mikenz66 wrote:I don't actually see how anyone could get quite so confused as to think of nibbana is a "place". Certainly noone I've read implies that.
I've read the following...
Ud 9, Bāhiyasutta.
Yattha āpo ca paṭhavī,
tejo vāyo na gādhati,
na tattha sukkā jotanti,
na tattha candimā bhāti,
tamo tattha na vijjati.
Yadā ca attanāvedi,
muni monena brāhmaṇo,
atha rūpā arūpā ca,
Dhp 92-93, Arahantavagga.
Nanananda's Nibbana Sermons wrote:
According to the commentary the verse is supposed to express
that there are no sun, moon or stars in that mysterious
place called anupādisesa Nibbānadhātu, which is incomprehensible
to worldlings. We may, however, point out that the
verbs used in the verse in this connection do not convey the
sense that the sun, the moon and the stars are simply non existent
there. They have something more to say.
For instance, with regard to the stars it is said that there the
stars do not shine, na tattha sukkā jotanti. If in truth and fact
stars are not there, some other verb like na dissanti, "are not
seen", or na vijjanti, "do not exist", could have been used.
With reference to the sun and the moon, also, similar verbs
could have been employed. But what we actually find here,
are verbs expressive of spreading light, shining, or appearing
beautiful: Na tattha sukkā jotanti, "there the stars do not shine";
ādicco nappakāsati, "the sun spreads not its lustre"; na tattha
candimā bhāti, "the moon does not appear resplendent there".
These are not mere prosaic statements. The verse in question
is a joyous utterance, Udānagāthā, of extraordinary depth.
There is nothing recondite about it.
In our earlier assessment of the commentarial interpretation
we happened to lay special stress on the words `even though'.
We are now going to explain the significance of that emphasis.
For the commentary, the line tamo tattha na vijjati, "no darkness
is to be found there", is a big riddle. The sun, the moon
and the stars are not there. Even though they are not there, presumably,
no darkness is to be found there.
However, when we consider the law of superseding, we
have already mentioned, we are compelled to give a totally
different interpretation. The sun, the moon and the stars
are not manifest, precisely because of the light of that nonmanifestative
consciousness. As it is lustrous on all sides, sabbato
pabha, there is no darkness there and luminaries like the
stars, the sun and the moon do not shine there.
This verse of uplift thus reveals a wealth of information relevant
to our topic. Not only the exhortation to Bāhiya, but this
verse also throws a flood of light on the subject of Nibbāna.
That extraordinary place, which the commentary often identifies
with the term anupādisesa Nibbānadhātu, is this mind of
ours. It is in order to indicate the luminosity of this mind that the
Buddha used those peculiar expressions in this verse of uplift.
What actually happens in the attainment to the fruit of
arahant-hood? The worldling discerns the world around him
with the help of six narrow beams of light, namely the six
sense-bases. When the superior lustre of wisdom arises, those
six sense-bases go down. This cessation of the six sensebases
could also be referred to as the cessation of name-andform,
nāmarūpanirodha, or the cessation of consciousness,
The cessation of the six sense-bases does not mean that one
does not see anything. What one sees then is voidness. It is
an in-`sight'. He gives expression to it with the words suñño
loko, "void is the world". What it means is that all the senseobjects,
which the worldling grasps as real and truly existing,
get penetrated through with wisdom and become non-manifest.
If we are to add something more to this interpretation of the
Bāhiyasutta by way of review, we may say that this discourse
illustrates the six qualities of the Dhamma, namely svākkhāto,
well proclaimed, sandiṭṭhiko, visible here and now, akāliko,
timeless, ehipassiko, inviting to come and see, opanayiko, leading
onward and paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi, to be realized by
the wise each one by himself. These six qualities are wonderfully
exemplified by this discourse.
"Those who have no accumulations,
And understood fully the subject of food,
And whose feeding ground
Is the void and the signless,
Their track is hard to trace,
Like that of birds in the sky.
He whose influxes are extinct,
And is unattached to nutriment,
Whose range is the deliverance,
Of the void and the signless,
His path is hard to trace,
Like that of birds in the sky."
Ud 80, Paṭhamanibbānapaṭisaṃyuttasutta
Nanananda - Nibbana Sermons wrote:The term gati, which we rendered by "track", has been differently
interpreted in the commentary. For the commentary
gati is the place where the arahant goes after death, his next
bourne, so to speak. (ref: Dhp-a II 172.)
But taken in conjunction with the simile
used, gati obviously means the "path", padaṃ, taken by the
birds in the sky. It is the path they take that cannot be traced,
not their destination.
Where the birds have gone could perhaps be traced, with
some difficulty. They may have gone to their nests. It is the
path they went by that is referred to as gati in this context. Just
as when birds fly through the sky they do not leave behind any
trace of a path, even so in this concentration of the arahant there
is no object or sign of any continuity.
