This book of dhamma concerning Nibbāna namely, "On the Nature of Nibbāna" embraces the basic method of practical vipassanā meditation and also how nibbānic peace is achieved while practising insight-meditation. Where Pāḷi and Commentaries are difficult of understanding the Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw, who is the author, has given precise and clear explanation. It offers lucid instructions to those yogīs following a wrong path with erroneous views to enable them to tread on the Right Path. To cite an example, the Sayādaw has clearly instructed that if at the beginning of the exercise in meditation when every phenomenon that takes place at the six sense-doors cannot possibly be noted, one of the more obvious bodily behaviorous should be noted first, e.g. while walking, the act of walking and manoeuvering of limbs should first be observed and noted; as also in respect of other bodily actions. The most obvious phenomenon of rūpa. namely, the rising and falling of the abdomen is, therefore, emphasized for the yogī, to note. Only when samādhi gains momentum then all other phenomena that occur at the six sense-doors may be noted.

In this dhamma, the concept of nibbāna has been fully elucidated commencing from the attainment of the stage of sa-upādisesa nibbāna up to the final destination of anupādisesa nibbāna arrived at by death called 'parinibbāna'. Further explanation given is; "Buddha has preached that with the achievement of an arahat stage when kilesas, defilements, have ceased to exist, the remnant of rūpakkhandhā, still remains and that this state of condition is known as sa-upadisesa. After the demise or 'parinibbāna' of an arahat, both the remnant of rūpakkhandhā and kilesas totally cease to exist and all matter, mind and mental formations become extinct. This complete cessation and extinction is known as anupādisesa."

In this book as in all his sermons or written texts on dhamma, the Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw makes a dual exposition of the theoretical aspect of the dhamma based upon scriptures, i.e pariyatti, and the practical aspect of insight-meditation exercises, patipatt, thereby affording yogīs a comprehensive knowledge of the dhamma. Mention has also been made of the burden of the Five Aggregates of clinging and of the burden of akusala dhamma, abi-saṅkhāra, and the method of throwing down the burdens so as to escape all sufferings arising from kilesa, cravings, with rebirth, ensuing.

The Venerable Sayādaw has made it convincingly clear in plain language that new existence is the resultant effect of kusala and akusala dhamma, merits and demerits. Past actions or previous activities are known as kamma; their results are called Vipāka in Buddhism. The new existence that has arisen causes the formation of nāma-rūpakkhandā which brings forth kilesas. Kileasa cravings of all forms, generate kamma. The kamma of the past has created the conditions of the present, while the kamma of the present is creating the conditions that will exist in the future. As long as this kammic force exists there is rebirth. To get rid of kilesas, kamma and the resultant effect, vipāka, endeavour should be made to indulge in dāna (charitableness), sīla (morality) and bhāvanā (developing meditation) with special emphasis on vipassanā type of meditation exercise to eventually gain maggaphala ñāṇa, nibbāna. On attaining arahatta magga and its fruition, all kamma with its vipāka would cease.

In so far as the doctrine of Nirvana (Nibbāna) is concerned, Buddha has taught us that Nirvana is a state which is the natural and inevitable result of the extinction of cravings. And among the forms of craving which must be rooted out, is the longing for continued separate existence in this life and hereafter.

There are a number of current views according to different schools of thought concerning Nibbāna. Some probably think that Nibbāna is a celestial palace or a palatial mansion; an abode of tremendous dimension, a big city or a radiance of a spectacular dazzling light. Some hold the view that it is a state in which the individual soul is completely absorbed in the universal soul, etc. These are all wishful thinking arising out of ignorance.

Nāgasena, the great Buddhist philosopher compares Nirvana to the lotus flower and concludes by saying: "And if you ask, how Nirvana is to be known, I say it is won by freedom from distress and danger, by confidence, by peace, by calm, by bliss, by happiness, by delicacy, by purity by freshness." (Milindapañā).

"Sire, Nirvana is. It is cognisable by mind thus purified, lofty, straight, without obstructions, without temporal desires. There is Nirvana; but it is not possible to show by colour or configuration."

Nirvana, after all, aims at making our life serene by extinguishing all forms of craving. The very idea of Nirvana is the state of mind-coexistent with this serenity. And it is in the Buddhist conception of Nirvana that we have the most complete analysis of the Universe. No real peace and happiness is possible unless a man is free from the selfish desire and egoism caused by the threefold craving. It is the way out of this craving the attainment of eternal peace that is taught by the Buddhist doctrine of Nirvana as the supreme destiny awaiting all humanity.

The first and the last word on Nirvana was said by Nāgasena in one phrase: "Nirvana is!" for no discussion with the finite mind will enable one to cognize the Infinite. It cannot be conceived; it can only be experienced.

It is hoped that after going through this book thoroughly, one will find what Nibbāna means without any ambiguity. The Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw has explained it in unequivocal terms which may be summarised as: Nibbāna is eternal peace. it is brought about by the attainment of arahatta magga that can be acquired by following the right Path through the actual practice of vipassanā insight-meditation. All traces of kilesas, kamma and vipāka, bad effects of kamma are completely obliterated and eradicated when one attains Nibbāna. With this accomplishment a state of consciousness is reached whereby all cravings or taṇhā passes into parinibbāna. This is the end of all sufferings.

            May you all happy and enlightened.

Buddha Sāsana Nuggha Organization.

Chapter 1





(A discourse delilvered on the 8th. waxing of Tawthalin, 1326 M.E., corresponding to the 14th. September, 1964).


Towards the end of my lecture on Cūlavedalla Sutta last week, I made references to the catechism of Visākhā, the Rich, and Dhammadinnā Therī, the elder abbess. "What," asked the former,  "is the sensation of pleasure like?" The latter answered:  "It is like the sensation of pain." Pleasure and pain are diametrically opposed to each other; but what the votary would like to impress upon the rich man is that they are one and the same phenomenally.

The following questions and answers also ensured:

Q. What is the sensation of indifference to pleasure and pain like?

A. It is like ignorance.

What pleasure and pain arise either in the body or in the mind it s easily cognizable. But indifference cannot be easily felt. For instance, greed and anger can be known at once as soon as they assert themselves; but when ignorance is at work it does not reveal itself clearly. Therefore indifference is very much like ignorance in its manifestation.

Q. What is ignorance like?

A. It is like knowledge.

Knowledge, here, means the knowledge of the Path possessed by the Worthy Ones, ariya-magga-ñāṇa, while ignorance means covering up of that knowledge. The former recognizes the Four Noble Truths and reveals them to all, while the latter, not knowing them, tries to hide them. Knowledge, here, is thesis and ignorance its antithesis.

Q. What is knowledge?

A. It is vimutti, deliverance.

Vimutti signifies the fruition of the Path. In fact, the Path (magga) and its fruition (phala) are identical, because they are different aspects of the same fulfillment. Fruition is the beneficial result of the realization of the Path achieved by the Ariyas. It is recurrent. Therefore, knowledge and deliverance are synonymous.

Q. What, then, is deliverance like?

A. It is like nibbāna

When one is absorbed in the fruition of the Path, one is in perfect nibbāna-peace. Nibbāna is, therefore, equated with the fruition of the Path.

Q. What, then, is nibbāna like?

At this stage of the question, Dhammadinnā chastised Visākhā.  "You have gone too far," she said,  "You have failed to stop where you should stop. According to Buddha's teaching, nibbāna is the highest. Morality, concentration and wisdom end in nibbāna. They can not go beyond it. So, you should not have asked what nibbāna is like. If you are not satisfied with my explanation, you may refer the matter to Buddha himself."

Visākhā at once wended his way to Buddha and told the latter how he posed the questions and how he got the answers.  "If I were asked," Buddha said,  "I would have answered your questions in the same way as Dhammadinnā answered." He praised her. And that is where my lecture ended.

At that time I thought of giving you a lecture on nibbāna as well. But lack of time prevented me from doing so. Only today can I manage to deliver this course for your benefit.


Nibbāna means extinction or annihilation. What is extinguished or annihilated? The round of suffering in the realm of defilement (kilesa vatta), of action (kamma vatta) and of result of action (vipāka vatta) is extinguished or annihilated. The realm of defilement encompasses avijjā, ignorance, taṇhā, craving, and upādāna, clinging or attachment. The realm of action includes both meritorious and demeritorious deeds that contribute to emergence of the endless round of rebirths. The realm of the result of action, usually called kamma-result, relates to the consequences of actions, good or bed. Every action produces a resultant of mind, matter, six sense-bases, feeling etc. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking are all manifestations of the result of action or vipāka.

Failure to grasp at insight-knowledge which recognizes the real nature of existence when a man sees or hears something is ignorance. When he declares that he sees or hears something, he does so with the wrong notion that it is actually his ego that sees or hears. But in fact, there is no ego. This wrong notion deludes one into believing that things are permanent of pleasing or satisfactory. It, therefore, gives rise to craving, which, as it intensifies, develop into clinging. This is how defilement builds up its own empire.

As soon as clinging to sense-objects develops, efforts must at once be made to satisfy the desire for those sense-objects. Then volitional activities or saṅkhāra would start operating. In the present context they may be called kamma-formations, for they are responsible for forming or shaping actions. When, as a result of such formations, death takes place in the course of existence, it is inevitably followed by rebirth, for patisandhicitta, rebirth-linking consciousness, arises soon after cuticitta, death-consciousness. Death is followed by becoming. In other words, a new life begins. This, it may be said, is a resultant (vipāka) of kamma formations which again and again bring forth consciousness, mind, matter, six sense-bases, contract, feeling, etc.

Dependent, therefore, on vipāka vatta, there arises kilesa vatta; and dependent on kilesa vatta, there arises kamma vatta. The revolution of these three vattas is incessant throughout the endless round of existence. It is only when insight-knowledge is applied to the practice of noting the phenomena of arising and passing away of the aggregates that Path-consciousness develops and Nibbāna is brought near. At this stage, ignorance, with its faithful attendant, defilement, is annihilated. In the absence of defilement, no fresh actions or kammas can be formed. Any residual kamma that happens to exist after the annihilation of defilement will be rendered inoperative or ineffective. For a Worthy One, Arahat, no new life is formed after his death-consciousness. There is now a complete severance of the cord of existence which signifies annihilation in sight of Nibbāna.

Hence, the definition of Nibbāna runs thus:

Nibbati vattaṃdukkhaṃ etthati nibbānaṃ; nibbati vattaṃdukkhaṃ etasmim adhigateti va nibbānaṃ.

In Nibbāna, the round of suffering comes to a peaceful end. Hence cessation of suffering is Nibbāna. In other words, when the Path of an Arahat is reached, the round of suffering ceases. Nibbāna is, therefore, peace established with the annihilation of suffering. For the sake of brevity, please note only this-- Nibbāna is synonymous with absolute peace Annihilation brings about complete elimination of rounds of defilement, of action and of result of action. The commentaries say that the state of peaceful coolness or santi is a characteristic of Nibbāna. When coolness occurs the ambers of suffering are extinguished. But what is to be noted with diligence is the complete annihilation of the three rounds of defilement, action and result of action which all go to create mind matter, volitional activities, etc.

In Ratana Sutta, annihilation is described as quenching the flames.  "Nibbanti dhira yathayaṃ padipo," runs the relevant verse in Pāḷi, With men of wisdom like Arahats, all becoming is extinguished in the same manner as light is put out. Their old kammas or actions having come to exhaustion, no new kammas which create new becoming can arise. The flame of existence is thus put out.


The relevant stanza in the Ratana Sutta has this to say:

Khinaṃ puranaṃ nava natthi saṃbhavaṃ.
Virattacitta yatike bhavasmim;
Te khinabija avirullhichanda;
Nibbanti dhira yathayaṃ padipo.

An Arahat eliminates defilements with the extermination of all traces of them through the Path achieve by dint of insight knowledge that he gain with the practice of insight-meditation of noting the arising and passing away of nāma, mind, and rūpa, matter that appear at his six sense-doors. Once freed from their shackles, he commits no evil whatsoever, although he continue to indulge in actions which normally produce merits. He does good in a number of ways. For instance, He preaches the dhamma. He himself listens well to others preaching it. He regularly does obeisance to Buddha and elder monks. He gives away surplus food and clothing (i.e. the yellow robe) to those in need. He practises morality, concentration and insight-meditation with devotion. But as he has no defilement as his companion, these meritorious deeds are ineffective to produce kamma-formations. All the good that he does produce no results. In the absence of a new kamma, no new existence arises with him who has trodden the Path.

Uninformed laymen, I notice, misinterpret the texts and preach their followers that one should not perform meritorious deeds, because Arahats usually don't. If such teachings are given credence, people-practising what they preach would not be acquiring any merit; instead, they would be doing things that will lead them to nether worlds,. You may purposely avoid doing good. But that may not do you any harm, because that avoidance produces no reactions. But once you give way to evil deeds, the tendency would be for you to indulge in them without qualms or remorse, having been instigated by greed, anger, ignorance, pride and wrong views. Your evil actions would inevitably result in equally evil reactions, in which case you will gain admittance to nether worlds after your demise.


If you really want to call a halt to new actions arising on the passing away of the old, you must practise insight-knowledge with a view to the realization of the Path and its fruition. I will tell you how to practise it. First you must perfect yourself in the observance of morality. Fortified with morality, you must acquire knowledge of concentration to perfect your meditation. If one practises jhāna, absorption, well and good; for with jhāna as a stepping stone one can strive for meditation with cease. But even though you cannot aim at jhāna, you can practise the exercise of watching the six sense-doors noting the arising and passing away of nāma and rūpa, in accordance with instructions contained in the mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

After all, this noting itself is vipassanā, the practice of insight-meditation. Before you are able to take note of all what is happening at the six sense-doors, you should, at the beginning, note any of your physical movements which is easily noticeable. For instance, if you are walking, begin the vipassanā-practice with noting, the phenomenon of walking. If you are sitting be aware of your very act of sitting. Begin with the physical movement which is, as I have said, easily palpable. For us we advise the yogīs to note the rising and falling of the abdominal wall as they breathe in and out. While you are noting its movement your mind may wander. You may think about this and that, or you may imagine things. Note this thinking or imagining. You may feel tired. Note this tiredness. You may feel hot or painful as you exert. Note the arising and passing away of these sensations. Note the phenomenon of seeing as you see or hearing as you hear. When you experience pleasurable sensations, note them also.


At the beginning of vipassanā-practice, your power of concentration may be weak. So your mind goes off at a tangent. When your mind wanders, note its wandering. As you repeatedly note the phenomena, your power of concentration will get stronger and stronger, and your mind, unable to get away from the object that you are noting, will be at one with it. At times you may imagine things. Note this at once and eventually you will get familiar with the process of thinking. As soon as you are aware of this process, stop thinking about it and bring your mind to the rising and falling of the abdomen. Now you will come to realize that your mind noting the object at the present moment has been preceded by your mind doing similarly in the past, and that it is being followed by your mind which will be doing similarly at the next moment. As it is all the time wholly occupied with the act of noting the object, it will get purified. And this is called citta visuddhi, purity of mind.


When the mind is thus made pure, it will be clear, being able to recognize sense-objects distinctly. This clarity brings one to the realization that the noting mind is distinct from the sense-objects that are being noted. After repeated exercises, a yogī will arrive at the conclusion that there are only two things in this entire process of noting arid that they are the knowing mind and the object known. At this state there has developed nāmarūpapariccheda ñāṇa, knowledge of the reality of the phenomena through analysis of the aggregates into mind and matter. Once this knowledge comes into full bloom, diṭṭhi visuddhi, purity of belief, is achieved.


As one's belief or view has been thus purified, and as one continues insight meditation noting the phenomena of arising and passing away of nāma and rūpa, one will be able to discern the cause and condition for mentality-materiality. This discernment is paccayapariggaha ñāṇa, knowledge of cause and effects. This knowledge purges all doubts; and this stage of purity is called kaṅkhavitarana visuddhi, purification by overcoming doubt. If one continues further with one's meditation, one will note that objects of observation arise anew again and again to disappear soon after appearance. Noting all this, one will be able to discern the three phases of phenomena, namely, the arising phase, the static or developing phase and the dissolving phase. This is to say that the thing happening now was conditioned in the past, and will likewise be conditioned in the future. This stage of knowledge investigates the aggregates as composites; and the result of such investigation will invariably be the revelation that what appears and disappears is impermanent, annicca, unsatisfactory, dukkha, and unsubstantial anatta. This investigation knowledge is named samāsana ñāṇa.


As the yogī continues to note and reflect on the rise and fall of the five aggregates through the six sensedoors, sati, mindfulness, gains strength and he becomes aware of the rise and fall instantly as they occur. Thereby he establishes pīti-passaddhi, joy and tranquility. This knowledge of the rise and fall of nāmarūpa is udayabbaya ñāṇa.

Further reflection would reveal the hollow nature of conditioned things with the disappearance of their form and substance. Both the knowing mind, the object known dissolve as quickly as they present themselves. This knowledge with regard to dissolution of things is known as bhaṅga ñāṇa.


Application of bhaṅga ñāṇa gives rise to the establishment of bhaya ñāṇa which looks at all dissolving things with fear or repugnance. Consequently it will lead to the development of saṅkharuppekkhā ñāṇa, knowledge of equanimity towards all conditioned things, which regard all kamma-formations neither as repugnant nor as pleasurable. As this wisdom grows by continued practice of insight-meditation the knowing mind gets absorbed in the annihilation of all nama, rūpa and saṅkhāra (kamma-formations). The realization of this knowledge is the realization of the Noble Path and its fruition. The moment this stage is reached, be it only for once, a yogī becomes a Stream-Winner, or sotāpanna. With him all past actions come to an end; and so no new bad actions that can drag him down to nether worlds would arise.

If a Stream-Winner continues to practise insight-meditation developing insight-knowledge beginning with udayabbaya ñāṇa, he shall realize the Noble Path and its fruition befitting a Once-Returner and become a sakadāgāmi.

Continuing the practice of insight-meditation a Once-Returner moves up to the next stage as a Non-Returner, anāgāmi. preparing himself for nibbāna. All past actions that could have led him to the world of the senses, kāmabhava come to an end and no new actions that would direct him to nether worlds can arise. Here it may be asked whether kusala kammas, good actions appertaining to kāmāvacara, domain of sensual pleasures, may not arise. No doubt such good actions occur; but since they are not accompanied by craving for sensual pleasures. kāmabhava, or becoming in the sensual world, cannot recur. But, then, the question again arises whether good actions or kāmāvacara cannot produce results. By dint of the fact that actions must produce results, they will without doubt continue to do so; but the results would in this case be the Path and its fruition. This can be known from the story of Ugga.


Once, Ugga, a rich man, gave alms-food to Buddha and his disciples, saying that he was doing this dāna, charity, with a view to getting what he considered to be the most cherished reward. At the time of practising that dāna, he had already been an anāgāmi; and so naturally, the most cherished reward he had in mind would be the Path and its fruition of Arahatship, the next stage that an anāgāmi aspires to. When he died, he was reborn a Brahma in the plane of Suttāvāsa. Remembering Buddha, he came down to earth to pay homage to the Teacher. "How now!" asked Buddha,: "Have you realized what you cherished most?" The Brahma replied,   "Yes, I have." Not long afterwards he gained the Path and its fruition and became an Arahat, Worthy one. This shows that an anāgāmi can realize the Path as a result of his kusala kamma, meritorious deed, performed in his life time in his world of the senses.


Although it has been said that Arahatship can be achieved through dāna, it must be borne in mind that it does not come naturally or automatically without the practice of insight-meditation. An anāgāmi must meditate with a view to the realization of the Path and its fruition as befitting an Arahat. If he does so he will see nibbāna. Once an Arahat, all defilements such as ignorance and craving become annihilated. All his past kamma-actions cease. At this stage, he may practise charity, morality, insight-meditation, etc., as is his wont; but all these good actions, in the absence of defilements, produce no results. We then say that all his kamma-actions become effete:

Worldings have a great attachment to the world they live in. They want an existence untroubled by old age, disease and death. But they are subject to the law of mortality. So they die. And, yet, when they die they desire to be reborn in another world which is better than that they left behind. Even sotāpanna and sakadāgāmis cannot get rid of this attachment altogether. For instance, anāgāmis aspire to get to the planes of Form Sphere or Formless Sphere. That is the reason why they are reborn in those Spheres after they have left this world. With Arahats, there is no longing or craving for existence.


The following verse is usually uttered by Arahats in their triumph.

Nābinandāmi maranaṃ,
Nābinandāmi jīvitaṃ,
Kālañca patikhnkami,
Nibbisaṃ bhatako yathā.
I yearn neither for death nor for life;

But I look forward to the time (for parinibbāna, death) just as a wage-earner awaits the time when wages due to him are to be paid.

Unbelievers cast aspersions on Nibbāna bliss by suggesting that those who speak about it are themselves doubtful about its reality.  "A man doing good," they argue,  "is said to be able to go to the abode of nats or devas or realize Nibbāna after his demise. If that were so, would it not be better for those men of virtue to kill themselves so that they achieve heavenly bliss as quickly as possible? But the fact is that no one dares give up his life for future happiness. This shows that no one actually believes what he himself preaches." But here, such unkind critics are working on wrong premises. An Arahat has no desire for the so-called happiness in the next existence after his parinibbāna. In fact, he desires neither death nor life. In that respect he is likened to a wage-earner mentioned in the verse. A wage-earner works not because he loves his job. The only reason why he works is that he is afraid to be out of job. If he is jobless where can he find his where-withal for feeding and clothing himself? So he is careful to keep himself employed, looking forward, however, to his pay-day. In the same manner an Arahat has no affection either for death or for life. He merely awaits the time of parinibbāna, annihilation of his five aggregates, for, it is only when he achieves it that he will be able to throw down the burden.

Arahats consider the five aggregates of matter, perception, sensation, mental formations and consciousness as heavy burdens. This body has to be cared for and nurtured, clothed and fed. It has to be fed not only with food, but also with objects that appeal to its senses. It has to be constantly toned up with iriyapatha, the four postures of walking, sitting, standing and lying down. It has to breathe to live. In fact, it has to be given constant attention for its welfare. To the Arahats all such undertakings are burdensome.

Speaking only for an Arahat's last existence (preceding the attainment of Nibbāna), he acquires the burden of his aggregates from the time rebirth-linking consciousness arose in him as he was being conceived in his mother's womb. From that time onwards volitional activities begin operating out of which nāma and rūpa evolve without a break. Rebirth is produced by kamma-actions and defilements inherited from the past. Viewed from his present existence he is but a product of the past aggregates formed as a result of previous kamma-actions and defilements. The further one delves into his past in this manner, the more one discovers the same phenomenon of incessant arising of the aggregates. One may, therefore, never know when  "becoming" begins.

Consider which begins first, the egg or the hen, and the mango seed and the mango tree. The hen lays eggs from which are hatched chickens which grow up to be laying hens; and this process goes on ad infinitum, and one never knows which is the progenitor. The same may be applied to the case of the mango and its seed.

Perhaps, one may be able to put forward the view that the hen and the tree are primeval, existing at the very beginning of the world. But when the aggregates of mind and matter are considered, you can never know their beginning. Having borne the burden of the khandhās from time immemorial, an Arahat cherishes but one and only one aspiration, and that is, to throw down the burden of the aggregates off his shoulders when the time for parinibbāna arrives.

Worldings under the domination of defilements have to accept the burden beginning from the moment death-consciousness links up with birth-consciousness time and again throughout the round of rebirths. The burden gains weight and becomes heavier and heavier as the round progresses. With Arahats, as they have no craving for future existence, the seed of desire withers and no new becoming can happen. So the burden is relieved. This is their desideraturm.


Obsessed with craving, all beings have a strong attachment to their present existence. If death can be dispensed with, they would like to live eternally. If that is not possible, they would prefer starting a new life in the literal sense. So they can hardly accept the idea of no-rebirth. With them, therefore, kamma-actions renew their khandhās with birth-consciousness after death-consciousness has run its course. Having no craving for a new existence, an Arahat desires cessation of his khandhās. Desire for a new life is taṇhā. Desire for annihilation is kiriyachanda, and inoperative consciousness. (Good deeds of Buddhas and Arahats are called kiriya because kamma, action, is not accumulated by them as they transcend good or evil.) here please note the difference between taṇhā and chanda. Craving is active; desire passive; the one for existence, the other for cessation of the round of existence.

No Craving, No Rebirth

With Arahats, in the absence of craving, the seed of kammaviññāṇa, consciousness that activates, withers away and dies. Action, moral and immoral is the soil; action-producing consciousness is water and manure. When a person is about to die, he recollects his kamma (actions, good or bad), that he has done in his life-time. Again, he may see visions or hear sounds associated with his deeds. He is seeing his kamma-nimitta, the sign of actions. In some cases the dying man has visions of signs and symbols that forecast his destiny after his demise. This is gati-nimitta, the sign of destiny.

Here, let me add a footnote to elaborate the meaning of kammaviññāṇa. It is synonymous with abhisaṅkhāraviññāṇa which asserts itself at the dying moment as maranāsannā javana, death-impulsion, with its complement of moral or immoral action. It is not impotent like kiriya citta. It is active. And so it takes in the sense-objects perceived at the time of death and cause the emergence of patisandhiviññāṇa, rebirth-linking consciousness, after death. This is in accordance with the Pāḷi Text which says:  "Dependent on kamma-formations or conditioning activities, consciousness arises." Kammaviññāṇa has no place for Arahats who, nearing parinibbāna-death, have only kiriya cittas, which are functional, not being able to produce any result. When Parinibbāna-consciousness actually arises, no rebirth-linking consciousness, no nāma, and no rūpa can come up afresh. It may, therefore, be said that no becoming arises because the seed of kammaviññāṇa is absent or impotent. This is for the information of those learned in the Pāḷi Scriptures.

When an Arahat is about to achieve parinibbāna, he is not troubled by kamma, kamma-nimitta and gatinimitta. Activating consciousness also fails to operate, and, therefore, no kamma-results can rear their heads. Only ineffective kiriya cittas associated with his insight-meditation come into play. Beyond them there is nothing but death-consciousness pertaining to parinibbāna, on the achievement of which the seed of action becomes impotent. There is, therefore, a complete annihilation of existence.


