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Meaning of Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ?

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  • Meaning of Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ?

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    May I ask how you'd translate the following in DN11 the Kevatta Sutta?

    "Tatra veyyaakara.nam bhavati–
    `Viññaa.nam anidassanam, anantam sabbatopabham;
    ettha aapo ca pathavii, tejo vaayo na gaadhati.
    Ettha diighañca rassañca, a.num thuulam subhaasubham;
    ettha naamañca ruupañca, asesam uparujjhati;
    viññaa.nassa nirodhena, etthetam uparujjhatii'ti."

    I've read very different translations of viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ and this paragraph, and became confused about its meaning now.

    With my thanks and metta,

    Yuan

  • #2
    Dear Yuan,

    There is a good discussion on this phrase here and here. Please let me know if this does not answer your question.

    With metta.

    Comment


    • #3
      Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

      Thank for the links and I tend to think the key is how to interpret "Viññāṇassa nirodhena" (cessation of consciousness).

      Is nibbana the physical annihalation of consciousness, or rather the cessation of fabrications/proliferations/defilements/attachments? Let's first look at the following suttas:

      Udana – Inspiration: I - 10 which has similar phrases as DN11:
      "On realizing the importance of this incident the Blessed One exclaimed:
      Where neither solidity, fluidity, heat nor motion find any footing,
      there no sun, moon nor star ever shines. There is neither any light,
      yet nor is there any darkness! When the Noble,
      through stilling of all construction [fabrication or proliferation], through quieting of all mental formation,
      directly experiences this, then is he freed from both form & formlessness,
      then is he released from both pleasure and all pain ...".

      DN11:

      "'Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder? Instead, it should be phrased like this:
      Where do water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing? Where are long & short, coarse & fine, fair & foul, name & form brought to an end?

      "'And the answer to that is:
      Consciousness non-manifestive, without end, luminous all around: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end. With the cessation of consciousness each is here brought to an end.'"

      How would you interpret the sentence in DN 11 "With the cessation of consciousness each [of the four elements and dualitlies] is here brought to an end"?

      Would it be possible that 1) the "cessation" here means the cessation of fabrications/mental formations as meant in Udana – Inspiration: I - 10, so "anidassanam" and "nirodhena" are just synonyms, and 2)"each [of the four elements] is here brought to an end" means that the consciousness is not established on name and form ("Where name-&-form does not alight"), i.e. the four elements? Then this sentence would have exactly the same meaning as the previous sentence:

      Consciousness without manifestation [of fabrications], infinite, lucid all around [or ‘everywhere is a ford to it’ -- "among the thirty eight meditation objects there is none that is not a ford to it"]: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end."

      If we interpret the "cessation" as the annihilation of the consciousness: "With the cessation (annihilation) of consciousness each [of the four elements and dualities] is here brought to an end ["cease without remainder"]", then this wouldn't agree with the Buddha's rephrasing of the question:

      "'Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four great elements — the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property — cease without remainder? Instead, it should be phrased like this:
      Where do water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing? Where are long & short, coarse & fine, fair & foul, name & form brought to an end [actively, not passively]?

      In addition, I read the following explanation about "nirodha":

      As for nirodha in the third Noble Truth (or the Dependent Origination cycle in cessation mode), although it also describes a natural process, its emphasis is on practical considerations. It is translated in two ways in the Visuddhimagga. One way traces the etymology to "ni" (without) + "rodha" (prison, confine, obstacle, wall, impediment), thus rendering the meaning as "without impediment," "free of confinement." This is explained as "free of impediments, that is, the confinement of samsara." Another definition traces the origin to anuppada, meaning "not arising", and goes on to say "nirodha here does not mean bhanga, breaking up and dissolution." [http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/coarisea.htm]

      I'll continue with some suttas on nibbana. With metta,

      Yuan

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

        In the suttas nibbana appears to mean the stilling of fabrications and cessation of craving/attachments/karmic existence instead of the cessation of awareness:

        "This is the peaceful; this is the sublime; the stilling of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all [acquisations and] attachments; the ending of craving; dipassion; cessation [of becomings]; nibbana"

        AN 4.174:
        [Sariputta:] "The statement, 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media [vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, & intellection] is it the case that there is anything else?' proliferates [papañcize] non-proliferation [papañca]. The statement, '... is it the case that there is not anything else ... is it the case that there both is & is not anything else ... is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' proliferates non-proliferation. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far proliferations goes. However far proliferation goes, that is how far the six contact media go. With the remainderless fading & stopping of the six contact-media, there comes to be the stopping, the allaying [relieving] of papanca [proliferation].

