On the inherent pessimism of parinibbana as mere cessation

No sir you should not be sad about this. What you are doing is searching for answer…which is 100000 times better than holding to certain conclusion which can be very well wrong. It is better to not reach conclusion, that’s how wisdom grows. The moment we finalise something, growth stops. So you are wise one actually! :smile:
Suttas also say that we should not accept something till it seems logically correct and is conducive to happiness of one or many. So we are not against dhamma.

My guru says dhamma is positive. It is not negative, those who think dhamma is negative are in great delusion, dhamma is liberating and not entangling, everyone attains nibbana the ultimate happiness someday.
I also personally don’t like the idea of vanishing like that but I am fine with all those who believe or think both ways. It’s their choice…dhamma will definitely take care of them in best way suited for them as it cares of everyone in some way.

Plz don’t feel sad sir, there is actually nothing as vanishing. This concept of vanishing is just a kind of help to make the process of liberation faster.
It’s like a child receives gift package from certain relatives containing gaming console, child doesn’t know that only his parents know what is there in gift package…so this child desperately wants to know what is there in that gift package…but problem is that child has his upcoming exam in few days, and if he gets his hands on that gaming console, he will definitely stop studying and will play games only. Parents understand this and for the sake of child’s benefit/progress they say out of compassion that…there is nothing in that gift package it is completely empty. Now child is sad but he is less distracted because he doesn’t have any idea about gaming console, hence the mind of child is not distracted so he is able to focus on studying for his exam. Child will receive his reward after clearing his exam…so we are like children who are told what is necessary for us to know so that we clear this exam of reaching other shore of nibbana as fast as we can.
Buddha is said to be supremely compassionate one, it is said that it’s impossible to count how many times he sacrificed his life for other’s sake…there is no limit to his compassion. When I imagine what kind of a person he was…I always get amazed to see how can someone like that even exist in this world of darkness!!! He is a person whose kindness can never be matched by anyone, whose generosity cannot be matched by anyone, he gave everything to others…the most selfless person…the most kind-hearted. It is not possible for someone such as me to praise lord buddha… perfections and merits of many many lifetimes are needed in order to be able to praise lord buddha…so I don’t think person like him would teach anything that will be depressing. If something is depressing you then…you should not follow it…at the same time don’t feel sad for those who follow it, because we cannot know what way/path suits whom. Stay cool sir! :smile:

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IMHO, the answer to the initial question (would it be worth it to kill ourselves if there was Nibbana—as cessation—after death?) is no. Nibbana, if it’s the mere cessation of the aggregates, doesn’t seem very appealing without rebirth. This beginless stream of existence is tiring, stressful, and unsatisfactory, but, without rebirth, existence isn’t that bad. We actually would have just one life and inevitably reach Nibbana at the end, so there wouldn’t be much point in killing ourselves.

This thread has given rise to a lot of bad reactions, so I’ll move to discuss the fear of Parinibbana. My observation is that this reaction has nothing to do with the discussion of the nature of Nibbana. Whether or not it is a supramundane state attained by arahats, it should cause fear to anyone who is neither a suicidal nor a stream-enterer. That is, if you have identity-view (i.e. you see yourself as, in, possessing, or containing one or more aggregates), then Parinibbana will mean annihilation to you. If you actually didn’t fear it and still had identity-view, then it would either be because you didn’t mind being annihilated or because you misinterpreted it as a state wherein some aggregate remains. Whether or not Parinibbana is a state or not is beside the point: what matters is that all of this that you identify with, that you hold dear, that you take care of, will be utterly destroyed.

Of course, this sounds horrible. The worst is that the view of Parinibbana as a state doesn’t solve the problem at all. In fact, if it were some state, what would be the point if there will be no consciousness in it? (supposing that you identify yourself with your consciousness). In other words, that state wouldn’t be attained by “you” anyways since what you identify yourself with will be absent.

I believe the solution lies in recognizing that the happiness in Parinibbana is of a sublime sort, and it can’t be comprehended easily. Most people can’t even see how a life of renunciation may lead to happiness, let alone something devoid of the five aggregates. That’s why the Buddha wouldn’t go around teaching every lay person about Parinibbana. Rather, he would instigate people to pursue higher forms of happiness or teach them how to attain morally what they recognized as happiness. Practicing compassion, generosity, virtue, Kamma, and rebirth leads to a better life here and now, but even that is not enough, so the person may move on to renounce indulgence in sensual pleasures and start practicing meditation. After each attainment, the person sees the drawbacks of that and pursues more refined sorts of happiness. Only when they’re mature enough, awakening will seem appealing.

