On Encountering Nibbida

Dear Sister Niyyanika, thank you so much for your post! :pray: All the best wishes to you on the occasion of your upasampada – may it be filled with bountiful joy! (Please also send my best to Sister Anuruddha).

This is such a wonderful perspective.

It sounds like giving up everything was a fantastic shift. For me, I have even less of such worldly props, no car, no job, no apartment – I do have lots of books :sweat_smile: but I’m hoping to donate them soon. It’s very nice not to be ‘tied down,’ but when I see how little space is between me and the homeless life a significant amount of fear arises. It’s like staring at a mountain range knowing that you have to climb over it, but not knowing what’s on the other side.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu! :blush:


Hi Ajahn, thanks so much for your post!

:joy: This is very similar to my outlook as well, should I get a job or should I go live in a monastery? My family, I don’t think, quite understands yet the appeal of monasteries yet. Luckily, my former employer was a rabbi and was very supportive of ordination.



Let me share with you that I always thought that there was a link between the Latin term libido / libidinis and the Pali term nibbidā - in the sense that the latter meant absence of libido to the sensual pleasures.

But it seems this is not the case. The etymology of libido points to lubhyati, which is in turn related to lobha, while the Sanskrit form of is nirvid which among other things means despondency, despair.

Sorry for the thought bubble! :anjal:


Latin and Pāli aren’t related—at the least, barely. :slight_smile:

See this language tree (Prakrit for Pāli).


Yes, they are related as both Pali and Latin terms can be traced back to their proto indo european roots.

As per my previous post, there is a very clear relationship between the Latin term libido and the Sanskrit lubhati which in turn is equivalent to lobha.

The word love in modern English is as well related to it. The relevant PIE root is leubh- :wink:

1 Like

I delved deeper and this is good to know. Thanks.

I still see no resemblance at all between the word libido in nibbidā though—I don’t know how you spotted that. :yum: And apart from the l and b, I find there isn’t much resemblance of libido in the words lubhati and lobha. Although I do see the ressemblence of leubh with love, which is interesting.

I don’t know, I’m already deconstructing Romance languages with Latin, and one tonal language with Pāli. I think if I were to deconstruct all these languages together—as well as adding Pro-Indo European roots into that—that I might go bonkers. :grin:

Your’re right. There is not connection. My point is that the connection I saw, based on the assumption that l may have become n (as these are palatal consonants), does not exist.

Now, back to the term in question, nibbida, I haven’t yet found the PIE root related to it. The Sanskrit equivalent, nirvid / nirvedaḥ is quite imprecisely defined in the dictionaries I found.

1 Like

I’m pretty sure t’s and d’s are interchangeable across languages, and vowels (as with “schwas”) can be pretty ambiguous. All of this taken together, libido and lubhati become almost identical - it’s difficult to ignore the final vowel sounds (“oh” and “ee”), but we shouldn’t expect cognates to map onto each other 100% - I’m not a linguist or anything, but the link sounds plausible to me, even likely.


which, I have not found to be taught by the Buddha

the insight knowledges I have found to be taught by him are found in the First Discourse (Compilation), the 12 insights: 4 noble truths x three phases: knowledge, duty, completion.

Hi Brenna

Thanks for sharing the interesting inquiry. For me the Buddha’s teaching is for this very life and to me, your topic is trying to find a place in this very life for nibbidā (dispassion).

I do not follow the common understanding of the Buddha’s teaching of the Three Universal Characteristics of Life (the Five Aggregates), but only the Three Characteristics of Life with Clinging (The Five Clung-to Aggregates - i.e. the First Noble Truth). For me, if any aspect of experience is not clung to, then it cannot be suffering (dukkha). I don’t follow the associated commentarial three types of dukkha.

So, to me, nibbidā would be anicca, dukkha and anattā, if clung to and only anicca and anattā if not clung to. If one experienced suffering due to nibbidā, I would say they must be clinging to the experience.

As for my personal experience, I have experienced and do experience nibbidā quite often. Any renunciation since meeting the Buddha’s teaching, has been proceeded by it. I have an expanded understanding of renunciation now, not the common one of renunciation = ordination. These are some of the experiences I have had that I can recall at the moment, not chronological:

-giving up illogic in regards to the Buddha’s teaching
-giving up hierarchy in regards to the Buddha’s teaching
-giving up ritual in regards to the Buddha’s teaching
-giving up labelling myself and others, looking for what’s really there, rather than such simplifications
-giving up abuse of drugs
-giving up abuse of alcohol
-giving up overeating
-giving up unhealthy eating, developing a healthy routine
-giving up oversleeping, developing a healthy routine
-giving up late nights, developing a healthy routine
-giving up many possessions/greed, even experienced this as a Christian with inspiration from St Francis of Assisi
-giving up hatred, even experienced this as a Christian
-giving up elaborate clothing
-giving up long hair which can be styled, also the monk’s over concern with appearance in saving his head every day, or more than once a month, or two finger widths long
-giving up sexual relations: having seen emotional immaturity in myself and others, dispassion towards disrespectful emotions, seeing overpopulation
-dispassion towards wandering thought, giving up unwholesome entertainment: joy in meditation
-dispassion towards environmentally unsafe methods of producing food, clothing, shelter and medicine: compassion for present and future generations
-dispassion towards money

For me, any of these could happen as a layman or monk. At times I had more renunciation on certain topics, as a layman than as a monk. (This is my second ordination.)

Best wishes


to me, there seems to be a stem/root there of l_b and there are links between lobha and:

  • the German word liebe
  • the English word love
    I find ‘love’ in English is so confusing, because it covers maybe six words in Greek, for example. Mostly love seems to be associated with sex (eros) and thus a link with libido.
1 Like

I think it’s dispassion clung to, thus leading to depression. Dispassion, rightly seen, would lead one further on the path, imo.