        SN 12.64:
        "Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
        "On the western wall, lord."...
        "And if there is no water, where does it land?"
        "It does not land, lord."
        "In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."

        SN 22.53 Upaya Sutta:

        When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, nongenerative, it is liberated. By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains nibbaana. He understands: 'Destroyed is birth , the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.'" [What is "it" here?]

        DN 15:
        "If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?"

        DN 15:
        "If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death' is his view, that would be mistaken;
        that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken.

        Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released [from that -- all the conditioned phenomena].

        ["If anyone were to say that] 'The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know' is his view,' that would be mistaken.
        -- Unlike the four earlier views, which are wrongly attributed to the released one because they don’t apply to the unconditioned, this fifth view might lead to the supposition that the released does not see, does not know in nibbana due to the annihilation of consciousness; however, having directly known his release indicates such an nihilistic view is wrong as well. The description of what he comes to know in the course of gaining release shows that this supposition is inappropriate. He does know, he does see, but what he knows and sees is the unconditioned which is beyond mundane experience.

        AN 10.7PTS: A v 8
        Sariputta Sutta:
        "Once, friend Ananda, when I was staying right here in Savatthi in the Blind Man's Grove, I reached concentration in such a way that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet I was still percipient."

        "But what, friend Sariputta, were you percipient of at that time?"

        "'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me, friend Ananda, as another perception ceased. Just as in a blazing woodchip fire, one flame arises as another flame ceases, even so, 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me as another one ceased. I was percipient at that time of 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding.'"

        § 44. The Nibbana-element {Iti 2.17; Iti 38}:

        "These, bhikkhus, are the two Nibbana-elements.

        These two Nibbana-elements were made known By the Seeing One, stable and unattached:

        One is the element seen here and now With residue,
        but with the cord of being destroyed;
        The other, having no residue for the future,
        Is that wherein all modes of being [conditioned existence] utterly cease.

        Having understood the unconditioned state,
        Released in mind with the cord of being destroyed,
        They have attained to the Dhamma-essence.
        Delighting in the destruction (of craving),
        Those stable ones have abandoned all being."


        Greetings,

        Yuan

        Comment


        • #5
          Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

          Can the unconditioned awareness be annihilated upon an arahant's death?

          AN 10.81:
          "Freed, dissociated, and released from ten things, Bahuna, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Which ten? Freed, dissociated, and released from form, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Freed, dissociated, and released from feeling... from perception... from fabrications... from consciousness... from birth... from aging... from death... from stress... Freed, dissociated, and released from defilement, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness.


          A. N. ii.47.Paharada Sutta:
          "Just as in the great ocean neither a decrease nor an increase will appear though all the streams of the world flow into it and rains fall into it from the sky; even so in the Nibbana element [living arahant’s transcendental "consciousness"?] that is without a remainder of substrata of existence [the conditioned phenomena]; there is no decrease nor increase even if many monks enter it. [-- because these monks don’t have any conditioned existence anymore, but rather the unconditioned, the pure imperturbable "mind" devoid of defilements and unestablished upon name and form?].

          MN 22:
          "And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.
          http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

          Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ariyo pannaddhajo pannabhāro visaṃyutto hoti? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno asmimāno pahīno hoti, ucchinnamūlo tālāvatthukato anabhāvaṃkato , āyatiṃ anuppādadhammo. Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ariyo pannaddhajo pannabhāro visaṃyutto hoti.

          Evaṃ vimuttacittaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhuṃ saindā devā sabrahmakā sapajāpatikā anvesaṃ nādhigacchanti – ‘idaṃ nissitaṃ tathāgatassa viññāṇa’nti. Taṃ kissa hetu? Diṭṭhevāhaṃ, bhikkhave, dhamme tathāgataṃ ananuvijjoti vadāmi.
          http://nikaya.wikidot.com/appatittha-vinnana

          MN 72:
          "But, Master Gotama, the monk whose mind is thus released: Where does he reappear? ... when Master Gotama is asked if the monk reappears... does not reappear... both does & does not reappear... neither does nor does not reappear, he says, '... doesn't apply' in each case." ... "Deep, Vaccha, is this phenomenon [Nibbana], hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. For those with other views, other practices, other satisfactions, other aims, other teachers, it is difficult to know." ...

