Word of the Buddha
Today we come to the Third Noble Truth, the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering. In the analogy of the physician the Third Noble Truth is the cure of the disease. There can be a cure of the disease. The disappearance of the disease is this Truth.
“What, now, is the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering? It is the complete fading away and extinction of this craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation and detachment from it.” Actually this passage follows the description of the Second Noble Truth, which is described as craving. Therefore here it is said - “the complete fading away and extinction of this craving”, the craving described in the Second Noble Truth. There are three kinds of craving. So the Third Noble Truth, the Extinction of Suffering, is the complete fading away of craving, extinction of craving, forsaking of craving, abandonment of craving, liberation from craving, detachment from craving - all meaning the same thing.
Actually these are the single words or mostly compound words in PÈÄi, all of which are the names of NibbÈna. Although NibbÈna is by definition or nature only one, different names are given to NibbÈna. It is the opposite of what we call ‘the formations’, ‘the worldly things’. So it has many names or many synonyms.
“What, now, is the Third Noble Truth? It is the complete fading away of craving.” When we describe the name of the Third Noble Truth, we say ‘the Extinction of Suffering’. But here the Third Noble Truth is defined as the extinction of craving. That is because the Buddha wanted to go to the very root. When there is the fading away of craving, there is complete fading away of suffering or dukkha. When the Buddha says that the Third Noble Truth is fading away or the extinction of craving, the Buddha really means that it is the extinction of all suffering. That is because when the cause is destroyed, the effect is also destroyed.
Due to the ambiguity of PÈÄi words, the words used in this passage and also in other passages today are interpreted in two ways. For example the word kamma - literally ‘kamma’ can mean action or doing. It can also mean something by which something is done, something like an instrument. ‘Kamma’ means something by which something is done. ‘’Kamma’ means volition by which actions are done. The word ‘kamma’ may be made to mean the place where the action is done. There is this ambiguity with PÈÄi words. Here the words admit different interpretations. At least here two interpretations are given in the Commentaries. Most people seem to favor one interpretation.
Complete fading away of craving - that means the disappearance of craving, the non-arising of craving or disappearance of suffering, or non-arising of suffering is the Third Noble Truth. The Third Noble Truth is NibbÈna. What is NibbÈna? NibbÈna is the extinction or the non-arising of suffering, the non-arising of craving. This is one meaning.
The other meaning is that NibbÈna is something through which craving comes to extinction, craving comes to fading away. There are these two interpretations to every word mentioned in this passage and also other passages as well. When it is asked what is NibbÈna, we can get two interpretations - extinction of craving or extinction of suffering, and NibbÈna is something through which there is extinction of craving or extinction of suffering.
When does the extinction of craving occur? At which moment? At the moment of the highest stage of enlightenment. At the moment of the highest stage of enlightenment there arises in the person what is called ‘the fourth Path consciousness’. When that Path consciousness arises, it must have an object. Every consciousness must have an object. Without an object no consciousness can arise. When the Path consciousness arises, it takes NibbÈna as object. If it cannot take NibbÈna as object, it will not arise at all. NibbÈna is a condition for Path consciousness to arise. It is that Path consciousness that destroys craving, that destroys mental defilements. The Path consciousness destroys craving with the help of NibbÈna because if there is no Nibbana, the Path consciousness cannot arise at all. The Path consciousness depends upon NibbÈna for its arising. NibbÈna is defined as that through which or depending upon which there is extinction of craving or extinction of suffering. These two interpretations we must keep in mind. Both are applicable.
According to the second interpretation we have something that is like solid when we think of NibbÈna. In the first interpretation NibbÈna is just going out of being, just extinction, just fading away, forsaking of craving, abandonment of craving. In the second interpretation we get NibbÈna as something, although we cannot use the word ‘thing’ for NibbÈna. So NibbÈna is something which Path consciousness takes as an object and at the same time accomplishes the extinction of craving. There are always these two interpretations.
If NibbÈna is just fading away, or just extinction of suffering, how can it become the object of Path consciousness? That is why it is said that it is not the mere absence, but it is by nature the extinction of suffering; it is not the mere absence of suffering.
NibbÈna does not exist in the sense that it has the three phases of existence (arising, developing, and the end itself). NibbÈna does not have these three phases because NibbÈna has no beginning. NibbÈna is something which has no existence in the sense that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. NibbÈna is beginningless. And since it is beginningless, it is endless. Therefore NibbÈna is said to be deathless. Actually because it is beginningless, it is deathless. If it has a beginning, then it must have an end.