At one time, at the behest of Buddha, Ānandā recited Ratana Sutta as he went round the city of Vesālī. During the recital the flame of an oil-lamp that was burning went out because the oil had been totally consumed and the wick completely burnt.  "Just as this flame is extinguished," observed Ānandā,  "all conditioned things have been extinguished (in an Arahat)." The flame is dependent on the wick and the oil. If the oil-lamp is refilled with a fresh supply of oil and refitted with a new wick, the flame will continue to give light. When a flame is observed closely, it will be seen that the combustion is being continuously supported by the burning oil that is sucked up by the wick. Casual observers notice the whole phenomenon as one continuous process. In the same way, the khandhās, generated by kamma-action, citta, mind, utu, season and āhāra, nutriment are continually renewed, now arising and now passing away. If you want to know this nature, keep note of whatever appears at your six sense-doors as you see, hear, feel or know a sense-object. You will notice that a phenomenon occurs and at once ceases just as it has occurred. When mindfulness gains strength, you will realize the instant passing away of all phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc. To ordinary folks all these phenomena are continuous. So the Khandhās are likened to a flame.

As the cessation of the khandhās is likened to a flame being extinguished, people who are obsessed with the idea of self usually think and say that an Arahat as an individual has disappeared. In point of fact an individual has no basis of reality. What we describe, in conventional language, as an individual is, after all, a compound of materiality, rūpa, and mentality, nāma, that manifest themselves. With Arahats, these compound things become extinct. Cessation does not mean the disappearance of the individual.

If one is rooted in the belief that the individual disappears, then he will be guilty off uccheda diṭṭhi or the heretical belief that existence terminates with death. There is, as I have said, no individual. We have only a succession of rūpa, and ñāma now arising, now dissolving. An Arahat is an epitome of that successive phenomena of arising and dissolution. Beyond the khandhās, there is no individual. With Arahats, therefore cessation means the extinction of the successive rise and fall of the khandhās. It is with this extinction in mind that Ānandā made a reference to a flame that was extinguished.


The word nibbanti, meaning extinction, occurs in the Ratana Sutta. Etymologically, it is derived from ni, a negative prefix, and va, meaning craving. It denotes the annihilation of the flames of lust, hatred and ignorance which are the root causes of suffering. The Texts say: nibbāti vattadukkhaṃ ettati nibbānaṃ. It means where the round of suffering ceases, there is Nibbāna. At the sight of Nibbāna, on the realization of the Path and its fruition as a result of insight-meditation, defilements like craving and ignorance become extinct, thereby giving no opportunity for actions and results of actions to arise in the form of consciousness, nāma, rūpa, six bases, contact, sensations, etc. New becoming does not occur. This is the extinction of kilesa vatta (defilement) kamma vatta (action) and vipāka vatta (result of action). Here, in this definition, the special quality of Nibbāna is metaphorically used for the location of Nibbāna, but in actuality, Nibbāna has no location.

The texts also say: nibbāti vattadukkhaṃ etasmim adhigateti vā nibbānaṃ, which means; When Nibbāna is attained, the round of suffering is annihilated. Here it emphasises that the Path and its fruition are instrumental in bringing about the cessation of suffering. So Nibbāna may also be described as the instrument by which cessation of suffering is achieved. But this is also said in a figurative sense.

The most important point to note is that the nature of Nibbāna is the annihilation of all defilements. With the end of the round of defilement, no new becoming arises, and all is quiescence. Let me lay down a dictum for easy remembrance.

            Nibbāna is where rounds of suffering cease. Nibbāna is instrumental in bringing about the cessation of rounds of suffering. The very nature of Nibbāna is the cessation of rounds of suffering.

For a Vipassanā yogī, defilements become inert only for a moment during the practice of insight-meditation. They cannot be totally uprooted. Total elimination is possible only with the realization of the Noble Path, resulting in Path-consciousness flowing into the stream of annihilation.

Nibbāna is figuratively shown as the abode of cessation of all suffering brought about by defilements. Its nature is also described metaphorically as the very element of quiescence, the result of cessation of suffering. In actuality, Nibbāna is the very nature of the annihilation of all the three rounds of suffering. Its characteristic, according to the Commentaries, is santi, peace and calm.


Santi also means extinction of all rounds of suffering. Its nature or characteristic is serenity. As all sufferings have been annihilated absolute peace reigns supreme in Nibbāna. I think this much is clear by now. But for a better understanding. I shall elaborate the nature of vattas or rounds.


This round of defilement, according to the Law of Dependent Origination, is set into motion by avijjā, ignorance, taṇhā, craving and upādāna, clinging. The incessant arising of conditioned things like rūpa, matter, and nāma, mind, at the six-doors is considered as unsatisfactory because of their transient nature. It brings about nothing but dukkha, suffering. This realism of the nature of existence is obscured by the machinations of craving; and so the truth remains clouded and not properly grasped. This deviation from truth is avijjā ignorance. Sensual pleasures derived from pleasurable sights and sounds and enjoyable pieces of knowledge are all sufferings; but ignorance accepts them as sukha, happiness. A person under this delusion thinks to himself,  "I exist. he exists. This existence is everlasting." The sense-objects he observes appear to him as good and wholesome, appealing to his aesthetic taste. Now that he takes them as wholesome and beautiful, he craves for them; and this craving goads him on to the satisfaction of his desires for them, which, in consequence, produces clinging. His volitional efforts to achieve the objects of his desires lead him to volitional activities and kammabhava, becoming, as a result of actions, moral or immoral.


When the three primary defilements of ignorance, craving and clinging are taken into account, their secondaries like dosa, anger, māna, pride, and diṭṭhi, wrong views, must also be considered. Prompted by craving, lobha, greed, asserts itself. Encouraged by greed, an individual makes the utmost exertion to get what he desires by every means at his disposal. When he is not satisfied, anger arises in him. Unrestrained, he scrambles for the object of his desires, playing havoc with the life and property of his fellow-beings. Such an action is accompanied by mohā, delusion, another form of ignorance which goes well with demerits or akusala. So, when one feels angry or greedy, delusion is always there to aggravate the situation. Then consider pride. It makes one think highly of himself. As it brooks no equals, it strives after supremacy. Proud people, obsessed with wrong views assert that they are always in the right; and with this attitude they work for the perpetuation of their wrong ideologies either by persuasion or by aggressive propaganda. All these actions stem from the rounds of defilement which brings into play the round of kamma or kamma vatta.

Murder, thievery and lying are all immoral actions; while giving alms and practising morality are virtues. Worldlings and even holy personages, barring the Arahats, are subject to the working of the round of defilement; and so, their deeds may be either meritorious or demeritorious. When these volitions during the performance of deeds are conjoined with greed, anger and delusion, akusala kammas, evil actions will produce bad results or demerits. Where these three main defilements are absent, kusala kammas, merits, are achieved. Evil deeds point the way to nether worlds, while good deeds to the worlds of men, devas and Brahmas. Ordinarily goodness brings about longevity, good health and material prosperity. If one desires one can even aspire to the Path and its fruition, and ultimately to Nibbāna, through the performance of good deeds. If one wants to avoid being reborn in nether worlds, troubled by bad results of bad actions, one must avoid killing, thieving, etc. If one wants to be born into the worlds of men, devas and Brahmas, and ultimately to tread the Path and attain Nibbāna, one must practise charity, morality and mental development. One who aspires to the Path and its fruition, and ultimately nibbāna, must practise vipassanā or insight meditation.

Shun the Ignorant

Now-a-days some of the people who have wrong understanding of the dhamma preach their wrong views saying that those desiring to end all suffering with no recurrence of rebirths should not practise charity, morality and mental development, for, all these good deeds stem the round of action which is conditioned by the round of defilement of ignorance, craving and clinging. This round of action, in its turn, also brings about rebirth-linking consciousness, mind, matter, six sense-bases, contact, feeling, etc. That being so, it is bootless to do kusala or good. Such line of thinking creates deviation in the mind of people of low intelligence. Who, taken in by this kind of teaching, stop doing good, not practising charity, not observing precepts, not developing loving-kindness, and last, but not the least, not even performing devotional exercises at pagodas and monasteries. It is said that they are beset by feeling of remorse for having done some good deeds such as alms-giving! For such deviationists, all merits that would have been accumulated for the performance of good deeds will be thrown to the winds. But demerits will sure enough accumulate with them with the inevitable result that they will go to hell. They will not be able to resist greed, and so they will not hesitate to think evil, speak evil and do evil whenever they make any exertion for the satisfaction of their desires. They will also be hardly able to restrain their anger which arises on the failure to satisfy their desires.

kusala citta or the mind bent on doing good and akusala citta bent on evil do not arise simultaneously; they appear one after the other. When walking, the left leg is raised, while the right leg stands firm touching the ground. When the right leg is raised, the left leg stands firm.No two legs go up or down simutaneously. The two cittas behave in the same way. While good actions are operating, bad actions remain dormant. But good deeds are invariably the result of voluntary effort; while bad deeds hardly require any special volition. They always come naturally obeying the dictates of greed, anger and the like. Even when one is practising dhamma to supress them, they rear their head at the least opportunity. It is, therefore, inevitable that when one abandons kusala, akusala is sure to gain abundance. The road to nether worlds is wide open for an evil-doer. All things considered, it is because of the wrong views entertained by his mentor that the pupil has gone astray. It is for such a misguiding instructor that Buddha has a word in the Mangala sutta: Shun the ignorant fool.


Actions, moral or immoral, produce consequences, good or bad. And so, round of action brings about round of kamma-result known as vipāka vatta. To escape from this round, one should practise charity morality and mental development, especially mental culture through insight-meditation which will ultimately lead one to the Path of the Worthy Ones. Then rebirth ceases giving no opportunity to the rise of new  "becoming", or new rūpa and nāma.

Vipāka vatta, therefore, may be defined as the recurrence of khandhās, aggregates or conditioned things, as a result of actions moral or immoral.


Vatta simply means going round and round. The round of defilement resolves into the round of the action, which, in its turn, resolves into the round of kamma-results, and in this manner they resolve in a circle which knows no beginning or end. No one can stop this wheel of vatta. Regarding the nature of actions and their results, it may be easy for an individual to desist from doing good; but he will be utterly unable to resist evil. If you fail to accomplish moral actions, you may be sure that immoral actions will get the better of you. Kamma-results produced or meritorious deeds will be highly benefactory to you, for they can send you to the abode of man and devas; but demerits accumulated by evil actions forced upon you by defilements will surely drag you down to hell. If your kamma is favourable, you may have the opportunity to associate yourself with men of wisdom and virtue; but if bad kamma, that is, ill luck, is at work, you will become a co-traveller with evil elements, and you may continue to commit evil deeds or akusala kammas throughout your life. In one's life, one may have done millions and millions of things; but there is only one action which produces result, rendering remaining actions inoperative or ineffective, as one departs from this world.

But these remaining actions or residual kammas are retributive; and once one goes down to nether worlds, one would suffer there for eons. If one becomes a peta, one shall forever go hungry and thirsty, or one may be burnt alive; or subjected to injuries inflicted by sword or other lethal weapons. One may weep and wail for such sufferings. If one is reborn an animal-a worm, or an insect, or a buffalo, or a bullock, or a house, or an elephant-one shall face untold miseries, for, in the animal world, the strong victimizes the weak who, in the end, would become a meal for the former. I am recounting these examples to let you know what happens to people acquiring demerits.

Even when favourable kammas are at work and one is reborn a man, one cannot escape old age, disease and death which cause grief, lamentation, etc., which are all suffering. If one is unfortunate one may live in poverty in one's new existence. Or, one may be oppressed or victimized by the strong. Or one may be tempted to commit sin. Then as a result of such evil actions, one may again go down to nether worlds when one dies again. If luck would have it, one may be raised to heaven but here in heaven too, one may become sad, instead of being glad, as one feels that one's desires are not totally fulfilled. Or, even as a deva, one may become dejected with thoughts of death. Or, if, even as a deva, one forgets the dhamma in the pursuit of sensual pleasures, one may also go down to nether worlds on one's departure from the world of devas.

There is no way of escape from these three rounds of suffering unless one practises the Eightfold Noble Path enunciated as the middle way by Buddha in Dhamma-cakkapavattana Sutta. This practice is the practice of the development of morality, concentration and wisdom which are the main objects of mental culture that I spoke of earlier in this discourse when I emphasised insight-meditation. The yogīs of this Sāsana yeiktha are familiar with Satipaṭṭhāna vipassanā which prescribes methods of noting the arising and dissolution of mind and matter as well as sense-bases, contact, sensation, etc. Which are conditioned by vipāka vatta of the present existence.


Let me elaborate on this practice of insight-meditation. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking are the works of the six groups of consciousness, namely, eye-consciousness, visual, ear-consciousness, auditory, nose-consciousness, olfactory, tongue-consciousness, gustatory, touch-consciousness, tactile, and mind-consciousness, ideational. Consciousness in invariably accompanied by its concomitant, cetasika, which goes into the category of nāma. The seat of the senseorgans, the body, is, of course, rūpa. When the eye, the object and the base, āyatana, meet, contact, phassa, is achieved and vedanā, feeling or sensation arises. These five resultants of vipāka vatta, namely, nāma, rūpa, āyatana, phassa, and vedanā belong to the present moment, since they are taking place daily; and if they are not meditated upon with insight-knowledge, craving is developed in accordance with the kind of sensations created, whether pleasurable or not pleasurable. Craving begets clinging. Not being able to note the five resultants of vipāka as they actually are is ignorance, which, together with craving and clinging, constitutes the round of defilement, which gives birth to the round of action, which in its turn produces the round of kamma-results. To prevent the first round, that of defilement, from arising, the working of the round of kamma-result must be observed and noted with the Three Marks of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness or suffering and unsubstantiality, when the absolute reality of conditioned things will dispel all defilements. In the absence of ignorance, craving cannot arise; and in the absence of craving clinging withers away. Then the round of action ceases operating unable to bring about results. In this manner all the three rounds subside.

Here I would like to quote the following extract from Nidānavagga Saṃyutta.

            Katamo ca bhikkhave lokassa samudayo. Cakkhunca paticca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ: tinnaṃ sangati phasso; phassa paccayā vedanā; vedanā paccayā taṇhā paccayā upādānaṃ: upādāna paccayā bhavo; bhava paccayā jāti; jāti paccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ, soka, parideva, dukkhadomaṇassupāyāsā sambhavanti. Ayaṃ kho bhikkhave lokassa samudayo.

            What, bhikkhus, is the genesis or the origin of this world? Dependent on eye and sense-object, visual consciousness arises. The meeting of the three --- eye, object and consciousness -- produce contact. Through contact, feeling arises; through feeling, craving; through craving, clinging; through clinging, becoming; through becoming, birth. And birth brings about old age and death attended by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. And, this, bhikkhus, is how the mass of suffering called the world comes into being.

Thus from the act of seeing, genesis, or the origin of life, and its round of suffering set the whirling of endless births and rebirths in motion. The eye grasps at its object, and vision arises producing a sense of feeling corresponding to what it sees. If this phenomenon is not analysed with insight-knowledge for a proper appraisal of the nature of things, craving will play havoc with your life as you make exertions for the fulfillment of desires by all means. Then kamma-actions induce rebirths that bring miseries of old age and death. This applies mutatis mutandis to other sense-bases. And, in this way, saṃsāra, the wheel of existence goes round and round.


How can this cycle of saṃsāra be cut off? I shall tell you about the annihilation of the round of existence based, on the same Nidāna-vagga Saṃyutta.

            Katamo ca bhikkhave lokassa aṭṭhaṅgamo; Cakkhunca paticca rūpe ca upajjati cakkhuviññāṇam; tinnaṃ sangati phasso; phassapaccayā vedanā; vedanāpaccayā taṇhā; tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho; bhāvanirodhā jātinirodho; jātinirodha jātinirodhā jārāmaranaṃ, soka, parideva, dukkha, domanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti. Eva me tassa kevalassa dukkhakhandhassa nirodho hoti. Ayaṃ kho bhikkhave lokassa aṭṭhaṅgamo.

            What, bhikkhus, is the annihilation of the world or existence? Dependent on eye and sense-object, visual consciousness arises. The meeting of the three --- eye, object and consciousness -- produce contact. Through contact, feeling arises, and through feeling, craving. That craving is totally annihilated (by the Path of the Worthy Ones) leaving no residue. When craving ceases, clinging also ceases; when clinging ceases, becoming also ceases; when becoming ceases, birth also ceases; when birth ceases old age and death cannot arise. And then sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are obliterated. And, in this manner, all the rounds of suffering come to an end. This, bhikkhus, is how the mass of suffering called the world is annihilated.

From the act of seeing, feeling arises; and when this feeling is properly observed and noted through insight-meditation, all the three rounds of suffering will be annihilated. For further understanding of the subject I shall quote Sammasa sutta of the same Saṃyutta.


            Ye hi keci bhikkhave etarahi samaṇā vā brahmaṇā vā yaṃ loke piyarūpaṃ sātarūpam; taṃ aniccato passanti; dukkhato rogato phayato passanti; te taṇhaṃ pajahanti -- upadhim pajahanti -- dukkhaṃ pajahanti; ye dukkhaṃ pajahanti; te pari-muccanti jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi parivedehi dukkhehi domanassahi upāyāsehi; parimuccanti dukkhasmāti vadāmi.

            "Presently, bhikkhus, there are some monks or Brahmins who reflect that what appears to be agreeable or delightful is after all anicca, impermanence, dukkha, suffering, and anatta, unsubstantiality, to be regarded as disease, and therefore, as abhorrent. They abandon craving, and consequently the substrata of being, upadhi, and finally eliminate all suffering. They are then released from the hold of rebirth with its attendants sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. And, I say unto you that in this way they are liberated from miseries."

According to this sutta, if one sees an object and reflect on its phenomenon in the light of the Three Marks of anicca, dukkha and anatta, craving will be eliminated at the very instant insight-knowledge arises; and then all the three rounds of suffering will be halted. That particular moment of realization is the moment of truth. It is the moment of tadaṅga nibbāna, momentary annihilation of all the three rounds of suffering caused by defilement, action and kamma-result.


As insight-knowledge is developed and as the Path and its fruition are realized, all defilements are exterminated. Then kamma-forces cease to operate and no actions are renewed. So after the parinibbāna-death consciousness has taken place, the round of khandhās comes to a halt. This is called anupādisesa nibbāna, that is, nibbāna without the substratum of being (upadi) remaining. It means the aggregates and passions have been totally discarded. It is true that, by the time of the realization of the Path, total cessation has already been effected; but it is not so apparent as when parinibbāna death occurs. When a palm-tree breaks into two, the upper trunk falls to the ground, leaving the lower stump erect. This stump gives the illusion that the tree is intact and alive. When it rots and falls to the ground, the entire tree disappears. An Arahat is like that stump. He has abandoned the entire tree disappears. An Arahat is like that stump. He has abandoned aggregates and passions by the time he realizes the Path. But the old khandhā remains with him; and so the cessation is not intelligible. But with the achievement of parinibbāna, he disappears totally just as the stump does. Earlier I gave you the verse recited by Ānandā about the extinction of the aggregates being like a flame extinguished. All these allegories describe how khandhās cease.

Having banished all defilements, no miseries or suffering arise. But as the body has not yet been discarded, the Arahat may experience physical discomforts which may be construed as material suffering. Kamma-formations continue to do their job inside the material self, and, therefore, sufferings relating to the Arahat's body are still there. When, however, nibbāna is achieved, peace is with him with its concomitant, coolness.


Sāriputtarā used to exult, saying, "Brethren! Verily, Nibbāna is happiness! Verily, Nibbāna is happiness! Kāludāyī was not satisfied with this statement, and so he asked," "Where in the world will this happiness be, when in Nibbāna one has neither feelings nor passions?"

Yes, indeed, there is no vedenā, feeling in Nibbāna. Then where can happiness be? The elder monk, Kāludāyī, rushed in where angels fear to tread, because he was foolish. He was nicknamed Kāludāyī, lālu being a term for jester.

"Indeed?" replied Sāriputtarā, "in Nibbāna there is neither feeling nor passion; and this absence itself is happiness."

There are two kinds of happiness, sensual and non-sensual. When six sense-objects supply satisfaction or pleasure, it is called vedayita sukka, happiness derived from the sense. In the sensual world, the five pleasures of the sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch are regarded as the best. They do not like to be deprived of them. Those who like chewing betel or smoking are not well-disposed to living in an environment where these luxuries are denied. Gluttons do not like to be born in the world of Brahmas where eating is absolutely unnecessary. In that world there is no differentiation of sex. Absence of sexuality makes the five constituents of sensual pleasures superfluous; but sensuous persons do not like that absence. Where ignorance and craving predominate, Nibbāna is unwanted for lack of sensual pleasures. Kāludāyī is one example of the category of those not liking Nibbāna. Sāriputtarā had to admonish him saying that absence of vedanā itself is Nibbāna. Peace and happiness not derived from sensual pleasures constitute avedayita sukha.


True bliss is santi sukha, bliss of peace and serenity. You may think that sensual pleasures give you happiness; but that is not true happiness. Such pleasures are merely like the satisfaction a smoker derives from smoking. They are also like the pleasures of a man suffering from itches who feels that scratching gives him the sensations of pleasure.

Suppose you are made to enjoy the pleasures of the sights of men and women, handsome and pretty, or of beautiful paintings without a break or rest for a space of one minute or one second, or for one month or for one year. Can you do it? Suppose you are asked to listen to good music all day long, or all month, or all year round. Can you do it? If you are consuming delicacies, can you continue to enjoy them day in and day out? Can you be enjoying all pleasurable contacts indefinitely? If all pleasures are to be enjoyed without rest or sleep, you will surely get bored in the end. Is not rest or sleep a moment of peace that brings true happiness without the interference of sense-objects?

He who is familiar with only sensual pleasures think highly of them. Enjoyment is his summum bonum. In Buddha's time a doctrine was current among heretics to the effect that suffering could be exterminated during the present state of existence without the extinction of existence. Followers of that doctrine were known as diṭṭhadhammavādīs. They used to preach: "Enjoy all kinds of sensual pleasures wherever available. This is the ultimate good." This is mentioned in Brahmajāla Sutta. Those who know only jhānic or Brahmanic bliss to the exclusion of other kinds of felicity praise it to the skies. In fact Brahma Baka told Buddha that Brahmanic bliss was the most enjoyable.

One would like to think that the kind of victuals obtainable in cities and towns appear to be more delicious than that available in villages. In the same way people would like to think that jhānic bliss is better than sensual pleasures. In fact, the kind of bliss attained through the Path and its fruition is better than jhānic bliss. Going a step further, nibbāna bliss is better than the bliss of the Path and its fruition.


Regarding jhānic bliss Sāriputtarā commented as follows, first pointing out the nature of the sensual pleasures:

A visible object gives rise to eye-consciousness, an audible object to ear-consciousness, a smell-object to nose-consciousness, a taste-object to tongue-consciousness and a tangible object to touch-consciousness. All these objects of the senses appeal to the mind, generate sense of love or affection, produce sensuality and incite lust. They all go to make the five constituents of sensual pleasures, kāmaguṇa. In the world of the senses those who has the opportunity to enjoy these five constituents feel that they have attained happiness.

On the practice of the first jhāna, sensual pleasures are abandoned. He who gains jhāna gets absorbed in the jhāna-factors of vitakka initial application, vicāra, sustained application, pīti, rapture, sukha, happiness and ekaggatā, one pointedness. The course of the first jhānic rapture and happiness flows continuously without interruption unlike the earthy joys of the senses that arise by fits and starts. In the sensual world one may feel happy at one moment and sad at another. But the thrill of the jhānic bliss goes on without interruption for some length of time. If, during the period of concentrating on this jhānic bliss, a yogī happens to recall sensual pleasures that he enjoyed previous to the absorption, he will be remorseful, suffering mental pain which may be likened to the pain of an old wound receiving a fresh blow. It means that to a yogī entranced in jhāna, the very memory of the pleasures of the senses is enough to generate abhorrence and fear. He therefore, looks forward to the attainment of Nibbāna where no vedanā, sensation, arises.


When one gets absorbed in the second jhāna after the first, rapture and joy gain momentum merging into one-pointedness which prevails throughout without any impediment for one or two hours at a stretch. If, by chance, the first jhāna-consciousness arises during initial and sustained applications, the yogī concentrating on second jhāna would feel painful at the thought of that consciousness as much as one feels painful when a fresh blow is given to an old wound. These remarks apply also to those achieving the third and fourth jhānas recalling lesser jhānas during their concentration.

If may be shown here that happiness derived from the first jhāna far transcends that derived from sensual pleasures, that derived from the second jhāna far transcends that derived from the first, that derived from the third far transcends that derived from the second, and that derived from the fourth far transcends that derived from the third compared to such jhānic happiness, the joy of arūpa jhāna is far superior to that enjoyed in the other four ordinary jhāna states. The four arūpa jhāna are: Ākāsanaṅcāyatana, absorptions in the Infinity of Space, Viññānaṅcāyatana, absorptions in the Infinity of consciousness, Akincannāyatana, absorptions in Nothingness and Nevāsaññā nāsaññāyatana, absorptions in neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Each jhāna is better than the other. But even in the highest arūpa jhāna, namely N'eva saññā N'asaññāyatana, highly subtle sensations can arise. So Nibbāna happiness where all sensations cease far transcends that which can be encountered in the highest arūpa state.

So, Nibbāna bliss is higher and nobler than jhāna bliss. Yogīs know that rapture and joy experienced at the stage of saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa far excels those experienced at that of udayabbaya ñāṇa. When the fruition of the Path is accomplished, rapture and joy experienced at the accomplishment are paramount. hence we say avedayita or santi sukha far excels vedayita sukha. Those who cannot practise insight-meditation or jhāna may be able to appreciate the different grades of happiness now enumerated and come to the conclusion that santi sukha is paramount.