The second verse gives almost the same idea. It is in singular
and speaks of an arahant whose influxes are extinct and
who is unattached to nutriment. Here, in the simile about the
birds in the sky, we find the word padaṃ, "path", used instead
of gati, which makes it clear enough that it is not the destiny of
the arahant that is spoken of.
The commentary, however, interprets both gati and padaṃ
as a reference to the arahant's destiny. There is a tacit assumption
of some mysterious anupādisesa Nibbānadhātu. But what
we have here is a metaphor of considerable depth. The reference
is to that unique samādhi.
The bird's flight through the air symbolizes the flight of the
mind. In the case of others, the path taken by the mind can be
traced through the object it takes, but not in this case. The key
word that highlights the metaphorical meaning of these verses
is gocaro. Gocara means "pasture". Now, in the case of cattle
roaming in their pasture one can trace them by their footsteps,
by the path trodden. What about the pasture of the arahants?
Of course, they too consume food to maintain their bodies,
but their true `pasture' is the arahattaphalasamādhi. As soon as
they get an opportunity, they take to this pasture. Once they are
well within this pasture, neither gods nor Brahmas nor Māra
can find them. That is why the path taken by the arahants in
the phalasamādhi cannot be traced, like the track of birds in the
We have yet to discuss the subject of sa-upādisesa and
anupādisesa Nibbānadhātu. But even at this point some clarity
of understanding might emerge. When the arahant passes
away, at the last moment of his life span, he brings his mind
to this arahattaphalasamādhi. Then not even Mara can trace
him. There is no possibility of a rebirth and that is the end of
all. It is this `extinction' that is referred to here.
This extinction is not something one gets in a world beyond.
It is a realization here and now, in this world. And the arahant,
by way of blissful dwelling here and now, enjoys in his every
day life the supreme bliss of Nibbāna that he had won through
the incomparable deliverances of the mind.
Atthi, bhikkhave, tad āyatanaṃ, yattha n'eva pathavī na
āpo na tejo na vāyo na ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ na viññāṇānañcāyatanaṃ
na ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ na nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ
na ayaṃ loko na paraloko na ubho candimasūriyā. Tatra
p'ahaṃ bhikkhave, n'eva āgatiṃ vadāmi na gatiṃ na ṭhitiṃ na
cutiṃ na upapattiṃ, appatiṭṭhaṃ appavattaṃ anārammaṇaṃ
eva taṃ. Es'ev'anto dukkhassā'ti
Nanananda - Nibbana Sermons wrote:Incidentally, this happens to be the most controversial passage
on Nibbāna. Scholars, both ancient and modern, have
put forward various interpretations of this much vexed passage.
Its riddle-like presentation has posed a challenge to many a
philosopher bent on determining what Nibbāna is.
This brief discourse comes in the Udāna as an inspired utterance
of the Buddha on the subject of Nibbāna, Nibbānapaṭisamyuttasutta.
To begin with, we shall try to give a somewhat
literal translation of the passage:
"Monks, there is that sphere, wherein there is neither earth,
nor water, nor fire, nor air; neither the sphere of infinite
space, nor the sphere of infinite consciousness, nor the sphere
of nothingness, nor the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-
perception; neither this world nor the world beyond, nor the sun
and the moon. There, monks, I say, is no coming, no going, no
staying, no passing away and no arising; it is not established,
it is not continuing, it has no object. This, itself, is the end of
Instead of getting down to the commentarial interpretation
at the very outset, let us try to understand this discourse on the
lines of the interpretation we have so far developed. We have
already come across two references to Nibbāna as an āyatana
or a sphere. In the present context, too, the term āyatana is an
allusion to arahattaphalasamādhi. Its significance, therefore,
First of all we are told that earth, water, fire and air are not
there in that āyatana. This is understandable, since in a number
of discourses dealing with anidassana viññāṇa and arahattaphalasamādhi
we came across similar statements. It is said
that in anidassana viññāṇa, or non-manifestative consciousness,
earth, water, fire and air do not find a footing. Similarly,
when one is in arahattaphalasamādhi, one is said to be devoid
of the perception of earth in earth, for instance, because he does
not attend to it. So the peculiar negative formulation of the
above Udāna passage is suggestive of the fact that these elements
do not exercise any influence on the mind of one who is
The usual interpretation, however, is that it describes some
kind of a place or a world devoid of those elements. It is gener-
ally believed that the passage in question is a description of the
`sphere' into which the arahant passes away, that is, his after
death `state'. This facile explanation is often presented only as
a tacit assumption, for fear of being accused of heretical views.
But it must be pointed out that the allusion here is to a certain
level of experience of the living arahant, namely the realization,
here and now, of the cessation of existence, bhavanirodha.
The four elements have no part to play in that experience.
