Realizing Nibbāna (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

The 32nd blessing is seeing the noble truths, & 33rd realizes Nibbāna. So what are the differences between them? Seeing the noble truths is the 4 Path Knowledge. These are; the Path Knowledge of a stream winner, the path knowledge of a once-returner, the path knowledge of a non-returner & the path knowledge of an arahant.

At the time of thoroughly penetrates the four noble truths & the path knowledge arises. Realizing Nibbāna is the four fruitions (phalas). These are; from the stream-winner to the arahant. After the path knowledge (magga ñāna) & follows by fruition. It is without delay – akaliko.

According to the conditional relations – patthāna, it is anantarapaccayo – proximity condition. This becomes evident by direct yogi’s experience. But some scholars take it as has to wait for sometimes in the future. To acquire for the proficiency has to develop it for sometimes like jhānas. For other dhammas has to wait for sometimes in the future, e.g., the result of dāna.

The attainment of fruition (phala samāpatti) is meditative attainment. A noble disciple can enter into supramundane absorption (lokuttara jhāna) with Nibbāna as an object. To experience the bliss of Nibbāna here & now. The attainment is reached by resolving (adhithana) to attain fruition. And then developing in sequence beginning with the knowledge of rising & fall – impermanence.

In a Dhamma talk by a teacher who mentioned about seeing Nibbāna; “It’s the real cessation of the khandha & also can be checked. Sitting in front of a Buddha statue & resolve. Because after the Path knowledge & come fruition. Therefore the yogi can enter into fruition state (phalasamāpatti). Lord! Let me discerns the cessation of the khandha again. And makes an hour of resolution & sits there.

It starts again from rising & fall (impermanence). But the rise & fall process is not becoming increase or decrease as before (i.e., before the Path Knowledge arose in practice). Discerning (seeing) rise & fall for sometimes & it stops happening. But don’t satisfy with it. Testing for another one & a half hours, and then 2 hours, 3 hours, etc. by increasing the period with resolutions.

If, it’s real & you’ll attain it. If it’s fake, then you can’t attain it. Instead, it becomes worse. With more testing & it becomes more significant. The yogi’s in & out breaths are cool with the body. People around him are bitten by mosquitoes but not the yogi in the fruition state. Because of kilesa smell & people are bitten by mosquitoes.”

Life is a very heavy burden, physically or mentally. When people are becoming older & older, sick, or near death even become clearer. The mental burden comes from our daily life welfare & for others. These kinds of mental burden are quite a lot & it will never end. Life also has a lot of disturbances & never peaceful.

Ven. Sariputta, after his enlightenment, wanted to put down this body as soon as possible. In saṁsāra, he never had real peace & happiness because of the khandha. He said that even better to carry around the Mount Meru on his back than the khandha. Because when the time comes for the destruction of the world, everything is disappeared.

But not the khandha burden & dukkha for living beings who still have kilesas. Therefore for all noble beings (from the Buddha to sotāpanna) when they had free time preferred to stay in the fruition. They can put down their khandha burdens for sometimes accordingly to their levels. In one of Mogok Sayadaw’s talks on the truth of cessation – nirodha sacca, one is vivekato – the peaceful nature of Nibbāna.

Sayadaw said as follow: “If observing the mind & body with nyan eye, they are in chaos with impermanence (Nyan is in Burmese for knowledge). But if observing Nibbāna, it’s totally clear without anything. Showing it with the practice, it becomes clearer. E.g., if we do the contemplation on feeling (vedanānupassanā), mind (citta) & dhammas are also included. The life span of feeling is only ① & ②. At ① it arises & at ② it disappears.

Asking to contemplate feeling is giving a designation only. Has to contemplate is impermanence. Feeling arises on the body & the contemplative mind in the heart. At the time of contemplation, it is not there. To discern anicca vipassana has to be put effort, has to think & has to be mindful.

Therefore the matter of seeing anicca is necessary to be worked hard & tiresome. At Nibbāna you must answer as it’s not tiresome. At the time of seeing anicca is seeing the chaos. A place without chaos is Nibbāna. With the more mature of insight & it becomes seeing more anicca & chaotic.

There is no need to say about seeing Nibbāna if we can’t discern the chaos of anicca, & even can’t speculate about it. After discerning more & more anicca, the yogi is becoming more wearisome. Only that the mind develops into the knowledge of not wanting it. At the time the yogi can decide for it as real dukkha, then suddenly it ceases with a blip. With the disappearing of kilesa that anicca disappears.

