Parinibbāyati achieved during life and not at the end of life and break up of the body

Indeed, it is after all what we are in search of. But death as far as Suttas describe it, is quite real phenomena, although impersonal. But due to ignorance the death of the body is taken personally.
Extinction simply refers to extinction of greed, hate and delusion. The more one is attached to the body, the greater difference one sees between “living” arahat and “dead” arahat, but in ariyan view arahat is not to be found even here and now. MN 22

1 Like

The suttas distinguish between two elements of Nibbāna: the Nibbāna element with residue (sa-upādisesa-nibbānadhātu) and the Nibbāna element without residue (anupādisesanibbānadhātu )—the residue (upādisesa) being the compound of the five aggregates produced by prior craving and kamma (It 38–39). The former is the extinction of lust, hatred, and delusion attained by the arahant while alive; the latter is the remainderless cessation of all conditioned existence that occurs with the arahant’s death. In the commentaries the two elements of Nibbāna are respectively called kilesaparinibbāna, the quenching of defilements at the attainment of arahantship, and khandhaparinibbāna , the quenching of the continuum of aggregates with the arahant’s demise. Though the commentaries treat the two Nibbāna elements and the two kinds of parinibbāna as interchangeable and synonymous, in sutta usage it may be preferable to see the two kinds of parinibbāna as the events which give access to the two corresponding Nibbāna elements. Parinibbāna, then, is the act of quenching; nibbāna, the state of quenchedness.

relevant quote from your source.

Indeed, I am grateful that my teacher once in class did make this distinction.

In common usage, we refer to death of an arahant as parinibbāna, but in sutta usage, it can be of other usage. It’s best to see the context to get the meaning of the word then. It’s like dhamma, one word, many meanings.

Hi. A sutta I read says death is impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away, and cessation (SN 12.20), which reads like a mental concept that is dependently arisen, subject to destruction, vanishing, fading away and cessation. The suttas I read say death is the death of a being: The passing away of the various beings from the various orders of beings (SN 12.2) . “Beings” are also mental concepts in SN 5.10. If we search in the wrong place, we probably will not find anything. MN 26 about noble search says death is death of acquisitions: And what may be said to be subject to death? Spouses & children… men & women slaves… goats & sheep… fowl & pigs… elephants, cattle, horses, & mares… gold & silver. Subject to death are these acquisitions, and one who is tied to them, infatuated with them, who has totally fallen for them. “Acquisitions” also read like mental concepts. I read in SN 12.66 the cause of “acquisitions” is craving. I also read SN 12.66 say acquisitions is the cause of death. SN 12.66 does not including the bhava & jati conditions. All these things sound like mental concepts. The idea of “death of the body” is also a mental concept. If we stop thinking this mental concept, I am sure we can realise death is only a mental concept.

This question can only be answered appropriately after reflection on “Who/ What is being extinguished?”

There are two views on this within the suttas.

  • “I, me and mine - making” is extinguished viz Mental Suffering (Dukkha) on account of personalization of sense experience based on the five aggregates (and the personalized effort to modify that personalized experience) is extinguished,


  • The actual sensory experience of pain (Dukkha vedana) caused by the five aggregates is extinguished

The former view fits well with extinguishment while still being alive, the latter with extinguishment post the breakup of the aggregates.

My best guess is that the latter view is a later development, requiring the invention of a new word viz parinibbana (literally ‘after’ nibbana) to distinguish it from nibbana.

1 Like

Isn’t this some kind of spiritual reductionism or materialism? While materialist hold that in final sense only matter exist, the spiritual materialist believes in the end only bodily and mental processes exist?

Wonderful summary.

It’s compatible with no soul of Buddhism.

The issue with materalism is not so much about reductionism, it’s that it denies certain facts of life. Eg. rebirth, kamma, psychic powers, supernormal beings, etc. Just mind and matter both would cover them all, and it does indeed also imply that the whole realms of existences are empty of self and what belongs to a self.

