Question on MN26, the quest for nibbāna

In MN26 the Tathagata describes his search for liberation:

‘Suppose that, being myself subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, having understood the danger in what is subject to ageing, sickness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I seek the unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, and undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna.’

We are fortunate that there have been many who have walked this path over the past two and a half millennia, and we have examples to look to. However, when the Bodhisatta was still a seeker, not yet having realised liberation, how would one even have a hint that there’s something beyond the jhānas, beyond the conditioned, an unconditioned state, nibbāna? Something that is actually possible to work towards and experience? The Bodhisatta and other seekers on this path must have known (or had a strong feeling) that it must be possible to actually reach this state where the three fires have gone out. Without this knowledge or strong pull, why even start?

This is a very speculative question. However, this point has been coming up on and off during my sitting sessions and I can observe the mind going back to this point - a little “stuck-ness” in the practice. It also connects with a hindrance - doubt - that sometimes comes up in my practice. Thank you for any suggestions.

Bodhisattva had no knowledge about deathless state, otherwise he would be ariya. But he had very strong faith that one can escape from death, that immortality is in fact possible. And this may be suggestion for you. Faith is not a stable thing. You can try increase it. The stronger faith the easier increase energy neccesery for practice.

Thanks for that reminder @knigarian

In fact, this very point comes up in MN95 where the teacher explains cultivation & striving:

"Faith is helpful for approaching a teacher. If you don’t give rise to faith, you won’t approach a teacher. You approach a teacher because you have faith. That’s why faith is helpful for approaching a teacher.”

Seeing that faith needs to improve in my practice, I need to increase it. However, are there other suttas that talk specifically about the Bodhisatta’s faith (when he was still a Bodhisatta) that one can go beyond samsara to the deathless?

The hallmark of any Sentient system is the thought “I am!”.

However, this is a thought born of Ignorance (SN12.27). Having become Conscious of bodily, mental and verbal volitional phenomena, “I” sooner or later have thoughts such as “What or Who am I?”, “What is mine?” and “What will become of me?”. These are pressing existential concerns for all sentient beings - the basic existential drive.

And so begins the eternal search… the search for Atta - ‘that which “I” really am’ or as a indirect equivalent ‘that which “I” am in control of - that which is Mine’

This search can proceed in two directions - outwards or inwards. Directing attention inwardly, “I” can hypothesize that- “I” am this body, “I” am these mental processes, “I” am this conscious awareness.

Or directing attention outwardly, “I” can hypothesize that - this awareness is ‘mine’, these mental processes are ‘mine’, this body is ‘mine’, these worldly possessions are ‘mine’.

“I” can formulate various theories about Atta such as “I” am eternal, “I” am not eternal but will be annihlated etc.

The seeker simply seeks - they don’t have any answers yet. They certainly don’t know what Nibbana is! They have not experienced any meditative states. However, all sentient beings are driven by Craving to find relief from their Suffering (which is an inherent aspect of the unsatisfactory nature of existence) - even though they might not have formulated the question in such clear terms in their mind!

Many sentient beings find a simple answer in sensuality - ‘these pleasures are mine’!, ‘Carpe diem … Enjoy today, why think of tomorrow?’

Some sentient beings by nature are more discriminatory. They examine sensuality and find it hollow and wanting. They seek something more satisfactory.

Thus they achieve various meditative states and conceive various hypotheses … none of which turn out to be satisfactory! (MN1, DN1)

If they examine the matter closely, they realize that all these are conditioned phenomena - Impermanent, Unsatisfactory and Not-mine.

Ultimately, they realize that there is nothing in the world that is fit to be considered as Atta.(MN22, MN35)

That is when the Truth dawns upon them and they have an answer to the question of ‘What or who am “I”?’ And knowing that answer, the final 5 fetters are broken.

Thus is Nibbana.

The quest is driven by Suffering (SN12.61).

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@faujidoc1 Thanks for that last sutta SN12.61 as a reminder to note the discursive thinking and to get back to the practice :pray:

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I believe it comes down to this:
Snp4.9 "I saw “inward peace

I think we all share this gnosis of inward peace. But most people take it for granted, or ignore it, feel it is nothing special. The Buddha felt very different about inward peace. He saw peace as bliss, as real happiness and started to investigate this peace and the causes and conditions that make restless, stressed, not peaceful. He worked towards removing all these causes.

So, the first thing is that he did recognise the sublime supreme peace as being present. He did not ignore it. At that moment he did not have full knowledge of peace but gradually, while removing defilements, his understanding of this peace deepened.

Arriving at the most sublime supreme peace, detachment, he called it: the amazing, bliss, the constant, Nibbana.

He understood that people delight in constructing, in having, possessing, in producing, in making, while this peace is not arrived at this way. So he even was in the beginning discouraged to teach because this Path to Peace is so different then we are used to follow.

Peace of heart is the kind of happiness Buddha sought but this cannot be arrived via desire, via wanting to have, via acquisition, via attachment, via grasping and that makes it not easy to arrive at.