They may also come to realize that in the realm of Buddhism, there are far higher ideals which we cannot easily fathom; and this may serve as an impetus to strive after the development of faith in the dhamma.

The teaching of all the Buddhas says that Nibbāna is paramount. It is cessation of all vedanās or sensations. In the absence of sensations, peace and coolness reign supreme. All sufferings relating to old age, disease, death and dissolution cease. As it is deathless, its bliss is indestructible. It is, therefore, the highest bliss.

I shall now close with a resume of what I have said. Nibbāna is where the round of suffering ceases. It is also the instrument by which this cessation is brought about. It is the state of annihilation of the round of suffering.

Ignorance, craving and clinging constitute the round of defilement.

Actions perpetrated according to the dictates of the round of defilement constitute the round of action, moral or immoral.

The aggregates that arise at rebirth as a result of meritorious or demeritorious deeds constitute the round of kamma-results.

Happiness derived from contact with the six sense-objects is called vedayita sukha.

Peace and calm associated with the absence of sensations arising out of six sense-objects is called avedayita sukha.

It is not always opportune to hear a discourse on nibbāna. For the preacher, too, opportunities to deliver such a discourse are few and far between. Buddha in his life time often preached Nibbāna Patisaṃyutta Kathā. This fact is recorded in Udāna Pāḷi Text and I shall on the next occasion have something to say about it.

May all who have listened to this discourse enjoy Nibbāna bliss which far transcends vedayita sukha having realized the Path and its fruition in a short space of time.

Sādhu!    SĀDHU!     SĀDHU!

Chapter 2


(Delivered on the full moon day of Tawthalin, 1326 M.E., corresponding to September 21, 1964).

In my dissertation on Nibbāna, last week, I defined it as the cessation of the three rounds of suffering. Today, I shall attempt at differentiating saṅkhāra from Nibbāna according to the Pāḷi Text, Patisambhidā Magga. (saṅkhāra is a multi-significant term, ordinarily referring to all mental states. It has been variously translated as volitional or conditioning activities, or mental formations or kamma-formations. Here it is applied to all conditioned things which are subject to change-- Translator.

Saṅkhāra and Nibbāna


The Text says: uppādo saṅkhāra; anuppā-do nibbānaṃ. It means that arising as saṅkhāra, and not-arising is Nibbāna.

Meditating yogīs know inwardly that every conditioned thing comes up afresh every time it gets dissolved. As saṅkhāruppekkhā ñāṇa, knowledge of equanimity towards the five khandhās or aggregates, develops, he becomes aware of a state which is beyond the phenomena of arising and passing away. It means that it has gone beyond saṅkhāra to come nearer to Nibbāna. Saṅkhāra is diametrically opposed to Nibbāna; and the two are incompatible. If one exists, the other disappears. Where there is no arising, there is Nibbāna; and conversely where there is arising, there is no Nibbāna. One can see no light in the darkness, and no darkness in the light.

With sentient beings, nāma and rūpa renew their states at the time of conception. It happens in this way, Immediately after rebirth-consciousness, bhavaṅga (passive consciousness or factor of life) arises. It is from this moment of arising that material phenomena arising from the mind spring up. This process continues and nāma and rūpa come into being in succession in accordance with the types of consciousness appropriate to the objects perceived. For instance, mind-consciousness occurs when one thinks of an object, and touch consciousness when one touches it; and through such consciousness is conditioned nāmarūpa, mentality-materiality or psycho-physical entity. This "becoming" goes throughout life, after birth has taken place. When this life has run its course, it is renewed in the next existence and this goes on ad infinitum. In other words, formations, influenced jointly or unitedly by kamma, moral or immoral types of consciousness, citta, mind, utu, climatic conditions and āhāra, nutriment, are termed saṅkhāra which can be perceived by insight-knowledge. After repeated meditational exercises, a yogī will experience that his consciousness, without prompting, flows on like a stream into the region of non esse. That moment of realization of the cessation is the moment of nibbāna-bliss which makes itself felt through the knowledge of the Path and its fruition.


The Text says: Pavattaṃ saṅkhāra; āpa-vattaṃ nibbānaṃ. It means: occurrence is saṅkhāra, and non-occurrence is nibbāna. Pavatti strictly means a course of existence between rebirth-consciousness and death consciousness.

Nāma and rūpa are constantly formed through the process of arising and passing away and they flow like a stream. When an object of mind or an object of sense enters this stream, other types of consciousness, such as mind-consciousness or touch-consciousness occur, as stated before, appropriate to the objects perceived. Conditioned things are formed in this way and life-continuum goes on like a running stream. That being so, worldlings think that the continuous mass of mentality-materiality exists without suffering any change. They think that their bodies that they see now at the present moment are the same as that existed when they were young. Form such notions arises attachment to self and to the idea of permanence of self. Owing to this attachment realities are not appreciated. When they experience the onset of pleasurable sensations assailing their minds, they mistake them for happiness. Not being able to grasp the ultimate truth like nāma and rūpa, they are led to believe in nicca, permanence, sukha, happiness, and atta, self.

The meditating yogī knows through insight the process of formation and dissolution of conditioned things. So his conviction in impermanence stands firm. He also realizes that what is impermanent is unsatisfactory, and what is unsatisfactory is suffering. He sees no "I" in any phenomenon. As he notes the arising and passing away of nāma and rūpa, he perceives that this round of formation and dissolution is endless. What he thus sees with the aid of insight-meditation is pavatta. Concentrating his mind on it incessantly, he arrives at saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa, knowledge of equanimity, when he is inclined to the element of peace where the stream of nāma and rūpa ceases to flow. As nothing occurs at this stage, it is called apavatta. That moment when this knowledge blooms forth through the consciousness of the Path and its fruition is the moment of truth when the yogī becomes at one with Nibbāna.


The Text says: Nimittaṃ saṅkhāra; animittaṃ nibbānaṃ. It means: the presence of signs (of conditioned things or sentient existence) is saṅkhāra; and absence of those signs is nibbāna. In other words, Nibbāna is signless.

Those not given to insight-meditation believe that the objects that they see have definite shapes or forms or dimensions. Even the meditating yogī thinks so in the beginning of his meditional exercises. In accordance with the rules of Satipaṭṭhāna, he may be noting the fact that he is walking as he walks, but he cannot shake off his awareness that, in the process of walking, his leg is being lifted and that his body is moving. He feels the sensation of movement of his form, the body. Similarly when he is noting the rising and falling of his abdomen, he is always reminded of the shape and form of his abdomen. It means that he is aware of the signs of the presence of conditioned things which are subject to change. These signs are saṅkhāra.

However, when he attains a higher stage of insight-knowledge, he is only aware of vāyo, the element of motion, which arises and then disappears. He now gains the conviction that all is impermanent. In this way he arrives at bhaṅga ñāṇa, knowledge of dissolution of conditioned things.


Visuddhi Magga has this to say:

            Nāne tikkhe vahante saṅkhāra lahum upatthahantesu uppādaṃ vā thitin pavattaṃ vā nimittaṃ vā na sammapunāti, khaya vaya bheda nirodhe yeva sati santitthati.

When his knowledge works keenly, formations become quickly apparent. Then he no longer extends his mindfulness to their arising or presence or occurrence or sign but brings it to bear only on their cessation as destruction, fall and break-up.

(This translation is by bhikkhu Ñāṇa-moli in his "The Path of Purification," published by R. Semage, Colombo, 1956.)

When the yogī's knowledge is rendered sharp with the practice of meditation, the act of noting and recognizing the object under observation is quickened so much so that, when he becomes aware of the formations, saṅkhāra, he could extend his mindfulness only to the cessation of the phenomenon. This happens in this way.

Each thought-moment of consciousness has three instants, namely, uppādi (arising or genesis) as the beginning, thiti, (static state or development) as the intermediate, and bhaṅga (cessation or dissolution) as the end of the phenomenon of consciousness that takes place.

Before the practice of insight-meditation, the yogī is not conscious of these three instants of the thought-moments. To him, therefore, all forms, conventional concepts and signs indicate that every phenomenon takes place as one continuous chain of events. He think that events flow like a stream without a break. When he starts developing the foremost step in meditation, namely, nāmarūpa pariccheda ñāṇa, knowledge arrived at by dissecting mind and body into their ultimate parts, his notions of continuity dwindle to a certain extent. When sammāsana ñāṇa is developed in him, he gains the knowledge of the arisings and ceasings of the past, present and future events as uppāda, thiti and bhaṅga. But even then he thinks that they are durable since they are concatenated. When udayabbaya ñāṇa, knowledge of the rise and fall of aggregates, is realized, he is aware of the beginning, uppāda, and end, bhaṅga, of the thought-moment, the actual occurrence, pavatta, the intermediate instant, being not apparent. When bhaṅga ñāṇa, knowledge of dissolution, is realized, the signs of saṅkhāra relating to arising and development subside leaving only dissolution or cessation for the yogī to notice. But it does not mean that he is now in sight of Nibbāna. He has been enabled to recognize saṅkhāra only with the application of the Three Marks of anicca, dukkha and anatta. It is only when he attains saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa, knowledge of equanimity towards all conditioned things, that he is able to cultivate indifference to all signs that indicate formations or saṅkhāra, namely, arising, development and cessation. When, finally, he reflects with paccavekkhaṇā ñāṇa, knowledge of self-appreciation, on the Path, its fruition, passions already destroyed, passions to be further destroyed and Nibbāna, then he arrives at the ultimate stage where all signs of saṅkhāra disappear.


Commentaries describe Nibbāna by its chacteristics, functions and manifestations. The characteristic of Nibbāna is peace, its function deathlessness and its manifestation signlessness. Insight into signlessness can be achieved only through the knowledge of the Path and its fruition aided by the knowledge of self-appreciation, paccavekkhaṇā ñāṇa. As Noble Ones reflect on the Path and its fruition the absence of form, conventional concept and sign becomes apparent.


In Milinda Pañhā, Nāgasena thera told King Milinda that there is nothing that can be equated with Nibbābna. It has no shape or form, no size, and no dimension. It cannot be perceived by reasoning, or by disputation, or by metaphorical presentation. It is beyond compare. It is neither white nor black, nor bright nor dark, nor big nor small. Nibbāna is the cessation of the three rounds of defilement, action and action-result. Writing in 1305 M.E.(1943) I said in my "insight-meditation" by way of introduction.

Nibbāna is not a mansion or a palace. It is no city. It is not light. There is no luminescence in Nibbāna. It has no element of lucidity and coolness. Mansions, places, cities, light, luminescence, lucidity and coolness are not unconditioned, asaṅkhata, or ultimate realities, paramattha.

I wrote that piece objectively without intending to impugn anything to anybody. But later I found a book which represents Nibbāna as an expanse of luminosity. Readers might think that I was writing a tirade against the writer of that book. But no! I wrote without any thought of it. I now repeat the words of Milinda Pañhā when I say that Nibbāna is Formless. A yogī concentrating on it with saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa (knowledge of equanimity), anuloma ñāṇa (knowledge of adaptation) and gotrabhu ñāṇa (knowledge of overcoming worldly lineage with Nibbāna as its object) will get lost in the stream of consciousness which acknowledges the cessation of all saṅkhāra. At this stage, both the noting mind and the object noted appear to be dissolving.


The Text says: Āyuhanā saṅkhāra; anā-yuhanā nibbānaṃ. It means accumulation (of actions) is saṅkhāra and non-accumulation is Nibbāna. Grammatical connotation of āyuhanā is "constructing or assembling." as in constructing a house where the builder assembles materials in an appropriate manner. Efforts to accumulate actions constitute saṅkhāra. Where such efforts are wanting, there you will find Nibbāna.

As saṅkhāra's function is to accumulate, its characteristic is formation, which may be either passive or active. Where formation is conditioned by the four composite factors of the so-called being, namely, kammic force, mind, climate and nutriment, it is passive. Nāma and rūpa are subjected to these four factors. It is with reference to this nāmarūpa that we say all saṅkhāras are impermanent, unsatisfactory and unsubstantial. Cetasika is concomitant of consciousness, and it is also called saṅkhārakkhandhā, mental formation. When it operates to cause mental, verbal or physical conduct, the characteristic of saṅkhāra is said to be active. Cetanā is volition which is a component of cetasika. It produces vipāka, result, either good or bad, in conformity with the mental, verbal and physical actions performed meritoriously or demeritoriously. kusala or akusalas arise in this manner, and it is this kamma that is active saṅkhāra that causes the renewal of existence after the old khandhās have passed away. Where cetanā fails to occur, no new nāma and rūpa arise.

But as shown previously, in the absence of defilements, actions become mainly functional and ineffective Defilements are eliminated when the Path and its fruition are reached through insight-meditation. Freed from the influence of kilesas, past kammas are rendered effete, and they are utterly unable to bring about the formation of a new existence. With arahats all khandhās cease together with all passions; and this state of Nibbāna is known as anupādisesa.


It has been suggested that anāyuhanā is the opposite of making exertions to accumulate actions that bring about kamma-formations. If this is not seen in its  proper light, it may be misinterpreted that one should make no effort to accumulate actions. What is meant here is that in the absence of defilements, actions cannot accumulate, and that, therefore, meritorious deeds appear to be superfluous with reference to the Arahats. You should not run away with the idea that if you do not do anything, there will be no kammic force, and therefore, no kamma-result. That may be possible, but impracticable. Certain elements wrongly interpret the Text and say, "All efforts lead to suffering. Making no effort is cessation, and is, therefore, Nibbāna. Almsgiving, practising morality and meditating for mental development are superfluous. Keep the mind inert. This leads to Nibbāna." In 1952, when I came to Yangon, I heard over the radio such teachings which might please those who have no mind to exert in the practice of the dhamma. Such teachings are contrary to what Buddha taught. In the Piṭakas it has been said that all akusala (malevolence should be shunned and that charity, morality and mental development must be practised. No-where has it been said that no kusala (benevolence) should be done! Without the accumulation of good deeds, bad kamma can never be obviated.


Doing good needs faith, willingness and effort. It is difficult of achievement. To accomplish, it is like going against the tide. Evil, however, can be easily done, for to commit them no special effort or impetus is necessary. It goes naturally. Therefore we say that an evildoer drifts with the tide. When law and prudence intervene, akusala, bad actions, are checked to a certain extent. For ordinary worldlings there are only two things to choose--to do good, kusala kamma, or to do evil, akusala kamma. For so long as good deeds remain undone, evil will predominate. If, for every hundred minutes, ninety minutes are devoted to the execution of evil by akusala citta, malevolent mind, there will be only ten minutes left for kusala citta, benevolent mind, to work its way. If this bare ten minutes of good deeds are to be abandoned, evil will get the better of you for fully a hundred minutes.

A person not practising bhāvanā, mental discipline, has no way of knowing how to put evil in restraint. For, in the face of various objects that give pleasure to the senses, how can an ordinary men control has mind not to get attached to sensual pleasures? He will forever be pleased with what desirable objects that he sees or hears.

A family man hardly exercises restraint in the fulfillment of his family's desires and wants, and he will go any length to realize it. A single man, without the ties of marriage, will also be unable to resist the temptation offered by pleasurable sense-objects. Since he has all the privileges of enjoying what is there to be enjoyed, he would not care to control his passions of greed, anger and ignorance. He is sure to let off his anger if he encounters any objects which he regards as undesirable. There is the story of an uncle and a nephew regarding mind-control. The younger man used to say, "Leave the mind alone, By giving it the reins, it can keep out kilesā of its own accord." The elder man seemed to get disgusted with such wisecracks and gave his nephew a slap on the cheek. When asked why he did so, the uncle explained that he was testing the truth of the statement made. The young man, needless to say, became very angry. Anger can be discarded only when Arahatship is attained through the practice of insight-meditation.

In Buddha's time, Sāriputtarā was known for his calmness. He was never angry. A Brahmin, not believing in the elder's conquest of passions, came up to him from behind and gave him a blow. Sāriputtarā, however, moved on unperturbed. Then only did the brahmin realize his mistake, and made apologies. An Arahat possesses equanimity through the extermination or all passions like anger, etc., with the practice of insight-meditation which brings forth Path-consciousness.

When you see disgusting things can you control your mind so that you do not feel revolting, sad, dejected or troubled? Without the practice of insight-meditation you can never know how to control the mind.


Where kusala is not practised, akusala prevails. If one practises charity, morality and mental development, one can be comfortably reborn in the world of men or devas, even though one may not have aspired to the Path and its fruition. In the latter predicament of not having been able to realize the Path, if one practises mental development wherever one is reborn, one can in the end tread the Path. But if one neglects doing good unable to accumulates goodness, one's bad actions will lead to results appropriate to what one has done, and one will suffer for them. One may even go to nether worlds. Hence instructions not to practise good must be viewed with apprehension. That is the reason why I always insist on all and sundry to do meritorious deeds. Let me repeat here that anāyuhanā does not mean to shun doing good. It only means that is abandons kusala or akusala that gives rise to rebirth-consciousness. Good actions help to develop bhaṅga ñāṇa, knowledge of dissolving things as fearful, ādinava ñāṇa, knowledge of fearful things as baneful and nibbidā ñāṇa, knowledge of baneful things as disgusting.


Freed of all defilements like greed, anger and ignorance, Arahats never commit evil deeds. That is quite obvious. Questions may arise, however, whether merits can be accumulated with them for their practice of charity, morality, concentration, insight-meditation, loving-kindness doing obeisance to Buddha; but since defilements are absent, such good deeds produce no results. It may be remembered that in Namakāra Devotional Verse Buddha is described as having renounced both kusala and akusala kammas for he has eliminated the rounds of defilement and action. Arahats can also eliminate them. But unlike Buddha they cannot do away with vāsanā, impression of the past good or bad actions remaining on the mind. Here, in the Devotional verse renunciation of kusala kammas means that actions are rendered ineffective because defilements have been exterminated by means of Path-consciousness.

For worldling actions, moral or immoral, both past and present, produce results in the form of rebirth-linking. In this way sentient beings go through innumerable existence. For so long as khandhās continue to arise, suffering is endless.


Of this rebirth-linking, Patisaṃbhidā Magga has this to say: patisandhi saṅkhārā; appasandhi nibbānaṃ. It means rebirth-linking is saṅkhāra; absence of rebirth-linking is Nibbāna.

Rebirth-linking is so called because it links across the gap separating the end of the former existence from the beginning of the next existence. Past existence becomes linked with the present ad infinitum for so long as the law of actions is working. This linking brings about life in nether worlds, or in petā world, or in animal world, or, for that matter in other worlds as well. To be born again and again in the abodes of suffering just mentioned is horrible indeed. Unless one gains Arahatship, one will be lost in the round of existence. Even sotāpannas will have to go for seven rounds in the sphere of the senses. A sakadāgāmi has two existences to go. An anāgām: shall roam about in suddhavāsa plane where he is destined to attain Arahatship. For the rest all will be in the realm of defilement that paves the way to endless rebirths. But as I have said, with Arahats all the three rounds of action, defilement and result of action cease. This is appatisandhi, the characteristic of Nibbāna. It may, therefore, be said that Nibbāna is Unborn.

Those who have developed bhaya, ādinava and nibbidā ñāṇas usually suffers from ennui becoming disgusted with the round of sufferings, having realized the truth through Path-consciousness. Looking forward to Nibbāna, they practise insight-meditation to eliminate defilements and tread the Path. This is the realization of Nibbāna itself; but as the substrata of existence have not yet been discarded, it is called saupadisesa nibbāna in contradistinction to anupadisesa nibbāna, where no aggregates remain after the extirpation of all passions.


We are all carrying heavy loads-the load of kilesā, the load of abhisaṅkhāra and the load of khandhā.

A. Kilesa Load

Kilesā, defilement, embraces all passions such as greed, anger and ignorance or delusion. It imposes a heavy burden on us -- a burden of sins, for man is prone to committing murder, thievery, etc., at the dictates of his passions. Evil deeds cause suffering.


Accumulation of actions, moral or immoral, performed by an individual, is ābhisaṅkhāra, which is another name for kamma-formations. It is also a heavy load. When actions performed are evil, they lead the evil-doer to worlds of suffering like hell. When an individual is reborn in happy conditions, as in heaven, as a result of moral actions, he will still be troubled with old age, disease and death. Whether he is satisfied with his kamma-results or not, he cannot get away from these three undesirable conditions. So he carries his load of actions, willy-nilly, unable to avoid the round of suffering. Even when he is reborn a man, he may be so reborn in wretched poverty, afflicted with disease and troubled with ill-health. Even though he may have good kamma-results awaiting him, he may not have the opportunity to enjoy these results if bad kamma overtakes him afterwards. He will, as usual, be forced to put up with miseries. In real life, it may be possible for him to avoid punishment for his crimes. If he has a good lawyer to plead for him, he may come out of the case an innocent man. In extenuating circumstances, he may bribe for his freedom. And then, there is amnesty to save him. But with kamma there is no escape from the law of retribution. If may be lying dormant for eons in the course of the rounds of existence, but when it discovers an opportunity to rear its head, it will make its presence felt. Heavy, therefore, is the load of actions and action-results!

There is only one way to abandon the abhisaṅkhāra-load; and that is for the yogī to practise insight-meditation. If he attains the state of a sotāpanna, all unprofitable actions cease; and he can never go down to nether worlds. If he attains Arahatship, all the loads will be lifted off his shoulders, and no new "becoming" will arise. But before a Worthy One enters the state of parinibbāna, the past bad kammas can take their effects. It is said that even Buddhas cannot evade vipākas or kamma-results, or the results of residual bad actions (inherited, as if it were, from former existences.)


Because of the abhisaṅkhāra-load, the khandhā-load has to be carried from existence to existence. New khandhās arise as a consequence of the past old khandhās. They are very active, constantly moving about walking, sitting, standing or lying down. They have to be fed cleansed and clothed. They like pleasure and so they have to be appeased with objects that give them pleasurable sensations. In an attempt to fulfil their desires, one is compelled to do things which are sinful. When a crime is committed, it affects only the environment that surrounds the criminal, and that is the end of it. But when an immoral act is committed, it worries the sinner throughout the endless rounds of existence. To escape from them he will have to accumulate good actions with the development of good perception, good formation and good consciousness. When one gets old, one feels the heavy burden. He learns that it has to be carried not for one brief moment but for life, nay, for the entire saṃsāra, without any respite, without any limit of weight or distance of time. I have told you elsewhere about the rounds of defilement, of action and of action-result. In essence, these three rounds have a bearing on the three loads that I am talking about.

To sum up, all defilements of the mind like greed, anger and ignorance constitute the load of kilesā, all moral or immoral actions constitute the load of abhisaṅkhārā, and all the five aggregates constitute the load of khandhās.


Since Arahats have eliminated all defilements through Path-consciousness, they succeed in laying down the burden of kilesā; and that being so, their past kammas are rendered ineffective after their parinibbāna. This is to say past kammas can no longer create new "becoming" for then. But during their life time, they continue to give results for their actions. Commentaries say that Buddha was affluent in his day because of his past good kammas. But he was accused of being immoral by Sundari, the female ascetic, because his past vipāka (action-result) was working against him at that time. With Sivali thera, bountifulness was his hall-mark, because he was generous in giving alms in his previous existences. With Lokasatissa poverty and want troubled him always because of his past kamma of niggardliness.


Arahats are often described as holy men with no burden on their shoulders. Their accomplishment is the realization of the fruits of the Path. With them the cord of existence has been severed. In modern parlance we use the expression: cutting the chains. But with Arahats it is more than cutting the chains of human bondage. Saṃyojana, the bond of human passion which entangles man to endless round of existence, is entirely cut off by Arahat. Freed from this chain of existence, it is no longer necessary for them to be born anew. A man negligent of the dhamma fails to cut off the chain of existence which could, at one time or another, drag him down to four nether worlds if his kammas prove bad. Hence the Dhammapada says, "A worldling negligent of the dhamma makes four nether worlds his permanent residence."

Men live in their own houses. If circumstances compel them to visit other people's houses, they might stay there for a while as guests and return to their own houses. In the same way, when their permanent address is hell, they might, once in a while, pay a visit to higher planes of existence to come back to their rightful place. Sometimes, people born unto this world as men or women go up to the sphere of the Brahmas by dint of their good kammas. But the cord of sensual existence drags him down to the human abode. So they die as Brahmas to be reborn as men or women in this world.

When a tether is short the bullock cannot roam about beyond what the tether allows. In the same way a man tethered to a cord of narrow confines of existence cannot go beyond those confines. When his cord of existence allows him to roam about only in form sphere or formless sphere, he will never be able to go beyond the limits to approach Nibbāna. Hence he continues to live in misery, suffering, old age, ill-health and death. But Arahats know that they have cut off the cord of existence once and for all.


Arahats are praised for their achievement in the extermination of āsava, canker, and kilesā, defilement. (āsava in all worldlings to rise as depravities to the surface as soon as opportunity arises.) Like all sentient beings, Arahats possess faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching since all sense-bases are situated in their physical bodies. As these sense-bases remain unimpaired with them, they can see, hear, smell, taste and touch the sense-objects and differentiate which among them is good or bad. In matters of five faculties of the senses, they are like ordinary human beings because they cannot as yet do away with vedanā, sensation. They know what misery is like and what happiness is like. But since they have discarded defilements like anger, etc., they do not feel unhappy, although, of course, they may recognize physical discomforts as such. Conditioned by seasonal changes, they may feel hot or cold. They may feel fit or unfit according to their conditions of health. When objects of sense are not pleasing they may feel awkward physically, but mentally they are indifferent. They have virtually no interest in pleasure or pain. No greed, nor anger nor ignorance arise in him on account of the pleasurable sensations created by sense-objects.


In the Arahat, rāga, lust, has ceased arising and so are anger and ignorance. He sees, eye-consciousness arises; he knows, but he has no feelings of lust, anger and ignorance. All passions are spent with him. This cessation of passion is saupādisesa nibbāna, annihilation of the flames to lust, anger and ignorance with the substrata of being remaining.

