Vision of the Dhamma;
Many discourses describe the arising of path knowledge in this way;
... the spotless immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose: "All that is subject to arising is subject t cessation."
But this contemplation is not occurring at the moment of path. At that moment, one only experiences nibbana in the form of the cessation of all conditioned phenomena
However, one is able to understand that one has entered the cessation of all conditioned phenomena, which is the cessation of objects and the mind that notes them, at the moment of reviewing knowledge, which reviews the path, the fruit, and nibbana. One can also understand that with the attainment of "the element of nibbana without the residue remaining" (anupadisesanibbanadhatu), all conditioned phenomena cease [to arise].
Moreover, one is able to understand that any phenomena that come into existence are bound to vanish. This is why, if one continues practicing after path and fruition and reviewing knowledge, one's insight resumes at the stage of seeing the arising and passing away of phenomena. The commentary to the Ambattha Sutta of the Digha Nikaya explains the vision of the Dhamma as follows:
"The vision of the Dhamma" refers to path knowledge of stream entry. In order to demonstrate what the path involves, it is said [that one realizes]: "All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation." This is because path consciousnesness, when taking the cessation of all conditioned phenomena, nibbana, as its object, accomplishes the function of giving rise to this clear and penetrating understanding regarding all conditioned phenomena."
This commentary addresses the question of why path consciousness is said to realize "All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation," even though it only takes unconditioned phenomena (asankhata) as its object and not conditioned phenomena (sankhata). It is interesting to note that the expression "the vision of the Dhamma" is also used to refer to the first three path knowledges in the Brahmayu Sytta, and to all four path knowledges in the Cularahulovada Sutta.
Two types of nibbana
There is only one kind of nibbana in terms of being the cessation of all mental and physical suffering that has the characteristic of peacefulness. However, in another sense, nibbana may be further divided into two types as follows: with residue remaining (sa-upadisesa) - this is the nibbana of an arahant, one who has completely extinguished all mental defilements but still experiences the "residue" of the aggregates as a result of past craving, clinging and volitional actions; and without residue remaining (anupadisesa) - this is the nibbana of an arahant who has passed away, that is, after entering parinibbana, and refers to the complete cessation of all conditioned phenomena.
The Buddha explained these two types of nibbana as follows:
"Bhikkhus, there are these two Nibbana-elements. What are the two? The Nibbana-element with residue left and the Nibbana-element with no residue left.
What, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released though final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and plain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate and delusion in him that is called the Nibbana-element with residue left.
Now what, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with no residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. For him, here in this very life, all this is experience, not being delighted in, will be extinguished. That, bhikkhus, is called the Nibbana-element with no residue left. "
Note that in the first section of this passage that describes nibbana with residue left, a living arahant is said to have "laid down the burden" of the five aggregates, even though one still possesses a mind and body. This is because they are one's last aggregates, and no more will arise, so we can say that they have effectively set down the burden of the five aggregates.
Note that in the second section of this passage that describes nibbana with no residue left, the feeling that is mentioned refers to the particular type of feeling that is mentioned refers to the particular type of feeling that is experienced only arahants. This is kammically indeterminate (abyakata) feeling, tht cannot be said to be wholesome or unwholesome and produces no kammic results. Also, although only feeling is mentioned explicitly, it should be taken to include all five aggregates. The arahant has no involvement with any of the aggregates that might lead to rebirth. None of the phenomena that one experiences while still alive are associated with desire, pride, or wrong view. Thus they all arise and pass away completely, without leaving any kammic residue that might create the potential for another life.
A fire that does not get any more fuel cannot continue to burn but simply dies down and becomes extinguished. Likewise, an arahant's aggregates that have been caused though previous kamma do not arise as a new life or new aggregates but, after having arisen, simply cease and become extinguished. After the cessation of the aggregates the aggregates no longer arise. As a result, the aggregates that constantly arise in an arahant due to the momentum of previous kamma do not continue to arise in a new life but are extinguished in this very life.
Nibbana without residue remaining is synonymous with the cessation of the aggregates (khandaparinibbana).
"These two Nibbana-elements were made known
By the Seeing One, stable, and unattached:
One is the element seen here and now
With residue, but with the cord of being destroyed;
The other, having no residue for the future,
Is that wherein all modes of being utterly cease.
Having understood the unconditioned state,
Released in mind with the cord of being destroyed,
They have attained to the Dhamma-essence.
Delighting in the destruction (of craving),
Those stable ones have abandoned all being."
In these verses, the cessation of the defilements or the aggregates, that is nibbana either with or without residue remaining, is called the unconditioned. Nibbana is also called a "state" (pada) because it can be attained and experienced though the path knowledge and fruition knowledge. Based on this, it can be concluded that the nibbana that is experienced though path and fruition is the same as the two types of nibbana with and without residue remaining. If this were not the case, then the Abhidhamma would be incorrect in saying:
"Though nibbana is onefold according to its intrinsic nature, by reference to a basis (for distinction), it is twofold, namely, the element of nibbana with the residue remaining, and the element of nibbana without residue remaining."
The unique characteristic of nibbana is the peacefulness associated with the cessation [of conditioned phenomena]. Or, in other words, this unique characteristic must necessarily belong to any type of nibbana. In this sense there is only one type of nibbana, even though it may be divided into two types, one with and one without residue remaining.
