difference between bhanga and nibbana

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby Monkey » Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:34 pm

Can anyone explain the difference between these terms (used in Vipassana by Goenkaji)?

Thank you :smile:
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby James the Giant » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:03 pm

Read this:

Some meditation teachers feel that the following information should not be made available to the general public. That isn't because these teachings are for members of a select group, must be specially transmitted, or are in any sense esoteric; but because, due to the tricky nature of the mind, learning about these insights before acquiring personal meditation experience might cause you to anticipate results, thereby slowing your progress. That's why Mahási Sayádaw wrote, "It is not good for a pupil who meditates under the guidance of a teacher to get acquainted with these stages before meditation begins" (Practical Insight Meditation, p. 35).

Nevertheless, the Sayadaw agreed to the publication of his own book, The Progress of Insight, that deals with these stages. He acknowledged that the information may be helpful for many students who practice in isolation. So we decided to follow a middle path by publishing the present essay, but including a cautionary note as the Sayadaw did.

Generally speaking, we do not recommend that beginners read this article. We offer the following descriptions for those students who have no access to an instructor and are trying to make sense of a meditation experience they have had, or for those who have already reached a fairly advanced stage of insight.

Although it is natural to want to know what level you have reached and what will happen next in meditation, it is quite difficult to evaluate your own experience, even with a written guideline. You should always be aware that, no matter what you come to believe as a result of reading this article, your self-assessment may be incorrect. Besides, the mind likes to play tricks. If you cling to something you've read about, wanting it to happen, the mind may subconsciously try to mimic the experience. Without a teacher you may not be able to tell the difference between the illusion and the real thing. In order to avoid the trap of self-deception it is important to use the information given here intelligently, with continuous self-examination and scrupulous honesty.

If you are reading this because you are wondering if you have reached enlightenment, please realize that you probably haven't, although you may have reached an earlier stage of insight-knowledge. Achan Sopako Bodhi explains that when the first level of enlightenment is reached there can be no doubt about it. You would not need to ask if you'd attained it. In the words of another bhikkhu, "It cannot be missed."

That was from http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html#toc


Okay, that said...
Of the traditional sixteen stages of Vipassana Knowledge before the first dip in nibanna, bhanga is number five.

1 Knowledge to distinguish mental and physical states (namarupa pariccheda nana).
2 Knowledge of the cause-and-effect relationship between mental and physical states (paccaya pariggaha nana).
3 Knowledge of mental and physical processes as impermanent, unsatisfactory and nonself (sammasana nana).
4 Knowledge of arising and passing away (udayabbaya nana).
5 Knowledge of the dissolution of formations (bhanga nana).
6 Knowledge of the fearful nature of mental and physical states (bhaya nana).
7 Knowledge of mental and physical states as unsatisfactory (adinava nana).
8 Knowledge of disenchantment (nibbida nana).
9 Knowledge of the desire to abandon the worldly state (muncitukamayata nana).
10 Knowledge which investigates the path to deliverance and instills a decision to practice further (patisankha nana).
11 Knowledge which regards mental and physical states with equanimity (sankharupekha nana).
12 Knowledge which conforms to the Four Noble Truths (anuloma nana).
13 Knowledge of deliverance from the worldly condition (gotrabhu nana).
14 Knowledge by which defilements are abandoned and are overcome by destruction (magga nana).
15 Knowledge which realizes the fruit of the path and has nibbana as object (phala nana).
16 Knowledge which reviews the defilements still remaining (paccavekkhana nana).
Then comes nibanna.

Here's a simple (simplistic?) description of what bhanga is like.
http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html#fourb

As for what nibanna is like... um... nah, I have no idea. The unconditioned? I think it's the ultimate indescribable thing.
But it's really different from bhanga. Some people think they have encountered nibanna when really they have just had some new and interesting experience of one of the other stages.
One word of caution, don't read through the Stages of Insight list and try to work out what stage you are at. It's so so easy to mis-read and get all mixed up. "Scripting" is a danger too.

