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Buddha says Nibbana is ajātaṃ abhūtaṃ akataṃ asaṅkhataṃ. Out of all these four, only asaṅkhataṃ (unconditioned) is something that I have to achieve.

So can I say asaṅkhataṃ is Nibbana and vice versa? and by the way what is real meaning of asaṅkhataṃ?

Buddha says its end of greed, aversion, and delusion... But I dont think ending of these three means ending of all past sankhara.. So, in the state of asaṅkhataṃ still lots of sankhara are there. It's just that they are infertile.

So unconditioned is not right meaning of asaṅkhataṃ ... Ideally, it should be unconditionable? What do you say?

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Buddha says Nibbana is ajātaṃ abhūtaṃ akataṃ asaṅkhataṃ.

Nibbana is "not born by separating from something, not a result of something prior developing or transforming into it, not made via a deed, not a result of multiple things coming together." - would be a better translation.

These four are meant to exhaust all kinds of coming into existence. Whatever comes into existence will perish and Nibbana must not perish so it must not come into existence. In other words it must be self-existent or self-present, as in the famous allegory of the Sun always shining even if your view is obstructed by the clouds.

and by the way what is real meaning of asaṅkhataṃ?

Asankhatam is the last of the four points, "not a result of multiple things coming together."

It means that Nibbana cannot be a state because any state is an arrangement of certain elements and conditions that must stay within certain bounds - which makes it vulnerable. Nibbana is unbounded, with no limits - therefore not vulnerable, indestructible, not subject to cessation. Nibbana is not a state - it's a dhatu, a layer of reality. Buddha calls it amata-dhatu, The Immortal Layer.

This "layer" concept explains why sankhatam things don't suddenly disappear when you attain Nibbana - they remain abiding as overlayed conventions, like the boundaries between countries, or the boundaries between separate families or the invisible "boundary" around one's private property, or the notion of separate "I" as "a lifetime of an individual" - indeed all these notions have emerged for a reason and do play a role in society, but for "the one like this" they are no longer absolutely real. Being not real they are not subject to attachment or aversion. Not being subject to attachment or aversion they cannot be a source of suffering.

This is how you "achieve the asankhatam", by elevating your mind above all kinds of boundaries and identities.

  • the countries don't really exist. There is no "my country" or "my people" vs aliens.
  • the families don't really exist. There is no "my family" or "my relatives" vs strangers.
  • the concept of ownership is ultimately a fiction. Do not consider anything as your possession.
  • the concept of "I" as a separate finite entity is also a fiction.

Buddha said "Greed, aversion, and delusion are makers of boundaries" - and it actually works both ways. Boundaries instigate and sustain greed, aversion, and delusion - and these create and maintain boundaries.

As Nibbana does not have a beginning (nor the end), technically it's not "attained". It just sits in plain sight until you realize it was always here, so to speak. But practically speaking, you have to stop making boundaries to free yourself from greed, aversion, and delusion.

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This how i understand it,

The designation for Nibbana is 'removal of greed, anger & delusion.' It has a variety of qualified usage.

We say that the attainment of Arahantship is a removal and that an Arahant is one who has removed from the mind. The mind of an Arahant is inherently conditioned, is a sankhara but it has no greed, anger & delusion. We say that the attainment of Arahantship is an attainment of Nibbana in this sense of removal.

It is said that removal depends on destruction and that these unwholesome qualities utterly cease in one who practices the signless release or the four types of mindfulness as satipatthana leads to the signless release.

The signless release is an entering into & emerging from a meditative attainment of the 'cessation of perception & feeling'. It is also apprehended as emptiness or undirected, depending on how it was approached and what meditative theme was dominant in course of development.

This attainment is a direct seeing with the dhamma eye, one is then absorbed based on this nibbananirodhadhatu [extinguishment-cessation-principle] and it is said that this sorrowless [asoka] state is empty of greed, anger & delusion.

It is said that greed, anger & delusion are a making of signs. Therefore this attainment of signless release qualifies to be called a removal of greed, anger & delusion and a destruction because it is empty of those qualities and because these eventually utterly cease in who practices it.

When talking about the cessation of perception & feeling one could say 'it's the foremost extreme pleasure' and in regards to that one could say Nibbana is that foremost pleasure where nothing is felt.

In this sense one would say Nibbana [removal of greed, anger & delusion] is pleasant and have it refer to the Asankhata element which is Asoka [sorrowless].

When studying the words Deathless and Nibbana we have to keep in mind three primary circumstances

  1. One who has delusion [non-arahant] prior to entering and emerges with delusion [non-arahant]
  2. One who has delusion [non-arahant] prior to entering and emerges without delusion [arahant]
  3. One who has no delusion prior to entering and emerges likewise.

All three absorbtions occur based on nibbananirodhadhatu which is empty of GAD but are going to be spoken about very differently. Eg we don't say that an arahant is destroying taints because he has none prior to entering and we don't say that a person who emerged from cessation of perception & feeling without removing all taints is one who has attained removal of taints in the sense of attaining arahantship.

There is a bit more to it but it's close. For full analysis one also needs to delineate differences between 'nibbana with residue', '..without residue/fuel', 'parinibbana' and 'unprovoked release'.

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A lot of sankharas are around unconditioned. Sannas (perceptions) are anicca (impermanent), good householder. Not out of no reason the Sublime Buddha encouraged his disciples to even let go of perception of Nibbana, at least (a talk where the monks didn't rejoice at the end, and to assume that good householder does so like-for-like).