Even though it is clearly stated that nibbana is twofold, if nibbana either with or without residue remaining and nibbana that is experienced though path and fruition were divided, it would also contradict the Abhidhammattha Sangaha. If nibbana that is experienced though path and fruition us reakm being an ultimate reality, while the nibbana that is with or without residue remaining is imaginary, being simply a concept. But if this were the case, the nibbana would to be classified into three types, rather than two: one real nibbana, having its unique characteristic of peace, and two [other conceptual types], one with and one without residue remaining.
Therefore we must conclude that the nibbana that is experienced by means of path and fruition is general nibbana (samannanibbana). The two types of nibbana-with and without residue remaining - that are specific nibbana (visesanibbana) are included within general nibbana. This is why the nibbana that is experienced by means of path and fruition is not identified as being with or without residue remaining, or as the cessation of desire, aversion, delusion, material phenomena, or feeling, or as present, past, or future, or as the cessation of defilements or phenomena. In reality nibbana is simply experienced and known as the cessation of conditioned phenomena that perceive or are perceived, Because all mental and physical phenomena are extinguished in nibbana, it also includes nibbana with residue remaining and nibbana without residue remaining.
Taken as a whole, nibbana is the cessation of all twelve of these sense bases. Venerable Ananda once explained this, saying:
"This was stated by the Blessed One, friends, with reference to the cessation of the six [internal and external] sense bases."
The commentary to the Udana of the Khuddaka Nikaya also describes nibbana as the cessation of all twelve sense bases and refers to an explaination that the Buddha gave to Bahiyam which other scholars cite.
According to those scholars, the passage "Then, Bahiya, you will neither be here nor beyond nor in between the two" can be explained as follows:
[If one is no longer involved with defilements in what is seen, heard, experienced, or perceived, then, Bahiya,] one will no longer exist here in the internal [sense bases of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind], nor there in the external [sense bases of visible form, sound, odor, flavor, touch and mental objects], nor anywhere else in the sense consciousnesses [of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and perceiving. This is the end of suffering].
A meditator proceeds by observing the most obvious object from among these twelve sense bases, consciousnesses, and mental factors, But at the moment of path and fruition, the meditator stops perceiving the object and instead experiences the total cessation of all of these objects. This experience of cessation is nibbana. It is very important to undertand this.
The sense bases actually represent all conditioned phenomena. So the cessation of the sense bases refers to the cessation of all conditioned phenomena. In the following discourse, nibbana is said to be that state that is the opposite of conditioned phenomena. According to the texts:
"Where water, earth, fire and air do not gain a footing:
It is from there, that the streams [of phenomena] turn back,
Here that the round [ of the defilements, kamma, and its result] no
There, name-and-form ceases.
Where consciousness is signless, boundless, all-luminous,
That's where earth, water, fire, and air find no footing,
There both long and short, small and great, fair and foul -
There "name-and-form" [mental and physical phenomena] are wholly
With the cessation of consciousness this is all destroyed."
The statement that nibbana is "all-luminous" in this passage means that it is completely cleansed of all defilements. Similar metaphors are used in such expressions as "the light of wisdom" (panna-aloka), "the luster of wisdom" (panna-obhasa), and "the torch of wisdom" (pannapajjota). It is in this same sense that the Buddha said, "Bhikkhus, the mind is luminous." The sense here is that nibbana is always luminous. The mind and wisdom, which possess an innate luminosity, can be soiled by defiling phenomena. Nibbana, however, which is the cessation of defilements or conditioned phenomena, can never be connected with defiling phenomena. Therefore there is no way that any of these phenomena can soil or defile nibbana, just as the sky can never be painted. As a result it is said that "nibbana is all-luminous." The be straightforward, the meaning of the commentary and subcommentary is only that nibbana is absolutely not connected to the defilements, or is completely cleansed of them.
So one should not misinterpret this statement to mean that nibbana is literally shining like the sun, moon, or stars, and that one sees this luminosity by means of path knowledge and fruition knowledge. This kind of interpretation would negate previous statement that nibbana is signless, would be inconsistent with its unique "signless" manifestation (animittapaccupatthana), and would contradict Venerable Nagasena's answer to King Milinda's question about the nature of nibbana. In fact this kind of literal interpreation would be in opposition to all the Pali texts and commentaries that say that there is no materiality in nibbana. In any event the cessation of potential defilements and aggregates is not something that is luminous and bright. If it were, the Pali texts and commentaries could easily have said that "nibbana is luminous and briht". Otherwis they would not explain it with difficult names such as "destruction of lust" (ragakkhayo), "the peaceful ending of all conditioned phenomena" (sabbasakharasamatho), "nonarising" (anuppado), and so on, which are taken to be opposites of conditioned phenomena. On should reflect deeply about this!
"That's where earth, water, fire, and air find no footing,
There both long and short, small and great, fair and foul-
There "name-and-form" [mental and physical phenomena] are wholly
With the cessation of consciousness this is all destroyed."
These lines point out nibbana, or cessation. The last line points out the cause of this cessation. "Consciousness" here refers to both the death consciousness (cuticitta) and the volitional mind (abhisankharavinnana) at the time of parinibbana. All presently existing conditioned phenomena come to an end due to the destruction of death consciousness at the time of parinibbana, and because there is no volitional mind that can produce results, new phenomena do not arise but cease to exist. Thus with the cessation of these two kinds of consciousness, all conditioned phenomena cease. This is like the cessation of the emission from light from an oil lamp whose oil and wich have been completely consumed.