No doubt about it. My fault lies in not attaching quote from Sutta MN 9. Phenomenal descriptions of death as dissolution of aggregates are unambiguous: there is such thing as a death of the body, and as far as our existential situation goes, the death of the body is unavailable. But such descriptions as in MN 9 are part of dependent arising which starts with ignorance. And due to ignorance merely impersonal event of dissolution of aggregates starts to be seen as “my death”. Fear of death is real phenomena, and puthujjana under influence of sakkayaditthi takes for granted that he was born and he will die. And in this sense “death” is dependently arisen, and with cessation of ignorance now and here, there is cessation of death.

From SN 35: 69

Now on that occasion a viper had fallen on the Venerable Upasena’s body. Then the Venerable Upasena addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Come, friends, lift this body of mine on to the bed and carry it outside before it is scattered right here like a handful of chaff.”32When this was said, the Venerable Sāriputta said to the Venerable Upasena: “We do not see any alteration in the Venerable Upasena’s body nor any change in his faculties; yet the Venerable Upasena says: ‘Come, friends, lift this body of mine on to the bed and carry it outside before it is scattered right here like a handful of chaff.’”“Friend Sāriputta, for one who thinks, ‘I am the eye’ or ‘The eye is mine’; ‘I am the ear’ or ‘The ear is mine’ … ‘I am the mind’ or ‘The mind is mine,’ there might be alteration of the body or a change of the faculties. But, friend Sāriputta, [41] it does not occur to me, ‘I am the eye’ or ‘The eye is mine’; ‘I am the ear’ or ‘The ear is mine’ … ‘I am the mind’ or ‘The mind is mine,’ so why should there be any alteration in my body or any change in my faculties?”33“It must be because I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit have been thoroughly uprooted in the Venerable Upasena for a long time that it does not occur to him, ‘I am the eye’ or ‘The eye is mine’; ‘I am the ear’ or ‘The ear is mine’ … ‘I am the mind’ or ‘The mind is mine.’”

Nibbana is cessation of being here and now. With the cessation of ignorance there is cessation of person (sakkaya), who undergoes death. We can say that nobody was born nobody will die, but such words refer only to arahat, since puthujjana takes his death very seriously, he doesn’t see dependent arising: with ignorance as condition… death. In other words he doesn’t see that death is impermanent, determined and dependently arisen.

In a syllogism (1. All men are mortal. 2. Socrates is a man. 3. Therefore Socrates is mortal), the generalization (all men are mortal) must have been arrived at by induction. No inductive process is ever absolutely certain. There is always the leap, the assumption, of generalizing and therefore one of the premises of a syllogism must have an element of uncertainty. So it cannot prove anything with certainty.
A syllogism is therefore a signpost pointing where to look for direct experience, but can inherently never give information that is 100% certain. But a syllogism (on metaphysical subjects) can also point to what can, inherently, never be experienced; then it is an anomaly.

Nanamoli Thera

1 Like

I would prefer to word it as below, seeing that there’s never was a self anywhere.

There’s the conventional person whom we use to label 5 aggregates with ignorance, conceit, identity view. None of those are a self or a being ultimately.

The 5 aggregates undergoes decay and breakup which we call death, and when clung to it leads to rebirth of another 5 aggregates, subject to the law of kamma etc. When ignorance, conceit and identity view are eradicated, there being no more support for the 5 aggregates to arise again after the final passing away.

Identity view, conceit and ignorance, I collectively call the delusion of self, those too are not self. Not a person, a being. Just delusions that such a thing exists, the ignorance of it, etc.

It also said the heedless are as if dead already even when alive. Implying that the usage of death here is a metaphorical one, not a literal usage. A metaphorical usage of death somewhere doesn’t mean we should discard all usage of death referring to literal break of the body and mind, of the 5 aggregates in other contexts.

1 Like

Although on the whole parinibbāna and related verbs refer to the passing away of an enlightened being, “the suttas do not use parinibbāna exclusively in this sense. Sometimes the term refers to enlightenment, which is the full (pari) extinguishment of craving. Likewise, the term nibbāna (without pari- ) is also used for the passing away of an enlightened being.”*

As others have said, in such cases it is not “final extinguishment without remainder”, because that term does always refer to the passing away of an enlightened being.

