What IS Nibbana, exactly?

Removal of taints is Right effort or you could say Purification of citta comes before Knowledge and Vision. The end is cessation. Before you say just meditative access consider that at all times the Arahant isn’t experiencing Arahath phala he is effectively experiencing a mind free of defilements.

Different descriptions of the elephant :elephant:.

And have you arrived at another conclusion?
(The Island did match my inner experience of life and expectations of what nibbana might be, hence the curiosity)

Yes. Sounds, sights, sensations etc. in the meditative access to Nibbāna.

I dont think it can be done. Looks like a logical impossibility to me.

There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned.

Only way a positive description of nibbana can be given is, in terms of some thing/s more fundamental than it. Then obviously it cant be called the ‘unmade’.

or if you want a description of nibbana in terms of qualities it possesses even that seems impossible.

“Yours alone is the eye, Evil One. Yours are forms, yours is the sphere of consciousness of contact at the eye. Where no eye exists, no forms exist, no sphere of consciousness & contact at the eye exists: there, Evil One, you cannot go. Yours alone is the ear… the nose… the tongue… the body… Yours alone is the intellect, Evil One. Yours are ideas, yours is the sphere of consciousness & contact at the intellect. Where no intellect exists, no ideas exist, no sphere of consciousness of contact at the intellect exists: there, Evil One, you cannot go.”

Is such a positive description of nibbana even needed ?
Nibbana only makes sense to me within the frame work of the Four Noble Truths. As the ending of suffering.


I like that perspective and find it very useful. It provides continual encouragement to practice.

One oddity should be mentioned here as well. It is possible to think that we are not suffering. This has happened several times to me as in “I’m fine! (oh wait)”. I therefore now find it immensely practical to not even think the thought “Is this Nibbana?”. That thought was never useful.

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Erm. The end goal is the end of suffering. That is it. Calling it Nibbana does two things: 1) nibbana is shorter to say, 2) it is a promise that there is an end to suffering.

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We might not suffer when enjoying something but suffering isn’t just about emotions it’s also existential suffering.

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Um. I don’t have personal knowledge of the word existential. Would you say more or differently for me, please?

The reason I ask is that after almost 15 years of zazen, I experienced “equanimity”. But when I went rock climbing, I was scared witless. This was suffering that had always been present but not acknowledged. My equanimity was delusional.


That’s possible, but there are some possibilities to consider:

  1. The descriptions found in the EBTs might not all be equally accurate descriptions of different parts or aspects of the elephant. Some might just be erroneous and inaccurate descriptions that don’t match any part of the actual elephant at all.

  2. Some of the descriptions might be redacted by people who have never actually seen an elephant, but who have heard various people they respect describe elephants, and are trying to recall and set down what they think those people said about elephants.

  3. Some of the people might have encountered various different beasts that they are describing as accurately as they can. But they all call the beast they encountered “an elephant”, and don’t realize that they are describing different things.


Thanks for that. Sometimes good to get down to brass tacks! :slight_smile:

Yes, it’s a solution to a problem or the answer to a question. Of course, many religions attempt to give some kind of answer to the problem of suffering. Buddhism and the EBTs frame the problem and hence the solution in a particular way.

I’m familiar with many of the EBT words on the issue. I haven’t experientially tasted nibbana (unlike chocolate :slight_smile: ). Therefore, I’m afraid the words do point to something that remains still quite mysterious to me (“end of suffering”, very good, but what is that exactly?). Hopefully I’ll experience a taste of that someday.


May your Noble Suffering be one day extinguished.

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What do you understand by this? :wink:


The notion contains the idea that there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we give it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world. This conceptualization can be highlighted in the way it opposes the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamicperspective, which establishes that life’s purpose is about the fulfillment of God’s commandments.

…the devastating awareness of meaninglessness…

The ultimate hero of absurdism lives without meaning and faces suicide without succumbing to it.
Existentialism - Wikipedia

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This really resonates with me. Once at my local vihara, I asked one of the monks how one could tell that one was really uprooting the deep causes of craving, aversion, fear, etc. rather than just achieving a superficially equanimous state based on physical seclusion in pleasant and safe surroundings, along with some mental seclusion or detachment, and some calming and gladdening of the mind through meditation. I wasn’t very satisfied with the answer. He seemed not to even understand my question.

