What do you know about the Nirvana?

Most of this community people are from all around the world, and may have different teachers, and level of knowledge may vary.

A brief explanation, with reference to the Tripitaka, is much appreciated.

And, can someone please translate this:

enter image description here

It's from the Abhidhamma Margaya ("Way of Abidhamma") by Ven. Rerukane Chandawimala Thero.

  • 1
    Are you sure this hasn't already been addressed by one of the 170 previous topics tagged nirvana? – ChrisW Sep 2 '18 at 9:03
  • 1
    i just ask this because related to @DheerajVerma question asked few hours ago, it seems knowledge about Nirvana is little confused. – PL_Pathum Sep 2 '18 at 9:10
  • @ChrisW tagged but no this kind a question there as i saw. – PL_Pathum Sep 2 '18 at 9:11
  • See also What is Nirvana (mahayana)? (which may be equivalent to this question except Mahayana rather than Tripitaka) – ChrisW Sep 2 '18 at 9:13
  • @ChrisW i guess it is not. – PL_Pathum Sep 2 '18 at 9:19

There is, bhikkhus, that base where there is no earth, no water, no fire, no air; no base consisting of the infinity of space, no base consisting of the infinity of consciousness, no base consisting of nothingness, no base consisting of neither-perception-nor-non-perception; neither this world nor another world nor both; neither sun nor moon. Here, bhikkhus, I say there is no coming, no going, no staying, no deceasing, no uprising. Not fixed, not movable, it has no support. Just this is the end of suffering.

Ud 8.1

Nibbana is not a conceptually constructed, ideological, 'thing'. It is described as the unconditioned element. As all concepts are conditioned by a mind, it cannot be reached by mental fermentation. It can be approximately described by negation - not impermanent, not unsatisfactory, not self (etc). But even that is still conceptualisation. Better meditate, attain jhana, and find out for yourself.

  • 1
    +1 One is reminded of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the admonition not to exalt images and idols. . – PeterJ May 17 at 10:23

I associate it with cessation -- with the ending of dukkha, of craving -- outlined in the first three noble truths.

It could be, Ānanda, that a mendicant gains a state of immersion such that they have no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for this conscious body; and no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for all external stimuli;

Siyā, ānanda, bhikkhuno tathārūpo samādhipaṭilābho yathā imasmiñca saviññāṇake kāye ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā nāssu, bahiddhā ca sabbanimittesu ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā nāssu;

and that they’d live having attained the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where ego, possessiveness, and underlying tendency to conceit are no more.

yañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ upasampajja viharato ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā na honti tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ upasampajja vihareyyā”ti.

“Ānanda, it’s when a mendicant thinks:

“Idhānanda, bhikkhuno evaṃ hoti:

‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’

‘etaṃ santaṃ etaṃ paṇītaṃ yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’ti.

AN 3.32

Perhaps there are people who think that this means ...

  1. Meditate (samādhi), and while doing so,
  2. Don't be possessive towards the body (saviññāṇake kāye) nor towards all signs (sabbanimittesu)

... and therefore something something something "atta" or real self which is neither the body nor signs. But I don't know (i.e. I don't know a reason to agree with a doctrine of atta like that) -- because I associate self-views and attachment (possessiveness) with dukkha -- e.g. "this is mine ... no, now I've lost it, that was mine, so now I'm unhappy" -- and therefore, cessation of that (nibbana) is necessarily without such "self" and "possessiveness" and so on. If nibbana is uncompounded I'm not sure why you'd want to add an atta concept to it, but "to each his own" I suppose (see also this paper on the subject of whether nibanna is anatta).

Incidentally my concept of nibbana wasn't formed by the sutta above, so don't read into it more than I have -- I'd never read it before, I just looked up a reference (to answer this question) and picked the first one (on this page) which didn't seem to contradict my preconception.

Given that nibbana is uncompounded I doubt it exists in relation to anything else ... but other things can co-exist with it, e.g. to the extent that the Buddha could co-exist with unenlightened beings ... it's not like another place, exactly, more like a different state of mind or something.

I just called it "a state of mind" except that maybe it's better described as a non-state -- e.g. not defiled, without hindrances (klesas).

I wondered about saying that "anything that's not nibbana is a hindrance" (as if nibbana were a pure substrate or element, and everything else were a hindrance or an obscuration on top of that), however, I'm not sure how compassion for example relates to nibbana.

I've also recently seen it described as a state of ethics.

That's it, more or less: simple doctrine. When the Buddha says, "Both formerly & now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha.", then nibbana is the cessation of dukkha.

