In the Abhidhamma, it makes mention to 89 and 121 states of consciousness. It says there are four ultimate realities namely

  1. Consciousness
  2. Mental Factors
  3. Matter
  4. Nibbana. The first three are conditioned, nirvana is unconditioned.

According the Abhidhamma, It states that persons who've attained nirvana no longer have consciousness. What does this mean exactly?

In the Mundane, sense-sphere, rootless consciousness, it says that “body consciousness, accompanied by pain” is the result of unwholesome karma. Does this mean that enlightened beings such as a Buddha or an arahant don't feel pain when they touch something hot?

  • 1
    It's better if you provide a link to where it says "that persons who've attained nirvana no longer have consciousness" Jul 30, 2015 at 10:08
  • I suggest changing the question to "Consciousness in Nibbana", "after nibbana" is ambiguous: "after entering" (but there is no experience, so it is only vague expression) or "after coming back from nibbana".
    – eudoxos
    Jul 30, 2015 at 19:45
  • @SankhaKulathantille it was on a video by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. I think he said that in "2013 Abhidhamma Retreat 3/15 or 4/15." m.youtube.com/watch?v=6l6jihH1ZQQ
    – user5380
    Jul 30, 2015 at 21:33
  • @SankhaKulathantille I'm watching those videos whilst I read A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
    – user5380
    Jul 30, 2015 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


There are two types of nirvana: saupādisesa-nibbāna (nirvana with remainder) and anupādisesa-nibbāna (nirvana without remainder) (Iti. 44).

It is true that for one who has attained anupādisesa-nibbāna there will be no more consciousness. This is because someone who has attained anupādisesa-nibbāna is dead*. It is the equivalent to the more familiar parinibbāna - "complete" nirvāna. For one who has attained saupādisesa-nibbāna, there is still the physical and mental formations that have been created as a result of being born as a human that need to work themselves out, including consciousness.

* Conventionally speaking; technically, they have become free from death, since they have become free from birth (arising).

  • Ven. @yuttadhammo, in my humble opinion, I think it's better to use "There are two interpretations for nirvana" rather saying "There are two types of nirvana". If not, reader may come to a wrong conclusion that there are two nibbana dhātu.
    – Damith
    Jan 28, 2019 at 5:26

When the mind takes Nibbana as the object, all experiencing cease. But when enlightened beings do day to day activities, Nibbana is not the object of the mind. They do feel pain since there is experiencing. But they do not suffer. Being conscious of the pain is different from suffering due to pain.


I will answer your second question regarding enlightened beings feeling pain.

An arahat / Buddha does not create any new kamma, but they are still subject to the maturing of past kamma. This means that they can suffer physical pain but unlike us, there is no associated mental pain. See Sallatha Sutta (SN 36.6).

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