Arising dhamma is ceasing dhamma so much as ceasing dhamma is arising dhamma as well.

What does this mean? The answer should be nibbana is not eternal either.

I'm asking about the Pali in this quote from SN 56.11:

And while this discourse was being spoken, the stainless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in Venerable Koṇḍañña:

Imasmiñca pana veyyākaraṇasmiṃ bhaññamāne āyasmato koṇḍaññassa virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi:

“Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

“yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti.

  • Is the first sentence ("Arising dhamma is ceasing") a quote? Where is it from, what is that quoting?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:11
  • Imasmiñca pana veyyākaraṇasmiṃ bhaññamāne āyasmato koṇḍaññassa virajaṃ vītamalaṃ dhammacakkhuṃ udapādi – ‘‘ yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamma ’’ nti
    – X-pression
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:35
  • Thank you for explaining. I added that quote to the question (together with Ven. Sujato's translation of it).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:44
  • Thank you Chris. What I would like to say is as simple as we don't hope the world be with complete cessation of suffering. That would make another sort of craving in this world.
    – X-pression
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:52
  • Standard question. Below there are three standard correct answers therefore it is not necessary for me to repeat. Only conditioned things (sankhara) are impermanent. The uncondiitioned (visankhara) is permanent. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 20:15

8 Answers 8


What we usually understand as happiness is dependent on specific condition, which need to be controlled, arranged, fulfilled and satisfied in order to reach that specific and temporary state.

The happiness of Nibbana is what remains after removing the desire for control and satisfaction of the senses and the ego. If you eliminate the conditions for suffering, what remains is peace without conditions. Thus, you don't need anything in special to feel satisfied, because craving, aversion and ignorance have been eradicated. You feel content because you took off what blocked that peace of simplicity and renunciation.

That's why it's called "The Unconditioned".

As long as the conditions (craving, aversion and delusion) are uprooted, Nibbana should be eternal. If those conditions are still there in the mind, then, at most, you can have "glimpses" of Nibbana.

Also, remember that: "Sabbe sankhara anicca": everything conditioned is impermanent.

"Sabbe sankhara dukkha": everything conditioned is unsatisfactory.

"Sabbe dhamma anatta": all dhammas are not-self

The word "Dhamma" can be used to talk about the Buddha's teachings, as well to refer to any phenomena. It all depends on the context. And I think the quote you posted is talking about conditioned dhammas, i.e. sankharas.

Kind regards!

  • Sir, I cannot explain this very much in English. But I suppose the sentence "As long as the conditions (craving, aversion and delusion) are uprooted, Nibbana should be eternal." has the meaning "Simply the cessation of craving, aversion and delusion is Nibbana". But Nibbana is NOT. Nibbana is a dhamma, NOT a state of mind. The above mentioned sentence may contain the idea that "someone attain Nibbana by generating it" which Lord Buddha denied. ~ Note: This is how I understood. I may be wrong but not Dhamma.
    – Damith
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 4:00

"Everything that has a beginning has an end.” means every-thing, every conditioned, manifested thing is impermanent. Nibbana is not conditioned and it is not manifested state, so it does not have a beginning or end

My English is not good so I looked to the meaning of eternal. It says that: "lasting or existing forever; without end"

If you try to describe Nibbana with using "time" then it won't lead you to the right direction because Nibbana is the unconditioned. It is timeless. You can use that term, If you mean being "deathless" by saying eternal. Nibbana is free from any conditioned state. It is free from birth, death, time. It is the unmanifested state.

Thich Nhat Hanh wonderfully talks about Nibbana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odWIPhj-ivo


The pali is the usual “yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti, which is the usual, badly said: whatever will samudaya will nirodha. so it is the usual whatever is subject to arising will cease too.

And nibanna does not arise and does not cease, that's the whole point of nibanna.

  • Before whatever arises it is nibbana. After whatever ceases it is nibbana. After whatever arises it is not nibbana as much as before whatever ceases it is not nibbana either. Therefore nibbana is not eternal.
    – X-pression
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 16:43
  • The above comment is incomprehensible. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 20:17

'Lasting forever' implies relation to time. Nibbana is not related to time!


Nibbana is a state of unconditioned reality, aka Ultimate Reality. Therefore it cannot be measured or quantified, making Nibbana neither eternal vs temporal, neither permanent vs impermanent, neither long vs short, neither existent vs non-existent, neither when & where...etc, because such concepts applies only to conditioned reality, aka Conventional Reality, which is where we are now.


I think that sankharas arise and cease -- they arise dependent on other things, created from or of other things, when and only when other things exist -- and they may cease when those conditions (dependencies, components) change or cease.