          "And suppose someone were to ask you, 'This fire that has gone out in front of you, in which direction from here has it gone? East? West? North? Or south?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

          "That doesn't apply, Master Gotama. Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass & timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound)."

          "Even so, Vaccha, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply.

          "Any feeling... Any perception... Any mental fabrication...

          "Any consciousness by which one describing the Tathagata [the aggregate of consciousness] would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of consciousness, Vaccha, the Tathagata [the "unestablished consciousness"?] is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply." [What would be "the Tathagata" here, if not the "unestablished consciousness"?]

          Sirima: Sirima's Mansion [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....16.irel.html]
          "When I had learnt of the undying state (nibbana), the unconditioned, through the instruction of the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I was highly and well restrained in the precepts and established in the Dhamma taught by the most excellent of men, the Awakened One." ... When I knew the undefiled, the unconditioned, taught by the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I then and there experienced the calm concentration (of the noble path). That supreme certainty of release was mine."

          To my understanding, so called birth and death concern only the association and disassociation of vinnana with nama and rupa, or the arising and passing away of the five aggregates (all are the conditioned phenomena). How can the mundane, conditioned birth and death annihilate the supramundane, the unconditioned awareness? Would the cessation at the death of an arahant be only the cessation of the conditioned: the defilements, fabrications, karmic existence, rebirths, and five aggregates?

          Would it be better to use the unconditioned, the unestablished, or the deathless, instead of the "unestablished consciousness or awareness" or some other terms for nibbana to avoid confusion?

          With my gratitude and metta,

          Yuan

          PS: sorry for the long message. I understand your point that only suffering is lost in nibbana, but I thought it would be helpful to comprehend nibbana as taught in MN1.

          Comment


          • #6
            Dear Yuan,

            Gee, you've got some serious questions! Anyway, I shall attempt to reply.

            I tend to think the key is how to interpret "Viññāṇassa nirodhena" (cessation of consciousness)
            As a general principle, it seems safe to assume that the most straightforward interpretation is the most likely one to be correct, unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. Thus the default interpretation of viññāṇassa nirodhena is that it means the ending of all consciousness.

            Is nibbana the physical annihalation of consciousness, or rather the cessation of fabrications/proliferations/defilements/attachments?
            To be able to answer this question you first of all need to be clear about which nibbāna you are referring to. The usual meaning of nibbāna in the suttas is the attainment of arahantship. Clearly consciousness does not cease with this attainment of nibbāna . The other meaning of nibbāna is the final nibbāna attained by the arahant when he or she dies. It is only at this point that the five khandhas, including consciousness, cease. (This distinction between two meanings of nibbāna is explicitly made in the Itivuttaka.) Once you make this distinction, it becomes much more clear how the numerous sutta references you bring up should be understood.

            through stilling of all construction [fabrication or proliferation], through quieting of all mental formation
            This phrase would normally seem to refer to the attainment of arahantship rather than final nibbāna. For instance, it is often used synonymously with taṇhakkhaya, the destruction of craving, which clearly refers to the reaching of arahantship. In this sense it means the stilling of the kamma producing will, that is, the cessation of the second link of dependent origination.

            In certain contexts it is possible that this phrase could also refer to final nibbāna. Remember that particular phrases and expressions may not have one specific meaning, but that the meaning may change with context. Indeed, in some contexts more than one meaning may be applicable!

            Udana – Inspiration: I - 10 which has similar phrases as DN11:
            "On realizing the importance of this incident the Blessed One exclaimed:
            Where neither solidity, fluidity, heat nor motion find any footing,
            there no sun, moon nor star ever shines. There is neither any light,
            yet nor is there any darkness! When the Noble,
            through stilling of all construction [fabrication or proliferation], through quieting of all mental formation,
            directly experiences this, then is he freed from both form & formlessness,
            then is he released from both pleasure and all pain ...".
            This refers to the living arahant; perhaps even a particular state of ariyan samādhi. That is, it does not refer to the cessation of consciousness.

            Would it be possible that 1) the "cessation" here means the cessation of fabrications/mental formations as meant in Udana – Inspiration: I - 10, so "anidassanam" and "nirodhena" are just synonyms
            I cannot see how they could be synonyms. Nirodha means cessation, whereas anidassana viññāṇa clearly is a type of consciousness. It seems clear to me that we are dealing with two very different things here. Indeed, I have suggested elsewhere that the verses at DN11 should be read as two questions with two answers.