1 Like

No, i do not agree. We must distinguish our lifes from being a zombi, or from being a machine, or being mere a detecting and reacting device. Those are merely impersonal processes. They do not really feel, have no inner life, no sense of being present in the world. We have.
It is no quality at all to become a living zombi or some automaton.

My belief is: awakening does not really mean one does not feel a person, unique individual etc. anymore. No one can live that way. No one can also survive without treating body and mental processes as me and mine. If one takes such things literally, than all goes wrong.

I also do not believe it makes any sense to claim that a car does not exist and only parts. That is absurd.
Likewise, claiming that a real living person does not exist but mere parts, is more of the same nonsense. What makes a car and person unique is how all those part work together and form a whole that has really different qualities as the parts.

The challenge is to become fully personal. A real person, authentic, truthful, sincere, upright.
This means: abandon all what is not me.

The Teacher taught the giving up of concern for what happens to the physical body and any pain it suffers. The Teacher taught that this is not an appropriate cause for concern once a person lays down the burden of appropriating the physical body.

What do you think, mendicants? Suppose a person was to carry off the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in this Jeta’s Grove, or burn them, or do what they want with them. Would you think, ‘This person is carrying us off, burning us, or doing what they want with us’?”

“No, sir. Why is that? Because to us that’s neither self nor belonging to self.”

“In the same way, mendicants, give up what isn’t yours. Giving it up will be for your lasting welfare and happiness. And what isn’t yours? Form … feeling … perception … choices … consciousness isn’t yours: give it up. Giving it up will be for your lasting welfare and happiness.

MN 22

Here the Teacher says that even if someone were to come along and carry off the physical body, burning it, doing what they want with it, the physical body should not be appropriated as “ours” and that we should give up concern for pain that is inflicted upon it.

By insisting that the aggregates are substantial and that they are a cause for concern of ours it is not possible to lay down the burden and give up what isn’t ours. It is just not appropriate to focus on the aggregates as our problem that needs to be solved. Precisely the opposite.


Yes, exactly… I agree wholeheartedly. IMO, the dissolution of the aggregates of the Arahant at the end of life (Parinibbana) is just the epilogue.

The main event is Nibbana, achieved during life itself. At this point when the seeker directly realizes that there is no further greed, aversion or delusion arising within themselves in response to sense experience they directly know that

Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.

There really is nothing more to be done beyond this! Whatever happens after Nibbana with regard to the aggregates is no longer of concern to the Arahant as you have rightly pointed out. Hence the emphasis in the commentaries on ‘Parinibbana’ (IMO, a consequence of conflating Dukkha with Dukkha vedana) as something special achieved at the time of death is unfortunate.

1 Like

Where is it stated that “final extinguishment without remainder” refers to the death of an enlightened being?

I believe “final extinguishment without remainder” refers to the moment the Teacher achieved supreme and complete awakening under the Bodhi tree and pronounced:

“I understood: ‘Rebirth is ended; the spiritual journey has been completed; what had to be done has been done; there is no return to any state of existence.’
‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṁ brahmacariyaṁ, kataṁ karaṇīyaṁ, nāparaṁ itthattāyā’ti abbhaññāsiṁ.”
MN 36

This refers to “final extinguishment without remainder” and was uttered the night of Shakyamuni’s supreme awakening. The holy life had been lived with no return to any state of existence. This refers to the achievement that very night and it is in accord with the Teacher’s description of the element of extinguishment with nothing left over in Iti 44.


1 Like

We are dealing here with very subtle point of Dhamma, and I don’t think introduction such terms as conventional reality, about which in the case of sakkaya Lord Buddha is silent, is neseccery.

So would you agree on such description: sakkayaditthi means to see oneself as a person (sakkaya)(he sees the body as a self … and so on) and surely as far as puthujjana conviction goes there is nothing conventional in being a person, neither there is nothing conventional in his attavada -attavadupadana- is very real phenomen, and in fact this is the tasks of the Dhamma Teaching: namely help him to remove it.