It is a little difficult to just think of NibbÈna as the fading away of craving or the extinction of suffering. But if we look at it with the analogy of health, we can think of NibbÈna as something positive. We say that I have good health or that people are healthy. If we were asked what is health, then we would say that health is the absence of disease, the absence of illness. But health is a positive state. Most of us enjoy good health. Yet we cannot define health in other words. What is health? Health is no disease. We have to use negative terms to define health. In the same way we have to use negative terms to define NibbÈna. NibbÈna is no craving, no suffering. That is what is here called ‘extinction of suffering’, ‘extinction of craving’. NibbÈna is a positive state.
NibbÈna is, although it does not exist. It is actually very difficult to define, very difficult to describe. Please keep in mind these two interpretations. Whenever the verbal pronouns are used, we can have the other interpretation too. Forsaking - its forsaking is NibbÈna. Forsaking of craving is NibbÈna. NibbÈna is something through which craving is forsaken, through which craving is abandoned, through which there is freedom from or liberation from craving, through which there is detachment from craving. There are always these two.
“But where may this craving vanish, where may it be extinguished?” Please go back to page 16, the beginning of the Second Noble Truth. At the bottom of the page you will find: “But where does this craving arise and take root?” So I would like to strike out the word ‘may’ here. We should say “But where does this craving vanish, where is it extinguished?” There is translated as “Where does this craving arise?” The PÈÄi passage is the same. “But where does this craving vanish, where is it extinguished? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving vanishes, there it is extinguished.” (You can go back and read i.e. nose, tongue and so on.) That is because craving arises conditioned by the pleasurable sights, sounds, and so on. When it vanishes or when it is abandoned, it is said to be abandoned there. ‘Vanish’ here means ‘to be abandoned’. The word ‘vanish’ is not so accurate. ‘Vanish’ means going out by itself. Right? But here it is abandoned; it is done away with. The PÈÄi word used is abandoned or done away with. It may be better to say “But where is this craving abandoned, where is it extinguished? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving is abandoned, there it is extinguished.”
“Be it in the past, present, or future, whosoever of monks or priests regards the delightful and pleasurable things in the world as impermanent (anicca), miserable (dukkha), and without a self (anatta), as diseases and cankers, it is he who overcomes craving.” So long as we see things as permanent, pleasurable, and as self, we will not be able to overcome craving. That is because if we think something to be permanent, something to be pleasant, then we will be attached to it. There will be craving. We cannot overcome craving. Only when we really see that things are impermanent, miserable or subject to suffering and without a self, will we be able to overcome or get rid of craving.
Next is the dependent extinction of all phenomena. You have heard of Dependent Origination. This is the opposite of Dependent Origination. “And through the total fading away and extinction of Craving, Clinging is extinguished; through the extinction of clinging, the Process of Becoming (That means kamma formations.) is extinguished; through the extinction of the kammic process of becoming (‘Kammic process of becoming’ simply means kamma.), Rebirth is extinguished; and through the extinction of rebirth, decay and death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, grief and despair are extinguished. Thus comes about the extinction of this whole mass of suffering.” This is the opposite of Dependent Origination. There depending on craving there is clinging; depending on clinging, there is process of becoming and so on. Here through the total extinction and fading away of craving, clinging is extinguished; through the extinction of clinging, the process of becoming is extinguished and so on. It is good to be familiar with the formula of Dependent Origination, the twelve links or twelve steps.
“Hence the annihilation, cessation and overcoming of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness - this is the extinction of suffering.” You may remember that in the First Noble Truth that the Buddha said: “In brief, the five groups of existence are suffering.” The five aggregates or the five groups of existence are suffering. So if it is to be the extinction of suffering, it must be the extinction of these five groups, these five aggregates. The annihilation, the cessation and the overcoming of corporeality (This is the first aggregate.), feeling (second aggregate), perception (third aggregate), mental formations (fourth aggregate), and consciousness (fifth aggregate) - this is the extinction of suffering.” ‘The extinction of suffering’ means the extinction of five aggregates because the five aggregates themselves are suffering.
Student: In the case of the Arahant, he overcomes suffering but his corporeality remains.