            2)"each [of the four elements] is here brought to an end" means that the consciousness is not established on name and form ("Where name-&-form does not alight"), i.e. the four elements? Then this sentence would have exactly the same meaning as the previous sentence
            But the four elements are not synonymous with nāmarūpa. The four elements, rather, refer only to rūpa, and nāma refers to the mental factors (except consciousness). In other words, the ending of the four great elements (e.g. in the immaterial attainments) is no the same as the ending of nāmarūpa.

            If we interpret the "cessation" as the annihilation of the consciousness: "With the cessation (annihilation) of consciousness each [of the four elements and dualities] is here brought to an end ["cease without remainder"]", then this wouldn't agree with the Buddha's rephrasing of the question
            Again, note that the Buddha really rephrases the original question as two questions. Thus the answer needs to be read as two separate answers. One answer refers to a rarified type of consciousness (qualified as anidassana), the other answer is the final cessation of consciousness.

            As for nirodha in the third Noble Truth ... It is translated in two ways in the Visuddhimagga. One way traces the etymology to "ni" (without) + "rodha"
            What is really important is how nirodha is used in the suttas. (The etymology of words can be very misleading as to their applied meaning.) To my knowledge nirodha always means cessation in the suttas.

            Continued in the next post.

            Comment


            • #7
              Dear Yuan,

              Continuing with your second post, number 4 above.

              This is the peaceful; this is the sublime; the stilling of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all [acquisations and] attachments; the ending of craving; dipassion; cessation [of becomings]; nibbana
              Notice "the ending of craving". This would then refer to the attrainment of arahantship, not final nibbāna (that is, the ending of consciousness).

              AN 4.174:
              [Sariputta:] "The statement, 'With the remainderless stopping & fading of the six contact-media [vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, & intellection] is it the case that there is anything else?' proliferates [papañcize] non-proliferation [papañca]. The statement, '... is it the case that there is not anything else ... is it the case that there both is & is not anything else ... is it the case that there neither is nor is not anything else?' proliferates non-proliferation. However far the six contact-media go, that is how far proliferations goes. However far proliferation goes, that is how far the six contact media go. With the remainderless fading & stopping of the six contact-media, there comes to be the stopping, the allaying [relieving] of papanca [proliferation].
              This sutta seems to refer to final nibbāna , the cessation of consciousness.

              SN 12.64:
              "Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
              "On the western wall, lord."...
              "And if there is no water, where does it land?"
              "It does not land, lord."
              "In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."
              In this sutta we seem to be dealing with both the living arahant and final nibbāna. "Consciousness does not land there or grow" is a reference to the consciousness of an arahant not being established in anything in this life. That is, the arahant's consciousness does not crave for or hold onto anything; it is a free consciousness. The result of having a free consciousness is that there is no rebirth in the future ("where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth"), which implies the cessation of consciousness.

              SN 22.53 Upaya Sutta:
              When that consciousness is unestablished, not coming to growth, nongenerative, it is liberated. By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains nibbaana. He understands: 'Destroyed is birth , the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.'" [What is "it" here?]
              This is about the living arahant. Consciousness has not ceased.

              DN 15:
              "If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?"
              This is strictly speaking about neither. It simply concerns the dependence of consciousness on name and form. But the implication is that a free consciousness does "not gain a foothold in name-and-form", and thus there is no rebirth and consciousness itself ceases at that point.

              Unlike the four earlier views, which are wrongly attributed to the released one because they don’t apply to the unconditioned ...
              This is not correct. The reason these four views "are wrongly attributed to the released one" is because there is no self. The underlying assumption in all these views is that there is something permanent in a being that is either annihilated or eternal. Since the underlying assumption is wrong, there can be no answer as to which view is correct. This is why the Buddha consistently refuses to say anything about these four positions. Have look at the Yamaka Sutta (SN 22:85).

              He does know, he does see, but what he knows and sees is the unconditioned which is beyond mundane experience.
              I would put it this way: what he knows and sees is that he is free from rebirth and free from conditioned phenomena.

              AN 10.7PTS: A v 8
              Sariputta Sutta:
              "Once, friend Ananda, when I was staying right here in Savatthi in the Blind Man's Grove, I reached concentration in such a way that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet I was still percipient."
              This concerns a state of samādhi and is not directly equivalent to any of the two types of nibbāna.