I certainly agree that forcing renunciation will lead to (more) suffering. I’ve certainly done that in the past.

For me, the trick is, slowly developing the higher happiness/es. As we enjoy them more, the lower ones show themselves as inferior. See the Buddha’s discourse on the 10 happinesses: https://suttacentral.net/en/mn59.

I seek an accepting atmosphere of me as a person, but not all my behaviours. Light and friendly is not important to me, if it was, I would have left the Buddha when he issued hard/heavy (unfriendly?), but compassionate words to wayward disciples, such as Bh. Sāti https://suttacentral.net/en/mn38. It seems ‘the truth hurts (ego)’.

1 Like

Maybe you are right but I found it is helpful.


Perhaps above is compiled by based on Ratha-Vinita sutta.


Yes, there are many practices that have a benefit. I also, having tested Mahasi’s teaching during three years of intensive practice, found some benefit. People would not continue, if they did not find some benefit. To me, just because there is benefit, does not mean it is the path to enlightenment. All religions are said to teach to do good and avoid evil, imo only the Buddha’s teaching discerns between good/bad and right/wrong (or wholesome/unwholesome, or skillful/unskillful).

Yes, I’m sure there will be evidence of the ideas/teachings (16 insight knowledges) in the EBTs. It’s up to us to follow the Buddha’s advice on studying his teaching, or not to, such as comparing his teachings to maintain the teaching’s purity and comparing words of disciples against his own and rejecting the former if they don’t agree with the latter. The sutta you quote is attributed to a disciple.

I wonder if anyone (else) has compared the commentarial 16 insights with the 12 of the Buddha? I have and to me, they don’t match. The only ideas that I remember finding, which are quoted of a disciple and that agree with the Buddha’s words, are Bh. Saariputta’s ideas that ‘any concentration with the previous path factors is Right Concentration’ and ‘Nibbaana is the ending of greed hatred and delusion’.

best wishes

I think what you are speaking of is more similiar to samvega a sense of URGENCY that arises due to discerning the inherent instability of existence. Some may call it existential anxiety… Acknowledging that change, seperation and death are ever present possibilities, such an ackowledgement can certainly lead to depression or, for those with stronger minds and less ignorance, a search. The Blessed One has said that for a person touched by dukkha there are two outcomes:

  1. Mental derangement
  2. Search for a solution.


My apologies for going off topic, in advance.

“Nibbida” has been one of my “favorite” words of the last few months.

I’ve been trying to read a sutta a day, and post it to a Buddhist forum with a lot of young people interested in Buddhism.

Many of these younger people have been extremely turned off with Buddhism and suttas where nibbida has been translated as “revulsion”.

These are intelligent kids, in a part of life where they want positive, innovative things. They don’t want to be told that spirituality is learned to become “revulsed” by life.

Hey, you can get puritanism at home, no need to read hard to understand ancient Asian religions.

I think I am going to use “nibbida” as flag word when deciding if I want invest in a particular translators work or not. Does s/he translate it as “disenchantment” or “revulsion”?

I could be completely wrong, but based on my experiences through meditation, and in seeing how other Buddhists live I think “disenchantment” is Buddhism whereas “revulsion” is a technique for getting ordinary people to have a wrong impression of Buddhism.

1 Like

If you read someone had a technique to turn you against war- and that included making you have revulsion (in deep and peaceful concentration) by watching films of the horrors of the world wars or exposing you to a fake war scenario, would the cost be worth the unpleasantness? If you believe in rebirth, the gain is never having to grow old and repeatedly die, the cost is a few hours of unpleasantness.

If you didn’t believe in rebirth the cost would be the same and the gain would be stream entry, in this lifetime and an guaranteed path to nibbana.

Its a lot less pain than, say, full time education, childbirth or even having and running a full time family home.

Most young people might see unpleasant sensation and avoid right away. To get to what is really worth achieving, some pain is inevitable, no? Otherwise there wouldn’t be anything worth achieving.

For what its worth, repulsion might be a better translation, as well. For example what would you feel if you feel if someone said you had to watch film that you didn’t like to watch -for 4 hours. Same thing. :slight_smile:

with metta,


If the big pharmaceuticals companies came out with a pill next week such that birth, aging, nasty people, separation from loved ones, and not getting what you want would never bother you, would take that pill? Would you use your time studying Buddhism for other things?

See how much sense hypothetical questions make?

People learn to cling to their pains and ills.

Younger people haven’t done that yet. All they see are miserable people clinging to their pains and naturally they don’t want that for themselves.

Maybe Ajahn Sujato through his new translations ( or other people ) and teachings can show the world the value of meditation combined with Buddhist teachings.

The core of Buddhist teaching:

  1. Seeing the inherent suffering- use inference, if not experience. There are no ‘plasters’ for deep fractures to be found in the dhamma.
  2. Dig for the cause of that suffering- no amount of blissful meditation will stop the problem; it will only cover it up.
  3. Remove the cause- seeing the problem, rids the mind of the cause of the problem and extinction of suffering is found.
  4. The path to this, as stated by kalyanamittas- is the Noble Eightfold Path; 37 factors of enlightenment; Samatha-Vipassana, satipatthana, etc.

Plenty of ‘solutions’ the give temporary relief and get you hooked wanting more, so you pay more, are around. EBT dhamma is and should be freely available with dedicated teachers and students who are ‘warriors’ fighting for purification of their minds. Talking of purification:

“All conditioned things are impermanent”—when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification. Dhp 227 :lightsaber:

with metta