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Some sensations are neither good nor bad, when I think there is an absence both of pleasure and pain.

But what about nirvana itself? Obviously there is no vedana to it.

Is its "bliss" something like the memory of neutral sensation?

I just wonder if that's what it's like to be without the three poisons of attachment aversion and ignorance.

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A basic answer is, Nirvana is zero attachment and zero aversion. Imagine how you'd feel if you had zero attachments and zero aversions, not even a slightest hint. That is Nirvana.

I'm not sure what the orthodox position says about vedana, but from my perspective it should still have vedana. It is just, when pleasant vedana arises, you see it arising, and when it ceases you see it ceasing. When unpleasant vedana arises, you see it arising, and when it ceases you see it ceasing. No attachment and no aversion - therefore no suffering.

Could you say the absence of suffering is bliss? Yeah, kinda - you could qualify it as a very subtle form of bliss, a #0-thickness bliss.

Have you ever had a dream in which you fly so high that there is nothing left but sky on all sides around you? They say, the experience of dharmakaya is like that. Another comparison I heard from teachers is what astronauts feel on the orbit - constant free fall. It is scary at first, because you feel like you're going to crash - but you can get used to it and even be functional.

So I guess that must be the feeling: the absence of suffering due to attachment/aversion, but also the absence of any kind of comfort you normally get from having some kind of reliable ground. Could we call this the bliss of endless free fall?

Another way to describe Nirvana, is as death of ego. Imagine you have lost everything. All hopes, all promises, all meanings - nothing left. Because you lost your valuables and futures, you have nothing to lose. Because you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to fear. Which makes you into a kind of superman, just a very sober superman, because you no longer get intoxicated or carried away by childish illusions. No hope, no fear. That's another way to see it.

Now combine the two images: the endless free-fall with no grasping onto anything and no suffering, with no ground, no home, no hope and no fear, everything lost and everything gained, very sober and absolutely stable in infinite agility. That's what they say Nirvana feels like.

  • would you call the 2nd "egoless" quality the lack of ignorance, as opposed to attachment and aversion? i ask cos ignorance creates volition and i wonder if that colours a sense of the neutral in general (perhaps into rebirth) – sorta_buddhist Oct 30 '15 at 11:52
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    yes, I think so. Because you have no hopes & no fears (which are both future-looking appropriating narratives), you no longer project your existence forward, so there is no becoming. Be careful with words like "neutral" though. In my understanding, dynamic equanimity (what I called "absolutely stable in infinite agility") is far beyond being simply neutral (sterile, grey, colorless) - at least not in Mahayana understanding. – Andrei Volkov Oct 30 '15 at 12:08
  • so agility is an attachment thing? that's interesting. yeah obvs equanimity in any form of practice isn't mere vedanic neutrality, but i think i recall that the former includes the latter? interesting choice of adjectives for it (sterile, grey, colourless) which are for me suggestive of an inference to equanimity. thanks for the good replies – sorta_buddhist Oct 30 '15 at 13:43
  • Here agility is an opposite of attachment; active aspect of non-attachment. – Andrei Volkov Oct 30 '15 at 14:39
  • Orthodox position there is vedana; accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/… & dhammatalks.net/Books9/… – Dhammadhatu May 28 '16 at 18:55
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When you have a Sensation couple with Perception what happens is that you react to the Sensation with Clinging or Aversion. In Nirvana your Perception an Sensation momentarily stops when you realise it (pala samapathi) and when you come out your perceptions are for ever changed. Hence you do not react to Sensation the same way as before thus not creating new fabrications. When you are in the attainment of the fruit (pala samapathi) there is no sensation but out of it you have Sensation but doe not react to it the same way as your Perception has changed.

The roller coaster of sensation we create through becoming has lost its fuel when you attain Nirvana. The creation of new fabrications have stopped. The fabrications give Unpleasant, Pleasant and Neutral Sensations when they bear fruit. What ever the sensation it is Unsatisfactory. The bliss in Nivana is you have come out of this and the fire of fabrications which keep burning in Unsatisfactoriness is withering out.

When you are sans of Perception you do not see things through coloured glasses hence there is no distortion of the 3 poisons. This result in that you are not creating any new fabrications, hence free from the Unsatisfactoriness inherent to getting hit by the waves of one sensation after the other.

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