Conversely nibbana is defined as "unconditioned", and therefore isn't a sankhara (it's a dhamma), and isn't siubject to arising and ceasing -- it's not impermanent, not anicca.

I don't know what the doctrine says about the word "eternal" -- it says that "the dhamma" is akalika (meaning "timeless" or "without time", possibly "immediate" or "ever-present", I don't know about "eternal"). I think that "dhamma" used in that sense (to refer to Buddhist doctrine) isn't necessarily the same as saying that nibbana is a "dhamma" rather than a "sankhara" -- apparently "dhamma" is a word with several meanings/uses.

In SN 56.11 it's not "dhamma" that arises but rather dhammacakkhu or "insight into dhamma" which is associated with "stream entry".

Whether that is eternal is another matter.

Think carefully the conditioned (arising dhamma) comes out of the unconditioned (nibbana). Without the unconditioned there is no conditioned either.

You might find doctrine like that in Mahayana schools, e.g. (I don't know) Nagarjuna.

Also some schools of Buddhism (e.g. Tibetan) say that nibbana is temporary too, though apparently that sounds contrary to e.g. the doctrine of the Pali suttas.

For Mahayana doctrine you might want to look at topics such as:

I think it's contrary to Theravada doctrine, though -- perhaps because Theravada defines nibbana as a state in which defilements and so on don't ever arise, will no longer ever arise, never arise, cannot arise, in which the conditions for their arising don't exist (like a palm tree which has been cut down doesn't regrow).

There's some complicated doctrine though about whether nibbana is a state of mind, based on whether how it's perceived by an arahant -- see e.g. this footnote:

Some have objected to the equation of this consciousness with nibbana, on the grounds that nibbana is nowhere else in the Canon described as a form of consciousness. Thus they have proposed that consciousness without surface be regarded as an arahant's consciousness of nibbana in meditative experience, and not nibbana itself.

I'm not sure whether or why that's a doctrinal distinction worth making, though.

  • Sir, Some broken schools from Mahāsāṃghikas had the idea of "Attainment of nibbāna is temporary for an Arahant" (that an Arahant can fall away from Arahantship). This idea was logically rejected in Parihānikathā of Kathāvatthupāḷi.
    – Damith
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 3:34
  • Sir, "There's some complicated doctrine though about whether nibbana is a state of mind, based on whether how it's perceived by an arahant" - According to answers to this question, this is happened due to a mistranslation issue.
    – Damith
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 3:35

“Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

“yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti.

The above translation is not accurate. The word "samudaya" does not mean "has a beginning". The word "samudaya" means "co-arising" or "origination".

"sam" = "co" or "together"

"udaya" = rise, growth; increment, increase

SN 56.11 is not about "everything". SN 56.11 is only about the Four Noble Truths.

The Second Noble Truth describes what is subject to co-arising that leads to suffering, namely, craving, becoming, lust, delight, liking (relishing) this & that. The Second Noble Truth says:

And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

Therefore, the phrase "yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhammam" means "all [in the Second Noble Truth] that is subject to co-arising is also subject to cessation".

As for the Nibbana element, it is 'eternal'. Refer to SN 43.14-43.


Nibbāna is said to be the ending of all dhammas in AN 10.58

“‘All phenomena have unbinding as their final end.’"

nibbānapariyosānā sabbe dhammā

This indicates that ultimately, for the arahant, it is not a dhamma, even though it is taken up as an object of mind at lower stages of the path.

Further, the Unfabricated is stated not to display any change, and does not originate or cease.

And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished,1 unevolving, without support [mental object].2 This, just this, is the end of stress.Ud 8.1

“Now these three are unfabricated characteristics of what is unfabricated. Which three? No arising is discernable, no passing away is discernable, no alteration while staying is discernable.AN 3.48

The Pali for "eternal" is sassata, which to my knowledge is never used by the Buddha with reference to nibbāna. Dhuva is used once, which is usually rendered as "permanent" or "stable".

Ven. Ṭhānissaro explains why this may be in his essay A Beam of Light that Doesn't Land, referring to the description given in Ud 8.4:

A passage in Ud 8:4, which is repeated in MN 144 and SN 35:87, adds that this dimension also lacks the coordinates that define space—“here,” “there,” or “between-the-two”:

“There being no coming or going, there is no passing away or arising. There being no passing away or arising, there is neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two. This, just this, is the end of stress.”

The fact that this dimension lacks any of the features that define any experience of space and time may explain the fact that even though the Canon often makes the point that nibbāna is unchanging (SN 43), it never describes it as “eternal” (sassata). After all, eternity is a measure of time, so it wouldn’t properly apply to anything outside of space and time.


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