Once the Path is realized an Arahat enjoys saupādisesa nibbāna till he enters parinibbāna. He is absolutely happy in that state because he has discarded all suffering caused by the round of defilement. But the body -- the aggregates -- still remain with him, and this for one or two thousand cycles in the case of those who realized the Path while in the plane of the Brahmas. This is good in a way, because in that world physical suffering and unpleasant objects are non-existent. But for those who realized the Path in this human world, he will have to put up with the ills that the flesh is heir to, for instance, the drudgery of making daily rounds for food, washing the face or taking bath daily, etc. In this way he, althougth an Arahat, has to carry the burden of the aggregates in spite of the fact that he has no attachment for them.

Bakula thera, who gained pre-eminence as the healthiest among Buddha's disciples, lived to be 160, becoming an Arahat at the age of 80 and dying, that is, entering parinibbāna, 80 years after. That means that he carried the load of his khandhās for 160 years becoming liberated from the shackles of the aggregates as well as human passions only after parinibbāna. But he neither wished for long life nor for death. I told you last week that an Arahat neither yearns for life nor for death although he eagerly awaits parinibbāna.

Anupādisesa Nibbāna

Anupādisesa nibbāna is the annihilation of passions together with the aggregates. Thus it has been expounded in Itivuttaka. It says it is the attainment by a noble bhikkhu who is worthy of respect and homage earned by dint of his abandonment of canker and defilement, having practised all there is to be practised, having accomplished all there is to be accomplished, having laid down the burden of khandhās, having cut off the cord of existence, having been emancipated though knowledge fully-acquired, having rejected vedanā, sensation, as not delightful, and finally, having gained peace and tranquility during his life-time.

The important point to note here is that vedanā ceases with the parinibbāna of the Arahat. For worldlings, and even for trained yogīs, it cannot be discarded. They are wont to accept it as delightful, and, therefore, there arises in them an attachment to it. Being attached to vedanā, they take it on even at the moment of death-consciousness. It, therefore, flows on, as arising of rebirth-linking consciousness. Consequently new becoming arises. But with the Arahat the cessation of vedanā has been initiated in his life-time. It may be remembered that an analogy has been drawn from the dying out of a flame with regard to that cessation. This dying out started in his life-time. Since vedanā has thus been smouldered, there is no opportunity for becoming to rear its head after his parinibbāna.

What has been said about vedanā applies mutatis mutandis to saññā, perception, saṅkhāra, mental formations, and viññāna, consciousness, which all cease as vedanā ceases. Together with rñpa, matter, they all constitute khandhā depending on which vipāka, result of actions, comes into being. With the negation of khandhā and vipāka, annihilation is finally accomplished by the Arahat without the strata of existence remaining.


Regarding the two elements of Nibbāna, there are two gāthas (verses) taken from Itivuttaka, which are worthy of note.

Duve imā cakkhumatā pakāsitā,
Nibbānadhātu anissitena tādinā;
Ekā hi dhātu idha diṭṭhadhammikā,
Saupādisesā bhavanettisaṅkhayā.
Anupādisesā pana saṃparāyikā,
Yamhi nirujjhanti bhavāni sabbaso.
Ye etadannāya padaṃ asaṅkhkataṃ,
Vimuttacittā bhavanettisaṅkhayā;
Te dhammasārādhigamā khaye rāte,
Pahamsu te sabbabhavāni tādino.

Without dependence (on wrong views created by craving), in full possession of equanimity (towards sense-objects, pleasant or unpleasant), and in exercise of the eye of Wisdom, Buddha has clearly shown the two elements of Nibbāna. One element, saupādisesa Nibbāna, is the cessation of defilements with the substrata of existence remaining, and it is quite apparent here and now. It signifies the severance of the cord of existence.

Anupādisesa Nibbāna becomes apparent only after parinibbāna. In this element, annihilation of becoming is complete. Knowing these two elements as Unformed or Uncreated by virtue of Path-consciousness, the Arahats are emancipated from being subjected to becoming. Having realized the essence of the dhamma, and having achieved equanimity towards all sense-objects, good or bad, they delight in the extinction of formations.

In my last lecture anupādisesa Nibbāna was shown as an abode where the element of peace resides. This is said figuratively. For it has no location. Neither is it a cause nor an effect. In the Commentaries, saupādisesa Nibbāna is shown as the destruction and absence of rāga, lust, without indicating any location, or cause or effect.

It will not be strictly proper to say that the Path and its fruition inclining towards their objective, Nibbāna, is the cause and the cessation of defilements in the two elements is the effect. It may also be noted that Peace to which the Path and its fruition are inclined is ordinary Nibbāna and the two elements now under review are extraordinary Nibbāna. Both of them are one and the same possessing santi, one of the characteristics of Nibbāna.

Nibbāna is timeless. And so it will be equally improper to ask if the Path, at the moment of cessation of defilements, inclines towards Nibbāna in the very course of its establishment, that is, in the present time or weather it looks forward to the future Nibbāna with its annihilation of khandhās after the Arahat's parinibbāna. But here Nibbāna is kālavimutti, beyond the concept of time. Consider Anussayas, inclinations that contribute to the formation of lust, anger and ignorance. Worldlings possess them in abundance. They arise when conditions are favourable. They cannot be assigned to the past, or present or future. Since they are timeless, there cessation is also timeless.

Consider also the phenomenon of cessation. It is neither a happening nor an arising. You cannot say that it arose, or it is arising, or it will arise. It has no relation to time. Hence, strictly speaking, we do not say that cessation has completed. It comes along with the moment when Path-consciousness occurs. When defilements cease, the Khandhās, dependent on them, lose the opportunity to arise. The phenomenon in this instance is Kālavimutti. It is of no avail, therefore, to ask whether Path-consciousness inclines to the present or to the future.

Where the round of upāda, genesis, thiti, static, and bhaṅga, cessation, is operating, the best dhamma is concentration and meditation on the fruition of the Path. When the Absolute is arrived at with the disappearance of these three instants of the thought moment, Nibbāna is realized. It is the highest stage. When Arahats arose from the meditation of Nibbāna during the attainment of the fruits of the Paths, they used to express their delight as follows:

Susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ, sammāsañ-buddha desitañ;

Asokaṃ virajaṃ, khemaṃ yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhati.

All sufferings are exterminated at Nibbāna where there is no sorrow, no passion and no danger. Blissful indeed is Nibbāna shown by the All-enlightened.

Arahats, therefore, are inclined towards this blissful state of anupādisesa nibbāna where all matter, mind and mental formations become extinct. Since they do away with the round of suffering, no becoming arises.

May all who have listened with respectful attention to this discourse on Nibbāna attain it in a short space of time through the consciousness of the Path and its fruition.

Sādhu!    Sādhu!     Sādhu!

Chapter 3


(Delivered on the 8th waning day of Tawthalin, 1326 M.E. corresponding to September 29, 1964).

Having explained the two elements of Nibbāna, I shall resume this discourse with the Hymn of Triumph uttered by Buddha on the occasion when Bāhiyadāruciriya, the Worthy One, entered anupādisesa nibbāba.


Yattha āpo ca pathavī, tejo vāyo na gādhati;
Na tattha sukkā jotanti, adicco nappakāsati;
Na tattha candimā bhāti, tamo tattha ba vijjati.
Yadā ca attanā vedli, muni monena brāhmano;
Atha rūpa arūpa ca, sukhadukkhā pamuccati.

In the realm of Nibbāna, there is no primary element of water, earth, heat and cold, or air, There no star shines, no sun illumines and no moon brightens. And, yet, darkness is absent.

A sage comes to know Nibbāna by his own effort as he gets enlightened through acquiring the knowledge of the Path, and, ultimately becomes an Arahat. He is then liberated from matter and nonmatter, or from happiness and misery.

Dependent on the four dhātus, primary elements of earth (solidity), water (fluidity), heat and cold (temperature) and air (motive force), matter arises causing attachment to sense-objects like forms and sounds. When those elements become extinct, matter dissolves into nothingness. It is absent in Nibbāna. Where there is no matter there can be no light or darkness.

I have repeatedly stressed the point that Nibbāna has no foothold anywhere, because it is impossible to locate where the cessation of the arising of mind and matter takes place. In one sutta it has been expressly stated that Nibbāna knows no abode. In another it has been mentioned that in this one-fathom long body the four Truths have been proclaimed. The Abhidhammā, however, says that Nibbāna is extraneous to the body. You will find the explanations when later I deal with internal (subjective) and external (objective) sense-based or āyatanas.

Matter exists in Form Spheres, and mind in formless Spheres. But parinibbāna delivers an Arahat from the dominance of mind and matter. So we speak of the parinibbāna of Bāhiyadāruciriya as deliverance from the round of suffering.


In the time of Buddha, a merchant, by the name of Bāhiya, sailed the seven seas for trading. He was successful in all his previous ventures; but on the last occasion, his ship wrecked. All sailors and men got drowned and he alone was saved. He was lashed to the shores of Supparaka landing place. Having been tossed about in the sea, he lost all his clothes. When he got to the dry land, he made for himself a girdle of leaves stitched together with small sticks. He seized a begging bowl from a shrine, and with it he went round the village for alms-food. By the girdle he wore, the residents of the place mistook him for an Arahat and offered him food and clothing. But Bāhiya thought to himself that if he donned the clothes offered him, public esteem towards him as an Arahat would be shattered. So he stuck to his girdle for a dress. The people continued to revere him as an Arahat, and, as such, his fame spread far and wide. In course of time, he himself came to believe that he was really an Arahat.

At that time there was a Brahma, an anāgāmi (non-returner), in the abode of Brahmas, and he knew Bāhiya's precedents. He came down to earth, and, approaching Bāhiya, told the truth-that the latter was no Arahat and that he was practising no dhamma worthy of an Arahat.

 "Bāhiya!" the Brahma said, "you were one of seven of us who practised the dhamma during the time of Buddha Kassapa. Of the seven I was the eldest, now reborn an anāgāmi in this world of the Brahmas. In those days your faith in the dhamma was so intense that when you were offered food by Arahat you refused it lest it would hamper in the way of realization of the dhamma. Now you have become an imposter, well-pleased with what affluence you have achieved through deception. You are no Arahat, possessing no moral qualities that belong to an arahat."

Bāhiya, on hearing this, became greatly mortified and requested the Brahma to guide him to the presence of an Arahat, if there were one. The latter told him that Buddha, a true Arahat, was residing at that time in the Jetavana monastery at Sāvatthi.

            Bāhiya went to the monastery as directed, and when he got there Buddha was not there having gone to town for a round of alms. But he at once followed Buddha where he was, and when he met the Blessed One, he made the request to preach. But his request was refused, for the time and occasion were inappropriate. But Bāhiya insisted and made the request three times. Buddha forbore this in the end and gave him the following advice, which has been incorporated in Bāhiya sutta.


In Bāhiya Sutta, the following occurs:

            Tasmātiha te Bāhiya evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ,"Diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātaṃattaṃ bhavissati" ti; evañhi te Bāhiya sikkhitabbaṃ.

Bāhiya, since you insist, I now enjoin you to practise this: when you see, you just see it; when you hear, you just hear it; when you know, you just know it; and when you think, you just think it. You must practise this way of cognizing the phenomenon just as it occurs.

This is the vipassanā method known as "diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ (Just see as you see it, and nothing more.) There are six sense-doors though which six sense-bases perceive their respective six sense-objects. Here, for the sake of brevity, only four examples of perception are given. When a man sees an object, he does not leave seeing alone. He does not stop at seeing. He does not just see it. He goes further than that and dwells his mind on things incidental to the act of seeing, for instance, on the shape and form of the thing seen, weighting in his mind whether it is desirable or repugnant and feeling sensations of pain or pleasure reacting according to its nature. Of course he is pleased when it gives him pleasure; but when he sees what he considers as ugliness, he becomes not only disconcerted, but also disgusted and angry. Even when he is indifferent to it, the fact still remains that ego-entity has arisen in him. "I see it," he thinks; and that "I" appears to him as permanent. If he just sees it and notes that he has seen it, without ruminating on the nature of the subject that sees it, the object that is seen and the incidents of seeing, that would have been merely just seeing. But to see a thing and stop at seeing it is not easy of accomplishment. If you fail to recognize only the act of seeing for the sake of seeing, you cannot help taking cognizance of the individual or the thing that you see, thinking in your mind whether he or it is agreeable to you or not. If you like what you see, affection will grow; but if you do not, hatred will gnaw your heart. Even when you are indifferent to whomever you see, you would have already cultivated in your mind the idea of individuality and permanence of that individuality. You will find it difficult to break yourself away from this notion of ego-entity. It is only through the practice of insight-meditation that you will rightly know how to see just only what you see and nothing more.

Without practising insight-meditation, it will not be possible for a layman to stop short at hearing when he hears, at smelling when he smells, at tasting when he tastes and at touching when he touches. The most difficult to achieve is to stop at thinking as he thinks. It is, therefore, advised that he notes continually the phenomenon as it happens. In the beginning it is almost impossible for him to note all the phenomenon of seeing, hearing etc. So begin with one particular phenomenon as you practise meditation. In the teaching of Satipaṭṭhāna, it has been laid down that one should note walking as one walks. This is watching the phenomenon of movement, the working of vāyo, the element of motion. When you stand up, note that you are standing up; when you sit down, note that you are sitting down. During such moments you may experience some tangible things happening in your body. Note them. As for us we recommend you to watch the rising and falling of the abdomen as you take up meditation.

As you are observing the rising and falling of the abdomen in conformity with the method of meditation practice, your mind may wander, and you will start thinking this and that. Note what you are thinking about. At times, as you meditate, you may feel tired, or hot and stuffy or painful. Note these sensations too. As you feel tired, you may improve your posture. Note every movement that you make as you seek comfort. As you are meditating you may hear extraneous sounds, which must also be noted as they arise. Briefly put, you must note your own behaviour, both physical and mental, together with sensations that you feel. When there is nothing to note in particular, concentrate your mind on your belly as in the beginning.

As concentration develops you will find that, when you see, seeing is momentarily established just to get dissolved the next moment. The same may be said of the phenomena of hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. As you note the act of hearing, both the sound and the perception of the sound disappear. When you feel hurt, both the infliction causing hurt and the feeling of pain disappear. You concentrate on seeing, noting inwardly what you know as seeing. Subsequently, seeing, noting and knowing get dissolved. Then knowledge will arise in you that what arises passes away, and that, therefore, the phenomenon of seeing is impermanent. This knowledge of the transitory nature of things is aniccānupassanā ñāṇa. What arises only to get dissolved is not satisfactory; and therefore this phenomenon is, after all, dukkha, suffering. This knowledge of the realization of the truth relating to suffering is dukkhānupassanā ñāṇa. Further, anattānupassanā ñāṇa, knowledge of the realization of the unsubstantial nature of things, is also developed as you get convinced that it is in the nature of things just to happen of their own accord.

Bāhiya, having been endowed with pāramī, perfections, gained insight as he listened to what Buddha taught him. When he saw an object, he noted just what he saw and did nothing more. As he watched the phenomenon as it happened, nothing arose in his mind beyond the fact that he saw. He did not, as he watched the phenomenon, think to himself, "I see it. This is my self who is seeing it." As his mind got freed from clinging, egoistic pride and wrong views, together with the notion of self, were dispelled.

Buddha further told him:

            Tato tvaṃ bāhiya nevidha na huraṃ na ubhayamantarena, esevanto dukkhassa.

Bāhiya! When no attachment occurs as you see, neither this world nor other worlds will be with you. The fact that existence is thus negated delivers you from the round of suffering. In that state you reach the ultimate -- Nibbāna.

One bereft of clinging, egoistic pride and wrong views, all defilements cease. Where defilements are absent, existence itself, whether in the present or in the future, may be said to have become extinct. Not becoming means the end of suffering which is anupādisesa nibbāna.

Here commentaries in Udāna aṭṭahkathā are more eliciting. There are six pairs of āyatanas, sense bases, consisting of six sense-organs, namely, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, grouped as internal, and six sense-objects, namely, form, sound, odour, taste, contact and ideas, grouped as external. When one gets detached from such defilements as clinging and the like through the development of insight-knowledge, one gets also detached from both the internal (subjective) and external (objective) sense-bases. You or your "self" no longer abide in the mind-door, sense-object and consciousness. This cessation of the functions of these sense-bases is Nibbāna itself.

This agrees with the actual experience of the meditating yogī. In the early stages of the vipassanā practice, he has to bend his mind on the mind door, sense-object and consciousness to note the arising and passing away of nāma and rūpa. He is all the time aware of the rise and fall of aggregates. When his insight-knowledge matures, his mind flows, as if it were, into the cessation of all phenomena of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and knowing, when he is said to have come face to face with Nibbāna.


While Bāhiya was listening to the teaching of Buddha, he became an Arahat. When the Enlightened One resumed his way for his usual round of alms, Bāhiya went in search of clothings discarded by others so that they could be converted into a monk's robe, for, he had by now intended to get ordained. But, unfortunately, a cow tending her calves attacked him. He died on the spot.

When Buddha returned to his monastery, he found the body of the Arahat, Bāhiya. He caused it to be cremated in a fitting manner and told his disciples to erect a cetiya (pagoda) in his memory. The monk at the monastery asked Buddha where Bāhiya could be reborn. Buddha replied that he had become an arahat before he died, and that; therefore, he had entered parinibbāna, uttering the gāthā cited earlier with reference to Nibbāna where four primary elements are non-existent.

Commentaries say that Bāhiya died as he was gored by a cow who was a woman in one of its previous existences. He wronged the woman, robbing and raping her; and she died swearing vengeance on him. She was reborn an ogress many a time, and he, a man to be killed by her.

Thus he had died many a death in the hands of the ogress. His unwholesome deeds followed him like a shadow, causing untold miseries often in the nether worlds. It was all as a result of his bad kamma. Had he not attained Arahatship after meeting Buddha, he would continue of suffer by his foul deeds. But, now, although his death was caused by a cow in the manner described, all suffering ceased with him on his attainment of Nibbāna where no aggregates arise. Buddha, therefore, looked upon his death as a triumph. In fact he honoured the deceased as the most preeminent among his disciples in the matter of gaining supernormal powers in the quickest possible time.


Salāyatana Saṃyutta has this to say

            Tasmātiha bhikkhave se āyatane veditabbe; Yatthā cakkhu ca nirujjhati, rūpasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyata-ne veditabbe.

O bhikhus! You should cultivate knowledge of the mind-base bent on Nibbāna, where the eye, the visual organ, and the form, the sense-object perceived by the eye, cease together. This cessation (of the origin of visual perception) is Nibbāna itself.

Thus said Buddha regarding the cessation of the twin āyatana, the sense organ and the sense-object. This is how Nibbāna is realized through meditating the phenomenon of seeing. When a yogīs is watchful over the rising and falling of the abdomen, or over the physical movement of sitting or standing, or over the phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc., during his meditational exercises, he will become aware of the dissolution process. If so, knowledge of dissolution, bhaṅga ñāṇa, becomes developed in him. Form the point of view of the subject who sees, there is absolutely nothing for him to say, "It is I," or "I exist." And from the point of view of the object that is seen, there is nothing to show, "It is a thing. It is an individual." Thus one cannot find anything worthy of attachment. As this fact is being meditated upon, one gets to saṅkhāruppekkhā ñāṇa, awareness of the states of mind and body and of mental formations. Eventually he will become aware of the cessation of all aggregates. When this stage is reached, you might even feel that all matter in your body had disappeared. That is why it is said: "Cakkhu ca nirujjhati," which means that the organ of seeing ceases (to function). On meditating further, you will notice that the form, the mind and the perception, all relating to the phenomenon of seeing, have been swept away to nonentity. The relevant quotation is "Rūpaññā ca nirujjhati," meaning that the visual perception of form ceases (to arise). All in all this denotes cessation of the sense-base and the sense-object. Once these twin āyatanas cease, Nibbāna may be said to be in sight.


            Yattha sotañca nirujjhati, saddasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe.

            In Nibbāna the organ of hearing ceases and so does auditory perception. Be it noted that this cessation of the āyatanas of the sense organ and sense-object relating to hearing is Nibbāna.

As saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa is developed, when you hear a sound, you happen to note it; and as soon as you have noted it, you become aware of the dissolution of the aggregates of mind, matter and mental formations. At this stage you feel that your whole body, with its organs of hearing, disappears altogether. It is as if you do not hear the sense-object, and that, therefore, you are not cognisant of it.


Yattha ghānañca nirujjhati, gandhasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe.

            In Nibbāna the organ of smelling ceases, and so does olfactory perception. Be it noted that this cessation of the āyatanas of the sense organ and the sense-object relating to odour is Nibbāba.

When saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa is developed, you will sense the smell as you get it. As you go on meditation on it, a stage will be reached when you become aware of the cessation of mind matter and mental formations. The entire process of olfactory perception seems to disappear altogether as you note it.


            Yattha jivhā ca nirujjhati, rasasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe.

            In Nibbāna the organ of tasting ceases, and so does gustatory perception. Be it noted that this cessation of the āyatanas of the sense organ and sense-object relating to taste is Nibbāna.

When saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa is developed, the meditating yogī may note the taste of the food he is eating; and from this he proceeds to the stage when he realizes how the aggregates of mind, matter and mental formations cease.

Commentaries mention innumerable instances of monks attaining Arahatship as they meditated on the taste of the rice-gruel that they were taking. As they took it with mindfulness, they were aware of the passing away of the aggregates of mind, matter and mental formations.


            Yattha kāyo ca nirujjhati, photthabbasaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe.

            In Nibbāna the body possessing the sense of touch ceases, and so does tactile perception. Be it noted that this cessation of the āyatanas of the body and bodily impressions is Nibbāna.

For a meditation yogī, the body is the sense-object, which has to be watched most of the time. When saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa is developed as you are noting the body that gives tactile perception, you become aware of the dissolution of mind, matter and mental formations, and the act of noting the phenomenon disappears altogether.

The Mind and Perception of Ideas

Yattha mana ca nirujjhati, dhammāsaññā ca nirujjhati, se āyatane veditabbe.

In Nibbāna the mind together with perception of ideas ceases. Be it noted that this cessation of the āyatanas of mind-base and mind-object is Nibbāna.

This is the discovery of Nibbāna through the perception of the mind. Possibly, this discovery can be the most frequent. When saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa is developed gross sense-objects disappear, subtler ones taking their place, as a yogī notes the arising and passing away of the phenomenon. Here he comes to think that his whole body vanishes with only perception remaining. For, as he notes the rising and falling of his abdomen, that rising and falling disappear, and he becomes aware only of the fact that he is perceiving the rising and falling. Concentrating on this mind, matter and mental formations cease. This awareness of the cessation is Nibbāna.


To sum up, the cessation of āyatanas is Nibbāna. In the commentary on Pañcattaya sutta, the negation of the six pairs of āyatanas has been shown as Nibbāna. Ānandā confirmed this by saying that according to Buddha, Nibbāna means the cessation of the six organs of sense and six sense-bases-meaning, of course, the cessation of their operations. Dependent on the internal āyatanas of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind notions of ego-entity arise, and then we say that, this is an individual, this is a man, and this is a woman. When these egoistical ideas are dispelled, peace is established with the cessation of suffering relating to aging and death. The cessation of external āyatanas of form, sound, odour, taste, contact and ideas are only secondary to the extermination of suffering; but as they are the adjuncts of the internal āyatanas, it is only when they cease that others follow suit. Negation of these pairs of āyatanas is Nibbāna.


In Milinda Pañhā, there is a passage dealing with directing attention to Nibbāna.

            Tassa taṃ cittaṃ aparāparaṃ manasikāroto pavattaṃ smatikkhamitvā appavattaṃ okkamati, appavattamanuppatto mahārāja sammāpatipanno nibbānaṃ sacchikarotiti vuccati.

The yogī who, again and again, fixes his mind (on a mind-object) crosses the stream of occurrence over to the state of non-occurrence.

O King! If he, who has thus arrived at the state of non-occurrence, practises in the right way, he may be said to have come face to face with Nibbāna.

As the meditating yogī becomes aware of the dissolution of things as he observes their rise and fall, a sense of disgust assails him and he begins to develop the desire to abandon them. Nāma and rūpa that arise and pass away flow on like a stream continuously without end. As he concentrates on this flow, he becomes just perceptive to it automatically. He does not go beyond this perceptive stage. Later he becomes indifferent to it, because, by now, he has developed saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa. Concentrating further on the phenomenon, he discovers that the mind that perceives and the object that is perceived arrive at cessation together. This is transition from occurrence to nonoccurrence. You may recall to mind what I said elsewhere in relation to Nibbāna: what occurs is saṅkhāra; and what does not occur is Nibbāna.


Nāgasena thera enjoined King Milinda to practise in the right way which is herein explained.

Anyone aspiring to Nibbāna must first and foremost achieve sīla visuddhi, purity of morality. A layman must at least observe the five precepts and ājivatthamaka sīla, property of conduct. (This relates to practising Right Speech, Right action and Right Livelihood. Right speech can be developed through abstaining from tale-bearing, harsh language and vain talk. Right Action is accomplished through abstaining from killing, stealing and committing sexual impropriety. Right Livelihood means the right way of living.) Having achieved this, citta visuddhi, purity of mind, must be practised through concentration or jhāna (absorptions). If a man has developed perfection, he may practise the first, second, third and fourth jhānas progressively. On the attainment of jhānas progressively, nivaraṇas, hindrances, will be removed. Hindrances to progress are sensuous desire, hatred, sloth and torpor, restlessness and brooding and doubt. After the realization of jhāna, he must practise insight-meditation.

Even when a yogī cannot aspire to jhāna, he must bend his efforts to get possession of upacāra samādhi proximate concentration. Even when he cannot practise this, he should begin with the exercise of concentrating his mind on the four primary elements, or the 18 material qualities of matter, or the 12 external and internal sense-bases, or the five aggregates, or least of all, the two aspects of nāmarūpa, mentality-materiality. According to Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, he should concentrate on the four elements of earth, air, water and heat and cold, on sensations, on mind, etc. The text says, "When you go, know that you go." In this manner you note to know that you are standing when you stand and that you are sitting when you sit. Then the mind will not wander. It gets stuck up, as if it were, to the object noted. Then you should know that you have achieved purity of mind when all hindrances get removed. This stage is recognized as vipassanā khaṇika samādhi, a kind of mindfulness established momentarily, which is as good as arriving at proximate concentration. Briefly put, purity of mind means a state of mind unhampered by lowly conduct and defilements.

