The Buddha's metaphors for Nibbāna?

Somewhere in the Nikayas I believe there is a passage wherein the Buddha offers a paragraph of some two dozen or more metaphors for Nibbāna, e.g. “the Hard-to-Achieve” (something similar), as well as terms like Release. I know I’ve seen it, but can’t find it now. Can anybody tell me where this is?

I think what you’re looking for is in SN 43.1 to SN 43.44. You might have seen it combined into one sutta excerpt in “In the Buddha’s Words”, by Bhikkhu Bodhi, on pp. 364-5 (“Thirty-three Synonyms for Nibbana”).

1 Like

There is a book called “The Island” by Ajahn Amaro which is primarily discussions on nibbana and how it is discussed/described in the Canon.

Yes, you probably mean SN 43.12-33. Just keep in mind that these synonyms or metaphors are mostly very unusual.

The most common ones are I guess

  • sambodhi - (full) awakening
  • arahatta - Arahantship, ‘worthiness’
  • amata - deathless
  • asaṅkhata - unconditioned
  • dukkhakkhaya - destruction of suffering
  • cetovimutti - liberation of mind
  • nirodha - cessation
  • anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ / accantayogakkhemina - the supreme sanctuary
  • āsavā parikkhayaṃ / anāsava / khīṇāsavā - destruction of defilements, absence of °, end of °

There are many more, but which most common ones are missing?

33 synonyms for Nibbana.

It always strikes me when this kind of question is asked, that rarely anyone points to the fact that the word nibbana (extinguishment) is a metaphor. It refers to destruction of lust, hatred and delusion (ragakkhaya, dosakkhaya, mohakkhaya) - which is the definition of EBT goal of practice.

1 Like

Thanks for your responses. I thought I’d seen a single paragraph where the Buddha goes through a list of words, without any of the other text in the SN 43 passages. However, I see that in The Island (Pasanno/Amaro) one of the front matter pages has:

It is the Unformed, the Unconditioned, the End,
the Truth, the Other Shore, the Subtle,
the Everlasting, the Invisible, the Undiversified,
Peace, the Deathless, the Blest, Safety,
the Wonderful, the Marvellous,
Nibbāna, Purity, Freedom,
the Island,
the Refuge, the Beyond.
~ S 43.1-44

Which is clearly a condensation from SN 43, so I guess that must be what I saw. (Or something like Ven. Bodhi’s condensation in In the Buddha’s Words.) And on pp. 30-31 of The Island are a couple lists of “epithets” for Nibbāna, which also include the Pali for the terms – so I don’t have to go looking for them.

Thanks again.

1 Like