And then the path knowledge sees the clearance (or emptiness). It’s not the mind cutting of kilesas, but the path factors (i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path). The mind includes a conascence condition (sahajātapaccayo). Don’t take Nibbāna as seeing nothingness. The dying out of kilesas has the nature of good looking.

The nature of well being will be attained after the parinibbāna (the passing away of an arahant. Here Sayadaw referred to Kilesa Nibbāna & Khandha Nibbāna). If we look at the 31 realms of existence, will only find out the chaos of anicca made by kilesa. Nibbāna is free from the chaos of kilesa that it has the nature of clearance of things.

Nibbāna doesn’t have the kind of mind & body we have. If we ask; is it body or mind? You can answer it as the mind dhamma (nāma-dhamma). It’s not the mind of arising & passing away. It was the place for a practicing yogi to arrive there. This is the place where the dhamma is leading to it. They have to incline towards it. Our mind inclines towards the sense-objects.

For the mind dhamma of Nibbāna, others have to incline towards it. For the attainment of cessation (Nirodha-samāpatti), the yogi’s mind can inclines towards it for seven days. (Sayadaw gave a simile for this). In Mandalay Zay-Cho Bazaar, at the center of it is a clock tower. It was like this clock-tower, from whichever direction the car came, had to look at it.

In the same way anyone had arrived there he could not shun away from it. This is the best of the best. At every free time, noble beings used to incline towards it. Why is that? To have peace & comfort. It can give peace & comfort that the place of happiness.

Therefore you can call it as happiness. Every worldly matter gives dukkha (because of the three universal characteristics). But Nibbāna has the characteristic of happiness, peace & joy. Nibbāna has the body or not? If it has the body and must have to be changed.

How could it be without the body? Without any form & sign, but the yogi experienced it with happiness. This is still having the khandha (i.e., when the yogi still alive). It is a very significant place. So, Nibbāna is the holiest element. If without dukkha, the worldlings must also like it. This was the best for the Buddha. Therefore there is nothing better than that.”

One of the most important things to understand the Buddha-Dhamma is we cannot take the indirect meanings as direct meanings & vice versa. Especially the teaching on Nibbāna is very difficult to understand. Because it is the supramundane Dhamma, which cannot be expressed in language directly, therefore the Buddha & enlightened beings only could describe it with metaphors or metaphorical terms.

So we have to bear in mind this important point. If not with our ideas & views can create wrong views about Nibbāna. We can see them in the history of Buddhism developed from this point (Even from the Buddha’s time to the present day). These were 62 kinds of wrong views in the Discourse of Nets view. Most of them came from practice & misinterpreted their experiences. Practicing with wrong views cannot develop the path.

In Search of Nibbāna

The following extraction is from a talk by Mogok Sayadaw on Nibbāna. It is interesting for contemplation. “In the khandha, there are two noble truths. The physical body or matter (rūpa) is like fuel dukkha sacca (the noble truth of suffering) & perishable. Greed (lobha) is like fire samudaya sacca (the noble truth of the origin of suffering) & also perishable. Therefore we can’t rely on them.

The Buddha was asking the Rohitassa devata to look for Nibbāna in this two armed-length body (or fathom-long body). But only found the perishable dhamma. Matter (rūpa) is body aggregate. Greed (lobha) & path factors (maggaṅga) are aggregate of mental formation (saṅkhārakkhandha).

These are not free from the khandha. In this khandha, only found the three noble truths, and not included Nibbāna. We can’t find Nibbāna here. Why? Because Nibbāna is not connecting with the khandha. If Nibbāna is in the khandha, then it will be perishable.

But the Buddha taught that the four noble truths existed in the khandha. Therefore it is sure that Nibbāna not mixed-up with the perishable khandha. Then it will exist outside the khandha. Even the khandha perishes, it doesn’t. So it is stable Nibbāna (dhuva nibbāna) & happy Nibbāna (sukha nibbāna).

Not everyone can see it. Only for someone who learns the method from a teacher & practice will see it. By not wanting the khandha when it ceases & you will see it. After that, it becomes one’s property. If you know, dukkha sacca thoroughly will realize Nibbāna.

It doesn’t mix up with dukkha sacca that it must be sukha sacca. Then it will be only peaceful when you attain it. For a practiser, by not wanting the khandha dukkha sacca & in a blip the khandha disappears & Nibbāna arises.

