monastic in a past life and so my mind has often inclined in that direction. When I was about twelve years old, I started having fantasies about living by myself in a hut in the forest. Later I naturally took an interest in meditation and Indian religions, until I eventually was ready to visit my first monastery, which was Chithurst Monastery in Sussex, UK (part of Ajahn Sumedho’s group of monasteries).

This is not to say I didn’t have any suffering; I certainly did. In fact immediately prior to visiting Chithurst, I was studying finance in London. It was completely the wrong thing for me and I had a terrible time. This was my moment of disenchantment with the world. It all seemed so utterly empty of meaning, so superficial, so purposeless. It was the trigger that enabled me to make a change of direction. After finishing my studies I received a job offer, but I told my prospective employer I wanted to visit a Buddhist monastery first. That was it. No turning back. My supposed employer was rather astonished!

Formative as they were, over the years I have realised that the above experiences were rather shallow. Once I started to grasp the Dhamma it all slowly fell into place: Impermanence. You can’t control the world. Whenever you attach, you are asking for suffering. Worldly happiness is a shallow form of happiness. It gradually became clear to me that Buddhism was the answer to the question of the meaning of life. This has just deepened over time, and this is really where my commitment to the Buddhist path comes from.

This is not to say that monastic life is all just plain sailing. Despite the commitment to the path, it takes a long time to wean the mind off its addiction to sensuality. It’s as if there are two forces in the mind, pulling in opposite directions: the spiritual urge and the worldly pull. Over time the balance between the two changes. The more you reflect on the Buddha’s message, the stronger the commitment to the eightfold path. At the same time the grip of sensuality on the mind gradually weakens. So yes, disenchantment with the world gradually becomes stronger over time – at least it has for me – but there are many wobbles on the way!

This is exactly how I feel, and I think it is perfectly healthy. Monastic life is just so much more meaningful than lay life. Everything I do has a single purpose: to move towards ever great contentment, peace, and happiness, and away from suffering. I find it very hard to imagine I would feel anywhere near as fulfilled as a lay person.

The trick, I think, is to allow the movement away from sensuality to happen gradually. As the attachment to sensuality fades, the happiness of the spiritual life tends to increase. Ideally the process is a gradual substitution of one for the other. In reality things are a bit more complicated, of course, but I think the general principle holds. What this means it that you ensure you always have enough happiness in your life – otherwise it all becomes unbearable. Finding sufficient happiness is one of the reasons I have always preferred living in a monastery where the atmosphere is light, friendly, and accepting.