Admiring such a goal is difficult because we don’t know how the lack of feeling could be good. Fortunately, the following excerpt may provide elucidation:

“Now, it’s possible, Ānanda, that some wanderers of other persuasions might say, ‘Gotama the contemplative speaks of the cessation of perception & feeling and yet describes it as pleasure. What is this? How is this?’ When they say that, they are to be told, ‘It’s not the case, friends, that the Blessed One describes only pleasant feeling as included under pleasure. Wherever pleasure is found, in whatever terms, the Blessed One describes it as pleasure.’”

MN 59

This means that something may be pleasurable even though it doesn’t have any feeling. We can’t recognize this truth only because of our ignorance.

If we find Parinibbana fearful, then we should focus on the mundane part of the path, like virtue, generosity, and compassion. In the meanwhile, we may interpret our fear as coming from false misconceptions that the Buddha himself had correctly overcome, and it’s out of faith in his good intentions for teaching that we may believe that Parinibbana is truly worth it, even though we may not recognize that now.

After addressing the main question and the fear of Parinibbana, I’m going to share my views on the nature of this state:

  1. In the Kotthita Sutta (AN 4.174), Ven. Sariputta explains that one can’t claim that there is, is not, both is and is not, and neither is nor is not anything in Parinibbana. Therefore, the view that it is just the cessation of all khandas with nothing else is as wrong as the view that there will be something in it;
  2. Nibbana is a thing. If it were just the lack of anything at all, it would be nothingness. So the state of perception of nothingness could be said of being the perception of Parinibbana. However, the meditative attainment wherein one is percipient of Parinibbana is described in the Sāriputta Sutta (AN 10:7) as being attained only after one has surpassed the perception of nothingness:

“Once, friend Ānanda, when I was staying right here near Sāvatthī in the Grove of the Blind, I reached concentration in such a way that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth… nor of water with regard to water, nor of fire… wind… the dimension of the infinitude of space… the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness… the dimension of nothingness… the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception… this world… nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet I was still percipient.”

“But what, friend Sāriputta, were you percipient of at that time?”

“‘The cessation of becoming—unbinding—the cessation of becoming—unbinding’: One perception arose in me, friend Ānanda, as another perception ceased. Just as in a blazing woodchip fire, one flame arises as another flame ceases, even so, ‘The cessation of becoming—unbinding—the cessation of becoming—unbinding’: One perception arose in me as another one ceased. I was percipient at that time of ‘The cessation of becoming—unbinding.’”

  1. From the logical standpoint, if Parinibbana were nothing, it couldn’t be said to possess properties. We wouldn’t be able to call it “unborn,” “unfabricated,” and “deathless.” Instead, we would be right in claiming, “there is no unborn, unfabricated, or deathless.” In other words, if there were nothing that matched these properties, it would make no sense in describing it. However, the Buddha said:

"Now these three are unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated. Which three? No arising is discernible, no passing away is discernible, no alteration while staying is discernible.”

AN 3:47

“There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished, unevolving, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

Ud 8.1

  1. Even though it is not nothing, it’s still not some eternal paradise. The solution to this dichotomy seems to lie precisely in its ineffability:

The Blessed One said, “What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, ‘Repudiating this All, I will describe another,’ if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain and, furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range.”

SN 35:23

Given that Nibbana will consist in the cessation of the All, it’s not possible to describe it. When we try to do that, we end up depicting it as if it were made of aggregates: we imagine a black, void, and neutral existence, a state of consciousness full of bliss, or maybe just nothingness. No matter how hard we try, we will end up misrepresenting it.

While we still don’t have direct knowledge of Parinibbana, we should focus on what the Buddha told us: it is the highest happiness (Dhp 203).


A different perspective and 2 little cents of advice

Forget about the state at end of the Path!! Sure have a little look, but then park it in the ‘we will see’ spot somewhere in the background.

