After attaining Nirvana will I remember that I was once without Nirvana? If yes , as Buddha did, then isn't it true that my relationship with or possession of Nirvana had a beginning?

  • Your 'me' isnt statically defined to relate the begining of nirvana.
    – user13135
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 4:07
  • How does this line --> After attaining Nirvana will I remember that I was once without Nirvana? Leads you to conclude this -->isn't it true that Nirvana had a beginning with respect to me? I don't understand, how is a recollection of life before Nibbana has to do with the temporal happening of Nibbana? If it does it's just so obvious or am I missing your point?
    – user13135
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 4:42
  • @FriedrickNietzsche another example to clear the point: Car I own was manufactured much before I owned it. But there was a beginning of ownership of car. This beginning of ownership of car will end with non-ownership of car. Similarly if I remember that once I was not in possession of Nirvana then my possession of Nirvana had a beginning. This connection with Nirvana had a beginning. And what has a beginning must have an end. Therefore relationship with Nirvana must have an end. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 5:03
  • i see what you mean but it seems you need to mention in the question, 'what is physics/meaning/substantiality of nirvana? ' according to you. It seems you have gotten it wrong.
    – user13135
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 6:43
  • 1
    I think your mistake is treating Nibbana as a thing. It isn't. If it were it would clearly have a beginning, middle and end.
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 10:58

6 Answers 6


Your question is not valid, because Nirvana cannot explain by our words we can not ask such questions about Nirvana, like it is not a place, it is not thing,it is not status, or whatever the other words. Read the Abidhamma then you'l know.

  • 3
    Read the Abidhamma then you'l know This answer would be clearer if you'd quote or reference the part[s] of the Abidhamma which you think are relevant, and/or explain how that answers the question (or explain how/why the question isn't valid).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 7:41
  • @ChrisW i read it in Pali book which have sinhala explanation, i dont know whether there is english translation for that part yet. i'll try to find some source.
    – PL_Pathum
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 7:51

I'm not sure how "I have attained", "I was once without", "my relationship with", and "my possession of" are compatible with Nibbana -- Nibbana is anatta, remember.

See also for example How do you know if you have attained Nibbana?

But yes the Buddha was able to remember and explain the details of his personal life (or lives), a sequence of events and experiences (including "the noble search") before enlightenment.

  • This is unfair. Buddha used 'I have attained awakening' and it was accepted but when I use 'I have attained' I am told it is unacceptable. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 8:24
  • I'm not trying to judge your attainment. It's just that I think that anatta is an important characteristic, so I'm not sure what "my possession of nibbana" might mean. Sort of poetically, in a flight of fancy, I might say that nibbana is elemental, like fire or the wind, not something you can possess -- as if you could possess fuel but never possess fire. More practically though I feel that any notion of ownership is antithetical to attainment of nibbana, just a hindrance. But that's just me saying that. Also they say that the Buddha's understanding and explanation are superior ...
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 8:53
  • ... e.g. here "only the mind of a buddha has the ability to perceive the two truths (conventional truth and ultimate truth) simultaneously"
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 8:54
  • @ChrisW Nibbana is not anatta. The three universal characteristics apply to nama and rupa, the five aggregates, to the conditioned. In short: they apply to experience.
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 11:33
  • @Medhiṇī I think you're right that the three characteristics apply to all sankharas, however anatta also applies to all dhammas including nibbana.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 12:31

In Mahāyāna Abhidharma, we distinguish what is permanent (Skt. nitya) from what is eternal. That which is permanent is that which does not change from moment to moment. That which is eternal is that which is everlasting, never going out of existence.

Emptiness is permanent but occasional. This is because although emptiness is not produced and does not change from moment to moment as long as it abides (permanent), when the table ceases to exist, the emptiness of the table ceases to exist as well (occasional, not eternal).

With respect to nirvana, it is permanent, like all absences (the absence of inherent existence, the absence of John in the room, etc). But a Buddha has not always been established in nirvana. In this respect, it is occasional.

In addition, we usually say: although nirvana is not caused (because it's permanent), we can cause the achievement of nirvana. This is the whole point of the fourth noble truth, the path leading to the cessation of suffering.


When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, nor the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with the Lord of Creatures (Pajaapati), when searching will find[36] on what the consciousness of one thus gone (tathaagata) is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.


During a lifetime, nibbana is attained with remainder. The remainder is what supports that life until parinibbana. Memories are not a support, but nibbana is not annihalationism - there is no requirement to wipe any thing but further kamma, further intentional activity. So long as memories do not lead to further kamma, they are inconsequential.


Jumping in with the definition of Nibbana from the (Theravada) Abhidhamma

In the Abhidhamma there are four ultimate realities: consciousness, mental factors, matter, and Nibbana.

The first three (nama and rupa) are conditioned, thus anicca, dukkha and anatta.

Nibbana isn't; it is unarisen and unconditioned.

Nibbana is termed supramundane, and is to be realized by the knowledge of the four paths. It becomes an object to the paths and fruits, and is called Nibbana because it is a departure from craving, which is an entanglement.


Though Nibbana is onefold according to its intrinsic nature, by reference to a basis (for distinction), it is twofold, namely, the element of Nibbana with the residue remaining, and the element of Nibbana without the residue remaining. It is threefold according to its different aspects, namely, void, signless, and desireless.

An arahant experiences the element of Nibbana "with the residue remaining". The residue being the five aggregates. Though the defilements are eradicated, an arahant doesn't suddenly stop existing. The aggregates continue, meaning that sanna continues too. The body is still there, feelings are still there, memory and perception are still there.

Long story short, yes. An arahant will remember the times before experiencing the element of Nibbana.


In abhidhamma:

Nibbāna causes four aggregates (nāma-khandha) by ārammaṇa-paccaya.

But no any aggregates (vaṭṭa-paṭiccasamuppāda) causes nibbāna (vivaṭṭa-paṭiccasamuppāda). So, nibbāna is not an effect of the dependent origination.

You, aggregates, can depend on nibbāna, but nibbāna never depend on you. So nibbāna is the opposite of paṭiccasamuppāda.

See: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/29083/10100

No one has a-nupādisesa-nibbāna in their hand, so no one own nibbāna. However the noble one can attain sa-upādisesa-nibbāna by attaining phala-samāpatti and saññāvedayita-nirodha-samāpatti.

In tipitaka and atthakathā, they often said "the noble one is owner of nibbāna", but it is just an idiom.

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