Oh yes, its selflessness makes it "deathless", also.

Saying that it's without this, without that, only cessation, might make it seem austere or sound like death or something, but I should think that's obviously not the right view of it (see Bhagavā).

Apart from seeing it simply as a state of mind, I think there are other views of it -- but, the following seem to me complications that are maybe more trouble (confusion) than they're worth:

  • Ayatana Nibbana

    For example:

    When the five aggregates perish, the anupadisesanibbanadhatu of Lord Buddha appears, dwelling perpetually at the center of Ayatana Nibbana, sitting on a raised diamond throne.

    Bhikkhu Bodhi puts this more prosaicly, but still something implied to be super-mundane:

    Philosophical Dimension of Nibbana

    The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as an 'ayatana'. This means realm, plane or sphere. It is a sphere where there is nothing at all that corresponds to our mundane experience, and therefore it has to be described by way of negations as the negation of all the limited and determinate qualities of conditioned things.

    I don't know what to make of this -- it sounds complicated or florid -- except I agree it's related with negation (or cessation), and I suppose there is some ayatana involved to the extent that nibbana is perceptible.

    You might want to argue that nibbana is a thing (a sense-object) which we can't perceive it directly, but only perceive its side-effects (e.g. cessation of dukkha) -- I'm not sure why that's a useful argument though and anyway maybe all senses are like that, i.e. sensual perception is indirect by nature, in that it is via the senses.

    Perhaps (or presumably) it refers to some meditative experience.

  • Nibbana dhatu

    Ven. Bodhi again:

    The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as a 'dhatu,' an element, the 'deathless element' (amata-dhatu). He compares the element of Nibbana to an ocean. He says that just as the great ocean remains at the same level no matter how much water pours into it from the rivers, without increase or decrease, so the Nibbana element remains the same, no matter whether many or few people attain Nibbana.

    Again, I'm not sure that's useful. It's not a bad simile for explaining nibbana's being unconditioned/unaffected.

  • Apart from ayatana and dhatu I might quote the rest of Bhikkhu Bodhi's commentary (with my emphasis added on selected words):

    Regarding the nature of Nibbana, the question is often asked: Does Nibbana signify only extinction of the defilements and liberation from samsara or does it signify some reality existing in itself? Nibbana is not only the destruction of defilements and the end of samsara but a reality transcendent to the entire world of mundane experience, a reality transcendent to all the realms of phenomenal existence.

    The Buddha refers to Nibbana as a 'dhamma'. For example, he says "of all dhammas, conditioned or unconditioned, the most excellent dhamma, the supreme dhamma is, Nibbana". 'Dhamma' signifies actual realities, the existing realities as opposed to conceptual things. Dhammas are of two types, conditioned and unconditioned. A conditioned dhamma is an actuality which has come into being through causes or conditions, something which arises through the workings of various conditions. The conditioned dhammas are the five aggregates: material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. The conditioned dhammas, do not remain static. They go through a ceaseless process of becoming. They arise, undergo transformation and fall away due to its conditionality.

    However, the unconditioned dhamma is not produced by causes and conditions. It has the opposite characteristics from the conditioned: it has no arising, no falling away and it undergoes no transformation. Nevertheless, it is an actuality, and the Buddha refers to Nibbana as an unconditioned Dhamma.


    He also speaks of Nibbana as something that can be experienced by the body, an experience that is so vivid, so powerful, that it can be described as "touching the deathless element with one's own body."

    The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as a 'state' ('pada') as 'amatapada' - the deathless state - or accutapada, the imperishable state.

    Another word used by the Buddha to refer to Nibbana is 'Sacca', which means 'truth', an existing reality. This refers to Nibbana as the truth, a reality that the Noble ones have known through direct experience.

    So all these terms, considered as a whole, clearly establish that Nibbana is an actual reality and not the mere destruction of defilements or the cessation of existence. Nibbana is unconditioned, without any origination and is timeless.

Sorry to disagree; I know that Ven. Bodhi must know more than I do, and that he's paraphrasing suttas, but I don't see that these additional explanations make it easier to understand:

  • Saying "a reality transcendent" makes it seem other-worldly and more than it is, perhaps unattainable
  • Saying "an actual reality" is kind of OK, maybe you shouldn't imply that it's something other than this reality though, albeit undefiled -- if it's a different reality then I understand the message as, unfortunately, "you can't get there from here"
  • Saying "the cessation of existence" sounds like death again
  • Saying "not the mere destruction of defilements" sounds odd to me, because I think it is "the destruction of defilements", and that that represents a great achievement and not just "mere".

