'attainment of extinction' (S. XIV, 11), also called saññā-vedayita-nirodha, 'extinction of feeling and perception', is the temporary suspension of all consciousness and mental activity, following immediately upon the semi-conscious state called 'sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception' (s. jhāna, 8). The absolutely necessary pre-conditions to its attainment are said to be perfect mastery of all the 8 absorptions (jhāna), as well as the previous attainment of Anāgāmī or Arahantship (s. ariya-puggala).
According to Vis.M. XXIII, the entering into this state takes place in the following way: by means of mental tranquillity (samatha) and insight (vipassanā) one has to pass through all the 8 absorptions one after the other up to the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception and then one has to bring this state to an end. If, namely, according to the Vis.M., the disciple (Anāgāmī or Arahat) passes through the absorption merely by means of tranquillity, i.e. concentration, he will only attain the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and then come to a standstill; if, on the other hand, he proceeds only with insight, he will reach the fruition (phala) of Anāgāmī or Arahantship. He, however, who by means of both faculties has risen from absorption to absorption and, having made the necessary preparations, brings the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception to an end, such a one reaches the state of extinction. Whilst the disciple is passing through the 8 absorptions, he each time emerges from the absorption attained, and regards with his insight all the mental phenomena constituting that special absorption, as impermanent, miserable and impersonal. Then he again enters the next higher absorption, and thus, after each absorption practising insight, he at last reaches the state of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, and thereafter the full extinction. This state, according to the Com., may last for 7 days or even longer. Immediately at the rising from this state, however, there arises in the Anāgāmī the fruition of Anāgāmiship (anāgāmi-phala), in the Arahat the fruition of Arahantship (arahatta-phala).
With regard to the difference existing between the monk abiding in this state of extinction on the one hand, and a dead person on the other hand, M 43 says: "In him who is dead, and whose life has come to an end, the bodily (in-and-out breathing), verbal (thought-conception and discursive thinking), and mental functions (s. sankhāra, 2) have become suspended and come to a standstill, life is exhausted, the vital heat extinguished, the faculties are destroyed. Also in the monk who has reached 'extinction of perception and feeling' (saññā-vedayita-nirodha), the bodily, verbal and mental functions have been suspended and come to a standstill, but life is not exhausted, the vital heat not extinguished, and the faculties are not destroyed."
For details, see Vis.M. XXIII; for texts s. Path 206.