              § 44. The Nibbana-element {Iti 2.17; Iti 38}:

              "These, bhikkhus, are the two Nibbana-elements.

              These two Nibbana-elements were made known By the Seeing One, stable and unattached:

              One is the element seen here and now With residue,
              but with the cord of being destroyed;
              The other, having no residue for the future,
              Is that wherein all modes of being [conditioned existence] utterly cease.

              Having understood the unconditioned state,
              Released in mind with the cord of being destroyed,
              They have attained to the Dhamma-essence.
              Delighting in the destruction (of craving),
              Those stable ones have abandoned all being."
              In this sutta I would rather rely on the prose section immediately preceding these verses. Verse is often difficult to understand, whereas prose is usually much clearer. If you have a look at the prose I think the meaning will be quite clear to you.

              Anyway, I would read the verses here as follows. The first two lines - "One is the element seen here and now with residue, but with the cord of being destroyed" - refers to the living arahant. The next two lines - "The other, having no residue for the future, is that wherein all modes of being [conditioned existence] utterly cease" - refers to final nibbāna, the cessation of all consciousness. You have added "[conditioned existence]", but this might be misleading. The Pali simply says that all existence comes to an end. Saying "conditioned existence" may seem to imply that there is some sort of "unconditioned existence".

              The second verse concerns the living arahant.

              Continued in the next post.

              Comment


              • #8
                Dear Yuan,

                Continuing with your third post, number 5 above.

                Can the unconditioned awareness be annihilated upon an arahant's death?
                Remember it's about cessation, not annihilation. What ceases is really just dukkha. When dukkha ceases you get happiness. If consciousness does not cease fully, you have a problem; it's called suffering.

                AN 10.81:
                "Freed, dissociated, and released from ten things, Bahuna, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Which ten? Freed, dissociated, and released from form, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Freed, dissociated, and released from feeling... from perception... from fabrications... from consciousness... from birth... from aging... from death... from stress... Freed, dissociated, and released from defilement, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness.
                This concerns the living arahant. That's why consciousness is still present.

                A. N. ii.47.Paharada Sutta:
                "Just as in the great ocean neither a decrease nor an increase will appear though all the streams of the world flow into it and rains fall into it from the sky; even so in the Nibbana element [living arahant’s transcendental "consciousness"?] that is without a remainder of substrata of existence [the conditioned phenomena]; there is no decrease nor increase even if many monks enter it. [-- because these monks don’t have any conditioned existence anymore, but rather the unconditioned, the pure imperturbable "mind" devoid of defilements and unestablished upon name and form?].
                This would seem to concern final nibbāna. There is no decrease or increase because nibbāna is simply cessation. (The simplest explanation is usually the best and most accurate one.)

                MN 22:
                "And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.
                This concerns the living arahant. His or her mind is untraceable because it does not hold on to anything. The devas are only able to see a mind that is still enmeshed in saṃsāra, and even then that mind has to be at a lower level of saṃsāric existence than their own.

                MN 72:
                "But, Master Gotama, the monk whose mind is thus released: Where does he reappear? ... when Master Gotama is asked if the monk reappears... does not reappear... both does & does not reappear... neither does nor does not reappear, he says, '... doesn't apply' in each case." ... "Deep, Vaccha, is this phenomenon [Nibbana], hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. For those with other views, other practices, other satisfactions, other aims, other teachers, it is difficult to know."

                ...

                "Any consciousness by which one describing the Tathagata [the aggregate of consciousness] would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of consciousness, Vaccha, the Tathagata [the "unestablished consciousness"?] is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply." [What would be "the Tathagata" here, if not the "unestablished consciousness"?]
                This concerns final nibbāna. The problem here is that Vacchagotta assumes the existence of a permanent self, and thus his questions are invalid. The Buddha says that a Tathagata "is deep, boundless, hard to fathom" because he has seen nonself. When you see nonself you realize that you don't really exist right here and now. Since this is so, it makes no sense to speak of existence, or lack of existence, after death. (Again, see the Yamaka Sutta.) With the realization of nonself one's world view is literally turned upside down. As far as I can see, this is what the Buddha is getting at.