What do you know about the Nirvana?

Here is a little Buddhist story about the Turtle and the Fish, which I think, nicely illustrates the confusion that arises when trying to understand Nibbana intellectually and not practically.

"There was once a turtle who lived in a lake with a group of fish. One day the turtle went for a walk on dry land. He was away from the lake for a few weeks. When he returned he met some of the fish. The fish asked him, "Mister turtle, hello! How are you? We have not seen you for a few weeks. Where have you been? The turtle said, "I was up on the land, I have been spending some time on dry land." The fish were a little puzzled and they said, "Up on dry land? What are you talking about? What is this dry land? Is it wet?" The turtle said "No, it is not," "Is it cool and refreshing?" "No, it is not", "Does it have waves and ripples?" "No, it does not have waves and ripples." "Can you swim in it?" "No you can't" So the fish said, "it is not wet, it is not cool, there are no waves, you can’t swim in it. So this dry land of yours must be completely non-existent, just an imaginary thing, nothing real at all." The turtle said that "Well, may be so" and he left the fish and went for another walk on dry land".


Copy/paste part of my answer to this question.

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.

  • Can you give reference to, 'there are four ultimate realities: consciousness, mental factors, matter, and Nibbana.'... I would like to read. Because according to my understanding Nibbana cannot be a different reality than the five aggregates, the five aggregates are the ultimate reality. – user13135 Sep 2 '18 at 15:52
  • @FriedrickNietzsche That's from the compendium of the Abhidhamma; pag. 27. It further states: "That reality, which is not included in the five aggregates, is Nibbana, the state of final deliverance from the suffering inherent in conditioned existence." Free pdf version: store.pariyatti.org/… – Medhiṇī Sep 2 '18 at 17:34
  • 1
    Thank for both the book and the reply. – user13135 Sep 3 '18 at 4:22

When an entity A is devoid of entity B, then it can be said that entity A is devoid of B, or empty of B. That is the voidness or emptiness or suñyāta. The Buddha said when the mind becomes empty of greed (rāga), hate (dōsa), and ignorance (mōha) it becomes empty of those defilements: “rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, dosakkhayaō Nibbānan, mohakkhayō Nibbānan“, and that mind has attained Nibbāna. There is a sutta in Tipitaka that is about sunnata (voidness / emptiness), called the Cula-Suññāta sutta

Voidness (Reflecting and Ceasing of Impurities) in this regard means cleaning process of all impurities. One should meditate in order to be cleaned out of all impurities, and the cleaning of all impurities will help to be free and end suffering completely.

These impurities accumulated due t0 desire of lust, hate and delusion. The total eradication of impurities will bring tranquility and Nibbana. The cleaning of impurities is devided in to five main categories, as it cleanses in different levels. Through the understanding, dawns the wisdom to each of the segments, taking out different parts of impurities (ක්ලේශ ප්‍රහාණය).

තධංග ප්‍රහාණය - Voidness by Characteristic
විෂ්කම්භන ප්‍රහාණය - Voidness by Suppression
සමුච්චේදන ප්‍රහාණය - Voidness by Substitution of Opposites
පටිපස්සද්ධි ප්‍රහාණය - Voidness by Cutting Off
නිස්සරණං ප්‍රහාණය - Voidness by Tranquillization

To find out more on these above five points please refer to The Patisambhidamagga - "path of discrimination". page 357 / 359

In reflecting and meditating you begin to understand your thoughts, the way in which the thought process gets attached to desire. In contemplating on impermanence, one realizes the danger in been attached to desire. When understanding the value of letting go of the pleasurable desires, and attachments, and when this takes place, the impurities are subdued in these above said five ways.


The popular question about nibbāna already answered in Ekādasamo paricchedo Nibbānaniddeso of abhidhammāvatāra.

There also are many aspects of nibbāna in Abhi. Kathāvatthu as well.

  • 1
    Can you please provide an alternate page for the first link you shared? b'coz it looks like in Pali. I would like to read what you shared. – user13135 Sep 2 '18 at 15:57

Nirvana is this moment seen directly. There is no where else than here. The only gate is now. The only doorway is your own body and mind. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing else to be. There’s no destination. It’s not something to aim for in the afterlife. It’s simply the quality of this moment.

Gautama Buddha

  • Where -- in the Tripitaka -- do you think this is a quote from? – ChrisW May 16 at 15:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.