What Is Nibbana

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What Is Nibbana

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:43 am

What exactly is Nibbana. I know the classical definition "to be blown out" (most common analogy being the candle). However in conversation with a Zen practitioner on another Forum I learned his master interpreted it as not necessarily a permanent condition. A person may attain temporary Nibbana (did not specify if it is for few seconds or few hours).

Sometimes once every three to four years I have suddenly attained a state where I seem to be floating (once it happened in a bus). Floating is not correct word; I seem to have gone at a distance from everything happening (not an out of body experience) and my consciousness (for lack of a better word) seemed suspended. I was fully awake and able to hear, see, smell but none of it mattered any more. A kind of very strong disassociation from the world around me. There are no exact words to describe it.

The most important characteristic was at that time (lasting about 15 minutes) everything seemed to make sense. It all fell into place and there were no answers needed anymore. I understood everything and there was only a feeling of calm tranquility but I will not actually call it calm because somehow the "I" had disappeared so there was no one to feel the calmness.

There was no "I" that was calm; there was calm.

Is there any word in Theravada to describe it. I have experienced it perhaps 5 times in last 20 years. Every time it just happened without me trying to do anything about it. Is there any way that by meditation I can reach that state whenever I want.

Has anyone else experienced it. If it is not known at all, I will like to investigate if I suffered some kind of neurological or psychiatric condition for some minutes.

To sum up - A ) Everthing made sense, there were no questions anymore B ) I did not seem to exist (my body went peculiarly still) C ) It was pleasant in a strange way

I am asking it here and also asking other people from other schools of Buddhism and other religions to see if there is a word for it.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby fivebells » Sat Nov 09, 2013 6:18 am

No, what you experienced is not nibbana. It sounds like a useful state of mind, though, and yes, you might profit by analyzing its causes and conditions so that you can establish it at will in stressful situations. The most helpful way to do this is probably to keep meditating and developing your powers of observation and dispassion so that when it happens again you can study it and the processes which led up to it.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 6:57 am

fivebells wrote:No, what you experienced is not nibbana. It sounds like a useful state of mind, though, and yes, you might profit by analyzing its causes and conditions so that you can establish it at will in stressful situations. The most helpful way to do this is probably to keep meditating and developing your powers of observation and dispassion so that when it happens again you can study it and the processes which led up to it.


I need to add on one point. I am not saying it was Nibbana. In fact I never even paid attention to it for 20 years till I heard the comment by some Zen master (passed down by his pupil in a Forum and thus probably much distorted).

I am left wondering though if I got a faint and distant glimpse into what Nibbana may be like (kind of like being able to smell the salty sea breeze a mile away from the sea, whereas Nibbana is a submarine 500 feet below the surface of the ocean)

I also wonder if there is any way of reaching it at will. (this line is not actually a question because there probably is no answer except meditate more)
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Nov 09, 2013 7:08 am

arijitmitter wrote:What exactly is Nibbana.

I was fully awake and able to hear, see, smell but none of it mattered any more. A kind of very strong disassociation from the world around me. There are no exact words to describe it.

There was no "I" that was calm; there was calm.

Attainment of nibbāna may occur for a moment, a few minutes, or a few hours. There is also what we call "Momentary nibbāna (tadaṅga nibbāna)," which any of us can achieve just by letting go of craving for a moment.

If you could hear, see, and smell, then you had not attained nibbāna, which is the cessation of feeling and perception.

There are several sources that can give us a clearer understanding of What Nibbāna Is. The Cūḷavedalla Sutta may also help.

The mere realisation of not-self is still a long way from the final goal, but it is one of the initial stages of insight that show some signs of progress — keep practising. Yes, “Meditate more,” is perhaps the only answer anyone can give, or “Meditate more skilfully, without looking for specific results.”
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 7:20 am

I got a reply from a Zen practitioner that it is spontaneous kensho. Have to investigate more about it. Is there a similar word in Pali Canon or Mahayana texts ? If so then I would know which way to mold my meditation through further research.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby mariomonti » Sat Nov 09, 2013 7:26 am

Thanks for sharing information,your information increase my knowledge.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby reflection » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:19 am

I think often instead of wondering what is nibbana, it is more useful to wonder: what are my attachments and how can I lessen them?

Do you feel attached to your experiences, feel the desire to recreate them? Then it may be better to work with that attachment instead of the experience itself.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby Dan74 » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:50 am

This is a tricky subject to talk about given that none of us here are completely liberated, so any response is bound to be coloured by delusion.

That said, the view occasionally found in Zen circles that liberation is necessarily temporary does not square with Pali canon nor with Mahayana and classical Zen teachings. In Zen, teachers tend to teach from experience moreso than from the scriptures which can be very useful but it is important that the teacher is clear about his/her limitations and some are not.