                How can the mundane, conditioned birth and death annihilate the supramundane, the unconditioned awareness? Would the cessation at the death of an arahant be only the cessation of the conditioned: the defilements, fabrications, karmic existence, rebirths, and five aggregates?
                What do you mean by "supramundane, the unconditioned awareness"? Supramundane normally just refers to insight into the four noble truths, including the all-important insight into the selflessness of the five khandhas. One of the problems here may be the translation "unconditioned" for asaṅkhata. As far as I can see a more appropriate translation for this term would be "freedom from the conditioned". In other words, awareness is liberated from the conditioned, it is not an "unconditioned awareness". The latter expression may have all sorts of implications that I feel are highly misleading.

                So, yes, all awareness ceases at the death of the arahant. If it didn't, there would not be the full escape from suffering. Consciousness is part of the five khandhas, and the khandhas are suffering.

                Would it be better to use the unconditioned, the unestablished, or the deathless, instead of the "unestablished consciousness or awareness" or some other terms for nibbana to avoid confusion?
                Nibbāna quite literally means "extinguishment". I feel it would be best to translate it using this term, since this is what people at the time of the Buddha presumably would have understood. When we use the term nibbāna without translating it, it can easily give rise to all sorts of substantialist ideas.

                I don't think "the unconditioned" or "the deathless" are suitable translations for nibbāna either, since they too have a substantialist feel to them. I would rather propose that these terms should be translated as "freedom from the conditioned" (asaṅkhata) and "freedom from death" (amata). "Unestablished", on the other hand, might just work.

                ----

                There you are. I hope you can make some sense of this. There is a lot of contradictory information out there, and sometimes you just need time for it all to become clear. However, if you persist inquiring with an open mind, these things will gradually become clear to you. Good luck!

                With metta.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

                  Happy new year!

                  Many thanks for your very kind and generous help with my Dhamma practice. I've learned a lot from you.

                  I came back to this old topic just to let you and our Dhamma friends know that I agree with your interpretation of viññāṇassa nirodhena as the cessation of all consciousness. The transcendental awareness of the arahants when dwelling in the cessation of perception and feeling is not a transformed consciousness or the aggregate of consciousness. At first I was a bit confused by the consciousness in the chain of dependent origination [so called "stream of consciousness"], which is separated from nama and rupa. I've realized that the defiled mind in samsara is no longer the "calm water" but the "stormy water", which appears as consciousness. As long as still in samsara, when the defiled mind/consciousness has separated from one set of aggregates upon one death in one realm, with more or less defilements it will successively gain another set of aggregates in the same or different realm. And the defiled mind/consciousness is always changing in samsara so the Buddha taught us it's not the same consciousness. When the mind becomes liberated from the defilements and five aggregates at the death of an arahant, all consciousness cease and the mind will become the "calm water" without waves (without consciousness). Is my understanding correct?

                  I also agree with you that it's better to translate "the unconditioned" and "the deathless" as "freedom from the conditioned" (asaṅkhata) and "freedom from death" (amata). However, I tend to think that when an arahant abides in the cessation of perception and feeling, consciousness ceases since it is inseparable from perception and feeling:

                  MN 111:
                  "Again, bhikkhus, by completely surmounting the base of neither perception nor non-perception, Sariputta entered upon and abided in the cessation of perception and feeling. And his taints were destroyed by his seeing with wisdom."

                  Would it be possible that this "seeing with (supramundane) wisdom" occurring during (?) the cessation of perception and feeling is the knowing beyond the aggregates? All the other knowingness (including the knower in fourth jhana up to the sphere of neither perception nor feeling) is not the pure mind, and is anatta. Of course even the pure mind is also anatta, because the sense of "self" is generated by the "magic show" of consciousness. When consciousness ceases, the sense of "self" also ceases, together with all proliferations -- right?

                  With my gratitude and metta, and best wishes for a peaceful new year!

                  Yuan

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Dear Yuan,

                    Nice to hear from you again!

                    When the mind becomes liberated from the defilements and five aggregates at the death of an arahant, all consciousness cease and the mind will become the "calm water" without waves (without consciousness). Is my understanding correct?
                    Remember that there is no mind apart from the five khandhas, the aggregates. The mind is nothing apart from the the mental aggregates working together. When consciousness ceases, the mind also ceases. Nibbāna is simply the cessation of suffering, since all these things are suffering.

                    However, I tend to think that when an arahant abides in the cessation of perception and feeling, consciousness ceases since it is inseparable from perception and feeling
                    Quite right.

