Permeability of Nibbana/Samsara, boundlessness and the limits of language

In this statement, taken from

The Promise of Nibbana | Lion’s Roar.

“Because nibbana is the opposite of all conditioned phenomena [such as fire and water, heat and cold, light and dark], there is no nibbana in conditioned phenomena, and there are also no conditioned phenomena in nibbana. The conditioned and the unconditioned never coexist.
Udana-atthakatha

Isn’t “Nibanna is the opposite of conditioned phenomena,” a condition in itself? Isn’t saying “Cannot coexist with something else” a condition in itself?

Are we even getting anywhere by trying to describe unconditionality and boundlessness with condition-based and bondage-based languages? Say we’re talking about the uninclined, the taintless, the stable, the deathless. These are adjectives, which imply both subject and object. The one who does not have inclinations. The one without taints. The one that does not die. Are we not imposing implicit conditions (from the words) onto an indescribable state? Nibbana cannot be bound to being uninclined. It cannot be bound to being choiceless. The best we may be able to do, then, is to apply these to the beings in the phenomenal state. The uninclined “being” arrives at the [***] state (for even indescribable is a bondage-based definition) after which it is neither inclined nor uninclined. It is something else and nothing else and neither something nor nothing. Same for the others: Nibbana cannot be bound to being stable, Nibbana cannot be bound to being unmanifest. Rather, the stable and the unarising “being” (for it has reached the necessary phenomenological conditions) arrives at the state of which we can’t know much about for it it may be fathomable, but never describable. Without fixed characteristics.

Ultimately, can one truly say that whatever lies in Nibbana cannot act out on the phenomenological world in any way (observation, interaction, generation)? That would be bondage, wouldn’t it?

:pray:

There are texts that say such things:

So impermanent are formations, bhikkhus, so unstable, so unreliable. It is enough, bhikkhus, to experience revulsion towards all formations, enough to become dispassionate towards them, enough to be liberated from them. SN15.20,

Or,

Thus, bhikkhu, all those formations have passed, ceased, changed. So impermanent are formations, bhikkhu, so unstable, so unreliable. [I471 It is enough, bhikkhu, to feel revulsion towards all formations, enough to become dispassionate towards them, enough to be liberated from them.” (SN22.96)

"Bhikkhus, conditioned phenomena are impermanent; conditioned phenomena are unstable; conditioned phenomena are unreliable. It is enough to become, disenchanted with all conditioned
phenomena, enough to become dispassionate towards them, enough to be liberated from them. AN7.66

For me this is the core…Dhamma is about what is reliable…what is safe, protective, worth calling refuge? Because that is what we all seek, also the Buddha when confronted with the unreliability of life, the changes, the illnesses, disasters, the wars, the killing, the injustice, loss, death…brrr…unreliable life. Nothing that is conditioned is reliable.

We can immediately see this, understand this. But special about Buddha-Dhamma is that he teaches a path to what is stable, constant, not-desintegrating…and THAT truth…who knows that truth? Who can even imagine there is such? Even Buddhist here do not believe there is such!

Does the Buddha teach…there is nothing reliable? Where does he say so? No, he teaches that there is something opposite of arsing, ceasing and changing.

I believe for this reason the Buddha says…if there were nothing stable, then there is no refuge, there is no safety. But there is the stable, there is an escape from what is fundamentally unreliable. And beings, I teach you the Path to what is stable, not-desintegrating, safety. (Ud8.1, SN43)

So, i believe, Dhamma is about seeing what is fundamentally unreliable (sankhata) and reliable (asankhata).

Probably that is the use of these words. To inspire us, let us know, that there is a real refuge, there is something stable, and reliable. Especially that last.

The problem is, when you start to conceive such as the stable, asankhata, then it is refied. It is conceived by the mano-vinnana (the great magician) as some ‘state’, ‘a thing’, still something with boundaries. Or it is conceived as something that permanently exist.

This is all of no use. Now conceiving makes a mess of things. As always. Also Buddha teaches that reality cannot be conceived and conceiving distorts how things really are and go. Conceiving must be seen as an illness. (SN35.248). One must not even conceive the khandha’s to know them as they really are!