Teacher: He does not overcome suffering. He overcomes craving, but suffering still remains with him until his death. We will come to that later when we talk about the two aspects of NibbÈna. When a person becomes an Arahant, he destroys the mental defilements, but he still has the body and other aggregates which are the result of kamma in the past. While he still has this body and mind, he is not exempt from suffering originating in this body and mind. So he still suffers physically. Although he has physical suffering, his mind is totally pure. So he is not depressed. He does not mentally suffer. He may have pain. He may have disease. He may have illness. The illness, or pain, or whatever cannot grip his mind. His mind is always calm and unperturbed.
Student: Bhante, it says here that all the aggregates including consciousness are extinguished. But you said that to achieve NibbÈna it is an object of consciousness. If consciousness is destroyed, how can something be the object of consciousness?
Teacher: Please wait until we talk about the two aspects of NibbÈna. So here the extinction of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness is the extinction of suffering.
“The undulatory motion which we call a wave - and which in the ignorant spectator creates the illusion of one and the same mass of water moving over the surface of the lake - is produced and fed by the wind, and maintained by the stored-up energies. Now, after the wind has ceased, and if no fresh wind again whips up the water of the lake, the stored-up energies will gradually be consumed, and thus the whole undulatory motion will come to an end. Similarly, if fire does not get new fuel, it will, after consuming all the old fuel, become extinct.”
“Just in the same way this Five-Khandha-process (That is the five aggregates.) which in the worldling creates the illusion of an Ego-entity is produced and fed by the life-affirming craving (That means it is caused by craving, craving coupled with ignorance actually.), and maintained for some time by means of the stored-up life energies. (That means kamma has the potential to give results in this life. So long as there are kammas giving results that life is maintained.) Now, after the fuel (upÈdÈna), i.e. the craving and clinging to life, has ceased, and if no new craving impels again this Five-Khandha-process, life will continue as long as there are still life-energies stored up, but at their destruction at death, the Five-Khandha-process will reach final extinction.”
After becoming an Arahant, he still has the five aggregates. He eradicates mental defilements. Mental defilements are mental factors or mental states. Among the 52 mental states there are ten which are called ‘mental defilements’. These mental defilements he eradicates all together. There are other mental states, consciousness and the physical body. These will go on so long as the force of kamma is still there, as long as the potential of the results of kamma is still there. That is why during his life before he dies an Arahant suffers like we do. He may suffer from hunger. He may suffer from pain. He may suffer from illness. He is not immune to physical suffering. Although he has overcome all mental defilements. Not only Arahants but even the Buddha suffered physical pain, illness and so on.
“Thus, NibbÈna, or ‘Extinction’ may be considered under two aspects.” So there are two aspects of NibbÈna. It is very important to understand these two aspects of NibbÈna. The first one is called ‘extinction of impurities’ or ‘extinction of mental defilements’. In PÈÄi it is Kilesa ParinibbÈna. ‘Kilesa’ means mental defilements or impurities. ‘ParinibbÈna’ means extinction. It is the extinction of mental impurities reached at Arahantship. When a person becomes an Arahant, there is the extinction of all mental impurities. “In the Suttas it is called ‘Sa-UpÈdisesa-NibbÈna’, i.e. ‘NibbÈna with the Groups of Existence still remaining’.” That means he still has other groups, other aggregates. An Arahant has eradicated the mental defilements. The mental defilements are among those in the fourth aggregate. What is the fourth aggregate? Let us begin with the first. What is the first aggregate? Corporeality. The second aggregate is feeling. The third aggregate is perception. The fourth aggregate is mental formations. Among the mental formations are the ten defilements or actually fourteen unwholesome mental states. When a person becomes an Arahant and eradicates the mental defilements or unwholesome mental states, he gets rid of these unwholesome mental factors all together. Feeling is an aggregate. Perception is an aggregate. So there are 50 minus 14. So there are still 36 mental factors he does not eradicate. After eradication of mental factors what remains? Corporeality, feeling, perception, other mental formations and consciousness are still there. They are said to be remaining from the mental defilements. That is why in PÈÄi it is called ‘Sa-Upadisesa’. ‘Sesa’ means remaining. ‘UpÈdi’ means let’s say just aggregates, the results of past kamma. The first aspect of NibbÈna is NibbÈna with the groups of existence still remaining. It is the NibbÈna which the Arahant realizes at the moment of enlightenment and which he takes as an object whenever he enters into the attainment of Arahantship. That means NibbÈna which he experience during his lifetime. From the moment a person becomes an Arahant until he dies the NibbÈna which he experiences is this kind of NibbÈna, which is called ‘Kilesa ParinibbÈna (extinction of impurities)’. In other words it is the NibbÈna to be experienced in this life. If a person becomes an Arahant, there are no mental defilements in him. His mind is totally pure, but he still has consciousness, mental factors and the physical body. They are said to be remaining from the ten defilements or fourteen unwholesome mental states which are eradicated. With the remaining aggregates he experiences NibbÈna. That means he enters into the attainment of NibbÈna. It is something like a jhÈna although it is not jhÈna. It is called ‘the attainment of Fruition (Phala SamÈpatti)’.