Focus on the immediate improvement in well-being from the application of kindness. This is already a huge move forward in reducing suffering and improving quality of life :slight_smile: . That is already enough of a reason to take up the practice. Ones immediate life, and that of those in ones orbit is improved, the practice of Sila is being a friend to oneself and others, and easy to see in the here and now :slight_smile:

Moving forward is very practical - not theoretical, hypothetical or philosophical. As far as I am concerned the entire ‘trick’ to the Dhamma is knowing how to harness the Principle of Dependent Arising. The Buddha really laid it all out so clearly for us - it is the Noble 8 Fold path that provides a sequence for the Dependent Arising of clear seeing and the dependent cessation of delusion… Arising of contentment and the cessation of craving… Arising of peace and the cessation of suffering.

Focus on learning and knowing what is here now, ie seeing clearly the Body and Mind, the 5 Khandas for what they are. Can you clearly see what is here now? What is a human? Does it align with what the Buddha saw?

In order to do this, one needs to eradicate the defilements. (Noble 8 fold Path)

Once one has eradicated the defilements, has thoroughly explored Samadhi and knows Mind for what it is, then is the time to ask what happens when that ceases. Only when it is truly known and understood can one possibly look beyond it. While there are defilements there is delusion - one is still looking at the mirage as though it is ‘real’.

When I witness these arguments and all the Papancha, I see the building up of hindrances and obstacles including Doubt among them. There is an absolute danger in letting speculative views drive perception. This is not the way to develop Right View. There is a conundrum and a challenge here - one goal of the training is seeing ‘only the seen in the seen… only the cognized in the thought’ ,etc. Only then does one have a chance for the breakthrough…

The Desire for understanding of Nibbana is one thing - it is normal and one can anticipate this desire. But expecting to understand Nibbana/cessation without the necessary conditions, is guaranteed to result in frustration. It is this frustration, arising due to the expectation, that is a problem. One has to use Wisdom to differentiate between this desire and the expectation that the desire will be fulfilled immediately, and then practice some restraint in the craving.

It is all Dependent Arising - without the necessary conditions, there is no chance - so relax, put these desires on the shelf for a while and practice. Practice. Practice. When the conditions have resulted in a transformation, the view and the capacity to see will be completely different. I believe that the depth and extent of Delusion is generally grossly underestimated. When enmeshed in it - it is absolutely perceived as absolute reality.

Back to the simile of milk > curds > butter > ghee.
The milk Self, sees the world from Milk perspective. The Curds see the world from curd perspective, and may remember the milk perspective, but can no longer revert to the milk perspective because that milk-self has transformed into the curd-self. At this point there is no more Milk-Self, it is now a Curd-Self.

The milk-self had no way of viewing the world from the curd perspective… to expect to be able to do so is pretty silly. So how much more naive for the milk-self to expect that it will be able to see the world from the perspective of Ghee? Only the Ghee-self has access to that. The ghee-self (arahant) may remember all the previous perspectives, but it can no longer see the world from them - only the memory of those remains… everything is now seen from the Ghee-self perspective. This is why it is irreversible - it is a transformation.

Of course milk-self (only knowing milk world) can’t imagine ghee world, just like the tadpoles imaginings about dry land and living in air as a frog, will be wrong - but they can’t imagine how it could be wrong because they are incapable of seeing their situation clearly. They have a tadpole perspective.

However, once at least one stage of transformation has occurred, then one is able to infer that if there was one transformation, there could be others, and the adherence to views and speculation is easier to let go of - one has seen the incredible effect of delusion, by overcoming one layer of it.

IMHO this is one of the very important aspects of Stream Entry - it is like opening the door to further transformation. The extent and incredible effect of delusion has been seen - the effect of the mirage is truly known. It is like the shattering of a mirror thus shattering the reflection… Prior to this it is unimaginable that it was only a reflection. So it then becomes natural to put Views to one side - they have been seen for what they are :slight_smile:

So if you want the Ghee-self perspective, one has to ensure that the conditions for the transformation from ordinary wordling to arahant are in place. From Milk-self all the way to no-self :slight_smile:

Practice, practice, practice (this doesn’t mean think, think, think) but rather Sila, Samadhi, Panna - and work to avoid or minimize the thicket of views - these ‘mirages’ and ‘reflections’ just misdirect attention and get in the way.


But, the point is: there are buddhist who believe this highest happiness refers to a mere cessation, going out like a flame, vanishing at death like a particle entering Earths atmosphere.
If one vanishes at death like a particle entering Earths atmosphere why would we even talk about parinibbana as happiness?

Yes, i believe that too.


What i see is that persons here do not see Dhamma as negative, but they believe it is very positive to vanish at death like a particle entering Earths atmosphere. Even talk about this as spectacular. It makes me sad that people think that way, believe it is Dhamma, and believe the ultimate goal of the holy life is to vanish.