Have you just finished a Goenka Vipassana course or something?
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby Monkey » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:21 pm

Alright thanks for the effort James, altough I have to admit it's still not entirely clear to me. To answer your question, yes I've done several (Goenka) Vipassana courses. This question arose while reading a book (For The Benefit Of Many by S.N. Goenka).
At some point it is said that bhanga must come before the Nibbanic stage. And in your post: "Achan Sopako Bodhi explains that when the first level of enlightenment is reached there can be no doubt about it. You would not need to ask if you'd attained it. In the words of another bhikkhu, "It cannot be missed.""
The doubt is gone, but I'm just wondering if I have 'missed' bhanga (I don't know if it's very distinct, or it might be really 'fast' for example).
I try not to care where I am on the path, but every now and then I wonder what the experience was. Then again, knowing this won't get me anywhere either :tongue: .

Cheerios,
Rick
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby James the Giant » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:52 pm

Monkey wrote:Alright thanks for the effort James, altough I have to admit it's still not entirely clear to me. ....

....I try not to care where I am on the path, but every now and then I wonder what the experience was. Then again, knowing this won't get me anywhere either :tongue: .

Yeah, it's so nice to be able to point to a map of the path and say "I'm there", I too suffer from that addiction! I love to put things and experiences in boxes, file them on shelves and label them.
And you are right, that link I gave is pretty non-specific and vague.
The main question I would ask myself is: Am I now free from greed, anger and delusion?
If the answer is no, continue, continue.
If the answer is yes, then, CONGRATULATIONS! and continue, continue.
Arahats and even the buddha did not cease practise when they got enlightened.

Have you served on a 10-day course? It's fun, you get to talk to lots of other meditators, and people often start opening up and talking about their meditation experiences. Then you discover (or I discovered) that there were at least a few people who had experienced the same-ish thing as me. I know it can be unhelpful to compare and contrast from person to person, but it was informative and useful to know that I wasn't alone, that there were people out there who I shared at least some experiences with.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby Monkey » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:16 am

Ow no I'm not so deluded that I'm saying I'm free from delusion ;) . Yes I have served before and it's definitely a good experience (before I did that I didn't think that it would have so much depth). It's also nice to talk about it a bit. There is one book which was helpful to me called Mastering the core teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram. He tries to clarify experiences and all in it.

Anyway, I guess it's best if I stop wondering about all of this as it won't get me anywhere. As the teacher basically says: it's just an experience..continue your practice

so yes, continue continue :smile:
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby Ben » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:28 am

Hi Rick,
If you've been practicing in the tradition of SN Goenka then I think its important to go have a chat with your AT about your experiences. I think that will be very beneficial for you. If you don't know an AT personally then contact your nearest centre and they should be able to put you in contact with someone in your area.
All the best,

Ben
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby James the Giant » Thu Oct 20, 2011 3:17 am

Monkey wrote:There is one book which was helpful to me called Mastering the core teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram. He tries to clarify experiences and all in it..

Oh dear oh dear, that's a problematic book. Actually, downright misleading.
Whatever you do, don't ask Ingram and his website about your experiences. Over there you say "Hey I was meditating and I sneezed, what does this mean?" and they reply and say "Oh, well, that's quite clear, a sneeze means you are in the 14th nyana, and possibly High Equanimity, You're very accomplished and you should go out and teach, blah blah blah".
No. Ingram. No. Experienced, good writer... but not enlightened.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: difference between bhanga and nibbana

Postby Monkey » Thu Oct 20, 2011 3:26 am

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the advice. I did try this twice on retreat but it tends to be quite hard to express myself in those situations. I'll send an e-mail to a centre then in order to have this clarified by an assistant teacher.

James,

I'm not buying everything that that book says, but I think it did clarify some experiences to some degree. Or in other words, he tries to do it at least (because an answer like 'it's just an experience, keep on practicing' is good advise, but not always really satisfying I guess)
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