At the moment of enlightenment, the first moment is called ‘Path (Magga)’. Then there are two or three moments following that Path consciousness which are called ‘Fruition (Phala)’. After two or three moments they disappear because every consciousness must disappear after arising. So they disappear. At that moment the person becomes an Arahant. Later - after some minutes, some hours, some days - the person may want to experience NibbÈna again. Then he will enter into this attainment of Fruition. It is like a jhÈna, but it is not jhÈna. When he is in the attainment of Fruition, his consciousness of NibbÈna flows uninterruptedly for an hour, for a day, or for up to seven days. It is like when a person is in jhÈna. During his lifetime after becoming an Arahant, he can experience NibbÈna any time he wants to. It is like a recreation for them. They enter into this Fruition attainment and they are very, very peaceful, although we cannot really say that they are happy. Right? They are very happy or peaceful during the attainment period. That kind of NibbÈna which he experiences or enjoys is NibbÈna with the groups of existence still remaining.
Now let us look at the other NibbÈna. The other NibbÈna is what? “Extinction of the Five-Khandha-process (Khandha ParinibbÈna), which takes place at the death of the Arahant, called in the Suttas: ‘An-UpÈdisesa-NibbÈna’.” ‘An’ means ‘not’. ‘UpÈdi’ means ‘aggregates’. ‘Sesa’ means ‘remaining’, so without remaining aggregates, NibbÈna without the groups remaining. When an Arahant dies, he just disappears. All the aggregates become extinguished, just like a lamp that goes out. After that moment there are no aggregates. No corporeality, no feeling, no perception, no mental formations, no consciousness arise. That kind of extinction of the remaining aggregates is called ‘An-UpÈdisesa-NibbÈna (NibbÈna without the groups of remaining)’. Actually that means the death of an Arahant. When an Arahant dies, the remaining aggregates are extinguished. Nothing more, nothing whatsoever arises again.
Student: But it is not total annihilation because that would be the other position, the annihilationist view.
Teacher: No. The annihilationist view is different. The annihilationist view is that there is something like a permanent entity, something like an Œtman, which is extinguished at death. But here it is annihilation or extinction of all aggregates, but these aggregates are not permanent. They have only a moment’s existence. In the place of those which have disappeared, new aggregates arise. So there is the illusion of continuity. This is not the annihilationist’s view.
Then there is the question - what happens after the death of an Arahant? According to ultimate reality there is no person whatsoever. We cannot say that this person takes no more rebirth or that this person disappears. He is not even a person. He is a bundle of aggregates.
Student: This is very fine for Arahants and on the theoretical level. But on our simple level there are other things. When I leave here, I am going to the hospital to visit a man who has slipped into a coma. I have two questions: 1. Is there both citta and cetasikas still arising in a person in coma? 2. There is nothing consoling within our limited framework in the TheravÈda tradition. Whenever you come up with this pain, you are told that it is dukkha or unreal. There is no healing that I see in it.
Teacher: I think a person who is in a coma still has consciousness.
Student: The nurses always say to speak carefully because they may hear you.
Teacher: So if they hear you, that means there is still consciousness.
Student: And there are cetasikas?
Teacher: If there is citta, there are also cetasikas. With regard to the other question, let me go back to the second page of this book. “The world, however, is given to pleasure, delighted with pleasure, enchanted with pleasure. Truly, such beings will hardly understand the law of conditionality, the Dependent Origination of everything; incomprehensible to them will also be the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, NibbÈna.” So it is very difficult for us to understand NibbÈna. We are always attached to our lives. We always try to be happy or try to get happiness. So we always see against the background of this existence or this life. When it is said that NibbÈna is the extinction of suffering or the extinction of the five aggregates, we are afraid. Many people are frightened of NibbÈna because it means just going out of business, going out of existence. But if we accept that the five aggregates are impermanent, and so they are unsatisfactory, they are suffering, then we can accept that the real happiness must be the opposite of this. Real happiness must be no aggregates because aggregates equal dukkha. So no aggregates equal sukha.