People are selfish, surely they see something what they take as a self and what they prefer over other things? No doubt it is only in presence of ignorance such self-identification is possible, but this simply means that notion of self is a deception and as deception it has to be removed from experience. Deception exist and is on the side of dukkha†.

And talking about attavada that it is convention and in reality attavadin does not exist isn’t very helpful to attavadin. Suppose I am a victim of attavadupadana and you want to help me. Would you say, friend in reality you don’t exist, because there is no such thing as a self; or rather you would say, now, friend you take for granted your self. But what in fact do you consider to be your self: body? feeling?, perception? intentions? consciousness? All these things are impermanent and should be seen as: this is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.

Do notice that attāvada is inseparable with sakkayaditthi and to go beyond sakkayaditthi one has to actively reverse it by self-disidentification: “this I am not, this is not my self”. But the attitude “I am” itself also is dependent on ignorance. Nevertheless such ignorance is very powerful that sekha still is a victim of it. Introduction of idea that conceit I am is merely convention and in reality conceit “I am” doesn’t exist, is absolutely unnecessary, and you cannot find it in Suttas.

Absence of notion of self is what distinguish sotāpanna from puthujjana:

“This world, Kaccāna, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence. But this one [with right view] does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’

He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing. His knowledge about this is independent of others. It is in this way, Kaccāna, that there is right view. SN 12: 15

You idea about self as conventional reality can be translated as a teaching: friend while you are victim of attavadupadana and so you are imprisoned in Brahmajala, your imprisonment is a conventional reality…Your suffering is just conventional reality, ultimately there is no such thing as suffering.

But now you say, ‘If all things are characterized by dukkha…’ This needs careful qualification. In the first place, the universal dukkha you refer to here is obviously not the dukkha of rheumatism or a toothache, which is by no means universal. It is, rather, the sankhāra-dukkha (the unpleasure or suffering connected with determinations) of this Sutta passage:

There are, monk, three feelings stated by me: sukha feeling, dukkha feeling, neither-dukkha-nor-sukha feeling. These three feelings have been stated by me. But this, monk, has been stated by me: whatever is felt, that counts as dukkha. But that, monk, was said by me with reference just to the impermanence of determinations… (Vedanā Samy. 11: iv,216)

But what is this dukkha that is bound up with impermanence? It is the implicit taking as pleasantly-permanent (perhaps ‘eternal’ would be better) of what actually is impermanent. And things are implicitly taken as pleasantly-permanent (or eternal) when they are taken (in one way or another) as ‘I’ or ‘mine’ (since, as you rightly imply, ideas of subjectivity are associated with ideas of immortality). And the puthujjana takes all things in this way. So, for the puthujjana, all things are (sankhāra-)dukkha. How then—and this seems to be the crux of your argument—how then does the puthujjana see or know (or adjudge) that ‘all things are dukkha’ unless there is some background (or criterion or norm) of non-dukkha (i.e. of sukha) against which all things stand out as dukkha? The answer is quite simple: he does not see or know (or adjudge) that ‘all things are dukkha’. The puthujjana has no criterion or norm for making any such judgement, and so he does not make it.

The puthujjana’s experience is (sankhāra-)dukkha from top to bottom, and the consequence is that he has no way of knowing dukkha for himself; for however much he ‘steps back’ from himself in a reflexive effort he still takes dukkha with him. (I have discussed this question in terms of avijjā (‘nescience’) in A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §§23 & 25, where I show that avijjā, which is dukkhe aññānam (‘non-knowledge of dukkha’), has a hierarchical structure and breeds only itself.) The whole point is that the puthujjana’s non-knowledge of dukkha is the dukkha that he has non-knowledge of;[a] and this dukkha that is at the same time non-knowledge of dukkha is the puthujjana’s (mistaken) acceptance of what seems to be a ‘self’ or ‘subject’ or ‘ego’ at its face value (as nicca/sukha/attā, ‘permanent/pleasant/self’).