                    Would it be possible that this "seeing with (supramundane) wisdom" occurring during (?) the cessation of perception and feeling is the knowing beyond the aggregates?
                    Since the mind ceases in this attainment, the wisdom arises only afterwards. Once you have seen that the full cessation of everything is a greater happiness (or better, a lesser suffering) than any conscious state, no matter how refined, then you will automatically abandon any craving and attachment to the five khandhas. That's why one normally becomes an arahant after such an attainment.

                    Happy new year to you too.

                    With metta.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

                      Happy new year to you and to all!

                      Many thanks for your very helpful reply. The mind I refer to is not the mind aggregate (one of the six senses), but the pure "citta" with consciousness unestablished in final nibbana ("internal emptiness") that is beyond the five aggregates (samsara).

                      As to your comments, "Since the mind ceases in this attainment, the wisdom arises only afterwards. Once you have seen that the full cessation of everything is a greater happiness (or better, a lesser suffering) than any conscious state, no matter how refined, then you will automatically abandon any craving and attachment to the five khandhas. That's why one normally becomes an arahant after such an attainment", what then would be the difference between the noble attainment of cessation of perception and feeling, and the wrong non-percipient/non-conscious attainments (asaññasamāpatti)? I guess the difference is that one "sees" the cessation and happiness during the noble attainment but can't "see" during the wrong attainment. Of course that "seeing" without ignorance/defilements is hard to imagine for us. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

                      Wish you a very progressive and peaceful new year!

                      Starter

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Dear Yuan,

                        Happy new year!

                        The mind I refer to is not the mind aggregate (one of the six senses), but the pure "citta" with consciousness unestablished in final nibbana ("internal emptiness") that is beyond the five aggregates (samsara).
                        It is better not to think of Nibbāna in this way. Nibbāna is simply the end of suffering, and to think of it as either being something or nothing is just the sense of self proliferating about something it cannot really understand.

                        what then would be the difference between the noble attainment of cessation of perception and feeling, and the wrong non-percipient/non-conscious attainments (asaññasamāpatti)?
                        One important difference is that the cessation of perception and feeling is attained consciously through you meditation practice. That is, you are fully aware of what is happening, and you are therefore able to use it for insight afterwards. The non-percipient state, by contrast, is a type of rebirth attained by someone who basically does not want to exist. It is fuelled by craving, and there is not the same clarity as to what is happening. Once you get reborn after this attainment, you won't normally know what happened. This is how I see it, anyway.

                        Another important difference is that to attain the cessation of perception and feeling you probably have to be an ariya. In other words, only a person who has fully seen non-self would be able to let go so completely. So one attainment is fuelled by craving (the craving for annihilation, vibhavataṇhā) and the other is a result of deep insight.

                        With metta.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

                          Many thanks for your very prompt and helpful reply. I think it's very important to understand the third Noble truth "cessation of suffering" (nibbana) correctly, so I appreciate a lot that you spent so much time clarifying this.

                          If nibbana is only the end/cessation of suffering or a lesser suffering, without the aspect of supreme happiness (peace), then what's the difference between nibbana and annihilation? The Buddha defines nibbana as "This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, ...", not only as just cessation of suffering, to my limited understanding.

                          As I understand from the Buddha's teachings, it's the mind that gets liberated from the assavas/defilements. This mind is not the mind as one of the six sense faculties. I tend to think it's probably better to translate the sense mind as mind faculty, which is the "software" of the "computer" that is pre-programmed with the nama khanda (vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana) by the "defilement general" (that is causing ignorance), having brain/body as its "hardware" and nerves as its "cable". The mind we develop is the "computer operator" (the "defilement general" is another operator of this "computer").

                          The Buddha taught us:

                          "Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements. The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — there is no development of the mind." {I,vi,1}

                          "Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements. The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind." {I,vi,2}

                          I tend to think that the "luminous mind" freed from incoming defilements is nibbana, with or without residue; and nibbana is the unconditioned, sublime peace. Looking forward to your kind corrections. With my gratitude and metta,

                          Yuan

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Dear Yuan,

                            If nibbana is only the end/cessation of suffering or a lesser suffering, without the aspect of supreme happiness (peace), then what's the difference between nibbana and annihilation?
                            Annihilation is what happens when there is a self. Because people by and large have a sense of self, they think nibbāna is annihilation. When the sense of self disappears one realizes that nibbāna is nothing but the cessation of suffering. The five khandhas come to a natural end, no self is annihilated, oh what bliss!