Even in the time of the Buddha many people found it difficult to understand or to appreciate. One of the monks said to Venerable SÈriputta: “Is there feeling (or we could say joy) in NibbÈna?” or “How can NibbÈna be happiness if there is no feeling or no enjoyment?” And Venerable SÈriputta answered: “The fact that there is no feeling is itself happiness.” So there can be happiness without enjoyment in the conventional sense. In that same Sutta the Venerable SÈriputta told other monks about happiness - happiness we gain from enjoyment of sense pleasures, happiness that is enjoyed by people at the jhÈna stage. When a person is in the first jhÈna, his mind is constantly uninterruptedly filled with pÊti. Among the factors of first jhÈna there is pÊti. His mind is constantly filled with pÊti. So he is very, very happy when he is in the jhÈna. If by any chance some thoughts of sense objects arise in him, he regards that as an affliction. We don’t regard that as an affliction. We like to think of good things. Right? We like to enjoy good things, enjoy our life, enjoy good food, enjoy companionship. When we think of these things, we are happy. While a person is in the first jhÈna and if by any chance a thought of the sense objects arises in him, he looks upon it as an affliction. The same is true if he is in the second jhÈna. If by any chance the first jhÈna were to arise in him, he would look upon it as an affliction. When a person gets a higher jhÈna, a higher stage of happiness, then the lower stage of happiness becomes affliction to him. In the highest ar|pÈvacara jhÈna (the jhÈna of neither perception nor non-perception) there are so few mental factors and just consciousness at the time of attainment that it is the utmost of worldly happiness. But even that happiness is said to be unsatisfactory. That is because it has a beginning and an end. That is why Non-Returners and Arahants enter into what is called ‘attainment of cessation’. In that attainment there is temporary cessation of consciousness. When they are in that attainment, they are the happiest because there is no mental activity. You are just like a statue. That is the time when they are in real happiness because there is no trace of suffering, no trace of mental activities going on.
The problem of all things in the world being suffering and that the extinction of the aggregates is the real happiness is difficult to understand. “Be it in the past, present, or future, whosoever of monks or priests regards the delightful and pleasurable things in the world as impermanent (anicca), miserable (dukkha) and without a self (anatta), as disease and cankers, it is he who overcomes craving.” Taking it in the opposite way whosoever regards the delight and pleasurable things in the world as permanent, as pleasurable, as happiness, he will not make an end of craving and suffering.
We would like to be happy and live forever, but that cannot happen. Everybody must die one day. Nobody can live forever. Trying to avoid old age and death, I think is futile. It cannot be done. What we have to do is something to get out of this suffering world. So long as we are in this world, there will be suffering. We cannot avoid that.
Student: If everything is changing, then suffering will change into states of happiness. The suffering or the bad things will change. So we may see it the opposite way.
Teacher: Yes. Whatever in the world is suffering according to the ultimate sense there is no happiness; there is no sukha in the world. Suffering or dukkha is explained as that which has a beginning and an end. Anything which has a beginning and an end is called suffering or dukkha. What we call happiness is really dukkha because happiness comes and goes. It does not last long. Although in the world we say that we are happy or that there is happiness in the world, but in the ultimate sense then everything in the world is impermanent and so it is suffering or unsatisfactory. So when we talk about this, we cannot avoid saying there is suffering in the world. We cannot deceive ourselves that there is no suffering in the world, that there are things in the world to be enjoyed. Because according to the Buddha’s view everything is impermanent. So everything causes suffering. If we want to get out of suffering, we want to get out of these five aggregates. So long as we have these five aggregates, there will be suffering.
We are not fair in wanting to be happy, in wanting to get happiness. We talk about deathlessness. We don’t want to die. We don’t want the end, but we want the beginning. We accept the beginning. When we think of the deathless, we think of something which is born and that does not die, which lives forever. Right? But that cannot be. If we have a beginning, we must have an end. If we do not want an end, we must not have a beginning. We want the beginning. We accept the beginning because it is good for us, but we do not want the end. So I think that we are not fair.