Oke, agreed, but why talk about another shore if parinibbana is mere cessation? In this view of parinibbana as mere cessation, the other shore is only a designation for vanishing at death like a particle entering Earth atmosphere. In this view in fact there is no other shore! There is only this shore and then vanishing.

Yes, i lsee it that way too.

To be honest, i feel a drive that people really abandon the idea that parinibbana is a mere cessation.

Ofcourse, i also believe, Buddha taught the end of rebirth, the end of entering again into a new state of existence, but i feel, sorry cannot ignore it, it is just wrong to think this means a mere cessation.

I feel, it is cynical to talk about a mere cessation as the highest hapiness.

I see what you say, but I feel that it is important we at least have some understanding of the end goal.

EBT shows very clearly that having right views and drive is very important. Well, than, one can ask…is seeing parinibbana as a mere cessation, as vanishing like a particle entering Earths atmosphere, really right view? Is it right view that a mere cessation is the highest happiness? Or is this just cynical view and not meant by the Buddha at all?

Is it really a good motivation to practice Dhamma just to stop to exist with nothing remaining?

I believe these are important issues.

What about this?

“Reverends, Nibbana is bliss! Nibbana is bliss!”

“But Reverend Sāriputta, what’s blissful about it, since nothing is felt?”

“The fact that nothing is felt is precisely what’s blissful about it.”
AN 9.34

or this?

“It’s possible that wanderers who follow other paths might say, ‘The ascetic Gotama spoke of the cessation of perception and feeling, and he includes it in happiness. What’s up with that?’

When wanderers who follow other paths say this, you should say to them, ‘Reverends, when the Buddha describes what’s included in happiness, he’s not just referring to pleasant feeling. The Realized One describes pleasure as included in happiness wherever it’s found, and in whatever context.’”
MN 59


I got what you’re talking about. What bothers you is not the view that Nibbana is a mere cessation, but rather the fact that there are people who hold, cherish, and divulge such a view, right?

Unfortunately, this is something that we can’t really do anything about. Whether or not someone misunderstands the teachings of the Buddha, we can’t change it if they don’t want to. Maybe the following excerpt may help you on this point:

“If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should not give way to resentment, displeasure, or animosity against them in your heart. For if you were to become angry or upset in such a situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves. If you were to become angry or upset when others speak in dispraise of us, would you be able to recognize whether their statements are rightly or wrongly spoken?”

“Certainly not, Lord.”

“If, bhikkhus, others speak in dispraise of me, or in dispraise of the Dhamma, or in dispraise of the Sangha, you should unravel what is false and point it out as false, saying: ‘For such and such a reason this is false, this is untrue, there is no such thing in us, this is not found among us.’

“And if, bhikkhus, others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should not give way to jubilation, joy, and exultation in your heart. For if you were to become jubilant, joyful, and exultant in such a situation, you would only be creating an obstacle for yourselves. If others speak in praise of me, or in praise of the Dhamma, or in praise of the Sangha, you should acknowledge what is fact as fact, saying: ‘For such and such a reason this is a fact, this is true, there is such a thing in us, this is found among us.’"
DN 1

Even though this sutta doesn’t refer to misinterpretations, the argument remains quite valid: feeling bad about how other people interpret the Dhamma is not worth it. The best you may do is try to explain to them where their mistake lies, but you can’t really expect to change everyone’s mind, and, most of the time, the majority won’t even be willing to listen. Moreover, we might be the real ignorant ones. In this case, remaining equanimous is also the best option since spotting our mistake will be easier. Therefore, just accepting the existence of other interpretations of the Dhamma is the best for our own sake.

Those sutta’s, i believe, only say that the bliss of Nibbana, or happiness of Nibbana, is not a feeling.
One must not mistake to see the bliss of Nibbana as some kind of sensation, or something that is felt, but, i believe, one must see the bliss of Nibbana as a situation in which any burden lacks.
In comparision with the stilling of all formations, sukha vedana’s are burdens. Any sanna is a burden.

So, one must not see the happiness of Nibbana as a kind of vedana. Nor is this happiness something perceived as an object of the 6 senses. It is much more, i believe, the empty and radiant nature of the pure mind itself.