I do not believe that the uninclined etc. refer to a subject. The uninclined etc. refers to the nature of the heart, the domain of the pure heart. Purity. All what we experience as inclinations is not directly from our hearts. It is more like bagage that we have collected but not our own territory, like the suttas’ say.

2 Likes

Hello @JuanPablo :slight_smile:

I would like to address certain passages in the article you linked to:

There is, bhikkhus, that base where there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air; no base consisting of the infinity of space, no base consisting of the infinity of consciousness, no base consisting of nothingness, no base consisting of neither-perception-nor-nonperception; neither this world nor another world nor both; neither sun nor moon. Here, bhikkhus, I say there is no coming, no going, no staying, no deceasing, no uprising. Not fixed, not movable, it has no support. Just this is the end of suffering.
—Udana

The article then quotes from Udana Commentaries and here there is actually one major mistake:

Because nibbana is the opposite of all conditioned phenomena [such as fire and water, heat and cold, light and dark], there is no nibbana in conditioned phenomena, and there are also no conditioned phenomena in nibbana. The conditioned and the unconditioned never coexist.
—Udana-atthakatha

We can stay with Ud 1.10 and easily point out the obvious mistake in the commentary:

“In the place where the water, earth, fire, and wind find no footing, There the stars do not shine, nor does the sun give light, There the moon does not glow,
there darkness is not found.

“Where water, earth, fire, and wind have no hold,

Where stars do not shine, and the sun has no radiance,

Where the moon does not glow, and darkness cannot be found”

“Where water and earth,

fire and air find no footing:

there no star does shine,

nor does the sun shed its light;

there the moon glows not,

yet no darkness is found.

So we have the same formula as above but this hints at there actually being light, just not any light from sun, moon, stars - yet darkness cannot be found. :wink:

There is of course also MN 49 and DN 11 also using the very same formula and mentioning light.

Consciousness where nothing appears, infinite, luminous all-round—that is what does not fall within the scope of experience characterized by earth, water, fire, air, creatures, gods, the Progenitor, Brahmā, the gods of streaming radiance, the gods replete with glory, the gods of abundant fruit, the Vanquisher, and the all.

Unfortunaley some monastics, like those responsible for this very forum :smiling_face:, imagine that Nibbāna equals ”mere cessation” and would want you to believe that what is spoken about in these suttas is not Nibbāna but actually the dimension of boundless conscioussness in Arupa Loka.

But this theory of theirs that this is not Nibbāna is actually easily refuted.

In this theory of theirs they are not sure if it is The Buddha or Brahma in MN 49 saying: ”Consciousness where nothing appears, infinite, luminous all-round”

But they are 100% certain that it is the dimension of boundless conscioussness in Arupa Loka spoken about and that it has nothing to do with Nibbāna.

Here’s some evidence they have it wrong no matter who they think the speaker is:

In MN 49 The Buddha tells Brahma that there are three higher planes in Rupa Loka that The Buddha does know and see but that Brahma does not know and see.

So if Brahma doesn’t know of these higher Rupa Loka planes we can be assured that Brahma knows nothing of the consequent formless Arupa Loka dimensions - like the dimension of boundless conscioussness.

  • That way we can be certain it is The Buddha speaking.

And here is further evidence that it is impossible, based on what is actually happening in MN 49, and what is spoken about is somehow the dimension of boundless conscioussness:

Furthermore, a Realized One has arisen in the world. But person has been reborn in one of the long-lived orders of gods. This is the fourth lost opportunity for spiritual practice.

This ”one of the long-lived orders of gods” happens to be Arupa Loka.

So if one can’t teach dhamma to any beings while in Arupa Loka, one certainly can’t teach dhamma from there(!)

So when The Buddha turns invisible to Brahma in MN 49 he is not in Arupa Loka, in the dimension of boundless conscioussness or even talking about that plane of existence at all:

Then I used my psychic power to will that my voice would extend so that Brahmā, his assembly, and his retinue would hear me, but they would not see me. And while vanished I recited this verse:
Seeing the danger in continued existence—
that life in any existence will cease to be—
I didn’t affirm any kind of existence,
and didn’t grasp at relishing.’

So this whole theory of theirs falls apart by actually reading what is said in MN 49 regarding what The Buddha tells Brahma regarding realms above him that Brahma doesn’t even know and see and how one can’t teach dhamma in or from any Arupa Loka dimension to begin with.

