Why don't we realise space instead Nibbana?

  1. Modes of Production
    “What is it that is kamma-born, what cause-born, and what
    season-born? What is it that is none of these?”
    “All beings, O king are kamma-born. Fire, and all things
    growing out of seeds are cause-born. The earth, water and
    wind are season-born. Space and nibbàna exist independently
    of kamma, cause and season. Of nibbàna, O king, it cannot
    be said that it is perceptible by the five senses, but it is perceptible
    by the mind. The disciple whose mind is pure, and
    free from obstructions, can perceive nibbàna.

This is at Mil 6.2.6, and it is a classic passage!

The standard Theravada position is that only Nibbana is unconditioned. In this they were unusual, as most of the early schools had more extensive lists of unconditioned phenomena. (The EBTs, too, treat space as conditioned, so in this respect the Theravadin position appears to have been correct.)

A common candidate was space, which was regarded as unconditioned by the Sarvastivadins among others. This is discussed in Kathāvatthu 6.6, where the commentary ascribes the heterodox view to the Uttarapāthakas (Norwegians!) and Mahīsāsakas.

The passage at Mil 6.2.6 appears to contradicts this, as both Nibbana and space are said to be akammajā ahetujā anutujā, “not born of kamma, cause, or natural cycles”.

This may be because, as is widely agreed, the text began outside the Theravada, among the Sarvastivadins. Indeed, the location of the debate, in Greek India to the north-west, agrees with the vague descriptor “Uttarapāthaka”, which appears to have been a term used for the schools in that region (modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.) and probably included the Sarvastivadins.

However, the sensibilities of the orthodox may be saved somewhat by the fact that Nagasena has just previously defined these terms in somewhat narrow ways:

All beings, O king, who are conscious, are Karma-born (spring into existence as the result of Karma). Fire, and all things growing out of seeds, are cause-born (the result of a pre-existing material cause). The earth, and the hills, water, and wind—all these are season-born (depend for their existence on reasons connected with weather).

It still seems like an odd case, and the tendency of the passage leans towards the notion that space, like nibbana, is unconditioned. But as it stands, it can probably be reconciled with the orthodox position.


Where can I find Milinda in Sutta Central?

Here: SuttaCentral



I always have been challenged by discussions about what Nibbana is or is not.
If, as I believe, Nibbana is the cessation of the DADs (Desires, Aversions, Delusions) then there is not a thing left that can be defined and argue about.

Okay so I am not disagreeing whatsoever, but how is “space” conditioned? And by space, I’m assuming they mean a vacuum or emptiness in the physical sense. If not, please correct me.

I think Nibbana is the cessation of perception and feeling.

Definition of Space.


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In the suttas, space is considered to be a property that is conditioned by matter. MN 28:

When a space is enclosed by sticks, creepers, grass, and mud it becomes known as a ‘building’. In the same way, when a space is enclosed by bones, sinews, flesh, and skin it becomes known as a ‘form’.

Thus the structures and shapes of matter define what is included or delineated outside that matter, which is what we call space. The concrete examples given above are presented in a more general form at SN 14.11:

The element of the dimension of infinite space appears due to the element of form.

This understanding of space agrees with the modern cosmology. Before the Big Bang, the universe is folded up at one point. That point doesn’t exist in space; space only comes into being as the cosmos expands, as the distance between particles. Thus space is conditioned by rūpa, just as in the EBTs.


I think space come into being when the ignorance come to existence beginning of which is un-known.

Ahh I see, so it’s relative. Just as motion is conditioned by form as you need a reference point to which you’re moving towards or away from. So that’s interesting, that means that even space itself, is sunyata just like everything else. In the sense that it has no intrinsic quality or even existence, without form to define it.


Yes space is empty of form.
But it is not empty of consciousness.

I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense, and also not what I was getting at.

Space is a mental construct.
So when you aware of space there is consciousness.
So it is not empty.

You will get use to it if you hang around in this forum for a while.

Okay… but that’s not right. I mean, that’s not how it was meant to be taught or understood. At least it certainly doesn’t seem that way. I’m not trying to attack your view or anything, I’m just fairly certain that you’re misunderstanding it.

Please feel free to express your view.


"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.


No I know, I understand, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What I am saying is space can’t be empty if you are aware of it.
If it is empty you can’t be aware of it.

That’s just not true.