A yogī accomplished in purity of mind notes the rise and fall of nāma and rūpa in relation to the three marks of anicca, impermanence, dukkha, suffering, and anatta, unsubstantiality. He meditates: "Matter is not permanent; sensation is not permanent, etc."

Then he gets bored and disgusted with all these nāma and rūpa. When he becomes detached from mind, matter and mental formations in all sincerity, he has no craving for them. Becoming weary with life, he gets disgusted with it, abandons all desires, and finally achieves emancipation. Now the path is frustified.

Patisaṃabbhidā Magga mentions many stages of insight-knowledge that should be progressively realized by a yogī practising meditation.

But those who are loth to practise insight-meditation or to encourage others practising it make statements which should never be made. They used to say, "Now that we know the unsatisfactory nature of kamma formations, practising meditation is unnecessary or superfluous. If you concentrate on suffering, you will be confronted with suffering. If you let the mind go, all is done. You need not take the trouble of noting it." Such an advice contradicts the doctrine laid down by Buddha. What do these advisors really know? Their knowledge of formations as suffering is superficial. They cannot go deep into absolute realities. If they truly realize what dukkha is, they are bound to get disgusted with it and they will certainly try to get away from it. They assert that they know dukkha, but they do not actually feel that nāma and rūpa are unsatisfactory. Ennui cannot be developed in their minds. So they do not actually feel disgusted with conditioned things. They have no desire to abandon them. In fact they would like to embrace and accept them.


Knowledge of baneful things as disgusting is Nibbidā ñāṇa. This sense of disgust is described in the commentaries with the analogy of a fisherman who catches fish with an open-ended trap. When he thinks that a fish has been caught, he puts his hand into the trap and takes it out. But he discovers that he has caught a snake with three circular marks around its neck. Realizing that he has made the greatest mistake in his life, he gets disgusted with himself and feels repugnant to the poisonous reptile. Three times he waves it over his head and finally fling it away with all his might.

Those who regard the aggregates of nāma and rūpa as highly desirable are very much like that fisherman who caught the snake in his hands. Before knowing what he had caught, he was overjoyed, but when he discovered it with three circular marks around its neck, he got terribly frightened. As a yogī notes the rise and fall of aggregates, he will be reminded of the three marks of impermanence, suffering and unsubstantiality, and as he applies them to the phenomenon on which he is meditating, he comes to the realization that all conditioned things are baneful and disgusting. No ordinary worldling can regard his own body of khandhās as very much like a snake. The mere knowledge of its resemblance to a loathsome creature will not be enough to make him disgusted with his own body. One must be truly convinced of the reality of human suffering in the abstract.

It is only when a yogī gains insight into the real nature of mind and matter that he feels repugnant to them and considers all attachment as useless and empty. Eventually he develops indifference to the rise and fall of aggregates to arrive at saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa, when all formations can be looked upon with an equanimity of mind. In the beginning one has to make an equanimity of mind. In the beginning one has to make special effort to come to this stage of knowledge, but with continued practice equanimity arises naturally as soon as he contemplates on the rise and fall of conditioned things. When you have acquired that knowledge, you feel that you at once become cognisant of the phenomena, but you are not affected by them, whether they are agreeable or pleasing or not. No attachment arises in your mind when it dwells on pleasurable objects. Neither will you be disconcerted by disagreeable things. You have now developed stoicism in the manner of Arahats. At this stage of mental development, there may be occasions when your mind would like to roam about leaving the object of concentration behind, but as you gain experience your mind would refuse to get away from the object on which it dwells.

With this right method of practising insight-meditation, you proceed from saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa to anuloma ñāṇa, when you gain adaptive knowledge in preparation for the realization of the four Noble Truths. Peace is established once you have discarded the state of occurrence to get to its opposite end, non-occurrence.

Nibbāna cannot be seen with the naked eye. It can be seen inwardly as the cessation of all phenomena.

As a result of your listening to this discourse with respectful attention, may you be able to practise the right way to meditation on the cessation of all suffering caused by the mind-door, sense-objects and consciousness, becoming liberated from the shackles of the six pairs of sense-bases to reach the ultimate stage where the continual flow of nāma and rūpa is forever halted!

Sādhu!    Sādhu!     Sādhu!

Chapter 4


            (Delivered on the 15th waning of Tawthalin, 1326 M.E corresponding to October 6, 1964)

Nibbāna, cessation of lust and hatred, is the very antithesis of defilement. The term, "saṅkhāra-nirodho,"  meaning the end of all mental or kamma formations, is applied to Nibbāna. It is, therefore, in direct opposition to saṅkhāra. When the nature of Nibbāna is expounded, it is but fitting that kilseā, defilement, and saṅkhāra, mental formations, should also be explained. Tonight I shall attempt at giving you the explanation.


When Buddha was residing at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi, he used to preach Nibbāna to his disciples in the evening in the ante-room of his perfumed chamber. About this the scriptures have this to say.

            The monks pricked up their ears while listening to the Dhamma, with a sincere desire to be intellectually benefited, and with such mindfulness and concentration that focus attention only on one object.

I urge the audience to listen to this discourse in the manner of the monks who paid respectful attention to Buddha's teaching, all minds concentrating on the dhamma.

The Attentiveness of a Female Spirit

Once, as Buddha was preaching, a female yakkha or spirit, wandered near the monastery with her offspring in search of food. Although yakkhas are classified as deities, their status is very low. They have no proper abode. They are never adequately clothed or fed. Punabbasumātā -- for, that is the name of the female spirit -- was accompanied by her daughter Uttarā and her son Punabbasu.

When she got to the main gate leading to the monastery, all was quiet. She thought there might be alms-giving and entered the building in the hope of getting something to eat.

When she got as far as the altar, she found herself amidst a congregation of monks and laymen listening to Buddha's sermon. As he preached in a mellifluent voice, she listened to him with rapt attention, completely enthralled. But her children were so beset with hunger, that they could not remain quiet. "Mother! Give us food!" they cried.

"My dears!" entreated Punabbasumātā, "Please be quite while the Great Teacher of men and devas is preaching the dhamma. He is discussing Nibbāna which severs all chains of suffering. My love and devotion to Nibbāna have grown in me exceedingly."

Nibbāna is cessation of suffering. When, therefore, one is afflicted with sorrow and misery, one yearns for Nibbāna. That is natural. When a man is in the best of health, he is not interested in medicine. Under healthy conditions he does not consider the subject of health is important. But when he gets older and becomes sick, he ruminates on the benefits of health. As he wants to get his sickness cured, he now listens with respectful attention to well-wishers prescribing medicine for him.

In much the same way Punabbasumātā listened to Buddha's discourse on Nibbāna. She might be suffering at this moment from intense hunger, and as she was destitute she had to be begging for herself and her children. Born into this sensual world, she bore children who must needs be looked after. But being subjected to untold misery and suffering, she yearned for Nibbāna. She told her children that she loved them, but she emphasised that her love and devotion for Nibbāna was greater than her maternal love.

Piyo loke sako putto,
Piyo loke sako pati,
Tato piyatarā mayhaṃ,
Assa dhamassa magganā.

            It is the way of the world to love one's son and to love one's husband. But I love searching for the dhamma more than loving them.

            For, love for my son and for my husband cannot extricate me from suffering. Only by listening to the dhamma can I get liberated from the round of suffering.

Devout mothers do generally pay respectful attention to preaching; but they are harassed by their crying children. But the children of this female yakkha appeared to be docile and obedient. They listened to Buddha's sermon well and respectfully after they had been chastised by their mother.

Buddha foresaw that both the mother and the children would become sotāpannas, stream-winners, after they had heard the dhamma. So he preached the Four Noble Truths. Punabbasumātā and her son became sotāpannas accordingly.

As she became a stream-winner, her life changed completely. She was forthwith transformed into a decent deity, beautiful, well-clothed and well-fed. Uttarā, her daughter, was too young to understand the dhamma; albeit she profited from her mother's accumulation of merit.


In the Pāḷi canon of Udāna the following passage occurs relating to what Buddha uttered in triumph in relation to the nature of Nibbāna. This utterance has been incorporated into the Canon as Nibbāna-patisaṃyutta Udāna.

Atthi bhikkhave tadāyatanaṃ; yattha neva pathavī na āpo, na tejo, na vāyo, na ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ, na viññānañcāyatanaṃ, na ākincaññāyatanaṃ. na nevasāññācāyatanaṃ; nāyaṃ loko na para loko; na ubho candimasuriyā; tatrāpāhaṃ bhikkave neva āgattim vadāmi, na gatim, na thitim, na cutim, na upapattin; appatitthaṃ appavattaṃ anāramman mevetaṃ; esevanto dukkhassa.

O bhikkhus! Nibbāna to which six sense-bases are inclined is real. But it has no elements of earth, water, life and air. It is neither the realm of Infinity of Space (ākāsānañcāyatana), not the realm of Infinity of Consciousness (viññānañcāyatana), nor the realm of Nothingness (ākiñcaññāya-tana), nor the realm of Neither Perception nor Not Perception (nevasaññānāsaññāyatana). Its denotes neither this world nor other worlds. No moon nor sun shines there. I never maintain that in Nibbāna there are goings and comings. It has no foothold or residence. It is Deathless, Unborn and Unformed. It has no abode. Nothing ever occurs there. It has no sense-objects. It is the end of suffering.


Since Nibbāna means the cessation of mind, matter and mental formations, suggestions have been often put forward that it signifies nothing and it, therefore, is useless. But Nibbāna is absolute reality, the reality of the nullification of the activities of mind, matter and mental formations to which the knowledge of magga (Path), phala (Fruition of the Path) and paccavekkhana (self-examination) is inclined. It is the mind-object to which this knowledge is directed. Buddhas, Arahats and Nobles Ones vouch for the truth of its reality. For the sake of argument, let us say that there is no Nibbāna where all the rounds of defilement, action and action result cease. Then no one in this Universe can find peace. In the absence of Nibbāna, defilement will play havoc with our lives to produce action, which will bring about action-result, which will create conditions for the rise of a new body of khandhās attended by suffering. It is only the Path and its Fruition that can exterminate defilements, and this extermination will put the round of suffering to an end. This cessation of suffering is real. Buddhas and Arahats actually reach this stage of reality, and after their parinibbāna all sufferings come to an end.


In Nibbāna there are no element of earth or solidity, no element of water or fluidity, no element of fire or thermal energy and no element of air or motive force that can usually be met with in the world of the Senses, such as the world of men and devas, or in the world of Form, such as the world of corporeal Brahmas etc. Possessing solidity, men, devas and Brahmas assume shapes and forms. Cessation means the end of such shapes and forms that possess mass. In the absence of mass, there are no elements of fluidity, thermal energy and motive force.

Matter non-existence in Nibbāna

In the absence of the four primary elements there can be no upāda rūpa, or matter formed by these four elements, for instance, the eye and the eye-object, the ear and the ear-object etc. Since they are absent there will be no phenomena of seeing, hearing etc. which occur in Sense Sphere as sense-sphere consciousness and in Form Sphere as form-sphere consciousness.

Consider this. Without eyes one cannot see; without ears one cannot hear; without nose one cannot smell; without tongue one cannot taste; and without body one cannot get the sensation of touch. Pasāda rūpas are the seats of sensation or the five sense organs which form the bases of consciousness. Devoid of the organs of sense, consciousness cannot arise. In the world of the Brahmas, cakkhu pasāda (eye-basis) and sota pasāda (ear-basis) only are extant, ghāna pasāda (nose-basis), jivhā pasāda (tongue basis) and kāya pasāda (body-basis) being absent. So Brahmas may possess noses and tongues in rudimentary forms or bodies or masses in great dimensions, but they do not know what smell is, what taste is and what bodily impression is. But there is hadaya vatthu, seat of consciousness usually called heart-basis, in all sentient beings, whether of human or deva or Brahma world. So in these three worlds, thought, knowledge and absorptions of jhāna can occur.

Absence of Mind dependent on Matter

As I have said, as there are no primary elements in Nibbāna, all rūpas or matter dependant on these four elements are non-existent. Because of the absence of these rūpas, there are no cittas (mind or consciousness) appetaining to kāmāvacara, the realm of the senses, or to rupāvacara, the realm of Form-as, for instance, the first jhānic consciousness. For brevity's sake I discuss only about citta or mind, but whenever citta is mentioned one must remember its concomitant, cetasika.

Now the question arises whether in Nibbāna there are still extant cittas or consciousness that arise without depending on rūpa or matter as, for example, arupāvacara consciousness.


Here, the Text is also very explicit about the absence of formless Sphere, arūpāvacara, in Nibbāna, whether it be consciousness appertaining to the abode of the Infinity of Space(Ākāsānañcāyatana), or to the abode of the Infinity of Consciousness (Viññānañcāyatana), or to the abode of Nothingness (Akiñcaññāyatana), or to the abode of Neither Perception nor, Not, Perception (Nevasaññānā-saññyatana). In the realm of the Infinity of Space, rebirth-linking begins with the advent of vipāka citta, consciousness relating to action-result, citta, mind and cetasika, its concomitant. Normally for worldlings, during the course of existence between rebirth-linking and death, wholesome (kusala) or unwholesome (akusala) consciousness, together with their concomitants arise. When such worldlings are duly trained in the law they are known as sekkhas. Such sekkhas may become Arahats when they are reborn in the realm of the infinity of Space. In that case, only wholesome and inoperative (kiriya) consciousness arise together with their respective concomitants. But matter is absent there. Only nāma, citta and cetasika-all in a state of flux-are present. In that realm all phenomena are psychical. It just occurs to me that psychic beings need no food, clothing or shelter. But it is usual for artists and painters to depict this realm and others of the Formless Sphere as having palaces and mansions. But in Nibbāna they will be superfluous, as in Nibbāna there is neither mind or matter.

Today non-Buddhists have become highly interested in space, but the space they have in mind is in the material sense. They may not, therefore, be able to assimilate the idea of the existence of the realm of Infinity of Space But Buddha clearly differentiates the realm of mind and its constituents together with its state of absorptions (jhāna) from the realm of no-mind where all its concomitants and absorptions are nullified. A meditating yogī who concentrates his mind on the arise and fall of the aggregates can aspire to reaching that stage of knowledge of equanimity called saṅkkhārūpekkha ñāṇa. If he reaches that stage, he would feel the disappearance of his physical self, experiencing only a stream of consciousness that floats in space. As his knowledge progresses this stream will become clearer and clearer. Strictly speaking, this is not absorption on Infinity of Space; but it is a vipassanā-insight akin to that absorption.

From the foregoing it may also be adduced that there is no consciousness and its concomitant appertaining to the realm of Infinity of Consciousness; and the same may be said of consciousness and its concomitant appertaining to the realm of Nothingness, and of Neither Perception nor Not Perception. The last plane of existence is the highest where perception is so subtle that it can be described as an intermediate stage between perception and non-perception. Equally subtle are pahssa, contact, vedanā, sensation, citta, mind, and cetasika, concomitant of the mind that can be met with in that realm. In Nibbāna such subtleties of the mind are entirely absent.

Those lacking in faith in the dhamma and unable to realize the attainment of jhāna or samāpatti, mode of ecstatic meditation, abrogate all teachings relating to the realms of existence just above described. What such sceptice should do is to practise insight-meditation as taught by Buddha. If they do this they will attain jhāna that belongs to the realm of Neither Perception nor Not Perception, and realize for themselves the difference between the jhānic state in Formless Sphere and Nibbāna where such a state becomes redundant. It is fruitless to reject jhāna and Nibbāna without any practical investigation.


In Nibbāna there are no such things as nāma or citta or cetasika which can be met with in Sense-Sphere of Form-Sphere. It naturally follows that mind and matter that belong to the 31 planes of existence are totally absent in Nibbāna. But some would like to advance an unusual proposition that after the parinibbāna of Buddha and his Arahats, they acquire a special kind of mind and matter in Nibbāna. Such an extraordinary way of thinking may appeal to those who cannot do away with atta or ego.

With regard to this proposition a learned Sayādaw reasoned that if there is a special kind of mind and matter in Nibbāna, there must also be a special kind of rebirth which gives rise to a special kind of old age, disease and death which in turn bring about a special kind of sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress and despair. When the teachings explicitly say cessation, it will be an impropriety to go beyond it and formulate the idea of a special kind of existence. Extinction points to nothing but nothingness. Nibbāna, which is not involved in nāma and rūpa, cannot be made to get involved either in this world or in other worlds.

Nibbāna is Beyond All Worlds

            Hence the Text says, "Nayaṃ loko, na paroloko," which means "neither in this world nor in other worlds." In the absence of matter there can be no concept of darkness; and in the absence of the concept of darkness, there can be no concept of light. Hence in Nibbāna there is no sun nor moon. Where no new bodies of the khandhās arise there can be no darkness or light. But the question arises whether it is possible for sentient beings to come to Nibbāna in the way that beings from the nether worlds come to the human world, or beings from the human world come to the world of devas. But in Nibbāna there are no such comings. The usual term to describe the realization of Nibbāna is that Buddhas and Arahats "enter" Nibbāna, or specifically, anupādisesa Nibbāna. This does not mean the arrival of the new khandhās but the cutting off of the flow of nāma and rūpa that causes existence. It is the complete extinction of aggregates; and this extinction is recognized as anupādisesa Nibbāna. It is not a place where beings make their landing from other planes of existence.

No one goes out or gets transported from Nibbāna to other planes of existence either. Beings with wholesome kammas depart this human world for the world of devas; and those from heaven might also come down to earth as human beings. Those with unwholesome kammas might prefer to going down to the nether worlds. In Nibbāna there are no such goings.

Attributes Of Nibbāna


It is often asked whether Buddhas and Arahats exist as individuals in Nibbāna. There is no mass in Nibbāna. As it is not built up with a special kind of matter or mind, it cannot be looked upon as a mountain peopled by individuals, standing solidly across the firmament like heaven or earth.


In the 31 planes of existence one is born to die and be reborn to die again. Nibbāna is Deathless and Birthless. In the world of devas and Brahmas birth means sudden appearance, and death sudden disappearance. Nibbāna is cessation of all khandhās. In such a cessation there is neither appearance nor disappearance.


Nibbāna has no abode, and, therefore, it cannot be located. It is neither here nor there. It is not in the heavens. In the term, nāmarūpa, nāma denotes that it embraces Nibbāna; but it is, in that context, neither cita (consciousness) nor cetasika (its concomitant). So the three aspects of consciousness, namely, upāda, arising, thiti, static, and bhaṅga, dissolution, are non-existent in Nibbāna. Figuratively speaking, Nibbāna abides in this one-fathom-long body.


In this body of the khandhās, nāma and rūpa are continually in a state of flux and so we say that they flow like a stream incessantly. A yogī who has realized the knowledge of the rise and fall of conditioned things is aware of nāmarūpa arising now and passing away the next moment. When he has developed the knowledge of equanimity in himself he feels that the whole stream of nāma and rūpa stop flowing. This is extinction.


In the absence of nāma, rūpa, citta, cetasika etc., there can be no sense-objects and in the absence of sense-objects no opportunities arise for mental formations to play their pact.


Since there are no primary elements and no nāmarūpa, everything ceases, and this cessation give rise of eternal peace. All sufferings end.

Rohitassa Sutta

Nibbāna is not situated anywhere, but, figuratively speaking, it resides inside the body of an arahat. This is mentioned in Rohitassa Sutta in Saṃyutta and Aṅguttara Nikāyas.

When Buddha was residing in Jetavana monastery in Sāvatthi, a deva, by the name of Rohitassa, approached him and asked: "Reverend Sir! Is it possible for one to go to the end of the world where there is no becoming, no ageing, no death and no rebirth?"


Buddha answered this question thus:

            Yutta kho āvuso na jāyati, na jiyati, na miyati, na cavati, na upappajjati; nāhaṃ "taṃ gamanena lokassa antaṃ ñāteyyaṃ daṭṭheyuṃ patteya" yanti vadāmi.

Young friend! I have never maintained that one can walk to the end of the world where there is no becoming, no ageing, no death and rebirth. I never say that by such means the end of the world can be reached, realized and known.

Rohitassa was very much pleased with this exposition. He was at one time an ascetic possessing supernormal knowledge with which he attempted to seek the end of the world. He walked the universe stepping in one stride from one planet to another for fully a century, but his relentless search bore no fruit. At the end of his mission, he died and was reborn a deva in the same universe which he had traversed far and wide as a powerful ascetic. What he had in mind was, however, the material universe. What Buddha had in mind in answering him was the round of suffering caused by the perpetual flux of nāma and rūpa. It is only when this round ceases can one reach the end of the world.


Buddha then continued:

            Na kho panāhaṃ āvuso apatvā lokassa antaṃ dukkhassa antakiriyaṃ vadāmi; api ca khvāhaṃ āvuso imasmimyeva vyāmamatte kalevare sosaññimhi samanake lokañca pañña-pemi lokasaṃ-udayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca patipadaṃ.

And, young friend, I do not say that all sufferings will cease without reaching the end of the world. But I do say in a conventional sense that the world or the universe lies in this one-fathom-long body which possesses mind and perception. I also teach the genesis of the universe, the cessation of the universe and the way leading to the cessation of the universe.

If one cannot reach the end of the universe though physical exertions, one can get there through the exercise of knowledge of wisdom. What Buddha means by the universe is suffering. One who fails to get to its end through wisdom cannot attain the state of cessation of suffering. The entire universe conditioned by the flux of nāma and rūpa is the universe of suffering beyond which lies Nibbāna.


In this one-fathom-long body the universe can be proclaimed. It is all dukkha, suffering, and so it reveals the Truth of suffering. In it there can also be found the cause of suffering, and so it teaches us the Truth of the Cause of Suffering. In it there can be sought emancipation from suffering, and so it also shows us the truth of the Cessation of Suffering. And, this cessation can be realized also in itself. It, therefore, shows us the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering. Hence all these four Noble Truths can be discovered in the bodies of beings belonging to this universe.

You cannot locate Nibbāna. Before entering parinibbāna Arahats still carry the burden of the khandhas which all cease to arise after the parinibbāna. It may be said that this cessation takes place inside the body of the Arahats. Hence we speak conventionally of the existence of Nibbāna inside our bodies of the khandhās. according, however, to Abhidhamma, Nibbāna is extraneous to the body. That is the reason why in the Udāna Pāḷi Text it is described as appatitthaṃ which means "having no place to stand on."

The Universe Within Us

The Truth of Suffering relates to the suffering inherent in the five aggregates of clinging, upādānakkhandhā, which arises in the sense-base as reflected by the sense-object which enters the sense-door. When you look at a thing, the eye base receives the image of the eye-object through the eye-door, and the contact established between the base and the object lets you know that you have seen the thing. This phenomenon of seeing is quite obvious. You know that you have eyes and feel that you are in full possession of them. You, as a seer, exist. The object you see is clear and pleasing to your mind. Consider in like manner the remaining phenomena of hearing, tasting and so on. Whenever each of them arises, attachment or clinging to the sense object under observation is developed. When you see someone, you recognize that someone as man or woman possessing features which appear as agreeable to you. You at once get attached to him or her. Your eye and the eye-object constitute upādānakhandhā, the aggregate of clinging to form or matter.

When you recognize what you see, you should know that viññāna, consciousness, is operating you now have vinñānupādānakkhandhā, the aggregate of clinging to sensation. Having seen the object, sensation pleasurable or otherwise, arises in you. It is vedanā. Now you have developed vedanupādānakkhandhā, aggregate of clinging to consciousness. You usually note what you see so that you can recall it to mind when occasion demands. Saññā, perception, has developed in you; and you now have saññupādānakkhandhā, aggregate of clinging to perception. Then there are the volitional activities that take place in your mind in relation to wholesome or unwholesome deeds that you commit. Such mental states outside the domain of feeling and perception constitute saṅkhāra to which you get attached. Thus arises saṅkhārupādānākkhandhā, aggregate of clinging to mental formations. Now from this act of seeing, hearing, etc., all the five aggregates of clinging have arisen.

These aggregates are always arising in us; but the arising is so instantaneous that we hardly notice it. We almost always fail to capture the moment when the phenomenon occurs. But with mindfulness or insight meditation we can note the arising and passing away of upādānakkhandhās to realize the fact that this state of flux is highly unsatisfactory, and that such unsatisfactoriness is dukkha, suffering, itself.

These five aggregates of clinging form this universe. They reveal us the Truth of Suffering. As an ordinary individual fails to note seeing just as he sees, and therefore, becomes unable to grasp the real nature of the phenomenon at the instant it arises, he feels that his seeing is pleasurable. He takes dukkha, suffering for sukkah, pleasure; and thus a liking for pleasure is developed. This is clinging which becomes intensified not craving. As he makes efforts to fulfil his desire to appease his sense of attachment, kamma-formations take place. Now saṅkhāra is brought into play. Because of the action of saṅkhāras, a dying man perceives through his mind-door his own actions, kamma, signs of actions, kamma-nimitta, and signs of destiny, gati-nimitta. His mind will be bent on these objects because of his sense of attachment. He is very much like a man drowning. He grapples whatever object that comes by. He grapples the object of his mind, ārammana. Then death consciousness occurs, and as he leaves behind his khandhās, this consciousness recedes into the past. But as his attachment cannot be done away with, the mind-object, derived from the death consciousness of his previous existence, influences the rebirth-linking consciousness of his previous existence, influences the rebirth-linking consciousness that has just occurred in this present existence. Thus a new life begins with a new citta; and this citta links the past with the present. It is, therefore, called patisandhi citta, rebirth-linking consciousness. This consciousness is then succeeded by mental contents of the factor of life. When cittas occur, their concomitants, cetasikas, follow them. Then rūpas which are dependent on them arise. If craving, taṇhā, cannot be cut off these nāmas and rūpa continue to come up ad-infinitum throughout existences. Hence, taṇhā is the cause that brings about this universe, and since this universe is a mass of suffering, it holds up the Truth of the Cause of Suffering for all to see.

Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching are all the factors of dukkha, an it is on that score that taṇhā becomes samudaya, the cause. Because of this samudaya, we like to see, hear, taste, smell and touch. And again dukkha arises. And these are the Truth of suffering and the Truth of the Cause of Suffering.


Consciousness occurs when contact is established between the sense-base and the sense-object. A meditator starts with the practice of concentrating his mind on this phenomenon of consciousness that arises originally from the four essential properties of matter, namely, pathavī (solidity), tejo (thermal energy), vāyo (motive force) and āpo (fluidity). When Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna sutta says, "I know I am going when I go" it is a direction to the yogī to know the element of motion that is brought into play through contact which excited consciousness. When you are sitting, know that you are sitting, noting the physical tension brought about by the act of sitting. You might then be aware of other physical or mental phenomena taking place in conjunction with the posture that you are assuming. For instance, you might have noticed that as you sit, your feet are touching each other, your hands are interlocking each other, your wearing apparel is clinging to your body, and so on and so forth. When you observe them with mindfulness you will come to realize the nature of the activities of matter that arises as sense-base and sense-object come into contact with each other.


So that both the young and the old can take up meditation, we prescribe what we consider to be an easy course in insight-meditation beginning with noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. As you breathe in the abdomen becomes distended, and as you breathe out it subsides. You will experience the motion of the rising and falling of the abdominal wall and recognize it as the activity of the element of motion, vāyo. You note this. That is to say, you concentrate your mind on the rising and falling of the abdomen with the intellectual appreciation of the nature of the phenomenon. There shall be no respite between the two consecutive movements. Keep your mind fixed on the start of the rising movement following it till it ends, and switch over to the start of the falling movement till it also ends. But, if, in the process, you notice that there is some respite after breathing in or after breathing out, you must be mindful that you are sitting (if you sit while meditating) in the meanwhile. At times ideas will be formed in your mind. You may think of something. Or you may have some intention to do this or that. Note all such ideations. Whenever your mind "swims" away, as the Myanmar expression has it, from the mainstream of mindfulness, you follow it. Don't let it get away from your mental grip. You continue noting the phenomenon of thinking. Then resume noting the movements of your abdomen. Sometimes you may encounter sensations, mostly unpleasant, because you feel stiff and tired, or hot and painful as you sit meditating. In that case note this tiredness and pain; and when such sensations disappear concentrate your attention again on the rising and falling of the abdomen. To put it briefly, please note the movements of the abdomen, both your physical and psychological behaviour and experience so that there can be no interval in the whole process of meditation during which your mind is kept idle. If you have no special object on which to focus your attention, you keep on noting as usual the rising and falling of your abdomen which is distended and tense at one moment and relaxed and flaccid at the next.

As your power of concentration improves you will notice that each movement of the muscle has many distinct pieces of action that may be called incidents and that each incident arises and then disappears Each appearance or disappearance that occurs in succession is palpable. This observation applies to the mind-object. But the noting mind, the subject, also behaves in much the same way as the object, now appearing and now disappearing in quick succession. As your observation gets keener and keener moment by moment, you recognize every part of the phenomenon that happens and dissolves, as if each has been set apart from the other to take its own course. As the noting mind and the noted mind-object come to pass as if for the sake of dissolution, it now dawns upon you that they are transient. They are forever in a state of flux. It is their inherent nature to arise and vanish. Such transience is the most unsatisfactory. What is unsatisfactory is suffering. Now you have arrived at the knowledge of the Truth of Suffering.This enlightenment dispels ignorance, avijjā. Therefore, taṇhā, craving, fails to assert itself as your mind-object. As craving is absent, upādāna, attachment, cannot act as its accomplice. As no attachment occurs, no volitional activites can operate for the satisfaction of desires conjured up by the mind and its object. It means that no actions can be formed when we say that no kamma-formations arise, when kamma-formations cease no rebirth-linking consciousness can take place. So there will be no new birth, that is to say no new khandhās. This indicates the cessation of suffering and of the cause leading to suffering. At that particular instant when you recognize this cessation you realize Nibbāna. This may be only for one moment, but that moment is the most precious. Noting and knowing the phenomena which ultimately leads to the knowledge of cessation tantamount to worldly (lokiya) realization of the Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of Suffering.

It is, therefore, commonly said that in the body of the meditating yogī the four Noble Truths reside.

As saṅkhārūpekkhā ñāṇa, knowledge of equanimity towards the five aggregates, is achieved, one becomes so absorbed in meditation that one feels one's body, together with its sense of touch and perception, comes to cessation. Hence the Text further says:

            In Nibbāna this body, together with its sense touch and the working of āyatanas, sense-bases, ceases. One must be aware of such cessation.

This, in effect, is the realization of Nibbāna peace through the Aryan Path. Hence the commentaries add:

            In this one-fathom-long body is proclaimed the Universe, where the Truth of suffering, the Truth of the Cause of Suffering, the Truth of the Cessation of suffering and this the truth of the Noble Eightfold Path can be discovered. Know, my dear friend, that with these words I do not proclaim the reality of the Four Noble Truths in such inanimate objects as grass or wood, but in body made up of the four primary elements.

The Truth of Suffering is evident everywhere; but the Truth of the Cause of Suffering can be adduced from the intrinsic nature of all worldings who cannot get rid of defilements of the mind. Before one can tread the Path one can search for the Cause through the introspection of one's own body. The Truth of the Cessation of the Cause if conventionally said to be present in the Noble-Ones despite the fact that they may have some residues of defilements and khandhās within them.

With Arahats, however, as defilements have been totally exterminated, cessation is said to have been achieved. The Noble Truth of the Eightfold Path can, of course, be discovered in the body of the Arahat heading for the Path and its Fruition. Here it is meant to show that Nibbāna-peace can be realized only with the total extinction of nāmarūpa and its concomitants.


            In the foregoing I have shown how aggregate of clinging arise through the interaction of sense-bases like the eye, ear, etc., and of sense objects like form, sound, etc. Now I shall deal with the interaction between the mind and mind-object-which in ordinary language, is ideation-that gives rise to aggregates of clinging. An introspection into this nature of ideation will give out the truth relating to suffering and its cause.

            As you think you are aware where the seat of thinking lies. Obviously it lies in your body and in your heart-base. Add to them the mind-object. Depending on these three-factors of the process of ideation, thoughts, intentions, desires, etc., arise. If you fail to note the real nature of this process, you might be led to believe that the entire physical body together with its mind base is your ownself. "Here I am" you might say to your self, "This body is mine. It is I who am thinking. This is my thought. I am the mind-object. Or, he is the mind-object". You might formulate such ideas in your head. But in fact the dhammas that arise as you think and try to know what you think are all the aggregates of clinging, upādānakkhandhā. These aggregates are all a mass of suffering. Now you see the Truth of Suffering. These aggregates of clinging may be categorised as follows:-

1. At the time of ideation, the mind-base and the body which forms the seat of the mind start operating. They constitute the aggregates of clinging to matter, upādanakkhandhā.

2. Then thinking occurs. All thoughts and ideas constitute the aggregates of clinging to consciousness, viññānupādānakkhandhā.

3. Then feelings arise, discriminating between pleasure and pain generally. They constitute the aggregates of clinging to sensations, vedanupādā-nakkhandhā.

4. Then perceptions arise noting the mind-object. They constitute the aggregates of clinging to perceptions, saññupadānakkhandhā.

5. Then mental formations occur. They constitute the aggregates of clinging to mental formations. saṅkhārupādānakkhandhā.

The last-mentioned aggregates, the products of volition, are extremely conspicuous; you can find them everywhere. When consciousness is developed through the act of seeing, hearing, etc., mental formations take place in the form of thoughts and emotions. This is how desire and attachment for the pleasures of the senses arise. As you see or hear things, you discriminate between good and bad or between wholesome and unwholesome. There will be an affinity for things you consider to be pleasant. But when they are not to your liking, anger, disgust, and loathsomeness assail your mind. This leads you to the growth of egoistical pride that persuades you to formulate wrong views. Then doubts, jealousy, anxiety and restlessness come trailing behind to trouble you. On the other hand, it is also quite possible for you to have developed wholesome thoughts like faith, charity, mindfulness, even temper sympathy, kindness and so forth as you think well and rightly of the sense-objects you observe. All these tendencies, whether wholesome or otherwise are saṅkhārakkhandhās, aggregates of mental formations. When you intend to sit, or stand, or go, or speak, this saṅkhāra is at work. If your volition is wholesome, wholesome kammas, actions, are found; if not, unwholesome kammas. The world of these aggregates of clinging to formations is verily the Universe; and this Universe is a mass of suffering. Those not used to the application of insight-knowledge to the absolute realities of suffering through meditation exercises develop a wrong sense of exhilaration over their thoughts and ideas, hoping for the better even when they come face to face with miseries. They are pleased with the idea of the existence of self. They long for its prosperity, mistaking pain for happiness. In this way attachment grows in them; and they make all kinds of endeavours to satisfy their desires. To appease them, they will not hesitate to kill, or steal, or rob, or cheat, or commit all sorts of crimes. Others, however, may do wholesome deeds with a view to accumulate good merits in their future lives or rounds of existence. Kamma-formations arise in accordance with merits or demerits that they achieve. When dying, actions, sights of actions and signs of destiny appear as sense-objects to be perceived by sense-bases; and depending on what appears in their mind's eyes, as we say in ordinary parlance, rebirthlinking consciousness is formed in the next new existence where fresh sense-bases and sense-objects interact as before to produce clinging, craving and attachment which all go to make up the same round of suffering. For, the entire string of taṇhā, upādāna, kamma and bhava spells nothing but the Truth of Suffering. It is only when this string is cut off with the knowledge of equanimity towards conditioned things that Nibbāna-peace can be established. So Buddha has this to say:

            Where mind and perception with the mind cease, there is cessation of all āyatanas or sense-bases, and this should be known (by the meditating yogī).

This cessation is Nibbāna. In the Text the word mana is used, and this needs clarification. It has been used in view of a combination of the two types of consciousness, namely, bhavaṅga, passive consciousness, and avajjana, apprehending consciousness. Bhavaṅga is the state of mind that occurs while one is dreaming or half-asleep. It is not as important as avajjana which needs to be closely observed so that you become aware of its cessation. In the Text the word, dhamma sañña, is also used. It means the perception of the sense-object. But with regard to this, we usually say citta or mind for easy understanding. So I have rendered this apprehending consciousness simply as citta. What is meant here is the cessation or the extinction of the citta which takes in the mind-object, and the citta which ordinarily knows, and the citta which finally apprehends. This represents the three phases of the citta in operation. Their cessation denotes the complete annihilation of all formations: the complete annihilation of all formations: and therein lies Nibbāna. This dhamma can be realized only with the practice of insight-meditation. When the mind is inclined to Nibbāna, all forms of consciousness cease, when Path consciousness and Fruition consciousness are realized.


In the third part of this part of this discourse, it has been shown that as we are noting the phenomenon of seeing, both the eye-base and perception of form get dissolved that as we are noting the phenomenon of hearing, both the ear-base and perception of sound get dissolved, that as we are noting the phenomenon of smelling both the nose-base and perception of smell get dissolved, that as we are noting the phenomenon of tasting, both the tongue-base and perception of taste get dissolved, that as we are noting the phenomenon of touching both the body and perception of touch get dissolved and that as we are noting ideation, both the mind and perception of ideas get dissolved. To know this dissolution or cessation of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile mental perceptions at the six mind-doors denotes the realization of the Truth of the Cessation of the cause of Suffering. This discovery of cessation cannot be realized by just thinking or imagining, but actual practice of meditating on nāmarūpa till knowledge of equanimity is achieved. When it is truly realized conviction that all conditioned things spell suffering will be gained. You will also come to the conclusion that craving for that suffering is suffering itself. When craving is dispelled no new becoming can arise. On the attainment of enlightenment Buddha uttered this udāna, Word of Triumph denoting satisfaction over his conquest of craving.

            Anekajāti saṃsāraṃ, sandhāvissaṃ anibbisaṃ Gahakāraṃ gavesanto, dukkhā jati punoppunaṃ.

            Gahakāra diṭṭhosi, puna gehaṃ na kāhasi, Sabbā te Phāsukā bhaggā, gahakutaṃ visaṅkhataṃ. Visākhāragataṃ, cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā.

            I have gone through the round of rebirths seeking the builder of the house (of this khandhās) but to no avail for lack of wisdom. To be born again and again is misery indeed! Now, house-builder! I have thee beholden! Thou shalt no longer build any house again, for thy beams and rafters have been pulled down and the ridge-pole dismantled. My mind, inclined to the annihilation of all kamma-formations, has attained the end of cravings.

Needless to say, the house-builder is taṇhā, craving, which builds the house of the khandhās in the round of existences, thus bringing forth the rise of jāti, becoming, the most horrifying of all miseries and pain that can be encountered. If he is not discovered, he will continue building the house again and again. You may not have any inclination to go down to the nether worlds, but taṇhā will insist on your taking up residence in the house he builds there. You shall never find him if you fail to gain sammāsaṃbhodhi ñāṇa or enlightenment. Buddha, before the realization of this wisdom, had to go round and round through myriads of rebirths.

If has now become a custom with Buddhists in Myanmar to recite the two gāthās of the udāna when cetiyas or images are to be sanctified. It is also not unusual for the laity to recite paticcasamuppāda (law of causality) both in direct and reverse order during that ceremony. This Law was meditated upon by Buddha on the seventh day of his enlightenment. The sanctification-ceremony is called "anekazatin" in Myanmar. This practice does not prevail in Thailand or Ceylon.


What is important to note is that Nibbāna has no foothold. It has no location. When we speak of Nibbāna as residing within this one-fathom-long body, we mean to say it metaphorically. This has been emphasised again and again. No doubt, dukkha caccā, the Truth of Suffering, and samudaya saccā, the Truth of the Cause of Suffering, are actually apparent in the body of any individual. Magga saccā, the Truth of the Path, lies latent in the yogī who practises insight-meditation to arrive at the Noble Path. Nirodha saccā, the Truth of the Cessation of the Cause of Suffering, which is Nibbāna itself, resides in the body of the Noble Ones who have inclined to the Path and its Fruition. So it may be said that it is always present in the bodies of the Arahats.

But this does not mean to say that Nibbāna exists with the Noble Ones in the strict materialistic sense of the word. In the heart of the Noble Ones all defilements have been exterminated. This extermination has been given a location in a figurative sense; and this has been explicitly mentioned in Visuddhi Magga thus:-

            Nibbāna has no location. But when speaking of cessation of defilements, the place where defilements are situated have to be mentioned. So a location is indicated metaphorically.

In the usual saying that eyes are lovely and that craving for those lovely eyes are extinguished, you cannot actually locate where such extinguishment takes place. Therefore, we can only speak figuratively of the place where Nibbāna is situated.

Abhidhamma is explicit on this point. It clearly states that Nibbāna is extraneous to the body. It is accomplished outside the body, bahiddha. Hence we say that is has no residence, no abode and location.

As a result of listening well and respectfully to this discourse on Nibbāna, may this audience enter Nibbāna, the end of the world of suffering, through the revelation of the Truth of Suffering arrived at by the practice of insight-meditation.

Sādhu!    Sādhu!     Sādhu!

Chapter 5


            (Delivered on the 8th. waxing day of Thadingyut, 1326 M.E. corresponding to October 14, 1964).

This is in continuation of my previous four lectures on the subject of Nibbāna which has been described as a state of cessation of all kamma-formations caused by defilements enabling no new khandhās to arise.

Cessation of Craving

Vāna, from which is derived the word Nibbāna, means craving for kāmabhava, sensual existence, rūpabhava, material existence and arūpabhava, immaterial existence. It takes delight in both the objects of sense and thought. It hops from one object to another in regular or irregular manner, or in correct sequence or in reverse order. It moves like a shuttle in weaving. In fact the original meaning of the word relates to weaving. Past, present and future existences are woven into a pattern as variegated as human fancy could allow.

Nibbāna has its aim in the liberation from the clutches of craving. The scriptures say "Vānato nikkhantanti nibbānaṃ"  -- Nibbāna is a departure from craving. Another exegesis says: N' atthi vanaṃ etthati nibbānaṃ" -- Craving is not in Nibbāna. All these go to show that craving has no Nibbāna as its objective.

Lust or sensual craving cherishes that sexes should be differentiated. It loves sensual pleasures derived from the organs of sense like eyes, ears, etc. It feels wearisome in the absence of the five constituents of sensual pleasures. Craving developed in material world likes material existence of form Sphere and that in immaterial world, immaterial existence or Formless Sphere. Those who are obsessed with craving cannot realize the ill of existence, and so they have no affinity for Nibbāna where there is no becoming. People pray for Nibbāna but when they are told that they would be instantly transported there with all changes for a return to the present existence barred, they would hesitate in the manner of a devotee in the following story.

Let me Consider it

A lay devotee prayed before the image of a Buddha that he reach Nibbāna as soon as possible. Hearing his frequent prayers, a practical joker hid himself behind the image and said with a thundering voice, "You have prayed often enough. Today I am sending you to Nibbāna." The aspirant to Nibbāna replied, "Well and good! But let me go back home to consult my wife." When he got home he related the incident to his wife and sought her advice. "what a lucky man," she said "Don't hesitate. Go quickly." The naive devotee then asked, "Consider whether you can run the house without me," she replied, "Go without any misgiving! There's no need for me to consider." The husband retorted, "Even though you won't consider the propriety, let me consider it." It may not be a true story; but it smacks of realism.

Loth to Earn Merit for Nibbāna

Accumulating merits though the practice of insight-meditation brings one nearer to Nibbāna; but few actually take it up. We usually have to make tremendous efforts in persuading a devotee to meditate. Consider the case of Queen Khemā, the wife of King Bimbisāra. Although he had been a devotee, she had never visited Buddha. He had to employ a number of stratagems to prompt her to go to the monastery. But once she was in the presence of Buddha, all was well; and she became an Arahat the moment she had listened to the dhamma. There is also another story about Kāla, the son of Anāthapindika. Let us call him Maung Kāla in the Myanmar way.


Anāthapindika, the millionaire, heard the news about Buddha while he was trading at Rājagaha. He visited him and listened to his dhamma. At once he became a stream-winner, sotāpanna, and invited the Great Teacher to reside at Sāvatthi. He bought Prince Jeta's garden at 18 crores silver, built a monastery costing him another 18 crores, and held a libation ceremony spending still another 18 crores. He donated the monastery to Buddha and his disciples. Everyday he would feed 500 monks, keeping sabbath himself and encouraging his household to do like him. Although he had become a kyaungdagā, donor of monastery, his son. Maung Kāla, had no inclination for Buddha's dhamma.

There was enough reason for him not to have any sense of devotion for Buddha and the dhamma, for in those days people followed Purāna Kassapa's heretical teachings. There were also many kinds of animists. Some worshipped Brahma as god. Had it not been for Buddha Anāthapindika himself would have been involved with various kinds of religious denominations current before Buddha's enlightenment. Maung Kāla might also be a follower of heretical schools of religion. It might not be convenient for him to change from one religion to another.

The father thought about the son's welfare: "My son knows not Buddha. He cannot appreciate the Law and the Order. He has no desire to go to Buddha's monastery. He has no inclination to listen to the dhamma. He shuns doing chores for the convenience of the monks. Should he die a heretic he would surely go to avīci, the lowest of the nether worlds. That the son of a Buddha is not Buddhist is the height of impropriety. If he gets to avīci while I am still living, it will be the worst. Usually money can change the mind of many. I must send him to the monastery at the risk of indulging in bribery." Thinking thus, the millionaire told his son that he would give the latter a hundred pieces of silver if only he would go to the monastery. The son accepted the offer.

When he got to the monastery Maung Kāla chose a cozy corner where he slept heartily, for he had no mind to listen to the dhamma: When he came home, the father fed him well in the belief that his son had kept sabbath. Maung Kāla was always after money and so he had his meal only after he had been paid. Next the rich man told him that if only he would listen to the dhamma and relate but one stanza of it to the father, he would be rewarded with 1,000 silver.

Maung Kāla paid another visit to the monastery and this time he listened carefully to what Buddha preached. The Teacher knew him well, and he purposely delivered several discourses which the rich man's son could not easily commit to memory. As the stipulation with his father was to retell what Buddha taught even if it be but one verse, he now took special care to understand. Reaching understanding, he had faith developed, and  at this psychological moment Buddha preached his sermon so that it went well with him. Having accumulated perfection (pāramī) in the past, Maung Kāla at once attained to sotāpatti stage and become a stream-winner.

Once a sotāpanna his faith in Buddhadhamma became steadfast, all doubts and wrong views having been dispelled. On that particular day he did not go home by himself early, but, instead. remained behind in the company of Buddha and his disciples. When they visited the rich man's house for alms-meal, he followed them. But on reaching the house he became worried that his father might give out the 1,000 silver to him in the presence of Buddha, for, he did not want to appear that he went to the monastery with pecuniary motive. A sense of shame had overtaken him. As usual he took his meals after Buddha and the monks; but this time he took care not to make himself conspicuous. Nevertheless, Anāthapindika came to him and paid him the money as promised saying that it was a reward for his son's attendance at the monastery to keep sabbath and hear the law preached. He was greatly mortified and refused to accept the money. The father related the whole incident to the Buddha, saying that on this particular day his son had radiated happiness unlike in previous occasions when greed seized him.

Then said Buddha: "Your son, rich man, he has become a stream-winner who is nobler than a universal monarch, or a deva or a Brahmā."


Almost everyone likes to be a king. To him even headmanship has its appeals. A kingdom is better than a principality. A bigger kingdom is far better. An emperor is more powerful than a feudal lord. A monarch ruling the entire continent would be far more powerful. If one becomes a universal monarch or cakkavatti, lord of all the four continents, nothing more can be said. Wielding his magic wheel of authority and shining in an aura of virtue, all emperors and kings bow to him. Because of his virtuousness, all his subjects possess affluence, solidarity and righteousness.

A life of luxury enjoyed by a universal monarch pales into insignificance when compared to the state of peacefulness achieved by a  sotāpanna, stream-winner. The monarch's happiness would last only for his lifetime. If he rules the universe with kingly virtues, he may be reborn after his death in heaven; but no one can say for certain whether he would be destined for Nibbāna or for the four nether worlds. But once a devotee becomes a sotapānna, all doors for the nether worlds will be closed for him. Should he go to heaven, he has only seven more existences, he will be destined for Arahatship subsequently attaining to the state of complete annihilation of the rounds of suffering after his prainibbāna. Buddha, therefore, praised Maung Kāla whose life was far better than that of a universal monarch.


A sotapānna is nobler than a deva or a Brahma. There are six Celestial Planes of existence, of which Catumahārajika is the lowest in the order. Even there, devas enjoy long. A day in that Plane is equivalent to 50 years of life on this earth. The span of life of a deva in Catumahārajika is 500 heavenly years which equal 9 million years of our human world. Humans live to be 100; in which case a deva's life is 90,000 times longer than human life. They possess not only longevity, but also beauty. They enjoy happiness more than we do. The devas of Tāvatimsā excel those of Catumahārajika. Their span of life is three times longer than that of the residents of the lower Place. computed to earth-years, their span of life equals to 36 million years. Longevity at Yāma is four times that of Tāvatimsā, and the span of life there is 144 million earth-years. Calculating the earth-years in the same manner described, Tusitās longevity in 576 million years, Nimmānarati's is 2304 million and Paranimmitavassavatī's is 9,216 million. Whatever their longevity they cannot, when they die, escape from the four nether worlds should they by chance be reborn into this human world to fall into bad company and commit evil deeds. Not being destined for Nibbāna despite their supernormal attainments, they cannot get away from the turning of the wheel of existence; and therefore, they will be subjected to disease and death. Sotāpannas give a wide birth to four niriyas or woeful states and they have only seven existences to get before attaining to Nibbāna.

Brahmās' lives are far nobler and better than those of the devas. They are impervious to the wiles of the five constituents of sensual pleasure. They also enjoy peace. Their lives last from one-third of a world-cycle to 84,000 world cycles. But when Brahmās die, they revert to the world of the senses where, should by an unfortunate chance they happen to commit evil, they would also go down to the nether worlds. They also are subjected to rounds of suffering like ageing and death, as they return to the sensual world. For sotāpannas, however, there are no niriyas awaiting them, and they are destined for Nibbāna after seven existences.


If the King of Brahmās is but an ordinary being not inclined to the dhamma, he cannot escape from the four nirayas nor from the rounds of suffering. A sotāpanna has nothing to fear them for he has only seven existences to go before he gets to Nibbāna where all sufferings cease.

What I would like to emphasise in the story of Maung Kāla is, firstly, the fact that he has to be coaxed into listening to the dhamma although he had long gained perfection that prepared him for the state of a sotāpanna, and, secondly, that craving is anathema to Nibbāna. One obsessed with craving would not hear of any teaching that points the way to Nibbāna. I would also like to remind you that once a sotāpanna is within sight of Nibbāna, he has but seven existences to go during which he will, as of course, be subjected to miseries and sufferings. In the end, however, he will be an Arahat who can annihilate all defilements.


Beings in sensuous spheres desire sensual pleasures arising out of differentiation of the sexes. Brahmās have no sex and so they do not have any desire for sensual pleasures derived from sexual relations. They are very happy in that state. But the lustful has no love for loveless Brahmās. He considers the absence of sensual pleasure as misery or dukkha. Brahmas live without eating. Where there is no need for food, no desire for it can arise; and this in itself should be happiness as lack of necessity for the daily round of food does away with many troubles. But sensuous beings love gustatory pleasures; and so to them absence of those pleasures means misery. Where contact is absent, no pleasurable tactile sensations can be enjoyed. But this state of things can also bring happiness, for it does away with desire. Because of this nature, those entranced in the jhānic state of Form Spheres feel happy. But not so with sensuous beings who regard life in those spheres as woeful because they are always obsessed with craving for pleasures of the senses.