The Buddha does not enumrate the Arupa Loka dimensions in the formula since Brahma doesn’t even know about these dimensions, nor the higher Rupa Loka mentioned but The Buddha does mention The All:

earth, water, fire, air, creatures, gods, the Progenitor, Brahmā, the gods of streaming radiance, the gods replete with glory, the gods of abundant fruit, the Vanquisher, and the all. <—————

On top of that: ”Consciousness where nothing appears, infinite, luminous all-round” is the following in Pali:

Viññāṇaṁ anidassanaṁ anantaṁ sabbato pabhaṁ

  • Anidassanaṁ is also a synonym for Nibbāna and the entire path.

If we take following from SN 43.14–43 :

The invisible (Anidassanañca) …,

that in which nothing appears …
Anidassanañca vo, bhikkhave, desessāmi anidassanagāmiñca maggaṁ.
Taṁ suṇātha. Katamañca, bhikkhave, anidassanaṁ …pe….

And combine it with the main text SN 43.12 we get the following:

“Mendicants, I will teach you the invisible and the path that leads to the invisible. Listen …
And what is the invisible?
The ending of greed, hate, and delusion.
This is called the invisible.
And what is the path that leads to the invisible?
Serenity.
This is called the path that leads to the invisible.
And what is the path that leads to the invisible?
Immersion with placing the mind and keeping it connected. … Immersion without placing the mind, but just keeping it connected. … Immersion without placing the mind or keeping it connected. … Emptiness immersion. … Signless immersion. … Undirected immersion. … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of covetousness and displeasure for the world. … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of feelings … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the mind … A mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that bad, unskillful qualities don’t arise. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that bad, unskillful qualities are given up. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that skillful qualities arise. … A mendicant generates enthusiasm, tries, makes an effort, exerts the mind, and strives so that skillful qualities that have arisen remain, are not lost, but increase, mature, and are fulfilled by development. … A mendicant develops the basis of psychic power that has immersion due to enthusiasm, and active effort. … A mendicant develops the basis of psychic power that has immersion due to energy … immersion due to mental development … immersion due to inquiry, and active effort. … A mendicant develops the faculty of faith, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the faculty of energy … mindfulness … immersion … wisdom, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the power of faith … energy … mindfulness … immersion … wisdom, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops the awakening factor of mindfulness … investigation of principles … energy … rapture … tranquility … immersion … equanimity, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. … A mendicant develops right view … right thought … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right immersion, which relies on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripens as letting go. This is called the path that leads to the invisible. So, mendicants, I’ve taught you the invisible and the path that leads to the invisible. Out of compassion, I’ve done what a teacher should do who wants what’s best for their disciples. Here are these roots of trees, and here are these empty huts. Practice absorption, mendicants! Don’t be negligent! Don’t regret it later! This is my instruction to you.”

Anidassanaṁ clearly has absolutely nothing to do with the dimension of boundless conscioussness and has everything to do with Nibbāna and the entire path.

Even the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma mentions light:

The seventh liberation is transcending all aspects of neither perception nor non-perception and abiding in a state beyond thought and non-thought.

The eighth liberation is transcending all aspects of thought and non-thought, illuminating all worlds equally, and remaining motionless.

Now if we should also take into account that in AN 10.6 & AN 10.7 both The Buddha and Sāriputta affirms that there is such a state of immersion beyond Samsara and all planes of existence, where one can still perceive:

Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Could it be, sir, that a mendicant might gain a state of immersion like this? They wouldn’t perceive earth in earth, water in water, fire in fire, or air in air. And they wouldn’t perceive the dimension of infinite space in the dimension of infinite space, the dimension of infinite consciousness in the dimension of infinite consciousness, the dimension of nothingness in the dimension of nothingness, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. And they wouldn’t perceive this world in this world, or the other world in the other world. And yet they would still perceive.”

“It could be, Ānanda, that a mendicant might gain a state of immersion like this. They wouldn’t perceive earth in earth, water in water, fire in fire, or air in air. And they wouldn’t perceive the dimension of infinite space in the dimension of infinite space, the dimension of infinite consciousness in the dimension of infinite consciousness, the dimension of nothingness in the dimension of nothingness, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. And they wouldn’t perceive this world in this world, or the other world in the other world. And yet they would still perceive.