The sphere of infinite space, the sphere of infinite consciousness
etc. also do not come in, as we have already shown with
reference to a number of discourses. So it is free from both form
The statement that there is neither this world nor a world
beyond could be understood in the light of the phrase, na idhaloke
idhalokasaññī, na paraloke paralokasaññī, "percipient
neither of a this world in this world, nor of a world beyond in a
world beyond" that came up in a passage discussed above.
The absence of the moon and the sun, na ubho candima
sūriyā, in this sphere, is taken as the strongest argument in
favour of concluding that Nibbāna is some kind of a place, a
place where there is no moon or sun.
But as we have explained in the course of our discussion of
the term anidassana viññāṇa, or non-manifestative consciousness,
with the cessation of the six sense-spheres, due to the
all lustrous nature of the mind, sun and moon lose their lustre,
though the senses are all intact. Their lustre is superseded
by the lustre of wisdom. They pale away and fade into insignificance
before it. It is in this sense that the moon and the sun are
said to be not there in that sphere.
Why there is no coming, no going, no staying, no passing
away and no arising, can be understood in the light of what
we have observed in earlier sermons on the question of relative
concepts. The verbal dichotomy characteristic of worldly concepts
is reflected in this reference to a coming and a going etc.
The arahant in arahattaphalasamādhi is free from the limitations
imposed by this verbal dichotomy.
The three terms appatiṭṭhaṃ, appavattaṃ and anārammaṇaṃ,
"not established", "not continuing" and "objectless",
are suggestive of the three doorways to deliverance. Appatiṭṭhaṃ
refers to appaṇihita vimokkha, "undirected deliverance",
which comes through the extirpation of craving. Appavattaṃ
stands for suññata vimokkha, the "void deliverance",
which is the negation of continuity. Anārammaṇaṃ is clearly
enough a reference to animitta vimokkha, the "signless deliverance".
Not to have an object is to be signless.
The concluding sentence "this itself is the end of suffering"
is therefore a clear indication that the end of suffering is reached
here and now. It does not mean that the arahant gets half of
Nibbāna here and the other half `there'.
Our line of interpretation leads to such a conclusion, but of
course, in case there are shortcomings in it, we could perhaps
improve on it by having recourse to the commentarial interpre-
Now as to the commentarial interpretation, this is how the
Udāna commentary explains the points we have discussed:591
It paraphrases the term āyatana by kāraṇa, observing that it
means reason in this context. Just as much as forms stand in
relation of an object to the eye, so the asaṅkhata dhātu, or the
"unprepared element", is said to be an object to the arahant's
mind, and here it is called āyatana.
Then the commentary raises the question, why earth, water,
fire and air are not there in that asaṅkhata dhātu. The four elements
are representative of things prepared, saṅkhata. There
cannot be any mingling or juxtaposition between the saṅkhata
and the asaṅkhata. That is why earth, water, fire and air are not
supposed to be there, in that āyatana.
The question why there are no formless states, like the
sphere of infinite space, the sphere of infinite consciousness,
the sphere of nothingness, the sphere of neither-perception-nornon-
perception, is similarly explained, while asserting that Nibbāna
is nevertheless formless.
Since in Nibbāna one has transcended the sensuous sphere,
kāmaloka, the concepts of a this world and a world beyond are
said to be irrelevant. As to why the sun and the moon are not
there, the commentary gives the following explanation:
In realms of form there is generally darkness, to dispel
which there must be a sun and a moon. But Nibbāna is not
a realm of form, so how could sun and moon come in?
Then what about the reference to a coming, a going, a staying,
a passing away and an arising? No one comes to Nibbāna
from anywhere and no one goes out from it, no one stays in it
or passes away or reappears in it.
Now all this is mystifying enough. But the commentary
goes on to interpret the three terms appatiṭṭhaṃ, appavattaṃ
and anārammaṇaṃ also in the same vein. Only that which has
form gets established and Nibbāna is formless, therefore it is
not established anywhere. Nibbāna does not continue, so it is
appavattaṃ, or non-continuing. Since Nibbāna takes no object,
it is objectless, anārammaṇaṃ. It is as good as saying that,
though one may take Nibbāna as an object, Nibbāna itself takes
So this is what the traditional interpretation amounts to. If
there are any shortcomings in our explanation, one is free to
go for the commentarial. But it is obvious that there is a lot of
confusion in this commentarial trend. Insufficient appreciation
of the deep concept of the cessation of existence seems to have
caused all this confusion.
More often than otherwise, commentarial interpretations of
Nibbāna leaves room for some subtle craving for existence,
bhavataṇhā. It gives a vague idea of a place or a sphere,
āyatana, which serves as a surrogate destination for the arahants
after their demise. Though not always explicitly asserted,
it is at least tacitly suggested. The description given above is
ample proof of this trend. It conjures up a place where there is
no sun and no moon, a place that is not a place. Such confounding
trends have crept in probably due to the very depth of this
Well, you could read the entire Nibbana Sermons actually, as they're obviously related to the point of nibbana, but these are some extracts specifically with regards to the notion of nibbana as some kind of place that exists.