Something is leaving behind not connecting with the khandha. It will arise only without this khandha. For the practiser, his mind stays with the imperishable. The reason we do not find Nibbāna can not move away from the things covered on it. It exists as external nature. Not as an internal nature (i.e., in the khandha).

Nibbāna is very strange Dhamma. By searching outside the khandha also you can’t find it (i.e., not searching at the right place). E.g., the story of Rohitass devata, & the Buddha taught him to find in the khandha. It existed in the fathom-long body. But it does not exist in the internal & external of the khandha (ajjhattā & bahiddhā).

Why don’t we attain Nibbāna? Because we are taking affection in the perishable nature of the things, e.g. to one own’s khandha, family members, belongings, etc. Only you’ll attain it by not wanting the perishable things. Asking you to contemplate impermanence is let you know about the perishable dhamma (phenomena). First, it has to discern impermanence (annica).

Second, has to disenchant with it. Third, to discern the ending of it. If you want the perishable things, will only get them. By not wanting will get the imperishable Dhamma. If you find out the perishable will get the trace to Nibbāna. By following to the ending of perishable & you will find the imperishable Nibbāna.”

At last, I want to present the teaching on Nibbāna from the Dhamma talks given by Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalarbhivamsa. Not complete translations, only extractions. These are very interesting & most of them are from the suttas. There were two kinds of dhamma we could find in some of the suttas. These are; conditioned phenomena (saṅkhata dhamma) & unconditioned phenomenon (asaṅkhata dhamma).

The meaning of saṅkhata is; saṅ = by causes, khata = the products made by the combination of causes. Therefore asaṅkhata means – Dhamma (i.e., Nibbāna) not made by causes.

The Buddha using both of them in the suttas. Using them together was in the Abhidhamma. This was in the Dhamma-saṅganī, the first book of Abhidhamma. Saṅkhata is conditioned phenomena & asaṅkhata is an unconditioned phenomenon.

Saṅkhata dhamma is the five aggregates (khandhas). The whole cosmos is the five khandhas. So the human being is the same. These were explained in general by the Buddha. The wholesome & unwholesome dhammas are in the saṅkhata.

These are the four realms; sensuous plane (kāmabhūmi), fine-material plane (rūpabhūmi), immaterial plane (arūpabhūmi) & supramundane (lokuttara), i.e. path knowledge consciousness & fruition consciousness. Free from the causes is Nibbāna (asaṅkhata).

In the Asaṅkhatasaṁyutta (Saṁyutta Nikāya), the Buddha called asaṅkhata as the cessation of rāga (lust), dosa (hatred) & delusion (moha). Here, confusion can be come in. Because, the cessation of lust, hatred & delusion is also called the Path Knowledge. The cessation of them is showing the causes. The abandonment is defilement (kilesa) & taking the object is Nibbāna.

All the path knowledge & fruitions (sotāpatti magga to arahatta magga) are taking Nibbāna as an object. By taking Nibbāna as object & kilesa also ceases. Therefore there are levels of Nibbāna & cessation levels of kilesa. In the Kosambi Sutta, from sotāpanna (stream enterer) to anāgāmin (non-returner) are only seeing Nibbāna. It was like seeing the water inside the well by going downwards & still not touching the water yet.

Only the arahant is touching the water & abandoning all kilesa. We can see Nibbāna only with the path knowledge & fruition knowledge. Therefore Nibbāna is very difficult to see it. Because everyone is inside the province of saṅkhata. It can also be guessed by inferring (anumana).

In the Jabukhataka Sutta, Ven. Sariputta also said that the cessation of lust, hatred & delusion was Nibbāna. There are no causes to produce Nibbāna. It does not arise by kamma, mind, temperature & nutrient or sense door & sense object (these are the causes for the body & mind). They do not produce it. Path & fruition consciousness is also in the five khandhas. But they are not in the clinging khandha (i.e., upādānakkhandhā).

Clinging khandha is dukkha. Nibbāna is the cessation of clinging khandha (or) dukkha nirodho – the cessation of dukkha. The cessation of the causes is Nibbāna. Nibbāna is the cessation of both dukkha & samuday (dukkha & its origin – i.e., tanhā). Therefore it can divide into two kinds as the cessation of cause & result, i.e., kilesa & khandha. As examples; two elements of Nibbāna;

(1) the Nibbāna element with residue (sa-upādisesa nibbhānadhātu)
(2) & the Nibbāna element without residue (anupādisesa nibbhānadhātu).