Apart MN 26 :

“I considered: ‘Not only Rāma had faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I too have faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Suppose I endeavour to realise the Dhamma that Rāma declared he entered upon and abided in by realising for himself with direct knowledge.’“ .

nothing comes to my memory, but this dialectic doesn’t have to be supported by quotes from Suttas. It is obvious that such decision:

“ Later, while still young, ablack-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life, though my mother and father wished otherwise and wept with tearful faces, I shaved off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness.

requires substantial amount of faith.

But he called himself as an ariya in MN 4

… I am one of those noble ones who frequent remote lodgings in the wilderness and the forest with purified livelihood.

Ye hi vo ariyā parisuddhājīvā araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanānipaṭisevanti tesamahaṁ aññataro’ti.

Otherwise how can he reject the 2 previous teachers that taught up to nevasannanasanna states?

Or…for asankhata. I believe that is what happened to the Buddha. Confronted with sickness, old age,decay, loss, death one can develop a deep sense of instability, uncertainty, unreliability of life. One feels unsafe and unprotected. That is very normal.

This terror arose in the Buddha when he realised also he would become ill, sich, decay and die.
But he was also inspired by seeing the stable monk at peace. At peace in a world in turmoil.

From that moment the Buddha also searched for what is constant, stable, does not desintegretate, is peaceful. In other words, a refuge. That is what he found. The sublime supreme peace of Nibbana.
That became The Path to Asankhata Path he taught. The Path to the Unconditioned, the stable, constant, not desintegrating.

What is the characteristic of the peace of jhana, the peace of being satisfied after a good meal, the peace of comfort, the peace of wellness, the peace of being loved, appreciated, respected, liked? This peace is dependend, brittle, vulnerable. liable to cease. For example…loved and appreciated one is at peace…but not loved, not appreciated, one is angry, restless, worried, stressed. This is still a fetter in my poor heart.

What is the characteristic of the peace of Nibbana? It is not dependend. It is reliable, stable. It is not constructed. It arises from from letting go, not building up anything, not acquiring, not grasping. This peace is never seen arising, ceasing nor changing. This peace is like empty sky.
The Buddha teaches asmi mana as something that hinders peace, just like the other defilements

The search for asankhata is not the same as the search for atta. It is the quest for Nibbana.
The quest for what is stable, refuge.

How to arrive there? …piece of cake…no grasping :blush:

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An interesting objection. My main objection to idea that Bodhisattva was ariya, is rather strong (for me), namely during the first period of practice, he tried extreme self-mortification which is non-ariyan practice per se, and also as far as ariyan experience goes totally unnecessary since sotāpanna already sees the deathless state. And apart such quotes as yours, most descriptions of the prince Gotama efforts clearly point out that at the beginning he was searching for the truth, without knowing it.

So I remain unconvinced by your reasoning, although I must admit, it has some validity.

I changed my mind, there is no any kind of doubt, that Bodhisattva was a puthujjana:

“Suppose a man wandering in a forest wilderness found an ancient path, an ancient trail, travelled by men of old, and he followed it up, and by doing so he discovered an ancient city, an ancient royal capital, where men of old had lived, with parks and groves and lakes, walled round and beautiful to see, so I too found the ancient path, the ancient trail, travelled by the Fully Enlightened Ones of old.
“And what was that ancient path, that ancient trail? It was this Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
“I followed it up. By doing so I directly knew ageing and death, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation. I directly knew birth, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation. I directly knew being … clinging … craving … feeling … contact … the sixfold base … name-and-form … consciousness … I directly knew formations, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation.”

SN. 12:65; cf. DN. 14

Word ariya not necessarily always implicates knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, and that the highest arupa attainmants aren’t the deathless states also can be recognised by the puthujjana. While we have some ambiguity here, description of discovery is unequivocal.

Puthujjana can recognised the state. But can they let go the state if they don’t see the finer higher state first before?

Of course not, hence the teachers stuck there, thinking that it is the end of the road. They mis recognised it.

Well, why a sotapanna needs 7 lives to complete the journey then. Based on your logic, Everyone who has reached sotapanna will be an arahant in 1 life. Which doesn’t support by Sutta.

If you look at the faculties, you will know the answer.

Of course. I don’t have to know the deathless state to be unsatisfied with what is impermanent and subject to change. All I need is the faith that such thing as deathles is potentially available. Otherwise no puthujjana would ever try to attain it.

It looks like we have studied logic from quite different textbooks, friend.


If you never See, how can you Know how to get there? It is merely one’s imagination from blind faith.

As Buddha say on Sn 56.11, vision arose first, then the realization arose from practice…

cakkhuṁ udapādi, ñāṇaṁ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.
vision arose, knowledge arose, wisdom arose, realization arose, and light arose

So, what about you? Do you see dependent arising, or your practice is merely based on “imagination from blind faith?”