And how, then, does knowledge of dukkha come about? How it is with a Buddha I can’t say (though it seems from the Suttas to be a matter of prodigiously intelligent trial-by-error over a long period); but in others it comes about by their hearing (as puthujjanas) the Buddha’s Teaching, which goes against their whole way of thinking. They accept out of trust (saddhā) this teaching of anicca/dukkha/anattā; and it is this that, being accepted, becomes the criterion or norm with reference to which they eventually come to see for themselves that all things are dukkha—for the puthujjana. But in seeing this they cease to be puthujjanas and, to the extent that they cease to be puthujjanas,[b] to that extent (sankhāra-)dukkha ceases, and to that extent also they have in all their experience a ‘built-in’ criterion or norm by reference to which they make further progress. (The sekha—no longer a puthujjana but not yet an arahat—has a kind of ‘double vision’, one part unregenerate, the other regenerate.) As soon as one becomes a sotāpanna one is possessed of aparapaccayā ñānam, or ‘knowledge that does not depend upon anyone else’: this knowledge is also said to be ‘not shared by puthujjanas’, and the man who has it has (except for accelerating his progress) no further need to hear the Teaching—in a sense he is (in part) that Teaching.

So far, then, from its being a Subject (immortal soul) that judges ‘all things are dukkha’ with reference to an objective sukha, it is only with subsidence of (ideas of) subjectivity that there appears an (objective) sukha with reference to which the judgement ‘all things are dukkha (for the commoner)’ becomes possible at all.
[L. 145 | 155] 2 July 1965 - Ñāṇavīra Thera Dhamma Page

Sakkaya ditthi is explained in MN44.

It is not very farfetched to assume that all lifeforms are programmed to see body and mind as me, mine, my self. Otherwise they would not exist in the first place. Seen from evolution it is all very normal.

Now we can decide it is all ignorance, but why? Why is it ignorant that lifeforms instinctively prefer to survive in stead of dying or ceasing without anything remaining?

Because the body is not the self and does not exist in the way that ignorance believes it exists.

Ignorance believes that we acquire our body at birth or conception and it stays with us until we die. Ignorance believes that the body is a substantial thing that can be separated and distinguished in reality from other things. Ignorance believes that the body is self-sustaining and independent of what’s not the body.

None of this is true. They body is a completely dependent arising due to conditions and is constantly in a state of flux due to conditions that are also in a constant state of flux. The body cannot be truly distinguished from other things nor is it self-sustaining and independent of what’s not the body. We don’t acquire the body at birth or conception and release it at death. We are not our bodies and yet we cannot be distinguished as distinct from our bodies.

Dependent upon believing otherwise from the truth, suffering arises. We become attached to our body and crave its continued existence in a way that its utterly unable to exist at all. We grow angry at anyone that attempts to hurt our body. We crave for anything we feel is pleasant towards our body; for delicious food to nourish it. We fear anything that could hurt our body such as disease or illness. We dread the inevitable: the death and decay of the body. All of this is suffering and it is all based on ignorance mistaking the body for that which it is not and can never be.

Concerning this body,
he of vast wisdom has taught
that when three things are given up,
you’ll see this form discarded.

Vitality, warmth, and consciousness:
when they leave the body,
it lies there tossed aside,
food for others, mindless.

Such is this process,
this illusion, cooed over by fools.
It’s said to be a killer,
for no substance is found here.

SN 22.95


I feel, what we need most is first of all just to accept this as completely normal. It is just normal that sentient beings are equiped with survival programs. We have them too. From an evolutionairy perspective it is completely normal and understandable.

The word normal means “typical or expected” and in this sense, yes, ignorance is expected. However, this does not mean that ignorance is necessary or advantageous. Precisely the opposite. Luckily, there is an escape from this situation rooted in ignorance.

Ignorance is not necessary for survival or happiness. Ignorance is the enemy of happiness and giving up ignorance is the way to true happiness.


1 Like

For mention of nibbana with/without remainder, see Itivuttaka 44.

Itivuttaka 44 (Iti44) Nibbana without residue!