In Formless Spheres nāmas like mind and volition dominate. There are four planes in these spheres, namely, ākāsānañcāyatana, the Plane of the Infinity of Space, viññanañcāyatana, the Plane of the Infinity of Consciousness. akiñvaññāyatana, the Plane of Nothingness and nevasaññānāsaññāyatana, the Plane of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. Those who have perfected themselves in arūpa jhāna can get to any one of these four Planes where matter is totally absent. they live in the world of ideation where there is no material suffering. Those possessing craving for kāma, sensuality, and rūpa, materiality do not like to be reborn in any Plane of Formless Spheres. But the occupants of those planes of formless existence are quite happy with their psychological conditions. they are, however, in a dead end.They are unaware of the appearance of Buddha or of their enlightenment. Having no material body, they lack in sense organs and so they are impervious to their teachings. No Buddha can teach them the dhamma. They live long lives say, for twenty, forty, sixty or eighty-four world-cycles; but when they pass away they may be reborn in Sense-Spheres. Ālāra and Udaka, who first taught religious discipline to Bodhisatta before he practised austerities, lost invaluable opportunities to see the light of the dhamma when Buddha attained enlightenment, because they happened to be reborn in one of the Formless Spheres, which is included in eight kinds of existence remote from the Path of deliverence. If one gets to any one of the four Planes in formless Spheres as an ordinary individual, one would surely miss the Path. But if one gets there as a sotāpanna, or  sakadāgāmi or anāgāmi, by virtue of vipassanā practice, he can attain to the state of an Arahat and subsequently to Nibbāna.

Craving has no Affinity for NIBBĀNA

The element of anupādisesa Nibbāna, total extinction of the Khandhās, is not liked by any form of craving - craving for lust, craving for Form and craving for formlessness. The majority who fails to get convinced of the futility of the khandhās and kamma-formations has no love for that element of Nibbāna which leaves behind no substrata of existence. Yesterday, I talked about Lāludāyī who grumbled: "What happiness is there in Nibbāna which is devoid of sensations?" To him Nibbāna appeared to be a mass of suffering in the absence of sensations. Unbelievers, who have developed attachment to the khandhās and kamma-formations, scoff at the idea of Nibbāna which they regard as the death of all deaths. Their attitude is the attitude of craving toward Nibbāna.

I have already suggested that craving cannot take up its residence in Nibbāna. Here I may add an observation which says: Natthi vānametasmim adhigateti nibbānaṃ (When Nibbāna is attained, craving goes out of existence).


In Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, nirodha saccā, the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is shown thus:-

            Katamañca bhikkhave dukkhanirāodho ariyasaccaṃ? Yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesavirganirodhoi cago pantinissaggo mutti anālayo. Ayaṃ vaccat bhikkhave dukkhanirodho ariyasaccaṃ.

            And, what, bhikkhus, is the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering?

            It is the utter fading away and cessation of that very craving, the giving it up, the abandoning it, the release from it, and the detachment from it. And this, I say bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.

(Sayā U Pe Maung Tin's translation.)

Here craving is totally extinguished through walking the Path of Arahatship. In the absence of craving, no actions arise, and consequently no new becoming, no nāmas, no rūpas, and no khandhās.

On the fiftieth day after enlightenment, Buddha meditated on the essence of Nibbāna which is so subtle that it cannot be easily understood.

Idampi kho thānaṃ duddasaṃ, yadidaṃ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbupadhipatinissaggo taṇhākhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṃ.

Verify does Nibbāna exist where all formations cease, where all substrata of being are abandoned, where all desires become extinct, where all passions are spent and where the mass of suffering is brought to its end.

The Four Upadhis

Upadhi is a substratum of being or the foundation that makes the body the seat of pleasure and pain or happiness and misery. There are four of them, namely, kāmupadhi, khandhupadhi, kilesupadhi, and abhisaṅkhārūpadhi. Kāmupadhi is the five constituents of sensual pleasure. They are the causes of ills and miseries, but worldlings take it that they also give them happiness or delight.

Khandhupadhi relates to the five aggregates, which bring suffering to us. Worldlings, however, say that they are also sources of happiness. For them to see beautiful sights or forms to hear pleasant sounds, to smell sweet fragrance and to taste palatable food, to have a soft touch and to think of agreeable ideas are all enjoyment. But to Arahats these roots of pleasure are all miserable.

Is it not just to satisfy the demands of pleasure that we work for a living? In our daily rounds of work we have to be careful to save what we earn at times, at the risk of our lives. As we go hell for leather for the realization of our wants and desires, our interests often dash when quarrels arise even among friends or brothers and sisters. Sometimes when the sense of possession of property is uppermost in our minds, rifts develop even among our parents and our children. Civil suits in courts for inheritance come about in this way. The root cause of all such miserable drama in life can be traced to the attachment of the five constituents of pleasure.

All sufferings stem from nāmarūpa. Where these aggregates do not arise, there is the cessation of suffering. Hence khandhās are recognized as khandhupadhi.

Lobha, avarice, dosa, animosity and moha, ignorance or delusion are basic defilements. They always generate suffering in all rounds of existence. They operate in all worlds, whether of devas, or men, or animals or petas or nirayas (hell). As they form a base for suffering to arise, they are known as kilesupadhi.

Accumulation of wholesome and unwholesome actions is called abhisaṅkhāra. By dint of charitableness, morality and development of mental culture, one may be transported to heaven, and then as a deva or Brahma one may think that one's life as such is an epitome of happiness. People in this world, enjoying the fruits of wholesome actions, also think that they are enjoying happiness. But Arahats see them all as subjected to suffering, for, as their destinies are determined by their abhisaṅkhāra, they may if their kammas go away, go down to the nether worlds. Hence kamma-formations are held to be abhisaṅkhārūpadhi. In Nibbāna all these four upadhis or substrata of being are totally extinguished.

Nirodha as Expounded in Kevatta Sutta

In the Paticcasamuppāda it has been shown that the cessation of ignorance brings about the cessation of kamma-formations, and that cessation of kamma-formations brings about the cessations of consciousness that leads to the rise of rebirth-linking process and new becoming. Hence, nirodha, liberation, is explained in the commentaries as synonymous with Nibbāna. But here suffice it to say that it is cessation or liberation from craving and lust. I shall now refer to Kevatta Sutta in Sīlakkhadha Vagga for more explanations.

Viññanaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbatopabhaṃ; etthaāpoca pathavī tejo vāyo na gādhati. Ettha dighañca rassañca, anum thulaṃ subhasubhaṃ, ettha nāmañca, rūpañca, asesaṃ uparujjhati. Viññānassa nirodhena, etthetaṃ uparujjhati.

One cannot see consciousness (that can be known only by the Noble Path.) It has no limits. It shines with purity. It has no primary elements like earth, fire, water and air. It is neither long nor short; it is neither big nor small; it is neither pleasing nor displeasing to the eye. In Nibbāna all matter that inclines toward the mind ceases totally. Since consciousness is rendered extinct, nāmarūpas cease altogether.

Indeed Nibbāna cannot be seen with the naked eye; it can be seen only with the eye of wisdom or Path-knowledge. It is, therefore, beyond comparison. It knows neither beginning nor end, and neither arising nor dissolution. You cannot say that it is here Nibbāna arises and that there it vanishes. When no earth can anyone discover the beginning or end of a phenomenon when kamma-formations are totally extinguished?

Nibbāna is of pristine purity. Pollution of mind and matter is possible as cravings like greed, anger and ignorance defile citta, cetasika and nāma. In fact they can even pollute wholesome actions. But in Nibbāna no such defilements can arise. Hence we say that its purity is bright and clear. This figurative language leads to the description of Nibbāna as light. But light is the result of the contact of a sense-base with a sense-object and indicates materiality. In Nibbāna matter is virtually absent; and so to take it as light in a literal sense goes against the teaching of Buddha.

The word, sabbatopabhaṃ, that occurs in the above extract from Kevatta Sutta, has another connotation which empahsises that Nibbāna is the destination reachable through the practice of kammaṭṭhāna, mental culture. Visuddhimagga and Abhidhammā mention 40 menthods of practice, but in the canonical texts only 38 are shown excluding āloka kasina and ākāsa kasina. Literaly Kasina means whole and complete. It is an image conceptualised by the meditator as light which extends everywhere completely without limit. Or, in other words, it is a contemplation device on which a concept is imagined. Hence āloka kasina is usually rendered as "light device," and ākāsa kasina as "space device." The practice of any one of these kammaṭṭhāna-objects of meditation can lead the yogī to the realization of Nibbāna. If one wants to go to sea, one get to it from any place in the coastline. If you want to bathe in a lake, you can get to its waters from any point of its perimeter. In that same way if you want to reach Nibbāna you can take any of the 38 routes that kammaṭṭhāna rules prescribe. But, of course, you cannot get to your desired destination only through the samatha method of training in concentration. You must also take up insight-meditation after accomplishment in samatha. Vipassanā alone can lead you to jhāna or absorption from which stage you can aspire to the ultimate Nibbāna through the realization of Path and Fruition-consciousness.

Once a young monk entered a forest with his companion, a novice, in search of materials for a tooth-brush. The novice found a dead body on the way. Forthwith he meditated on the corpse and attained to the first jhāna. He resumed meditating on the arise and fall of the aggregates till he reached the second and third stages, one by one, of the Path and its Fruition. As he was trying for the final fourth stage of jhāna leading to arahatta magga, he was hailed from afar by his senior. He rose from the jhāna and pointed out the corpse to the monk, who, at once, practised meditation till he attained to anāgāmi stage. It appears that both the monk and the novice were quite familiar with the methods of insight-meditation,and that, therefore, they became anāgāmis. This shows that any of the 38 methods of mind culture can lead one to the Path and Nibbāna.

About Miracles

I shall now tell you why Kevatta sutta was preached by Buddha. Once Kevatta approached Buddha and requested him to allow monks to exercise supernormal powers and work miracles of pātihāriya.

"This Nalanda City is thriving," said Kevatta, and citizens are devoted to the Blessed One. But their devotion will become all the more profound if only you would appoint a monk to exhibit pātihāriya through his psychical powers either fortnightly or monthly.

But the Blessed One refused. Kevatta, however, repeated his request three times in the fond belief that it is only through an exhibition of supernormal powers that adherents can develop more faith in Buddha; whereas the Enlightened One foresaw reactions resulting from the practice of monks working miracles. So he made a discourse on the three kinds of supernormal powers.

Psychic Powers

Miracles can be produced by iddhividha abhiññā, higher knowledge of psychical powers that can conjure up many forms and shapes. In the Texts this is expressed as "being one, he becomes many." The owner of this knowledge can reproduce his likeness a hundred or a thousand times. He can fly through the air, walk on water, dive into the earth, bring remote things near and send near objects far away.

When Buddha chastened Aṅgulimāla he conjured up a small plot of ground into a vast expanse, and a fragment of a boulder into a hill. This made the murderer got exhausted as he chased Buddha to kill for he had to run a great distance while the latter just walked. "Monk!" he shouted at last, "Stop as I stop!" And he stopped running "Aṅgulimāla!" replied Buddha "I have stopped while you are still running."

Aṅgulimāla got bewildered on hearing Buddha say that it was he himself who was running while the great monk had stopped, while, in actual fact, it was the other way round. So he sought for an explanation from Buddha who said: "Aṅgulimāla! I have stopped journeying through the rounds of existence as I have discarded defilements. You who still cherish defilements are going round and round in the whirlpool of the saṃsāra." Forthwith Aṅgulimāla saw the light of wisdom and requested Buddha for admission into the Order. "Come hither Bhikkhu!" said Buddha and the ex-killer became a monk. In this instance proximity was made to appear to be remote through the exercise of iddhi, miraculous faculty.

Mahā Moggalāna converted Kosiya, the Niggardly, and brought him and his wife to jetavana monastery from Sakkara village in Rājagaha by invoking supernormal powers. He worked the miracle of bringing the gate of the monastery to the door-steps of the rich man's mansion. In this case remoteness was made to appear proximate.

Magical Powers

Such miracles contribute no doubt to the development of piety; but they can be discredited by unbelievers who might say: "In the country of Gandhāra, there are magicians who can conjure up wondrous forms and images. Your Teacher might be well-versed in that kind of Gandhāran magic." In fact Buddha actually questioned Kevatta in that manner and the latter admitted that that could happen. This would not be to the good of the Teaching.

There are also some other drawbacks with regard to the exhibition of supernormal powers. It would go against the observance of āgiva sīla (correct conduct) if monks accept gifts donated in consideration of the exercise of those powers with sincere motives. If miracles are allowed devotees would be inclined more to those who can work wonder than to ordinary monks practising morality, in which case the precepts kept by the miracle-worker will be deemed to have been broken. This is considered unwholesome. A monk may have attained Arahatship but he may not possess miraculous powers. Because of this fact a layman's faith and devotion may be weakened. This will affect the prosperity of the sāsanā, the Teaching. If that be the case the monk working miracles will naturally be held responsible, and he will be held to have committed unwholesome deed and this will do him no good. When the elder monk, Pindola, worked miracles at the suggestion of Mahā moggalāna for the acquisition of a bowl of sandalwood, Buddha forbade the display of miraculous powers among sanghas.

Knowledge of Others People's Thoughts

Cetopariya abhiññā is the higher knowledge of other people's thoughts. To know the minds of others is a miracle itself.

There is the story of Buddha's conversion of ascetics under the leadership of Uruvela Kassapa. Once the head of this heretical sect invited Buddha to a feast. Buddha, however, did not attend the feast on the appointed day, but only on the next day. Asked the reason why Buddha said, "Is it not correct to say that on the day of the feast an idea got into your head that it would be better is I did not come as invited, for, if I came and displayed psychical powers, people's devotion would grow more and more towards me rather than towards you?" It then occurred to Kassapa that Buddha might be the most powerful as he could read other people's minds. There and then devotion to Buddha developed in him. It was in this way that he was converted by Buddha who exercised his psychical powers called cetopariya abihiññā.

Once Buddha was going round for alms-food in Uttaraka village with Sunakkhatta, a monk belonging to the clan of Lacchavī. On the way the latter saw Korakkhattiya, a heretic doing the "dog-practice" by which he simulated the behaviour of a dog. In his previous existence Sunakkhatta indulged in such a practice, and when he saw the man going the way of dogs, he developed a sense of affinity for the latter. Buddha chastised him saying. "Surprising indeed that you should call yourself a Buddhist monk!" The monk reacted to this asking the Blessed One the reason for such a disparaging remark. "Sunakkhatta!" Buddha reprimanded him again, "you are holding the man doing the dog-practice in high esteem. Your veneration to the heretic eating like a dog is misplaced." This is also an example of the application of knowledge of other people's thoughts when Buddha had occasion to reprimand the disciples.

Besides creating wonder, such a way of rebuke may, perhaps, draw more sincere devotees for the faith; but it had also its disadvantages. "Those who are well-deposed to the faith," said Buddha, "may have praises for this kind of miracle; but un-believers would say that the Teacher is applying the art of magic practised by those well-versed in Manika mantra." Not to provide any cause for slander, Buddha forbade patihāriya.

Power of Dispensation

In the propagation of the dhamma Buddha relied more on his power of dispensation or anusāsani pratihā than on supernormal powers. His instructions to his disciples always relate to right thinking. His exhortations are mainly concerned with noting and observing the phenomena. His teachings encourage doing good and shunning evil. His method of admonition is flawless. Anyone who practises what he teaches may become proficient in the establishment of morality, mindfulness and wisdom till he realizes the Path and its Fruition. Iddhi or miraculous power may be the most potent in the art of persuasion, but it cannot render the defilements extinct which is the most important in his teaching. Buddha cited the following case of a monk in search of the way to bring about the cessation of the four primary elements.

Where Does Cessation Take Place?

A monk wanted to know where the four primary elements of earth, fire, water and air cease totally without leaving any residue. He possessed iddhivida abhiññā, higher knowledge of psychical powers. So he went up to the six Planes of devas and sought of an answer. All the devas in Catumahārājā, Tāvatimasā, Yāmā, Tusitā, Nimmānārati and Paranimmitavassavatī informed him to approach the Great Brahma to get the solution to his riddle of the elements.

So he went to the Great Brahma and asked the latter about the place where the extermination of the four elements takes place.

"O monk!" said the Great Brahma, "I am the greatest. I surpass all. None surpasses me. I see all. Everything comes into being as I will it. I am the Lord of the Universe. I create the Earth and its inhabitants. I am the creator. I am the father of all who come into being now and also of all who will come into being in the future."

Brahmajāla sutta discusses the theory of creation. According to it, at the beginning of the world, a Brahma came into being in the Plane of the Brahmās. He was then alone. As the gained longevity, he felt oppressed with this loneliness and so he thought to himself that it would be great if he could have company. At this juncture some of the people on this earth gained jhāna and was reborn in the Plane where the Great Brahmā was residing. The new-comers were not as powerful as himself. So he thought that they came into being because he willed them to be. They died in course of time; but remained. Lesser Brahmās, therefore, recognized him as their creator.

But the monk was not asking whether or not the Great Brahmā was really the Great Brahmā who created the Universe. He only wanted to know the place where the four elements meet their end. So he repeated the riddle; and the Great Brahmā kept on saying that he was the creator. As the questioner was persistent, he was at long last obliged to tell him the truth in the absence of all other Brahmās, for, he did not want to let them know his ignorance and, thereby, lost his prestige as the all-knowing and the all-powerful.

"O monk!" he confided, "I do not know anything about the cessation of the elements. You are wrong to have come to me when you have Buddha who can answer your question. Go to him!"

Then only the monk approached Buddha and asked: "Reverend Sir! Where do the four primary elements come to cessation without leaving any residue?"

Buddha likened the monk to a bird flying out from a ship at sea in search of land. Not being able to reach it, it comes back to the ship. "You should not have posed the question in the way you did," said Buddha, "Your question suggests as if there is a definite place outside the body where cessation of the elements occur. In fact there is no such place. You should have asked where pathavī, tejo, āpo and vāyo lose their footing; that is to say where they lose existence. Likewise you should have asked where do long and short, great and small and good and bad lose their footing. And, you should also have asked where do mind and matter get totally annihilated leaving no residue. If you ask likewise, you shall have the answer."

Then he uttered the gāthā which begins with "viññānaṃ anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbatopabhaṃ," which has been explained extensively before. In Nibbāna, the four elements together with mind and matter have no footing. That is to say, they do not exist.

So far I have expounded the attributes of Nibbāna beginning with its state of emancipation from the world of taṇhā to that of cessation of all formations of saṅkhāra about which, I believe, all that is to be said has been said.

As you have listened with respectful attention to this discourse on Nibbāna, may you be rewarded with enlightenment of the Path and its Fruition that can lead you to Nibbāna where all formations cease as cravings are discarded.

Sādhu!    Sādhu!     Sādhu!

Chapter 6


            (Delivered on the full moon day of Thandingyut, 1326 M.E. corresponding to October 21, 1964).

The celebration of the full moon day of Thadingyut has drawn a large gathering; and so it shall be my purpose to make my sermon suit the occasion. The majority of Buddhists in Myanmar knows the life and death (parinibbāna) of Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī Therī, and I shall speak about her today as her biography can reveal sailent points about the nature of Nibbāna.

That Nibbāna denotes the cessation of defilements, actions, results of actions and aggregates of mind and matter might well be understood by now after a series of lectures. However, some may go away with the idea that, because cessation is often emphasised, it means nothingness. Actually it is an absolute reality; and if that reality were to be denied there will be nothing left but defilements, actions, results of actions and aggregates, and no one will be able to get away from this whirling of the saṃsāra, round of rebirths. This round can be actually stopped or annihilated with the diligent practice of majjhimapaṭipadā, the Middle Way. Arahats do away with it after the occurrence of their death consciousness following their parinibbāna. It shows that Nibbānic bliss can actually be established. It is commonly held that cancer is incurable, for there is no medicine for it, while there are medicines for other diseases. This shows that remedies are available for a number of diseases notwithstanding the fact that cancer is incurable. In as much as such remedies are real, the remedy for the complete cure of the affliction by kilesā, defilements, is real. Once it is cured, Nibbānic bliss is established.


The reality of Nibbānic peace has been shown by Buddha in the following passage:

Atthi bhikkhave a jātaṃ abhutaṃ akataṃ asaṅkhataṃ; no cetaṃ bhikkhave abhavissa a jāta abhutaṃ akataṃ asaṅkhataṃ; nayidha jātassa bhutassa katassa saṅkhatassa nissaranaṃ paññāyetha. Yasma ca kho bhikkhave atthi a jataṃ abhutaṃ akataṃ asaṅkhataṃ; tasma jatāssa bhutassa katassa asaṅkhatassa nissaranaṃ paññāyati.

The element of peace of the Unborn, the Uncreated, the Uncaused and the Unformed does exist. If this element of peace of the Unborn. the Uncreated, the Uncaused and the Unformed were absent, there will exist in this world mind and matter that are born, created, caused and formed, in which case there will be no knowing by an individual of how to escape from this saṃsāra.

Now I shall tell you about the cessation of the round of suffering achieved by Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī therī as she attained anupādisesa parinibbāna.


Buddha's mother is Mahā Māyā Devī. Her younger sister is Mahā Pājāpati Gotamī. Both were the daughters of King Añjana of Devadaha, near Kapilavatthu. King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu married both sisters. Court astrologers predicted that sons born to these two queens would become universal monarchs.

According to the ancients normal span of human life is a hundred years. For chronological purposes it is divided into three periods, each period being again divided into three portions of time. It is the way of mothers of Buddhas to give birth to a son in the last leg of the second period; and based on that fact I have calculated that Mahā Māyā bore the son, Prince Siddhattha, when she was past 56. By today's standards this may not be possible, but in those days of longevity it is reasonable to fix the age as I do.

Seven days after giving birth to the Prince, who was destined to become a Buddha she died to be reborn in Tusitā as a deva. Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī, who might be about 54, succeeded her elder sister as chief queen, and soon she also gave birth to Prince Nanda. She nurtured both her own son and her elder sister's but she breast-fed her step-son leaving her own to the care of a wet nurse. On that score Myanmar Buddhists used to say that Buddha was highly indebted to her step-mother.

Prince Siddhattha grew to the age of sixteen when he was married to Yasodharā, the daughter of King Suppabuddha of Devadaha. Lolling in the lap of luxury of the royalty, he enjoyed life to the full until he became disgusted with it; and at the age of 29 he renounced the world to become a recluse. For six years he practised austerities which he abandoned in the end realizing that they availed him not in the search for Truth and Enlightenment. He then took up majjhimapatipadā and attained enlightenment on the full moon day of Kason (about May) when he reached 35.

After the attainment of Buddhahood, he went to the Deer Park in Isipatana; and on the full moon day of Wāso (about July) he preached Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta to the group of five monks among whom Kondañña became a stream-winner the very first day he heard the Law. The other four followed him suit after one, two, three and four days respectively. On the 5th waning of Wāso Buddha preached Anatta Lakkhana Sutta when all the five monks became Arahats. During the first vassa or Retreat 55 monks headed by Yasa attained Arahatship.

By the end of the first Retreat Buddha had gathered around him 60 Arahats whom he charged to go all over the country to propagate the dhamma. He himself converted 1,000 ascetics led by Uruvela Kassapa. They all became Arahats and accompanied Buddha to Rājagaha. At the first gathering of welcome extended to him by King Bimbisāra and his 110,000 subjects, Buddha preached the Four Noble Truths. Having realized them, the King built Veluvana monastery for the All-Enlightened who took up residence there preaching the dhamma around Rājagaha and Gijjhakuta Hill. When King Suddhodana came to know of this, he sent ten court officials, each with a following of 1,000 to persuade his son, now the Enlightened One, to come to Kapilavatthu. But none of the emissaries ever returned as they all sought ordination under the wing of the teaching. At last the king sent Kāludāyī explicitly enjoining him to sing an ode to the beauty of summer in sixty stanzas, for it is usually the best season for travel any time anywhere. I give below my own translation of two of the stanzas which can be recited as a devotional.

Trees have shed their leaves and donned a new foliage of flaming red that engulfs the entire forest. It is now time for you O Great Man, to return to your City!

The season is neither too cold nor too hot. Fields covered with a carpet of green grass portend abundance that knows no famine. It is now time for you, O Great Sage, to return to your City!

So on the first waning of Taboung (about March) Buddha left Rājagaha, a distance of 60 yojanas, marching one yojana a day, for Kapilavatthu City which was reached on the full moon day of Kason (about May). All the relatives welcomed him and brought him to Nigrodhārāma monastery.

Men of Sākiyan clan are known for their pride. Buddha was then only 36, and so the relatives who were older than he were loth to pay him homage. They preferred to remain at the back pushing in front their younger brothers, sons, nephews and grandsons who would worship the Enlightened One. In order that the whole Sākiyan clan could know the virtues of the Enlightened, Buddha worked a miracle creating a huge cloister for him where he revealed himself walking as his body spewed out fire and water together. On seeing this, King Suddhodana bowed and "shikkoed" his son and thereafter all followed his example.


Next morning Buddha, accompanied by 20,000 monks, went round the City of Kapilavatthu for alms-food. Yasodharā saw this from the window of her palace and reported the matter to the King saying that it was beneath the dignity of a King's son to go about begging. Suddhodana got ashamed and rushed out from the throne to Buddha and made the protest. "Why do you," he said, "put me to shame by going round the city a-begging? Do you think that I cannot feed you and your 20,000 followers?" Buddha told his father that it is the practice of all Buddhas to go round for alms in the event when no individual donor had had the occasion to ask them to visit his or her house for an offering of meals. He then uttered this stanza.

            "One should never be negligent in the declared principles of priestly conduct of going round for alms. One should practise it as it is good and noble; and one who practises it can sleep well not only in this world but also in other worlds."