Yes, there can be kensho experiences and they are useful but also potentially harmful as the practitioners proceed to reify them, construct a self around them and use them as a license for greed, anger and delusion, rather than redoubling their efforts at cutting the root. So if I were in your position I would ask myself what is it now that is blocking realization rather than wistfully hankering after these interesting experiences. Right now, what is obstructing you?
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:40 am

Dan74 wrote:Yes, there can be kensho experiences and they are useful but also potentially harmful as the practitioners proceed to reify them, construct a self around them and use them as a license for greed, anger and delusion, rather than redoubling their efforts at cutting the root. So if I were in your position I would ask myself what is it now that is blocking realization rather than wistfully hankering after these interesting experiences. Right now, what is obstructing you?


Dan my practice is meditation and I have no real interest in salvation. I meditate to make myself better / calmer. In fact as I said before I had not paid any attention to these events for two decades till I read the comment by a Zen practitioner (which I am fully aware might be distorted since it passed from a master to pupil to a Forum to me). The comment by the Zen practitioner was in response to some other question by another person, but his reply made me curious.

I am a man of scientific temperament who is also unfortunately spiritual (or the other way around). I use the word unfortunately because it is something I cannot explain using formulas, experiments and that makes me anxious. I did not acquire either the scientific temperament or the spiritual one. Both came with me. And they are almost always at odds with each other and that creates conflict in my mind. If my mother is ill my scientific mind wants to read the blood test reports which may show if a person is suffering from a pathogen and at same time my spiritual mind will tell me it does not really matter - she may or may not have a pathogen, she may or may not live and that none of it matters at all since none of it is in my hands or her hands - it is all Kamma and it will unfold as it will unfold.

There is no hankering but a desire to reach it at will, because who does not want to feel completely calm and to be in a state where answers are not needed because there are no questions. Everything is in perfect unison and makes perfect sense.

I gather that there is no equivalent word in Theravada or Mahayana. So I will as I have for 20 years set the experience aside and carry on with my present practice of study of Dhamma, living with Dhamma and meditating as much as I can.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:02 pm

arijitmitter,
Experiences like what you describe do happen. I don't think your description is adequate to determine that it is nibhanna....I think it is fairly common for people to have brief experiences similar to what you describe which is not to say that it is unimportant but rather to say that it is probably not special enough to be nibhanna in that it happens to people with scant knowledge and wisdom. Experiences like what you describe can be had through meditation of one sort or another as evidenced by some practitioners who report reaching janic states that they describe as being better than sexual orgasm. My guess is that you did not experience these occurrences while in sitting meditation....probably you were moving about in some normal way when they happened......perhaps you would benefit by doing walking meditation or some other (perhaps non-theravadin) kind of moving meditation.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby seeker242 » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:30 pm

arijitmitter wrote:What exactly is Nibbana.


My preferred description of what it actually is.

Total ease, complete calm, absolute freedom, perfect happiness & pure peace…
Absence of any uncertainty, doubt, confusion, any delusion and all ignorance…
Presence of confidence, certainty, understanding all, and direct experience…
Absence of any greed, lust, desire, urge, attraction, hunger, and temptation…
Presence of imperturbable and serene composure in an all stilled equanimity…
Absence of all hate, anger, aversion, hostility, irritation, & stubborn rigidity…
Presence of universal goodwill: An infinite & all-embracing friendly kindness…

Nibbāna is not a place, not an idea, not a fantasy deception, not a conceit,
not a conception, not a cause, not an effect, not finite, not definable,
not formed, not begun, not ending, not changing, not temporal, but lasting…
Nibbāna is unborn, unbecome, unmade, uncreated, uncaused, unconditioned,
and unconstructed, yet ultimately real…
http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/II/Peace.htm


I think the "not definable" part goes a long way in saying what it exactly is. :jumping:

As far as zen teachers go, when they are talking to individual people. Some of them only say what is appropriate to the actual person they are talking to. Their comments to individuals are often quite tailored, so to speak. So what may be appropriate for that particular person, may not be appropriate for another particular person. They don't always propound the "ultimate truth" to individuals but instead tell individuals just what they need to hear to to help them get past some particular obstruction, etc. that is particular to that person. This is one reason why so much emphasis is put on the personal, face to face, student/teacher relationship in zen.

:smile:
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:02 pm

Let me summarize my questions and position -

A ) I am not saying I reached Nibbana. I am not going to commit heresy and show stupidity in same line. I am asking is this state at all described anywhere in any kind of Buddhist texts ?