For these 2 Nibbānas took the example of the Buddha. When the Buddha gained enlightenment at the time of under the Bodhi tree was the first kind of Nibbāna element, i.e., the destruction of kilesas, but the physical body was still there. At the old age of 80, after he passed away & there was no more khandhas in the future was the 2nd kind of Nibbāna element.

We can also explain it with the three rounds of existence (3 vattas). These are kilesa vatta, kamma vatta & vipaka vatta. They are cause & result connections. Without kilesa & kamma cannot function. And without both of them & no khandhas arise. The cessation of them is Nibbāna. The living being is the five khandhas. If without khandhas & there is nothing to call about it. But we cannot say Nibbāna has nothing.

Khandhas really exist. But their existence & Nibbāna is not the same type. If there is becoming, then also there is no becoming. Without becoming that there are no beginning & end. Therefore Nibbāna has no beginning & end. With the only becoming & you will have them. For example, if you have a wound & it is painful.

After taking treatment with medicine, it is cured & no wound & pain anymore. Therefore the wound & pain disappear is really existed. So Nibbāna is this kind of existence. Therefore dukkha exists & dukkha disappears also exist. If we are thinking about it with craving (tanhā), no-one will want it. Because there is no becoming.

People are craving for becoming. Therefore they do not desire for the peaceful element of not becoming. Also, in the Kosambi Sutta, the Buddha said; “Bhavanirodho nibbānam – the cessation of becoming is Nibbāna.” Bhava – existence or becoming is the combination of 3 rounds of existence (3 vattas).

These are; wanting (tanhā or kilesa), action (kamma) & getting (khandha) = existence or dukkha.

So it is the same as – dukkhanirodho nibbānam- The cessation of dukkha is Nibbāna. Therefore with the stopping of the causes & the cessation of the effect (result) comes into being. If we contemplate them & it becomes very profound. These are in gists. If we understand dukkha & will understand Nibbāna. If we know existence (bhava) & we know Nibbāna.

The Buddha also taught it in details. Because people could think about it from the points of saṅkhata. Therefore he gave examples of it had no four great elements (mahābhūta rūpa), without the mind (nāma), etc. In ancient India, some took the immaterial jhānas (arūpa jhānas) as Nibbāna. There is neither coming, nor going, nor staying (some Buddhists had these ideas).

There are also some in the Udana Pali – The Buddha’s Exclamations. In one of the suttas, the Buddha said; “There are monks, an unborn (ajātaṁ) – unbecome – unmade – unfabricated….” If it is born, also there is unborn. If there is becoming, also there is unbecoming, etc.…

Other teachings on Nibbāna were; viññānam anidassanaṁ & sabbato pabbham. Viññānam anidassanaṁ is translated by Ajahn Thānissaro as consciousness without feature. The usage of this consciousness is significant. Because except in 2 places in the texts cannot find it anywhere.

These were in the Kevutta Sutta (Dīgha Nikāya) & Brahmanimantika Sutta (in Majjima Nikāya). People were interpreting it. Differently, that became mistaken about it. Only we know it rightly by consulting other suttas.

Viññānaṁ is the knowing mind. The consciousness here was, Nibbāna could be known only with this significant consciousness, & not by others. Anidassanaṁ here was, not like seeing with the eye. It does not have the beginning & end – anatman. This word – sabbato pabbhaṁ was used in many books on Nibbāna differently.

In the commentary pabba means port. To Nibbāna, there are ways. (as like many ports). These are referring to the 38 ways of meditation (sometimes as 40 types). It can be entered from many sides. In the sub-commentary, pubbhaṁ referred to the light. It means Nibbāna has light.

The problem is, light is matter (rūpa). If Nibbāna has light, & then it becomes matter. These are metaphorical terms & we cannot take it directly. Nibbāna does not have the defilement of delusion (moha – it referred to darkness). So it has the nature of no darkness. In the simile of the Vipers Discourse (i.e., Asivisopama Sutta – Salāyatana-saṁyutta), Nibbāna was referred to as the other shore.

This was also a metaphorical term. Nibbāna has to be taken as the cessation of dukkha & its origin (i.e., khandhas & kilesas). So Nibbāna is the ending of saṅkhata. It is not changing from saṅkhata to asaṅkhata, not a changed element. It was like a wound grew out & cured. If, come from changing & it becomes of the arising dhamma. It is without anicca that there is no beginning nor end.

