In classical Theravada the Nibbana element is said to be an ultimate reality. It is a real and existing element which bears its own nature (sabhava). In the Udana we find this well known sutta:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.htmlThere is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished, unevolving, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress.
In the commentary to the Udana, the Udana-atthakatha, Ven. Dhammapāla argues that this sutta demonstrates that the Nibbana element exists. As it bears its own nature it is not a mere concept and so exists as an ultimate reality. Note, this does not mean that the dhamma has any "essence" underlying it like what we find in the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma and its explanation of dhammas (this underlying essence was needed to explain how dhammas exist in the 3 periods of time).
Those from Mahayana and some from within Theravada would argue that it is a mistake to say that Nibbana exists, that is to say to grant Nibbana some measure of ontological status. My question is general. Do you think nibbana is a real and existing dhamma, or is it a concept? Is it a mistake to claim that "nibbana exists" or not? Can we say dhammas exist or not in your view?
I've added a pic of Ven. Dhammapāla's commentary below (the page order is bottom, middle then top).