The case for bare awareness?


That would include cessation of consciousness and the other aggregates - I don’t understand how this is possible, given that Nibbana is a “living” experience.


By this I mean ‘buddhist’ consciousnesses, not ‘death’. The body is functioning.


‘Statistically’ your chances are better with listening to a skilled teacher, but anyone can tip someone into attaining.

Thanks for reminding me of the above. The idea that one can know they are going to be enlightened, as well as enlightenment is imminent and the knowledge that the enlightenment incident took place are phenomena that take place around the point of attainment.


Vinnana is the only type of consciousness described in the EBTs - apart from “consciousness without surface”, on which there is no consensus.
Isn’t a body without consciousness basically a dead body?

And if DO ceases then nama-rupa ceases, which means no mentality or materiality, no mind or matter, nothing. If DO ceases there are no aggregates, and no experience - nothing.


Perhaps, though they all say different things.


Its a shame we have different perceptions of what the core of the Dhamma is. We all agree on the N8FP but disagree on the meaning and really enthusiastic redactors haven’t helped.

Impermanent ‘everything’ = ‘suffering’
Nothing = cessation = ending of ‘suffering’
this is not to be mistaken for annihilation as Nibbana isn’t impermanent.

@Sujato made a great argument that ‘consciousness without surface’ were some Brahmanic verses that crept into the DN sutta and not the dhammic consciousnesses.

Its the end of perception. But in the ‘cessation of perception’ we know the monk can seem lifeless so much that she might be mistaken for being dead. This is different from fainting, death, fuge state or sleep. However such states can only happen in non-returner states and arahanths. Stream entrants AFAIK don’t have such deep states of cessation. In stream entry the Dhamma eye is just glimpse of cessation in the manner of ‘when this arises that arises; when this ceases that ceases’. But in stream entry fruit cessation can be experienced for longer. Its said if a stream entrant has jhanic ability it is particularly easy to experience cessation in an extended way. EBT’s talk about experiencing when no experience of the ‘sun, earth, moon…etc’ isn’t perceived.


Oddly, one can also say that they all say the same thing when touching the Elephant.

  • This is the Foot Dhamma
  • This is the Trunk Dhamma
  • This is the Tail Dhamma

They all say Dhamma and probably mean it as well in total experiential sincerity.

Although deep breathless meditation would seem comatose (witness Ajahn Chah’s last years), the following passage points to the signless release of the heart (i.e., the cessation of chasing after the signs offered to us by clinging consciousness). MN121 does not use the word jhana.

I usually favor short quotes, but could not find a way of shortening the subtleness of this passage:

Furthermore, a mendicant—ignoring the perception of the dimension of nothingness and the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception—
Their mind becomes eager, confident, settled, and decided in that signless immersion of the heart.
They understand:
‘Here there is no stress due to the perception of the dimension of nothingness or the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
They understand: ‘This field of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. It is empty of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.
There is only this that is not emptiness, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.
There is only this modicum of stress, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’

My understanding of the above is that both Ananda and the Buddha walked about in that very emptiness, signless in daily life, extinguished, aware and breathing.


This the signless immersion (animitta samadhi). Nirodhasamapatti goes further to full cessation. All workings of the senses cease along with vedana and sanna.

Q15. The Attainment of Cessation

“But how, Noble Lady, is the cessation of perception and feeling attained?”

“A monastic who is attaining the cessation of perception and feeling, friend Visākha, does not think: ‘I will attain the cessation of perception and feeling,’ or ‘I am attaining the cessation of perception and feeling,’ or ‘I have attained the cessation of perception and feeling.’ But previously his mind has been developed so that it leads to that state.”

Q16. Processes that Cease First during Cessation

“But for a monastic who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, Noble Lady, which things cease first: bodily process, or speech process, or mental process?”

“For a monastic who is attaining the cessation of perception and feeling, friend Visākha, first speech process ceases, then bodily process ceases, then mental process ceases. MN 44: The Small Discourse giving an Elaboration (English) - Majjhima Nikāya - SuttaCentral

The arupa dimensions are 4 in number. These are followed by another 3 states which immediately precede nirodhasamapatti:

“And what, your reverence, is the freedom of mind that is naught?” “As to this, your reverence, a monk passing quite beyond the plane of infinite consciousness, thinking, ‘There is not anything,’ enters on and abides in the plane of no-thing. This, your reverence, is called the freedom of mind that is naught.”

“And what, your reverence, is the freedom of mind that is void?” “As to this, your reverence, a monk forest-gone or gone to the root of a tree or gone to an empty place, reflects thus: ‘This is void of self or of what pertains to self.’ This, your reverence, is called the freedom of mind that is void.”

“And what, your reverence, is the freedom of mind that is signless?” “As to this, your reverence, a monk, by paying no attention to any signs, entering on the concentration of mind that is signless, abides therein. This, your reverence, is called the freedom of mind that is signless. MN 43: Greater Discourse of the Miscellany (English) - Majjhima Nikāya - SuttaCentral

In Nibbana or Nirodha (cessation) nothing is felt, it is the cessation of contact (phassanirodha).