This was the reason Ven. Sariputta described Nibbāna as real happiness because it had no mind & body. The cessation is a presence phenomenon (atthi). We cannot know Nibbāna with the feeling of saṅkhata by thinking. A human with the thoughts of tanhā (craving) will always be far from Nibbāna. Worldlings do not want Nibbāna, because it has nothing for them. Therefore they are afraid of it.

But the Buddha taught Nibbāna in many ways. He asked people to sit for meditation. Asked them to see the arising & passing away phenomena. Only by seeing dukkha that we do not want it. Nibbāna is unconditioned - asaṅkhata. In Nibbāna, we cannot find the things which are belonging to the conditioned (saṅkhata). In the Jewels Discourse (Ratana Sutta), the following verses were very good examples of Nibbāna. These were:

“Ended the old, there is no new taking birth.
Dispassioned their minds towards further becoming.
They with no seed, no desire for growth

The enlightened, go out like this flame.
This too: an exquisite treasure in the Sangha.
By this truth, may there be well-being.”

The above verses represented Nibbāna as the cessation of kilesa & khandha or dukkha. Whatever cessation may be, all are not becoming (unbecome). Now, we are encountering the perfect & completed teachings (sasāna) of the Buddha and should make an effort in practice. It needs a lot of sustained effort to realize Nibbāna. The following story was good for contemplation.

A monk went to the forest for practice. Without success, he gave up the practice & came back to the monastery. The Buddha knew about it & told him. In his dispensation (sasāna), there were monks with a good reputation in their practices. So why he wanted the bad reputation of a lazy monk by giving up his practice & coming back. He was a diligent person in one of his past lives.

In one of their past lives, the bodhisatta was the leader of a merchant group. They were traveling in a desert area. It was so hot in the day time that, they only travelled at night, by following the northern star. One time the guide was fallen into sleep & the group returned to their last camping site. Now they were facing the problem of shortage of water.

The bodhisatta found a plot of earth with grasses overgrown on it. They were trying to dig the ground there. At a depth of 60 armed lengths (180’), they found a slab of rock. They heard the sound of flowing water underneath. Therefore, the bodhisatta asked a very strong young man to break up the rock.

At last they got the water. This strong young man was this present monk. Dhamma & water which one was more valuable? With the attainment of Dhamma, he would never die again & peaceful forever.

The 30th blessing to 33rd blessings is about sīla, samādhi, paññā & Nibbāna. They are connecting, and also about the four noble truths & the noble eightfold path. For fulfilling these blessings, we need to practice the four satipatthāna. This is practicing to know about oneself. Whatever happening in the world, whether it is good or bad or neutral, at last ending up with perishing.

We are ignorant about ourselves & the natural law with heedlessness. We practice to know & understand the nature of the khandha. People have the delusion that takes the becoming as pleasurable. Whatever situation they are in always happy with it. This is a craving for becoming (bhava tanhā) & view of eternalism (sassata ditthi). Some are craving for non-becoming (vibhava tanhā) & view of annihilationism. They crave for it without any knowledge about it.

Nibbāna means; Ni – clinging & grasping, bhāna – freedom, liberation. Therefore, it means freedom or liberation from clinging & grasping. Beings have the strongest attachment and clinging to themselves – atta tanhā pemaṁ natthi. Some living beings still have attachement to the dhamma – Dhamma raga or Dhamma nandi (e.g., non-returner-anāgāmi). Therefore, the qualities of Nibbāna are:

  1. Freedom from attachment is Nibbāna.
  2. The best real happiness is Nibbāna.

(3) Nibbāna is not in the loka (world), but it transcends it. Loka – the world – is khandhas, āyatana, dhātus, the all.

(4) Nibbāna can be seen with the mind, i.e., with the path & fruition mind. Because the mind cannot function without objects. Therefore, Nibbāna can be known by the realization of it. So we do not need to debate & argue about it. It is wasting time & never reaching to the point

(5) It can be realized with the four path knowledge (from sotāpatti to arahatta maggas). There are two ways to Nibbāna; i.e., samathayanika & vipassanā yanika (based on samatha & insight, respectively). There is nothing more important than the ending of dukkha. Therefore, the Buddha taught that the realization of Nibbāna is the highest protection with a blessing.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-22)

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