Teacher: If you want to get out of suffering all together, then you cannot afford to have these five aggregates. So long as you have aggregates, there is suffering. At times an Arahant may enter into Fruition attainment and he is happy at that time. After getting out of it, he has to suffer the bodily afflictions or whatever. There is still suffering for him although he has eradicated all the mental defilements. In order to be free from all suffering, there must be no aggregates, which are the place of suffering, and which are themselves suffering. That is why there is another kind of NibbÈna.
Teacher: Yes. Because you cannot go beyond the limits of the physical body. You know you are a human being. Even if you become an Arahant, you have to eat. If you want to eat as a monk, you have to go out for alms. You may have to step on rocks, thorns, whatever. You may be chased by dogs and other animals. So there is still suffering for Arahants and Buddhas.
Let’s go a little further. “This, truly, is Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all Kamma formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, NibbÈna.” What is ‘substratum’? The PÈÄi word is upadhi. That is translated here as substratum. What do you understand by ‘every substratum of rebirth’? I looked that word up in the dictionary, in the American Heritage Dictionary. There are many meanings given, but I only took one or two - (1) A. an underlying layer B. a layer of earth beneath the surface soil, subsoil. So it is something underlying or a layer beneath a layer. The second meaning is - (2) the foundation or groundwork for something. If we understand ‘substratum’ as meaning this second one, then I think we could accept the word ‘substratum’ for the PÈÄi word ‘upadhi’.
Now ‘upadhi’ means basis or ground. There are four kinds of upadhi - upadhi of sensual desire, upadhi of aggregates, upadhi of mental defilements, upadhi of kamma. They are called upadhi because they are grounds of, or they are the basis for, or they are the conditions for something. The five desirable objects which we call kÈma are the basis for enjoyment, are the basis for happiness. Happiness here is meant in the worldly sense. The aggregates are the basis for or the condition for dukkha. Mental defilements are the basis for dukkha in the lower worlds. Kamma is dukkha in the whole process. ‘Upadhi’ means basis. If ‘substratum’ means basis, it would be acceptable. Otherwise we should use another word instead of substratum.
Student: What is the first upadhi?
Teacher: The first one is called ‘kÈma upadhi’. ‘KÈma’ means sensual pleasures or sense objects. The sense objects are the conditions for enjoyment, happiness. Aggregates are the condition for dukkha. Dukkha comes out of aggregates. When you have this body, you are subject to disease. You are subject to pain in the body. The third one, the mental defilements are the basis for dukkha in the lower world (apÈya). And the last one technically is called ‘abhisa~khÈra’, but it is kamma. That is the basis for dukkha in the whole world of existence.
Sometimes when I see the word ‘substratum’, I take it to mean the lower layer of somehthing. It is not the lower layer here, but the foundation. If we take it in that sense, it is all right. ‘The forsaking of every substratum of rebirth’ means the forsaking of kamma, “the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, NibbÈna.”
“Enraptured with lust, enraged with anger, blinded by delusion, overwhelmed, with mind ensnared, man aims at his own ruin, at the ruin of others, at the ruin of both, and he experiences mental pain and grief. But, if lust, anger, and delusion are given up, man aims neither at his own ruin, nor at the ruin of others, nor at the ruin of both and he experiences no mental pain and grief. Thus is NibbÈna immediate, visible in this life, inviting (That means come and see.), attractive, and comprehensible to the wise.”
“The extinction of greed, the extinction of hate, the extinction of delusion: this, indeed, is called NibbÈna.” Here all extinction of greed and so on also means the extinction of greed and something through which the extinction of greed comes to be. There are two meanings here.
Next is the Arahant or Holy One. “And for a disciple thus freed, in whose heart dwells peace, there is nothing to be added to what has been done and naught more remains for him to do. Just as a rock of one solid mass remains unshaken by the wind, even so neither forms, nor sounds, nor odors, nor tastes, nor contacts of any kind, neither the desired nor the undesired, can cause such a one to waver. Steadfast is his mind, gained is deliverance.” When a person becomes an Arahant, he does not waver whether he comes across desirable forms or undesirable forms and so on.