The sutta’s you mention do not say that the happiness/bliss of Nibbana stays unknown or is not perceived in any way. I believe it can be perceived in some way, and i believe as the pure nature of mind. This detached purity is , i believe, itself totally unburdened and in this way a happiness, and bliss.

Our mind is very much burdened, and what such texts say is that it is burdened with vedana and sanna too. Even a sukha vedana is, compared to cessation, a burden. Does this mean that cessation of sanna and vedana can never be perceived in any way? I do not believe so.

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Not exactly, what bothers me is that parinibbana is seen as a mere cessation, as vanishing like a particle entering Earth atmosphere.

I think, in general, it is not bad or wrong to express concerns that there might be a wrong interpretation. We can discuss this, re-consider it, talk with teachers, experts, make up our own mind.

You maybe right sir. If nibbana is seen as feeling then it is contradiction and will be a wrong view. But still we need to see it as situation. I think what you are implying is that we need to be aware of it even though it’s absense of both perception and feeling. I think can be like that. Because as far as I can understand, we suffer because we are unstable and constantly moving, it is our awareness that is trapped and stillness is absent hence we suffer. When someone attains first glimpse of nibbana (stream-entry), I think for the first time he experiences perfect stillness, because any kind of ‘movement’ is impermanent, it is its nature. Movement is always impermanent. Only that is permanent which is not the movement, and opposite of movement is stillness. Hence we can say that stillness is permanence. But for ordinary being awareness is trapped in this impermanence(movement), and stillness is absent, moreover ordinary beings lack proper movement(lack noble eightfold path)(they are prone to do unwholesome karma), their awareness is also impermanent(sometimes present and sometime absent). Also for ordinary beings(us) awareness and stillness cannot exist together I believe, because that will be contradiction for us being ordinary beings… I guess. In stillness we are not aware of being still. If we have to be aware of stillness I think we have to first learn to stay aware during every kind of movement…in other words if our mind can be still during movement, then only we can be aware of stillness. In other words, we should be aware of impermanence in order to be aware of stillness. Stream entry occurs only after we experience impermanence perfectly(directly)…because without knowing impermanence, permanence cannot be known. In again another words, we have to realize first noble truth of suffering (impermanence) perfectly, then only we truly will want to know(and then we will know) the reason for that suffering, which is 2nd noble truth, the cause of suffering, then naturally we will know 3rd noble truth, the end of suffering and 4th one along with it or after it(I don’t know exactly because of lack of experience)

Here when you are saying that it is much more, the empty and radiant nature of the pure mind…I believe you are talking about awareness that is attained after attaining stillness. Because still/empty mind is always radiant, because Movement of mind can be pure only when one has experienced stillness(glimpse of nibbana) or only when one has attained stream-entry.

Also I think as long as one tries to follow noble eightfold path, it doesn’t matter if you believe that, “…parinibbana as a mere cessation, as vanishing like a particle entering Earth atmosphere…” or exactly opposite of that(the way you see it, I guess) in positive way maybe. Because only after attaining stillness(permanence) we can have true freedom of either “being aware” or “being not aware”. As presently we don’t even know what is stillness, nor our awareness is developed nor we have proper movement(noble eightfold path).

Although I don’t believe perfectly in above speculation as I don’t know if that’s correct, it surely looks logically right.

The concept of Nibbanna being either non-existence or existence is wrong view. We only know that it’s something we can’t conceptualise or impossible to conceptualise.
So too the concept of Nibbana being a state of nothingness or annihilation falls into this wrong view.

I recall a sutta discussing the realm of neither perceiving nor non perceiving and beings born there do not evoke a single thought for billions of years, but it’s still not considered Nibbana.

Just like a fourth spatial dimension is impossible to conceptualise but yet we have a word that points to it. We know it can possibly exist, but being three dimensional beings it’s impossible.

(I’m not saying Nibbana is in a higher spatial dimension, just making a simili.)

If you had to conceptualise Nibbana (which would still be wrong) there are more optimistic concepts.

Perhaps it’s everywhere at once with an infinite expanse not leaving anything untouched.

Perhaps it’s all at once where the concept of time is redundant.

Perhaps it’s outside the bounds of space and time where a more stable order of reality exists without cyclic existence.

All of these would still be wrong view, but it’s not more wrong than conceptualising it as nothing.

We know the universe itself can do some weird stuff. A particle of light doesn’t have mass and so doesn’t actually exist in time. A photon from 13 billion light years reaching our eyes has experienced zero time at all, but from out perspective it took 13 billion years.


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