In the Pali, nirujjhati (ni + rudh + ya) appears to be a verb for the noun "nirodha".


ceases; dissolves; vanishes.

to be broken up, to be dissolved, to be destroyed, to cease, die

Uparujjhati (upa + rudh + ya) appears similar in etymology, however differs in the prefix.


stops or ceases

to be stopped, broken, annihilated, destroyed

I have done some examination of the usage of these words in the Pali suttas and, for now, I think their meanings or usages are contextually different.

How can these two words be linguistically distinguished?


4 Answers 4


They are not synonyms, they have different meanings derived from the same root and different prefixes.

Nirodha means stop, suppress, not allow to go on. Uparodham means enclose, blockade.

So aparisesa nirujjhanti means "completely stopped".

But asesam uparujjhati means "fully enclosed".

So in DN11 the guy was asking about place where the physical processes are completely stopped (aparisesā nirujjhanti).

But Buddha said, that's not what we are talking about. It's about "place" where the physical elements have no footing, place inside which all concepts like beautiful, ugly etc., all namarupas, all conceptual discriminations are fully enclosed or fully en-scoped (asesaṃ uparujjhatī).

It is the universal space of information, the universal space of mind, is where they are all enclosed of course. When all discrimination is stopped and this "space" is seen in its original undivided way, is when the unborn/deathless is attained. It is this space is what we in Mahayana call Shunyata.

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    Thank you good kind sir. Forever grateful. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 12:31

The difference is primarily in upa, which is used as an intensifier to designate the circumstance of cessation. Since it is an intensifier, we are led to read "obliteration" rather than "fading away" as for "nirujjhati", where the "ni-" is providing emphasis by repetition of meaning (i.e., ni- + rujjhati).

One can also feel the meaning of the prefixes "upa-" and "ni-" when performing physical actions:

  • Say "upa" when lifting or moving a heavy object. The breath is stopped briefly for exertion.
  • Say "ni" when putting that heavy object down. The breath is exhaled continuously and let go.
  • thanks for your interesting answer but i still don't understand. regards Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 19:44
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    thank you OyaMist. Your answer may possibly be similar to my conclusion, which is: "uparujjhati" is a temporary stopping, such as breath is stopped briefly for exertion. Where as "nirujjhati" can refer to a complete stopping, such as putting that heavy object down and never picking it up again. Regards Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 12:46

According to the PTS Pali-English dictionary entry on the prefix upa-:

Upa -- [Vedic upa; Av. upa on, up; Gr. u(po/ under, u(pe/r over; Lat. sub fr. *(e)ks -- upo; Goth. uf under & on; Ohg. ūf = Ags. up = E. up; Oir. fo under. See also upari] prefix denoting nearness or close touch (cp. similarly ā), usually with the idea of approach from below or rest on top, on, upon, up, by. -- In compn. a upa is always contracted to upa, e. g. devūpaṭṭhāna, lokûpaga, puññûpatthambhita. -- Meanings: (1) (Rest): on upon, up -- : ˚kiṇṇa covered over; ˚jīvati live on (cp. anu˚); ˚tthambhita propped up, sup -- ported; ˚cita heaped up, ac -- cumulated; ˚dhāreti hold or take up; ˚nata bent on; ˚nissaya foundation; ...

According to the PTS Pali-English dictionary entry on rujjhati:

Rujjhati [Pass. of rundhati] to be broken up, to be destroyed J iii.181 (pāṇā rujjhanti; C. expls by nirujjhati). Cp. upa˚, vi˚.

Uparujjhati means "upon ceasing" with "upa-" meaning "upon" or "on", more or less.

For example, from SN 56.22:

ceases with nothing left over.
asesaṃ uparujjhati.

This means nothing left UPON ceasing. "asesa" means nothing remaining.

According to the PTS Pali-English dictionary entry on the prefix ni-

Ni˚ [Sk. ni -- & nih -- , insep. prefixes: (a) ni down=Av. ni, cp. Gr. neio/s lowland, nei/atos the lowest, hindmost; Lat. nīdus (*ni -- zdos: place to sit down=nest); Ags. nēol, nider=E. nether; Goth. nidar=Ohg. nidar; also Sk. nīca, nīpa etc. -- (b) niḥ out, prob. fr. *seni & to Lat. sine without]. ...

"Nirujjhati" means "breaks down" I think with "ni-" meaning "down", more or less.

From SN 12.62:

But that which is called ‘mind’ or ‘sentience’ or ‘consciousness’ arises as one thing and ceases as another all day and all night.
Yañca kho etaṃ, bhikkhave, vuccati cittaṃ itipi, mano itipi, viññāṇaṃ itipi, taṃ rattiyā ca divasassa ca aññadeva uppajjati aññaṃ nirujjhati.

Here, the mind rises UP as one thing (uppajjati) and breaks DOWN as another (nirujjhati).


My answer is actually a response or comment to Andrei Volkov's highly illuminating answer; which reflects my interpretation and application of Andrei's answer.

When dependent origination ends forever (SN 12.2) or craving ends forever (SN 56.11), without ever arising again, it is called "asesa-virāga-nirodhā".

So in DN 11, the guy asks: "where do the four elements aparisesā nirujjhanti". Here, "aparisesā" might mean "totally not remaining" (an + pari + sesa = completely not remaining) ????.

The Buddha replies this is a wrong question. The Buddha then replies in luminous consciousness, the worldly discriminations are subjected to asesaṃ uparujjhatī.

While "asesam" appears to mean "nothing left over", "uparujjhati" does not have the same meaning as "nirodha" or "nirujjhanti" because it is only in luminous consciousness that these discriminations completely cease.

In other words, even in ignorance-free craving-free enlightened ordinary consciousness, such as a Buddha or Arahant in a conventional mode (such as the Buddha telling a monk to do walking meditation over the "length of 30 short steps" or to know "long breathing" & "short breathing"), these discriminations (of long, short, fine, coarse, beautiful, ugly, naming a form) can return.

Thus these discriminations are "uparujjhati" because, unlike the cessation of ignorance for an Arahant, these conventional discriminations can return.

In other words, similar to the prefix "upa" in "upapajjati", the cessation of the discriminations is an "offshoot" of or "rests" upon the luminous consciousness (rather than is an outcome of the permanent or remainderless cessation of ignorance, which is "nirodha" or "nirujjhanti").

Thus, as Bhikkhu Sujato said: Nibbana is not viññāṇa. Really, it just isn’t.

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    But this does not make sense in SN 56.22, where it says "and where all suffering is fully blocked/ enclosed" (Yattha ca sabbaso dukkhaṃ, asesaṃ uparujjhati.). It couldn't be, that when the arahant is in conventional mode, the suffering comes back? Isn't he permanently free from suffering?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 13:02
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    OK... But it can apply to a stream entrant whose mindfulness hasn't lapsed. Once it lapses, suffering comes back.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 13:09
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    Thanks Ruben. I missed that sutta this morning however I think it does not invalidate my conclusion because SN 56.22 does not appear to refer to Arahantship. SN 56.22 says: "And they understand the path that leads to the stilling of suffering". It sounds like stream-entry to me. Regards Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 13:11
  • Yes. As I commented, I agree. It can apply to a stream entrant. Regards Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 13:11
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    In SN 56.22, Yattha ca sabbaso dukkhaṃ, asesaṃ uparujjhati probably means, they know the extent of the scope of all suffering, the extent to which the notions of suffering make sense, the limits of the frame of reference where suffering is applicable. Knowing the limits, they know the path to escape it.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 19:07

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