                            The Buddha defines nibbana as "This is the peaceful, this is the sublime, ...", not only as just cessation of suffering, to my limited understanding.
                            The end of suffering is "peaceful" and it is "sublime".

                            As I understand from the Buddha's teachings, it's the mind that gets liberated from the assavas/defilements.
                            When you become an arahant the mind is liberated from the defilements. At this point the mind still exists. This mind is still the mind of the khandhas, but it is now purified of any defilements. When the arahant dies, the five khandhas cease, which means that the mind also ceases (that is, suffering ceases).

                            I tend to think that the "luminous mind" freed from incoming defilements is nibbana, with or without residue; and nibbana is the unconditioned, sublime peace.
                            The "luminous mind" is the mind of deep samādhi. Elsewhere in the suttas the mind of the fourth jhāna is explained in this way. The mind of an arahant can perhaps also be described this way. But the luminous mind, too, must cease when the arahant dies. There is nothing in the suttas to suggest otherwise.

                            With metta.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

                              I'd like to let you know my new understanding of the "ariyan concentration" Ven. Sariputta mentioned in AN 10.7:

                              AN 10.7
                              PTS: A v 8
                              Sariputta Sutta: With Sariputta
                              translated from the Pali by
                              Thanissaro Bhikkhu
                              © 2004–2012

                              Then Ven. Ananda went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Sariputta, "Friend Sariputta, could a monk have an attainment of concentration such that he would neither be percipient of earth with regard to earth, nor of water with regard to water, nor of fire... wind... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception... this world... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet he would still be percipient?"

                              "Yes, friend Ananda, he could..."

                              "But how, friend Sariputta, could a monk have an attainment of concentration such he would neither be percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet he would still be percipient?"

                              "Once, friend Ananda, when I was staying right here in Savatthi in the Blind Man's Grove, I reached concentration in such a way that I was neither percipient of earth with regard to earth... nor of the next world with regard to the next world, and yet I was still percipient."

                              "But what, friend Sariputta, were you percipient of at that time?"

                              "'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me, friend Ananda, as another perception ceased. Just as in a blazing woodchip fire, one flame arises as another flame ceases, even so, 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding — the cessation of becoming — Unbinding': One perception arose in me as another one ceased. I was percipient at that time of 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding.'"

                              As I understand from this sutta, the concentration Ven. Sariputta attained here is the highest attainment "the cessation of perception and feeling", since all the other possible types of formless concentration (including neither perception nor feeling) are excluded. What ceased in this attainment is only the cessation of perception of five aggregates; as this mundane perception ceases, another transcendental perception arises during the concentration, which is the perception of 'The cessation of becoming — Unbinding', nibbana. Therefore, it appears to me that in MN 111 "And his taints were destroyed by his seeing with wisdom" probably occurs during (not after) the concentration of the cessation of perception and feeling, which is probably also the "unrestricted awareness" that the Buddha described in the following sutta:

                              AN 10.81:
                              "I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Campa, on the shore of Gaggara Lake. Then Ven. Bahuna went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, freed, dissociated, & released from how many things does the Tathagata dwell with unrestricted awareness?"

                              "Freed, dissociated, & released from ten things, Bahuna, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Which ten? Freed, dissociated, & released from form, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. Freed, dissociated, & released from feeling... Freed, dissociated, & released from perception... Freed, dissociated, & released from fabrications... Freed, dissociated, & released from consciousness... Freed, dissociated, & released from birth... Freed, dissociated, & released from aging... Freed, dissociated, & released from death... Freed, dissociated, & released from stress... Freed, dissociated, & released from defilement, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness.

                              "Just as a red, blue, or white lotus born in the water and growing in the water, rises up above the water and stands with no water adhering to it, in the same way the Tathagata — freed, dissociated, & released from these ten things — dwells with unrestricted awareness."

                              As we can see from the above quoted sutta, the Tathagata dwelling with "unrestricted awareness" is freed, dissociated, and released from consciousness (the aggregate of consciousness) as well as from the death, so there is indeed another type of undefiled/undeceptive, unrestricted, undying/unborn, sorrowless awareness in living arahants, occurring during the cessation of perception and feeling (as the consciousness ceases), but it's not the aggregate of consciousness. I appears to me that nibbana means the cessation of defilements and five aggregates (including consciousness), which might not include this unrestricted, sorrowless awareness of living arahants.

                              Looking forward to your kind comments and corrections. With metta,

                              Yuan

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