Having heard this, the King bent his mind on the import of the statement and saw the light of the dhamma and became a streamwinner (sotāpanna).

In the commentaries it has been point out that development of pīti, joy, in thinking of the nobleness of the virtues possessed by Buddha can lead one to the acquirement of insight-knowledge into the transient nature of the phenomenon of pīti itself as it arises and passes away. For present day individuals a whole day of meditation is not sufficient for the development of samādhi, concentration. It may take them a week or so to gain it in order to realize the nature of mind and matter. For King Suddhodana, however, realization of the dhamma was momentous because he had perfected himself for such realization since time immemorial. So when he came to know that priestly conduct required Buddha and his Order not to ask for food verbally, but by simply standing in front of the house of a would-be donor, he became complaisant towards Buddha for such a conduct. It led him to the development of joy. He meditated on that joy and realized its nature of origination and dissolution. In an instant insight-knowledge blossomed forth and he became a stream-winner.

The King took the bowl from Buddha's hands and invited all the monks to his palace where he intended to make a grand offering.

Once in the presence of Queen Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī and the courtiers, Buddha again lauded the virtues of priestly conduct, on hearing which Buddha's step-mother also became a sotāpanna.


Next day the King held a ceremony to install Prince Nanda, his son by Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī, regent, and to mark the occasion made offerings of alms-meal to Buddha and his disciples. When it was over, Buddha gave his alms-bowl to his cousin, Prince Nanda, and returned to the monastery. The latter followed him with reluctance, and he was seen by Janapadakalyāṇī, his betrothed. "come back soon, dear!" the princess entreated.

But when he got to the monastery he was asked by Buddha if he would become a monk. He gave his halfhearted assent in awe and reverence to the Enlightened. He was duly admitted to the Order. A week later, Rāhula, the son, came to the monastery to ask for inheritance from his father at his mother's bidding. But Buddha told Sāriputtarā to ordain him, and so he became a sāmaṇera (novice). Soon after that the Enlightened One gave Suddhodana a sermon about Mahā Dhammapālā Jātaka, and the latter forthwith attained to the stage of an anāgāmi, non-returner.

Leaving Kapilavatthu Buddha changed his residence to Anupiya Nigama village in Malla Kingdom; and while he was staying there, Bhaddiya, King of the Sākiyas, Anuruddha, Ānandā, Bagu, Kimila and Devadattha, all princes, accompanied by their barber Upāḷi, came to him and requested that they all be ordained. In that first Retreat, Bhaddiya became an Arahat while Anuruddha attained dibacakkhu ñāṇa, Divine Eye, and Ānandā won the stage of a stream-winner. Devadattha also gained iddhividha abhiññā, super-normal powers.


Buddha again moved out from Anupiya Nigama to Rājagaha to spend the second and followin Retreat there. While he was spending the fifth Retreat at Kutāgārasāla monastery of Mahāvana Forest in Vesālī, King Suddhodana died in his own palace in Kapilavatthu. Before he died he meditated on the dhamma and gained the Path and its Fruition and became an Arahat. He died the parinibbāna death. Buddha attended the funeral of his father.


After the parinibbāna of King Suddhodana, Queen Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī approached Buddha for permission of women to gain admittance to the Order. Thrice it was sought and thrice it was rejected. This statement is made on the authority of the commentaries on Therī Gāthā: Other versions suggested that she sought permission as early as the first Retreat in Kapilavatthu; but the commentaries are held to be reliable. The story goes as follows.

When Buddha was residing at Kutāgārasāla monastery at Vesālī, on return from Kapilavatthu where he attended his father's funeral, 500 princess of both Sākiya and Koliya clans, refugees from intemecine strife over the dispute regarding the use of the waters of the Rohinī river, requested Buddha for their ordination; and they were duly admitted into the Order. Their wives, now without their men, became weary of life and approached Gotamī to request Buddha to admit women into the Order as they all wanted to become bhikkhunīs. Mahā Pajāpati and the 500 princesses shaved their heads, donned yellow robes and marched the 51 yojanas to Vesālī which took two months. They arrived there with swollen feet.

Arriving at the gate of the monastery Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī wept at the thought that if she and the five hundred failed to get permission for ordination they all would be stranded in a foreign land with only shaven heads and yellow robes to their credit.

Ānandā Intervened

When Ānandā saw all this, he told Buddha's stepmother to wait a while as he approached the Enlightened One to get the permission. As usual Buddha refused to give permission. Then Ānandā asked: "Reverend Sir! Cannot women-folk attain to Four Noble Paths and Fruitions if they abide in the dhamma under the wing of your Teaching?" Buddha conceded that they could. "Your Reverence!" Ānandā entreated again, "If that be so, please grant their request to get ordained as bhikkhunīs in this sanā. Mahā Pajāpati has done a great service to you, as your nurse and foster-mother. feeding you with milk from her own breast."

It was usual for women to get ordained as bhikkhunīs in the realms of the sāsānas of previous Buddhas. But the Enlightened One was loth to give in to the wishes of womenfolk easily for he foresaw advantages to his Teaching and also to female devotees if admission to the Order was rendered difficult by strict discipline.


Buddha then ordained: "If, Ānandā, Mahā Pajāpati will take upon herself the eight strict Rules of Discipline called garudhamm, let this be for her ordination."

So she was ordained on her acceptance of the strict Rules of Discipline. Others, however, were ordained according to the rules of procedure that requires kammavāca, or a vote of chapters of monks. Subsequent ordinations lay down the requirement of the first round of votes by bhikkhunīs (nuns) followed by a second round by bhikkhus (monks).

Hereforth Mahā Pājāpati became known by her ecclesiastical name of Gotamī therī and she soon won Arahatship under the religious guidance of Buddha. When Arahats discard all defilements, their actions, even when they are wholesome, are rendered inoperative, unable to bring about any result, such as becoming; and new actions, therefore, cease to arise with them. Referring to this fact, we used to say that Arahats deny themselves of kusala kamma or actions that earn merit. This does not mean the abrogation of wholesome deeds; but it empahsises the absence of action-results that should have accrued from them. Arahats do perform such meritorious round of duties as doing obeisance to Buddha and the Sangha, practice jhānic trance and insight-meditation but these good deeds are not kammically rewarded.

When Mahā Pajāpati became a bhikkhunī, she might be in her very ripe old age of 94, while Buddha was about 40. Her followers, the 500 princesses, deserted by their husbands during the warring period, entered the Order and later they all became Arahats on hearing the sermon given by Nandaka thera, a former Sākiyan prince.

Parinibbāna of Gotamī Therī

When Gotamī Therī had completed 26 years of life as a bhikkhunī, she reached the age of 120, while Buddha was 66. At the time she was residing with her 500 bhikkhunīs at a monastery not far off from Kutāgārasāla monastery where Buddha was also residing temporarily. One day as she was absorbed in jhāna leading to the attainment of Fruition, she came to realize that it was time for her to shake off the sum of her life, āyusaṅkhāra. Her disciples, who were in their sixties or seventies, were also of the same opinion as their mentor that it was time for them to depart. So they went in a body to Buddha to inform the latter that they were going to enter painibbāna. On hearing this sad news female disciples of Gotamī therī broke down and wept. She, therefore, comforted them.

Ruditena alaṃ puttā, hāsakalo'yamajjavo. Cirappabhuti yaṃ mayhaṃ, patthitaṃ ajja sijjhate Ānandabherikālo-yaṃ, kim vo assuhi puttikā.

Weep not, O daughter! This should be a day of rejoicing for you! Long, O daughters, have I aspired for Nibbāna; and today my aspirations are to be realized. Now is the time for me to beat the drum of satisfaction and joy. It availeth not for you to cry.

It is but natural that women must weep when death deprives them of their beloved. But it is no stranger for us mortals. What is most important for us, however, is not to get sunk to the nether worlds once we leave this world for the beyond. When, weighed in the balance wholesome kammas are found wanting, death will indeed be an occasion for sorrow and despair. But it affords us a good cause for us to rejoice when we die with a consciousness rendered pure and unblemished by an accumulation of wholesome kammas, in which case, dying is just moving out from an old house to a new one.

About one thousand kappas ago, when Padummuttara Buddha gained enlightenment, Gotamī. Therī was born the daughter of a minister in royal service. One day, as she attended a religious service presided by the prevailing Buddha, she became inspired by the example of an elderly bhikkhunī who nursed and brought up the Bodhisatta as a child when his mother died, as she was also the step-mother. Padummuttara conferred upon her the honour of preeminence, etadagga, as a dignitary of the Order as she was the oldest in age and the most senior in the service of the sāsanā among all bhikkhunīs who had seen many days. Gotamī Therī, then a minister's daughter as aforesaid, considered the life of a Buddha's mother as the noblest. So she made a wish that she be reborn in one of the future worlds as a step-mother to a Bodhisatta; and her wish came to be fulfilled at the time of Gotama Buddha.

Now that the end was near, Gotamī Therī left a word of advice for those weeping. "O daughters!" she said, "If you truly love me, abide in the dhamma so that Buddha's Teaching may last long. He has given us permission to enter the Order, and I have been happy for this boon, and I believe you too are happy. If that be so, practise dhamma in such a happy mood."


Having thus comforted her devotees she approached Buddha and paid him tribute in the following terms.

"Reverend Sir!" she said, "I am commonly known as your mother. But from the point of view of the dhamma, you are, indeed, my father. Under the wing of your teaching I have become an Ariya, Noble One. I brought you up feeding you with my milk. You brought me up with the milk of your dhamma. My milk appeased your hunger for a time. Your dhamma stamped out the hunger of taṇhā, craving, for eternity."

So saying, she uttered the following stanzas.

Rañño mātā mahesiti, sulabhaṃ nāma mitthinaṃ. Buddhamātāti yaṃ nāmaṃ, etaṃ paramadullab-haṃ. Parinibbātu micchāmi vihāyemaṃ kalevaram; Anujanahi me vira, dukkhantakara nāyaka. Cakkan-kusadha jakinne pāde; kamalakomate; Pasārehi panāhaṃ te, karissaṃ puttauttame.

For a woman to be a queen, the mother of a universal monarch, is easy of achievement. But extremely difficult indeed for her to gain the honour of the mother of a Buddha. O Buddha!" Exterminator of Suffering! Man of Courage! Lord of this World! Grant me, O Lord, permission to discard this body and enter Nib-bāna! O my Son! Spread out your noble feet, soft as lotus-petals, marked with the sign of the wheel, the Hook and the flag, in order that I can do obeisance.


She also recited the following three gāthās which portend auspiciousness to those who pay homage to Buddha in flesh and blood.

1. Nadato parisāyaṃ te, vāditabbapahārino;
Ye te dakkhanti vadanaṃ, dhaññā tenarapungava.

2. Dighanguli tambanakhe, sube ayatapanhike.
Ye pāde panamissanti, tepi dhaññā gunandhara.

3. Madhurāni pahatthāni, dosagghāni hitāni ca.
Ye te vākyāni sossyanti, tepi dhaññā naruttaṃ ca?

1. Lord of all Men! When you deliver the dhamma to the audience, your voice reverberates like the sound of drums. Fortunate and auspicious are those who have seen the lips that produce these sounds in flesh and blood.

2. Possessor of Virtue! fortunate and auspicious are those who bow in clasped hands in homage at your feet, slender-toed, red-nailed and long-heeled.

3. Noblest of All Men! Fortunate and auspicious are those who shall hear you speak in a sweet voice, inspiring joy, dispelling human failing and sustaining prosperity.

What Gotamī Therī emphasised in those gāthās was that although it would be her last to see Buddha face to face, pay him homage and hear his dhamma, those whom she was about to leave behind would have the good fortune to continue to abide with him, revering him and hear his teachings.

Now that you are hearing the words of Buddha as you listen to this discourse you should rejoice! But those who in the past were able to hear him preach in flesh and blood are more fortunate than the present audience, for they were twice blessed in that they could hear his voice and at the same time get the benefit of the dhamma. However, what is most to be rejoiced at is for you to have this opportunity to know and understand what is now being preached by Buddha's disciples. If insight-knowledge is developed and the Path and fruition are realized, one can at least be a stream-winner. If one become a sakadāgami, or an anāgāmi or an Arahta, all the better. So the present audience may comfort themselves with the fact that they are equally fortunate and auspicious as the disciples in Buddha's days.

The gāthā suggests that Buddha's voice is mellifluous. The scriptures describe it as very much like the sound a karaweik-bird makes. Regarding this, there is the story of Queen Asandhimittā, wife of King Siridhammāsoka, who, hearing the voice of this bird., recalled Buddha's voice with joy on which she fixed her mind and meditated with the result that she became a stream-winner.

It is also mentioned in the gāthā that Buddha's voice gladdens the heart of his hearers. Once a farmer became sorely distressed as his wheat field was flooded. Buddha in his compassion came to him and preached Kāma Sutta, which gladdened the heart not only of the farmer but also of his wife, both of whom attained to the Path of Sotapatti in the end.

The death of Bimbisāra tormented Ajātasattu, the patricide. Buddha preached him Sāmaññaphala Sutta on the beatitudes of a homeless life. The King regained peace of mind. He could have become a sotāpanna, had not the unwholesome kamma of killing his own father overtaken him.

Lastly, the gāthā points out that Buddha's words or teachings dispel all human failings like anger, hatred and so on. Listening to Buddha one becomes enabled in doing away with unwholesome actions as one comes to realize one's misdeeds and reform oneself. Mindfulness to the teaching leads one to the practice of insight-meditation which wipes out all evils or akusala kammas. Tambadāthika was a murderer. But as he listened to Sāriputtarā's sermons, his mind became bent on insight-meditation; and when he died he was reborn a deva in Tusitā. Aṅgulimāla was worse than Tambadāthika, as he had killed many. But hearing Buddha's teaching, he became a monk who later attained Arahatship.

Buddha's teachings are conducive to prosperity in life. If one practises the dhamma, merits can be gained here and now, not only in after-life. If the usual practice is supported by insight-meditation, it can lead one to the Path.


Gotamī Therī approached the sanghās including grandson Rāhulā, son Nanda and nephew Ānandā, and uttered the following two gāthās tendering her respects to them all.

Āsivisālayasame, rogāvāse kalevare;
Nibbindā dukkhasanghāte, jarāmaranagocare.
Nānākali malākinne, parāyatte nirihake; tena
nibbātumicchāmi, anumaññatha puttakā

            My son and my grandson! Weary have I grown with this corpse of a body which is like unto the haunt of poisonous snakes, the seat of all disease, the house of suffering, the resort of old age and death the garbage of filth and dirt, always subservient to others and never selfsustaining. Fain would I have this suffering ended. Allow me to have my wish fulfilled.

This body is made up of four primary elements, pathavī, tejo, āpo and vāpo. Pathavī denotes hardness or softness of matter and is represented in the body by twenty varieties of physical matter comprising hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, rectum, brain etc. Āpo is also represented by twelve physiological items such as pus, bile, blood, sweat, fats, tears, urine and the like. Tejo is represented by four kinds of heat; while vāyo comprise six kinds of wind including that which is involved in breathing. For all sentient beings these elements are a source of misery and pain, for when they act abnormally sickness and death will be the result. Hence they are likened to poisonous snakes.

That this body is the seat of all kinds of ailments needs no elaboration. Gotamī Therī had expressed her desire to leave this domain of old age, disease and death.

The thirty-two portions of our body (kotthāsa) are always subjected to disease which people abhor as if they were filth. But we should be more concerned with the impurities of the mind rather than of the physical body. Unwholesome actions beget unwholesome results. Arahats do not have to worry about them. But since mental formations are universal to all of us, we must be mindful of the upsurge of defilements that contaminate us like filth and dirt.

We say: "This body is mine." But is it truly ours? According to the ancients, it is a veritable living quarter for eighty kinds of worms (or parasites). In fact what we call our body is their home. Insects like flies, mosquitoes and bugs prey on it. Hence we say that it is always subservient to others.

This human body is unable to maintain itself for its own health and welfare. This can best be seen when it is afflicted with disease. It cannot cure itself, and so you, who claim to be the owner, have to call in the doctor. It cannot sustain itself by its own efforts. It always depends on outside factors for its own welfare.


At the time Gotamī Therī was bidding the sanghās farewell, Nanda and Rāhulā had been Arahats already; and so they were unmoved by the impending parinibbāna (death) of their old mother and grandmother. But Ānandā was then only a sekha, a disciple still to be trained for the Path. So he broke down and wept.

HĀ santim Gotamī yāti, numa Buddhopi nibbutim; Gocchati na cireneva, aggiriva nirindhano.

Alas! Gotamī Therī is entering Nibbāna where peace reigns supreme. Soon Buddha would also cease to be, extinguished like a flame as the wick is burnt out.

On hearing Ānandā bemoaning a lot, Gotamī Therī comforted him in the following words.

Sutta sāgaragambhira, Buddhopatthāna tappara;
Na yuttaṃ socitum putta, hāsakāle upatthite;
tayā me saranaṃ putta, nibbānaṃ tamupāgataṃ.
Tayā tāta samijjhittho, pabbajjaṃ anujāni no;
MĀ putta vimano hohi, saphalo te parissamo.
Yaṃ na ditthaṃ purānehi, titthikācariyehipi
Taṃ padaṃ sukumārihi, sattavassāhi veditaṃ.

You Ānanda! who possess knowledge deep and wide as the ocean, and who have set upon yourself the task of caring for Buddha! Be not sad on this occasion for rejoicing. I am taking refuge in Nibbāna as you have, with all your assistance, enabled me to take it.

Ānandā, my son! at your request for our benefit, Buddha has permitted us women-folk to get ordained as bhikkhunīs. You need not be distressed, for your great efforts will be amply rewarded.

O Ānanda! Previously no titthis (heretics) could discover Nibbāna in spite of their religious practices. Now even a seven-year old girl comes to know of it.

In this way Gotamī Therī paid her tribute to Ānandā for his part in winning the permission of Buddha for female devotess to get into the Order. As laity the therī and her followers might find it hard to become Arahats. But thanks to Ānandā, they had by now become Arahats,and what was more, many a bhikkhunī had gained the opportunity to practise the dhamma for the realization of the Path well after the death of Buddha. Outside the domain of Buddhist teaching, before Buddha's enlightenment, there were ascetics like Sarabhaṅga, Ālāra and Udaka who possessed abhiññā, supernormal powers, but they knew not Nibbāna But when lay women had been admitted into the Order, even a young girl of seven could be familiar with Nibbāna. Therefore, Ānandā had made a great achievement in his life for which he should be happy.


As the time for pairnibbāna approached, Buddha asked Gotamī Therī to exercise her abhiññā.

Thinaṃ dhammābhisamaye, ye bālā vimatim gatā;
tesaṃ diṭṭhippahānathaṃ; iddhim dossehi Gotamī.

Gotamī! The ignorant are in doubt about the ability of womenfolk to get the light of the dhamma. In order to dispel this doubt, you will please exercise your iddhi, miraculous powers.

Heretics were having their day at the time of Buddha in spite of his teaching. They refused to accept the fact that lay women practising concentration or meditation leading to the realization of the Path could gain jhāna and abhiññā. For their enlightenment Buddha asked Gotamī Therī to exercise pātihāriya, exhibition of psychic powers. Previously Buddha was wont to proscribe it to repel adverse criticism by malefactors saying that bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs indulged in magic. But now that Gotamī was making her last bow such criticisms would be rendered innocuous by her death.

Then Gotamī Therī worked miracles. Being one, she appeared as many. Being many, she appeared only as one. That is to say she created many likenesses of herself and reduce the number of those likenesses into one. She flew into the air and dived into the earth. She showed herself in various shapes and forms, especially assuming the apparition of a universal monarch accompanied by a retinue of courtiers. This exhibition of her supernormal abilities strengthen the faith of believers and won over the hearts of non-believers. This is a general statement. It might be that dogmatism could also be at work when people would refuse to believe even when you showed that you could fly.


Having done miracles at Buddha's bidding. Gotamī Therī made her last request.

SĀ visavassasatikā, jatiyāhan mahāmune; Alamettā-vatā vira, nibbāyissāmi nāyaka.

O Great Man! I have come to the age of six score years. Let these miracles be enough. Allow me to enter Nibbāna where all sufferings cease.

Buddha gave his assent by remaining silent. Then Gotamī Therī and her five hundred departed for their monastery. Buddha following them in their last journey. At the gate they all paid their last respects to Buddha.


All bhikkhunīs led by Gotamī Therī retired to their respective places and sat kneeling in the fashion of yogīs. Female devotess surrounded them mostly weeping. Taking one of them to her side, and patting her fondly on the head, the eldest of all therīs gave the following words of advice.

            Alaṃ puttā visadena, mārapāsānuvattinā; Aniccaṃ saṅkhataṃ sobbaṃ, viyogantaṃ calācalaṃ.

            It availeth nor for you to weep, O daughters! You should not thus surrender yourselves to the dictates of your Tempter, the Defilement. All formations of mind and matter are transient; at long last we have to part with them. Nothing is everlasting.

Then, having sent back the devotees to places where they resided, Gotamī Therī went into meditation. She attained the first jhāna, then the second, and then the third, and then the fourth in proper order. And then she came back to the first jhāna, in reverse order. Then again she repeated the process from the first and when she attained the fourth jhāna, all her khandhās came to cessation just like the blowing out of a flame as both the oil and the wick have been completely consumed. All her five hundred bhikkhunīs also entered Nibbāna in like manner.

The remains of Gotamī Therī were cremated. Ānandā collected the bones and ashes and handed them over in a casket to the Buddha who held it in his hands and paid tribute to his step-mother saying, "Her death is like the breaking of a big bough from a big tree. She has crossed the ocean of the saṃsāra. Since all defilements have come to an end, all sufferings are annihilated. While living, she was a woman of high intellect besides being the most senior among all the bhikkhunīs, possessed of the five abhiññās, highly proficient in āsavakkhaya ñāṇa, knowledge with regard to the extinction of passions, and a perfect bhikkhunī."


The Buddha uttered the following two gāthās.
Ayoghanahatasseva, jalato jātavedassa;
anupubbupasantassa, yathā na ñayate gati.
Evaṃsammā vimuttānaṃ, kāmabandhoghatārinaṃ;
paññāpetum gati natthi, pattānaṃ acalaṃ sukhaṃ.

Just as there is no way of knowing whither the sparks fly that flash one after another as the sledge-hammer strikes, even so there is no way of knowing where the destiny (of Arahats) lies as floods of sensual desire overcome and peace and tranquility firmly established.

As the blacksmith wields his sledge-hammer on the anvil, sparks flash for a brief moment and die out. There is no way of knowing where they go. The Arahats overcome the rushing tide of the floods of defilements such as sensual desire and the like. In the absence of attachment, actions, signs of actions and signs of destiny fail to give rise to formation of sense-objects. With insight-meditation death consciousness, appertaining to parinibbāna, casts off nāma and rūpa which cease to flow with the realization of Nibbāna-peace. All formative activities come to a stand still. So there is no way of knowing to which of the 31 planes of existence the Arahats go. In this analogy the sparks are impermanent and unreal, and, therefore, non-existent. In the same way nāma and rūpa, that made up the basis of life before the parinibbāna, are impermanent, unreal and non-existent.

Those clinging to the idea of atta, self, might put forward the proposition that the individuality of the Arahats has gone to nothingness. But, first and foremost, it must be remembered that there is no individuality. What we commonly call an individual is nothing but a representation of the phenomenon of the rise and fall of aggregates. Depending on this phenomenon, upādāna, attachment, arise; but it is but a mass of suffering. When morality, concentration and meditation are correctly practised, the kind of weariness of like what Gotamī Therī spoke of will be developed. Then the cord of attachment of nāma and rūpa will be totally cut off. So after the death consciousness of the Arahats, all substrata of existence are annihilated. This does not mean nothingness; but it does mean the reality of the total cessation of the round of suffering.

When no new becoming arise on the cessation of suffering, ageing, disease and death and all kinds of woes and miseries that accompany it disappear altogether.

One may ask if it will not be far better if we can go to heaven where there is no ageing, disease and death? But this is idealism in its highest magnitude. This kind of heaven exists only in imagination. Whatever arises gets dissolved. The abode of devas and Brahmas are heavens indeed. But there you will find nāma and rūpa that are constantly in a state of flux now arising, now passing away. So when their terms of existence expire, they also die!

So it is only with the extinction of nāma and rūpa that reveals us the Truth of Suffering that real happiness can be found. By means of the Path and its Fruition, craving which reveals us the Truth of the Cause of Suffering can be exterminated. Then only will the khandhās cease to arise after the death consciousness relating to parinibbāna. When they come to cessation anupādisesa nibbāna is achieved.


Apādāna Pāḷi Text, where an account of Gotamī Therī is given, contains an uyyojana gāthā or exhortation by Buddha to his disciples.

            Atta dipā tato hotha, Satipaṭṭhāna gocarā; Bhavetvā satta bojjhaṅge, sukkhassantaṃ karissatha.

            Be ye islands unto yourselves abiding in the domain
of the four satipaṭṭhānas or objects of mindfulness as you gain emancipation. Having developed the bojjhaṇgas or the seven requisites for the attainment of supreme knowledge, shall ye achieve the Path and its Fruition where all sufferings end.

Kāyānupassanā is contemplation of the physical body, vedanānupassanā contemplation of feeling or sensation, cittānupassanā contemplation of mind and dhammānupassanā contemplation of the dhammas. Buddha exhorted his disciples to practise contemplation as prescribed in Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta and establish themselves in the domain of such contemplation. This is developing an island for them to live in, if these four modes of contemplation are practised they can aspire to the fulfilement of the seven requisites that can lead them to supreme knowledge which paves the way to Nibbāna.

Concluding, let me pray for the members of this audience who have listened to this discourse with due respect and attention. May they all attain Nibbāna as soon as possible by virtue of their wholesome thoughts and actions in the pracitce of mindfulness or contemplation in accordance with the rules of Satipaṭṭhāna which can lead them to the realization of the seven requisites of supreme knowledge.

Sādhu!    Sādhu!     Sādhu!