“And he who has considered all the contrasts on this earth and is no more disturbed by anything whatever in the world, the peaceful One, freed from rage, from sorrow, and from longing, he has passed beyond birth and decay.” I want to ask you what you understand by ‘he who has considered all the contrasts’? It is in the form of a verse in the original PÈÄi. Before the verse there is prose teaching of the Buddha. Who has considered all the contrasts - according to the Commentaries and the Sub-Commentaries what is meant here is having known by vipassanÈ knowledge and Path knowledge one’s self and others. That is what is meant by this phrase here. It is not just ‘considering all contrasts’. Having really known through the practice of vipassanÈ meditation and through the attainment of Path one’s own five aggregates and the other beings’ aggregates is what is meant. ‘Known’ or ‘understand’ means to understand that they are impermanent and so on and not to have any attachment to them.
“And is no more disturbed by anything whatever in the world” - that means whatever object he comes across, he is not disturbed. There is no shaking in his mind. The PÈÄi word used is shaking. He is neither attached nor repulsed by the objects.
“He is no more disturbed by anything whatever in the world, the peaceful One, freed from rage.” The PÈÄi word used is smoke, free from smoke. ‘Free from smoke’ means free from heat. ‘Free from heat’ means free from wrong-doing. Wrong-doings are here called ‘smoke’. ‘Free from rage is a very loose translation.
“Freed from sorrow” - that means freed from unwholesome states. “Free from longing” - that is free craving. “He has passed beyond birth and decay.” When it is said that he has passed beyond birth and decay, we understand that he has passed beyond disease and death also. When there is birth, there is disease, decay or old age, and there is death. Although only two are mentioned here, we must understand that all four are meant.
“Truly, there is a realm, where there is neither the solid, nor the fluid, neither heat, nor motion, neither this world, nor any other world, neither sun nor moon.” Although the word ‘realm’ is used here, NibbÈna is not a realm, nor a place to go to. It is not an existence, not a place to go to, not a realm. The PÈÄi word used is ‘Èyatana’. That means a base. That is also very difficult to translate. NibbÈna is something where there is neither the solid, nor the fluid. That means there is no earth, no water, no heat, no motion, no this world, or no that world, neither sun nor moon. There is no sun or moon.
“This I call neither arising, nor passing away, neither standing still, nor being born, nor dying.” There is no arising or coming, no passing away, nor going, nor standing still. There is no dying or being born in NibbÈna or whatever.
“There is neither foothold, nor development, nor any basis.” That is why we cannot visualize NibbÈna as some place , or some existence, or some process of becoming.
“There is neither foothold, nor development, nor any basis.” The PÈÄi word used here is ‘anÈrammaÓa’ which means that it doesn’t take any object. NibbÈna is included in nÈma, but it does not take an object. It is itself an object. What do you understand by the word ‘nÈma’? What is nÈma? Mind. Right. The translation ‘mind’ cannot cover all the aspects of the PÈÄi word ‘nÈma’. NibbÈna is also called ‘nÈma’, but NibbÈna is not mind. NibbÈna is something different from mind. NibbÈna is an object. Although NibbÈna is nÈma, it is not like the other nÈma which are cittas and cetasikas. Right? When we say nÈma, usually we mean consciousness and mental factors. Consciousness and mental factors together are called ‘nÈma’. There is another nÈma which is NibbÈna. Consciousness and mental factors can take other objects and they themselves are objects. They are both subjects and objects. NibbÈna is an object only, never a subject. Here what is meant is not ‘nor any basis’, but NibbÈna is a thing which does not take an object. “This is the end of suffering.”
“There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed.” This is a famous passage, often quoted by authors. It is something like a proof of the existence of NibbÈna, but for me it is not so convincing. I think it is aruguing in a circle. “There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible.” But a person who does not believe in or is not familiar with the Buddha’s teachings would say: “What is that escape? I don’t see any escape.” Buddha said that there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, and that if there were no Unborn, Unoriginated, there could be no escape from the born. Since there is escape from the born, there is the Unborn. This is the argument. Right? The Buddha said that there is the Unborn. If there were no Unborn, there would be no escape from the born. Since there is escape from the born, then there is the Unborn. That escape has to be realized by one’s self. So if we have not realized for ourselves, if we have not seen NibbÈna ourselves, it will always be difficult for us or any people to accept NibbÈna, to accept that there is NibbÈna. So this argument is based on the assumption that there is escape from the born. Since there is escape from the born, there is the Unborn. But you may ask: “Where is the escape?” You don’t see any escape. So in order to see the escape, in order to experience that escape, you have to realize it. You have to practice what the Buddha taught and realize that escape for yourself. Once you have gained escape, then you know that since there is escape, there is the Unborn because if there is no Unborn, there can be no escape from the born. So it is arguing in a circle. This is a famous passage often quoted by authors. “There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible.”