Hmm. I have difficulty with “goes further” because I would say that Ananda and Buddha going about their daily life was exactly not needing to go further. For them, the signless immersion in daily life was itself the continuous evolution of skilful means. They did not go further, and yet everyday brought changes. There was no further.

I would also say that the cessation of contact happens with the signless release. One simply abides in the middle.


Thanks @Mat for taking time to answer so fully. I’ve downloaded the book.


That depends on why there are different perceptions - don’t you think?

If we have a different perception of the Dhamma and we are clinging to it because we have been indoctrinated then, that’s unfortunate, but understandable. Ideology can be powerful and persuasive.

It’s ubiquitous, the false teachings, speculations and conjecture of religion, philosophy, psychology etc.

Dhamma insights are not ‘truly’ apparent here and now until they are realised.

All it takes is the ‘actual’ non-happening of true cessation - a complete stopping - and, its implications are clear, undisguised (in hindsight).

Until then, the conjecture and incoherence continues, so it seems - its a way to pass the time. :slightly_smiling_face:


I doubt this. Can you find a sutta that says they walked in absorbed states mentioned?


Quite. It’s the end of the hindrance of doubt of the five hindrances and the fetter of doubt of stream entry. It’s also the end of different views.


13.4So, Ānanda, you should train like this: ‘We will enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness.’ –MN121

Since meditation is sitting, standing, lying, or walking, that’s pretty much always. For example, I cook dinner listening to SN12.23 repeated several times. Once memorized I won’t need to use the earbuds.


It would be hard to be in the fourth jhana after you breath has stopped- if you were also driving your car for example!


Absolutely agree yes.

I do think that first or second and third jhana might be maintained. Also note that jhana is not mentioned in MN121. Fourth jhana seems to be more of the tool required to recall past lives, etc.


I think the resulting samadhi after adverting into a jhana, staying in it for a period of time and coming out of it, may sustain itself going forward for a period of time…

The dimension of infinite space, consciousness, emptiness and neither-perception-and-non-perception are Arupa attainments often following the Rupa or Form jhanas of form that seems denoted by the Rupa or Form elements in MN121. What is meant by the English word fomless is not what is meant by the pali term Arupa as the latter is about specific objects of meditation without form and is a high state of samadhi of jhana intensity. Signless states are often mentioned after this, in terms of when they are attained. Nibbaba or cessation-of-feeling-and-perception (nirodhasamapatti) come after this as well. These descriptions are all over the Majjhima Nikaya if one has the time to read them and form a overview.



I also think that the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness is not the dimension of nothingness. In other words, the Buddha is asking Ananda to join him in suññataṃ, not ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ. The word suññataṃ only occurs in two suttas. MN121 and MN122.


I am just wondering, could: enter and remain in the pure, ultimate, supreme emptiness - to train with this in mind - be a reference to the ultimate outcome of ‘no more coming to any state of being’ ie. after the body of an Arahant dies there is the ultimate emptiness of pari-nibbana. ‘Pari’ (great) and, ‘Nibbana’ (extinguishment)?

If this is the case then, this teaching, is not referring to the attainments of Aryans before a body is finished-with in the final rebirth?

We (will) enter seems to point to something as yet unrealised. Whereas, the attainments of Aryans that are a consequence of direct knowledge and vision of the liberating Dhamma - in this very life - are not about ‘will’ - at some future point.


"For other meditators, perception chooses to describe this first appearance of mind in
terms of physical sensation, such as intense tranquility or ecstasy. Again, the body consciousness (that which experiences pleasure and pain, heat and cold and so on) has long since closed down and this is not a physical feeling. It is just ‘perceived’ as similar to pleasure… You can recognize a nimitta by the following six features:

  1. It appears only after the fifth stage of the meditation, after the meditator has been with
    the beautiful breath for a long time;
  2. It appears when the breath disappears;
  3. It only comes when the external five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are
    completely absent;
  4. It manifests only in the silent mind, when descriptive thoughts (inner speech) are totally
  5. It is strange but powerfully attractive; and
  6. It is a beautifully simple object." - Ajahn Brahm

From above: when a nimitta appears ‘the external five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are completely absent’.

I am curious, how do you think you’d go chopping your vegetables or, driving a car when you can’t see anything through your eyes, can’t hear anything through your ears or, feel anything through your fingers?

Exactly how would you move about, pick up a carrot, open a door, and jump in a car? How do you think you’d fair at stop lights? And, the arising of a nimitta is the stage before absorption in Jhana.

When the nimitta appears it is the only thing registered in awareness. It is pure sweetness, when the attention turns to it, it gets absorbed in it. The attention automatically turns to it because it’s the only thing in attention. The only thing making its presence known.

There is pristine silence and stillness and then, the nimitta appears.

When this happens ‘subjectivity’, the sense of self, the one who knows, the meditator, is lost to the beauty. It sounds odd, it is odd, it is a great wonder!

The process returns to an ordinary waking state of consciousness when the senses come back online. Light registers through the eyeballs then, there is the recognition: I am.