What's the purpose of this thought sankharas, those buildings which wouldn't last? Focus on abandoning akusala and instead nourish kusala, when undertaken on trust, would lead one beyond. Ditthis (views) are only useful if taking on sammaditthi (right view), so let go of all else.

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So unconditioned is not right meaning of asaṅkhataṃ ... Ideally, it should be unconditionable? What do you say?

Unconditionable can be understood too easily as applying to a self. It is therefore not an ideal translation.

Unconditioned actions are unfettered by notions of a self.

For the living, there is still conditioning (e.g., one eats to sustain the body).

MN121:12.3: There is only this modicum of stress, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’

That living conditioning disappears on relinquishing the body .

DN16:3.7.2: “parinibbātu dāni, bhante, bhagavā, parinibbātu sugato, parinibbānakālo dāni, bhante, bhagavato.
DN16:3.7.2: “Sir, may the Blessed One now become fully extinguished! May the Holy One now become fully extinguished! Now is the time for the Buddha to become fully extinguished.

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Nibbana is that which the mind experiences when it is free of defilements, free of the three poisons of greed, aversion and delusion. It is not a state of mind or consciousness. It is certainly not a self or a witness. Nibbana is not conditioned as in it is not caused or created by anything, or composed of anything, or influenced by anything. On the other hand, states of mind or consciousness is conditioned and changing as time goes on.

AN 9.34 states that nothing is felt or sensed about Nibbana and that's precisely why it is blissful. The absence of suffering (dukkha) is blissful. It's not blissful because it is felt by the senses to be pleasurable - that would make it conditioned. This answer explains more on Nibbana and bliss.

According to Iti 44, Nibbana-element without residue left describes the five aggregates in parinibbana, based on Ven. Thanissaro's footnote. This means that all five aggregates, including consciousness, stop operating completely. In this case, all mental fabrications (sankhara) have been stilled.

Nibbana-element with residue left describe the the five aggregates of a living Arahant i.e. the five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, consciousness, mental formations) are functioning without craving, clinging and defilements. The flames of passion, aversion and delusion are no more burning for the living Arahant. But the five aggregates function without clinging, like glowing embers, for the living Arahant. In this case, only the clinging mental fabrications (sankhara) have been stilled. This question discusses clinging aggregates vs. non-clinging aggregates. In parinibbana, the glowing embers are put out (Nibbana-element without residue left).

So, you can see that that when the Arahant is living, the clinging sankhara (mental fabrications) are stilled. In parinibbana, all sankhara (mental fabrications) are stilled.

What's interesting is that all mental fabrications (one meaning of sankhara) are conditioned (another meaning of sankhara), but not all that is conditioned are mental fabrications. For e.g. water is conditioned, but it's not a mental fabrication (unless you refer to the mental concept of water).

So, in my opinion, the unconditioned (asaṅkhataṃ) in Ud 8.3 may refer to all that is unconditioned. But "the stilling of the conditioned is bliss" (saṅkhārūpasamo sukho”ti) from Iti 43, specifically refers to clinging mental fabrications and not the stilling of everything that is conditioned.

The born, come-to-be, produced,
The made, the conditioned, the transient,
Conjoined with decay and death,
A nest of disease, perishable,
Sprung from nutriment and craving's cord —
That is not fit to take delight in.

The escape from that, the peaceful,
Beyond reasoning, everlasting,
The not-born, the unproduced,
The sorrowless state that is void of stain,
The cessation of states linked to suffering,
The stilling of the conditioned — bliss.

Iti 43 (translated by Ireland)

Interestingly, Ven. Thanissaro used the word "fabrications" instead of "conditioned" in his translation. I would go further to call it "clinging fabrications".

The stilling of the conditioned (i.e. clinging mental fabrications) is bliss.

The born, become, produced,
made, fabricated, impermanent,
composed of aging & death,
a nest of illnesses, perishing,
come from nourishment
and the guide [that is craving] —
is unfit for delight.

The escape from that is
calm, permanent,
beyond inference,
unborn, unproduced,
the sorrowless, stainless state,
the cessation of stressful qualities,
the stilling of fabrications, bliss.

Iti 43 (translated by Thanissaro)

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  • Do not say Iti 44, Nibbana-element without residue left describes the Arahant after passing away. One should not describe the Arahant after attainment of parinibbana because all fuel for a future is with that exhausted and all modes of being utterly cease, one can only speak of relics as being left.
    – user8527
    Sep 10 at 12:02
  • "Now what, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with no residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant... completely released through final knowledge. For him, here in this very life, all that is experienced, not being delighted in, will be extinguished. That, bhikkhus, is called the Nibbana-element with no residue left. " - iti44
    – user8527
    Sep 10 at 12:07
  • How on earth do you infer that nibbana with no residue describes the Arahant after death is not immediately evident. Nibbana without residue refers simply to the attainment of parinibbana
    – user8527
    Sep 10 at 12:08
  • @Letsbuddhism I am merely paraphrasing what Ven. Thanissaro wrote in his footnote: "While the arahant is still alive, he/she still experiences the five aggregates, but they do not burn with the fires of passion, aversion, or delusion. When the arahant passes away, there is no longer any experience of aggregates here or anywhere else." Please read the whole footnote.
    – ruben2020
    Sep 10 at 12:12
  • That is a very poor paraphrase. In this footnotes there is no assertion of an arahant being described after parinibbana.
    – user8527
    Sep 10 at 12:13

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