Now, ‘Unborn’ and ‘Unoriginated’ - the PÈÄi word used here for Unoriginated is ‘abh|taÑ’. In the Commentaries it is explained as something like unmanifest, that which does not become manifest by itself. It is a very subtle meaning. The word is ‘abh|taÑ’. It is usually translated as unoriginated, or it can even be translated as unborn, or that which has not arisen. But the other meaning of the word ‘abh|taÑ’ is not manifest. So the Commentary takes that meaning for this word ‘abh|taÑ’. So it is explained as that which does not become manifest by itself. It becomes manifest only when a person pracitces vipassanÈ meditation and realizes it. NibbÈna will not come to us by itself. We have to practice. We have to go to it. We have to grasp it by the practice of meditation. Here the word for unoriginated, that is the word ‘abh|taÑ’, is explained in the Commentary as that which does not become manifest by itself. If NibbÈna could become manifest by itself, we would not need to practice at all. If we want to make NibbÈna manifest to us, then we have to do something. It will not come by itself. That is the meaning here.
OK. This is the end of the Third Noble Truth which is the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering, which is NibbÈna. NibbÈna is what? Extinction of suffering or something through which suffering is extinguished. These two interpretations please keep in mind always. These two interpretations apply to ‘fading away’, ‘extinction’, ‘liberation’ and so on. One is just action - extinction of suffering, fading away of suffering and so on. The other is something through which craving fades away and so on. There are these two meanings.
Teacher: That he cannot escape because this is consciousness, the consciousness of NibbÈna. There is NibbÈna and there is consciousness. This consciousness is in the realm of suffering (dukkha) because that consciousness has a beginning and an end. When it take NibbÈna as an object, it is said to be in perfect happiness, but still it is subject to suffering.
Student: When you talk about NibbÈna as the Unmanifest, there is like a passive sense to NibbÈna. Almost mechanically by praciticing vipassanÈ meditation, you can achieve, but before you referred to NibbÈna as something that sort of draws you to it, something with a more active quality, something that draws you out of craving.
Teacher: No. It is not that it draws you out of craving or out of saÑsÈra. You yourself make effort to take yourself out of this suffering. However, NibbÈna is instrumental in you getting yourself out of this suffeing. If there is no NibbÈna, you cannot take yourself out of suffering. NibbÈna is instrumental. That means NibbÈna is indispensable in the acheivement of getting out of saÑsÈra.
Student: In that case NibbÈna would be like indifferent?
Teacher: Yes, something like that. NibbÈna is just NibbÈna. The mind of the person takes NibbÈna as object. Only if it takes NibbÈna as object can the Path consciousness arise. Only when there is Path consciousness is there eradication of mental defilements.
Student: What is Path consciousness?
Teacher: It is a kind of consciousness at the moment of enlightenment. There are different kinds of consciousness. Now you are hearing my voice and you have hearing consciousness. You think of something and you have thinking consciousness. There are kinds of consciousness which are said to be higher than the ordinary kinds of consciousness. For example there is jhÈna consciousness. And then Path consciousness is higher than jhÈna consciousness. It is a kind of consciousness which is able to eradicate mental defilements. So it has tremendous destructive power. It is said that at the moment of Path consciousness the mental defilements are destroyed.
When we talk about the destruction of mental defilements, we must understand that it is not the destruction of mental defilements at the present moment, or in the past, or in the future. It is rendering them unable to arise again, making them so that they do not arise again. That is what is meant by destroying kilesas. Actually when the kilesas are in your mind, you cannot destroy them. The past kilesas you do not have to destroy. They have already disappeared. The future kilesas cannot be destroyed because they have not yet come to you. So what you destroy at the moment of Path consciousness is the liability, what we call ‘the anusaya’. It is like fire in a match, the potential. That is what Magga eradicated. Path consciousness makes it impossible for the unwholesome mental stated to arise again. The PÈÄi word used is ‘Èyatin anuppÈdÈ’. That means ‘not arising in the future’. The possibility of arising in the future is destroyed. The potential is destroyed. There is a discussion of this in the Visuddhi Magga, towards the end of the last chapter. OK.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!