The Buddha often makes this requests on his monks, "incline your mind towards Nibbana"

Does this mean concentration with no object?

As far as I can ascertain, concentration with no object does not seem to be possible.

I have a particular interest in the Mahayana perspective but answers from other traditions are welcome.


5 Answers 5


It means to incline your mind towards dispassion, dispassion towards the sense objects, dispassion towards craving for existence and dispassion towards craving for non-existence.

Inclining your mind toward dispassion means to incline your mind towards disenchantment, no longer being enchanted with sense objects, craving for existence and craving for non-existence.

To incline your mind towards disenchantment, you must see reality as it is by observing any/all of the three marks of existence:

  • changing nature of reality
  • selfless nature of reality
  • unsatisfactory nature of reality

By observing these qualities of existence, the mind gradually loses its interest in grasping to such unreliable things for a source of lasting happiness, thus inclining towards disenchantment, thus inclining towards dispassion, thus inclining towards Nibbana.

Does this mean concentration with no object?

No - It means concentration of any object while noticing its changing nature, selfless nature and/or unsatisfactory nature.

  • You might also find this relatable - Cetana Sutta: An Act of Will accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an11/an11.002.than.html
    – Ryan Baker
    Dec 28, 2020 at 17:41
  • Thanks for sutta. Disenchantment and dispassion can be absent of some qualities mentioned in this sutta thus making the field of play a little more uncomfortable. It either doesn't apply to me or I must observe my virtue with a little more scrutiny.
    – user17652
    Dec 28, 2020 at 18:28
  • @NeuroMax , I'm not sure what you mean by ... can be absent of some qualities mentioned in this sutta thus making the field of play a little more uncomfortable
    – Ryan Baker
    Dec 28, 2020 at 19:33
  • If it helps you to understand the Sutta better, it is describing a path, a set of conditions, one giving rise to the next, leading all the way up to realization of Nibbana. For example, the Sutta mentioning freedom from remorse, joy, rapture, serenity... etc, Disenchantment and Dispassion are not yet applicable because the mind at these stages is still enchanted, fascinated, interested, craving, hating sense objects & existence/non-existence. When the proper pre-requisites are met, the mind begins to see that none of these objects are worthwhile objects to satisfy it's desires.
    – Ryan Baker
    Dec 28, 2020 at 19:39
  • Each of the stages it describes has its own spectrum of completeness; One stage does not need to be "completed" before the next begins. More-so on a sliding scale, as one develops the affinities mentioned in each stage (beginning to end), the ability to develop the subsequent stages is deepened.
    – Ryan Baker
    Dec 28, 2020 at 19:42

It means the object is Nibbana and the mental attitudes leading to Nibbana, as literally said as follows:

And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

SN 48.10

To whatever extent there are phenomena conditioned or unconditioned, dispassion is declared the foremost among them, that is, the crushing of pride, the removal of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the termination of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna. Those who have confidence in the Dhamma have confidence in the foremost, and for those who have confidence in the foremost, the result is foremost.

AN 4.34

Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the mindfulness enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment. He develops the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor…the energy enlightenment factor…the rapture enlightenment factor…the tranquillity enlightenment factor…the concentration enlightenment factor…the equanimity enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment.

MN 118

  • AN 4.34 states: “To whatever extent there are phenomena conditioned or unconditioned, dispassion is declared the foremost among them". Dispassion for the unconditioned? Is this attachment to notions of emptiness?
    – user17652
    Dec 29, 2020 at 9:14
  • I imagine dispassion is a conditioned phenomena despite it being the final gateway to experiencing the unconditioned Nibbana. Dispassion means loss of desire due to being disenchanted with the impermanence & unsatisfactoriness of conditioned phenomena. Dispassion is to get sick of things. Example u love your wife but discover your wife is cheating on u all the time many many times. Instead of loving your wife u now look down upon her & completely lose interest in her. This is dispassion. Dispassion is conditioned (dependent upon insight) but it allows the Unconditioned to flow into the mind. Dec 29, 2020 at 11:58

From Mahayana perspective true Nirvana is the non-abiding Nirvana, which is a state of not being bounded by any single interpretative framework whatsoever.

Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. - MN 72

So it's not as much a concentration without an object as it is without a reference point such as one delineating "better" (state) from "worse" (state).

Freedom from all frameworks is the inexpressible suchness or positive ambiguity where even the dichotomy of samsara/nirvana has been transcended.

As the sutta answers pointed out, attaining this freedom requires concentration to identify and stop the opposing factors, the factors of attachment/craving/aversion/non-suchness, through letting go and dispassion of wisdom.

  • 1
    And that concentration can occur outside of meditation, as is the case with myself. It's not that I must sit there crossed-legged and concentrate - that's helpful in some respects - but I can concentrate in the wider field of experience; in life so to speak. Could you expand on this sentence please: "So it's not as much a concentration without an object as it is without a reference point such as one delineating "better" (state) from "worse" (state)
    – user17652
    Feb 6, 2021 at 19:43

Let's say you go to the doctor and get your blood pressure measured and it turns out to be high, probably because you were anxious at that moment. The doctor tells you to calm down, and then he will take another reading.

In order to do so, what would you concentrate on? Surely not on the blood pressure measurement device or the doctor. And surely not on nothing.

Your anxiety is due to clinging to some mental ideas related to the results of the measurement. In order to become calm, you need to let go of that clinging.

Similarly, to incline your mind towards Nibbana, to extinguish suffering, you need to let go of your craving and clinging, which is only possible by the cultivation of wisdom and uprooting of ignorance, as explained by the analogy of the South Indian monkey trap.


I searched Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations of the Samyutta Nikaya, Angutarra Nikaya, and Majjima Nikaya, as well as Maurice Walsche's translation of the Dhiga Nikaya. The closest I could come to "incline your mind toward Nibbana" was advice from Sariputta to Anurudda, wherein the latter - who had achieved the jnanas was complaining to the former about encountering obstacles. Sariputta, in Bhikkhu Bodh's translation advises him to "direct your mind to the deathless element." In a different translation of the same text (by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hec ker) Sariputta advises Anuruddha to "direct your mind to the deathless element, Nibbana." AN3:128 / AN3:130.

Since that's as close as I could come to your original quote, I'm afraid I can't be very helpful. However, withing the context of the exchange between Anuruddha and Sariputra, and your question concerning meditation without objects - especially in an Indo-Tibetan Mahayana context I can perhaps be of a little service.

Following Kamalasila, shamatha meditation can be undertaken with an external object, such as a pebble or statue; an internal object, such as the breath or a visualization; or it can be done without an object, in which case it is known as meditation on the essence of things (or shamatha without support). This last type of shamatha is a resting meditation and shouldn't be confused with vipasyana. Mingyur Rinpoche gives very clear, nice instructions in this technique, as does Thrangu Rinpoche and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.

On the other hand, it seems that Anuruddha had gained the jnanas of the form or formless realm. In classical Indian texts, one is advised to begin vipasyana prac tice after one has attained the meditative stability of the four formless realms. Various Tibetan teachers have suggested that one can begin sooner - some say as soon as one has achieved the fourth or fifth level of shamatha where the mind no longer strays from the object - no matter how long the meditation session. In any case, one needs strong meditative stability in order for vipasyana practice to be effective. Traditionally, vipasyana is divided into two parts; analyzing and resting. In the resting stage, one rests in one's realization or certainty, without engaging in further analysis or looking. One may subtly cling to a conceptualization of one's realization, but ideally, this is a sort of formless meditation. Similarly, in tantra mahamudra, one generates the image of a deity, and in the completion stage one dissolves the visualization and - ideally - rests in nonconceptual awareness. Both sutra mahamudra and Essence mahamudra also entail objectless meditation. All of which is to say that meditation without an object is indeed a part of the Mahayana path.

  • 1
    I could find "He turns his mind away from those states and directs it towards the deathless element" in MN 64
    – ruben2020
    Dec 29, 2020 at 11:33
  • You said, "meditation on the essence of things". This intrigues me because my perceptive field has been very wide for about 10 months. Could you link to some more information on this please?
    – user17652
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:16
  • ruben2020 - yes, there are various permutations.
    – user17652
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:17

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