If Nibbana be the Himalayas, I am not interested in visiting it but only interested that it exists so water reaches me 500 miles downstream. If there be a Nibbana and this be 0.000001 part of it then I know that 500 miles downstream from Nibbana there is peace. And I seek peace and calmness. I do not seek salvation. 500 miles downstream from Nibbana is fine by me.

B ) If it is at all described anywhere, is there also a path of meditation described with it. Meditation is bit like math. We can use it to total our grocery bills and also send a Mars orbiter. Depends on which part of math you are using. I am interested in which part of meditation can be used to reach this (if at all).

Additional notes from my research and study for last 24 hours -

I have found that the word Kensho comes closest to it. But there are many types of Kensho (perhaps even an unique one for every person). Kensho means seeing the essence. One often reaches it after lot of mental exertion (which is why koans are used; much of my life I have had to deal with intractable personal problems so maybe my life generates its own koans naturally leading to a spontaneous and temporary Kensho when mulling on these problems; that is I was meditating on a koan without knowing it).

Personal experiences of Kensho abound on the net including on the sister site http://www.Dharmawheel.net

Often at Kensho the meditator mistakes it as the end (Nibbana). But Kensho is only the gate. This quote sums it up best "Having had a Kensho experience doesn't mean you are Enlightened any more than sinking a one-time jump shot means you are ready for the NBA."

Thankfully I never mistook my feeling of calm as Nibbana. Far from it. I just want to be a normal person using Dhamma to become a better person.

I hope there was some way to use Vipassana to reach Kensho at will.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:04 pm

B ) If it is at all described anywhere, is there also a path of meditation described with it.

Many paths will lead to it.....Christian mysticism, Islamic mysticism, Kabala, and transcendental meditation to name a few. In Buddhism it seems that any of the meditative techniques that lead to a "pleasant abiding" will probably produce it too.....What you have described is a pretty generic sort of mystical experience. If that is all you are after it shouldn't be hard to find a way to experience it more regularly....it is a pleasant thing to get attached to I guess.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Nov 09, 2013 7:02 pm

seeker242 wrote:As far as zen teachers go, when they are talking to individual people. Some of them only say what is appropriate to the actual person they are talking to. Their comments to individuals are often quite tailored, so to speak. So what may be appropriate for that particular person, may not be appropriate for another particular person. They don't always propound the "ultimate truth" to individuals but instead tell individuals just what they need to hear to to help them get past some particular obstruction, etc. that is particular to that person. This is one reason why so much emphasis is put on the personal, face to face, student/teacher relationship in zen.:

Actually, in my experience, that's what good Theravada teachers do in a one-on-one (or small group) retreat situation. It's definitely not particular to Zen.

In that context, I agree with most of the replies here: all kinds of odd things can come up in meditation. Ideally one should discuss them with a teacher who has some good familiarity with your background. They may very often, in my experience, say: "Just let it go". However, in other cases they will point to some way of thinking about or developing the experience that can be very helpful.

:anjali:
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby fivebells » Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:01 pm

arijitmitter wrote:LIf it is at all described anywhere, is there also a path of meditation described with it.


Maybe 4th jhana?
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby SarathW » Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:16 am

Hi Arijit
It appears to me what you experience was “Nama Rupa Paricheda Nana”.
It is the first stage of Vipassana meditaion.
I may be wrong.
By the way can you attain that level with will at any time as you wish?
:)
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby Sanjay PS » Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:13 am

reflection wrote:I think often instead of wondering what is nibbana, it is more useful to wonder: what are my attachments and how can I lessen them?

Do you feel attached to your experiences, feel the desire to recreate them? Then it may be better to work with that attachment instead of the experience itself.


A very wise post , full of wisdom and meaning .

Thank you ,

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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby fivebells » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:02 am

Actually, this sounds like a fine experience to work on repeating.
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby Mindstar » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:42 am

As nobody has ever come back from Nibbana i guess we will never know exactly.

I`ve got my personal theory however that is related to science.
Especially on the idea that the energy levels in the universe never change.
Energy simply transforms into matter and matter back into energy, its the same thing in the end.
As a consequence you cannot simply disappear with no traces left.
Basically you have to transform back to the energy pool you have been initially created from into the state of the "uncreated".
An energy pool that is formless, informationless and "deathless".
In that way these buddhist terms actually make sense to me :rolleye:
Wherever he goes, there he is unafraid.. Wherever he sleeps, there he is unalarmed!
The nights and days does neither touch nor burn him. He sees nothing in this world
that is to be kept or lost.. Therefore his mind dwells in goodwill and gentle kindness
towards all beings until he falls asleep.
SN I 110
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Re: What Is Nibbana

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:42 am

Mindstar wrote:As nobody has ever come back from Nibbana i guess we will never know exactly.
Nibbana is not a place to go to.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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