“But how could this be, sir?”

“Ānanda, it’s when a mendicant perceives: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’

That’s how a mendicant might gain a state of immersion like this. They wouldn’t perceive earth in earth, water in water, fire in fire, or air in air. And they wouldn’t perceive the dimension of infinite space in the dimension of infinite space, the dimension of infinite consciousness in the dimension of infinite consciousness, the dimension of nothingness in the dimension of nothingness, or the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. And they wouldn’t perceive this world in this world, or the other world in the other world. And yet they would still perceive.

Still perceiving is clearly taking place beyond all the planes of existence and not only that;

The Buddha says specifically in AN 10.6 about this immersion:

‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’

Here we find exactly the same synonyms as found in SN 43.14–43:

  • the peaceful …

  • the sublime …

  • the ending of craving …

  • extinguishment … (Nibbāna)

So in this immersion that is beyond Samsara and all the planes of existence - it is clearly possible to still perceive. Just as AN 10.6 & AN 10.7 says it is. :+1:

So if we take all this I have quoted directly from the suttas into account then MN 1 makes even more sense -
That we should not delight in Nibbāna and identify it with Nibbāna as ”me” or ”mine”:

He directly knows water … fire … air … creatures … gods … the Progenitor … Brahmā … those of streaming radiance … those replete with glory … those of abundant fruit … the Vanquisher … the dimension of infinite space … the dimension of infinite consciousness … the dimension of nothingness … the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception … the seen … the heard … the thought … the known … oneness … diversity … all …
He directly knows extinguishment as extinguishment. Having directly known extinguishment as extinguishment, he does not conceive it to be extinguishment, he does not conceive it in extinguishment, he does not conceive it as extinguishment, he does not conceive that ‘extinguishment is mine’, he does not take pleasure in extinguishment. Why is that? Because he has understood that taking pleasure is the root of suffering, and that rebirth comes from continued existence; whoever has come to be gets old and dies. That’s why the Realized One—with the ending, fading away, cessation, giving up, and letting go of all cravings—has awakened to the supreme perfect Awakening, I say.”

In MN 1 Nibbāna is even mentioned in the locative case: Nibbānasmiṁ

So there should be no doubt at all that there is indeed an immersion beyond Samsara (all the planes of existence), where one can still perceive, luminous all-round, where nothing is felt and so on.

The problem is that the view of ”mere cessation” is based on a certain logic and an extremely shallow understanding of Dependent Origination.

This logic is then applied how things ”have to be”.
There is no middle way approach to anything.

That is why some suttas become so paradoxical for ”mere cessationists” - because these suttas go against their preconceived views of what nibbāna ”must” imply and also of what is possible and impossible according to the logic of ”mere cessationists.”

This whole view by ”mere cessationists” has already been refuted in the suttas:

“If you say that ‘when the six fields of contact have faded away and ceased with nothing left over, nothing else exists’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated.

Unfortunaely the text I just quoted was altered a few weeks ago so it better fits the view of ”mere cessation”…. changing the ”nothing else exists’” to instead ”If you say that ‘something else no longer exists’, you’re proliferating the unproliferated.”

But this is what the same sutta AN 4.174 looked like only a few weeks ago:

If any ”mere cessationist” wants to argue that The Buddha and Sāriputta are actually proliferating the unproliferated based on the suttas I’ve posted, feel free to do so… :sweat_smile:

A bird whispered in my ear that this clearly wrong view of ”mere cessation” where they deny immersion beyond Samsara, is not only taught by the buddhists associated with this forum;

It is also taught at Nā Uyana Monastery and at Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS).

If one ordains under these one is pretty much forced to believe what they believe and can’t ever question the senior monks/nuns.

So my only friendly advice is the following:

Seek refuge in:

  1. The Buddha,
  2. The Dhamma
  3. The Sangha

Do not seek refuge in:

  1. Specific teachers belonging to the Sangha.
  2. These teachers’ interpretation of The Dhamma.
  3. Their views on The Buddha.
    :lotus: :thaibuddha: :lotus:

:pray:

3 Likes