I had the feeling that despite the peaceful atmosphere of the monastery, most of those present would run about in panicked terror if some really horrible emergency occurred. But if we are to believe the testimony of the suttas, the Buddha was able to confront even a rampaging elephant and a demented psycho killer with equanimity, and thought he would be able to maintain that equanimity - and even good will - while being sawed in half.

I have raised the issue of fear a few times recently. The longer I go with my practice, the more I recognize how deep and pervasive are the various fears which push and pull us through life - fear of loss, fear of social disapproval, fear of physical pain and torment, fear of chaos and disorder, fear of violence, fear of abandonment, fear of death, etc. The aspects of the teachings that touch on the Buddha’s complete conquest of fear seem more and more important to me. But, with a few exceptions, its not a dominant topic in a lot of contemporary teaching, beyond some attention to the courser levels of anxiety and worry. What would it take to completely uproot all of the sources of fear.


Come climb with me. I would be happy to terrify you. :sunglasses:

But seriously, if you are ever in Sunnyvale, CA, just drop in to Planet Granite. I’m there busily trying to not kill myself or others. Everything we learn in the suttas also applies in climbing.

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Even this receives more than one interpretation in the suttas. In some cases it seems to be referring to a present state or condition of experience: a completely suffering-free state of mind, a condition of mental peace and absolutely perfect bliss unaccompanied by even the slightest tincture of aversion, worry, craving or dullness. One comes to the the end of suffering and experiences it “right here” as a present reality or condition.

Another reading is that the end of suffering refers to the moment went you have finally pulled the plug in the kammic engine of repeated life. Once the plug has been pulled, you somehow know this, and know that you will not continue beyond death and the breakup of the body. When this plug-pulling event occurs, suffering doesn’t immediately cease, because the engine still has to run down, so to speak, and while it is running the suffering caused by previous kamma continues. So “reaching the end of suffering” doesn’t refer to the attainment of a present “right here” reality that is devoid of suffering. It corresponds only to succeeding in having laid all the preconditions for the future cessation of suffering upon the breakup of the body.

I used to try to harmonize all of these different perspectives, but now I don’t. I just think the EBTs somehow incorporate different views about the nature of the human predicament and its highest spiritual goals, and tries to weave them all around some words of the Buddha. The one that is most meaningful to me personally is the first reading. But that one has its drawbacks too.


I’m almost 60, and think my Tom Cruise stage of life is behind me.


Then you are fiercely delusional since I am 62.


I recently learned about the ten steps/factors. This was such a fascinating discovery, since previously all I had seen was the Noble Eight-Fold Path. It was fascinating because it offered the possibility that Right Knowledge might inform Right Freedom beyond the suffering of continuous plodding, mindfully diligent restraint. That enriched my hope for and understanding of Nibbana.

If you can visit a climbing gym, you can experience and deal with delusional fear at the top of the wall. It really won’t matter how you get to the top of the wall. That’s the irrelevant bit. The relevant bit is the delusional fear that you can experience standing still looking down while being totally safe. This fear is really there. You will sweat and your heart will race and your breath will quicken and your joints will lock. Standing just there in your fear, do perform breathing awareness as you have trained and practiced. The fear will evaporate and pass and eventually you will be able to relax your death grip. The Tom Cruise stuff is for others. Climbing is my substitute for charnel grounds.

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I haven’t overcome my fear of heights but I’ve found that most thoughts have verbal or ‘cognitive’ aspect to them and that is what drives the emotions. It is easier (quicker too) to notice the irrational nature of those thoughts. While it’s harder to initially start becoming aware of the thought behind the negative emotion it pays a lot. While doing ‘Go-Ape’ climbing between tall trees, I noticed that when I thought there was no place to keep a foot I was anxious and not under the same circumstances when I thought there was showing the delusion driving the defiled emotion.

This requires removing the cognitive delusions behind the emotions. Letting go of holding on to a self is very helpful a lot off the time. Fear is closely linked to one’s survival so I think you’d have to let go of life to beat it.

I always thought Mindfulness exercises were Samatha (tranquility) practice. It doesn’t remove deep delusion so that it is completely removed. Its acts through suppressing but is very helpful as a part of the Noble eightfold path.