What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

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Sarva
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What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

I asking from a perspective of understanding the sutta which mention Unbinding or being Unbound.

Is ‘Unbinding’ the same as ‘Nibbana’ and are they the same as the “end of stress”?

I am not clear if it means an end of something, such as aggregates of clinging, for good so we should not expect to witness them again, or if it means Unbinding is the observations of how all things arise and pass away (closer to constant witnessing)? Perhaps these two do not capture it either?

I am seeking clarity as a benchmark.

Below are some examples from two sutta (I am not limiting answers to these if you find more clear examples) :)

Below in the italic quote of AN 4.179, unbinding seems to be a discernment or perception of change, rather than an ending as such...

1. AN 4.179 - Nibbana Sutta: Unbinding
Link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; (see useful footnote).
Then Ven. Ananda went to Ven. Sariputta and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to Ven. Sariputta, "Friend Sariputta, what is the cause, what is the reason, why some beings do not become totally unbound in the present life?"

"There's the case, friend Ananda, where beings do not discern, as it actually is present, that 'This perception has a share in decline'; 'This perception has a share in stability'; 'This perception has a share in distinction'; 'This perception has a share in penetration.' [1] This is the cause, this is the reason, why some beings do not become totally unbound in the present life."

"And what, friend Sariputta, is the cause, what is the reason, why some beings do become totally unbound in the present life?"

"There's the case, friend Ananda, where beings discern, as it actually is present, that 'This perception has a share in decline'; 'This perception has a share in stability'; 'This perception has a share in distinction'; 'This perception has a share in penetration.' This is the cause, this is the reason, why some beings become totally unbound in the present life."
Italics mine.

In the quote from AN 9.36 below, unbinding appears to be the resolution or end of all fabrications for good:
2. AN 9.36 Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
...
"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'...
With metta :heart:
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
santa100
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by santa100 »

I think the clearest metrics to Unbinding (or Nibbana, Unconditioned, Extinguishing, etc..) is the end of the 3 poisons: greed, aversion, and delusion. It doesn't have to be the end of the 5 aggregates (ex: the Buddha achieved it while still living). So from that, item 2 seems to fit the description. Item 1. could also qualify as long as the right discernment becomes permanent. If one only has occasional moments of right discernment mixing with other moments of wrong discernment, then it cannot be considered Unbinding..
Sarva
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

santa100 wrote:I think the clearest metrics to Unbinding (or Nibbana, Unconditioned, Extinguishing, etc..) is the end of the 3 poisons: greed, aversion, and delusion. It doesn't have to be the end of the 5 aggregates (ex: the Buddha achieved it while still living). So from that, item 2 seems to fit the description. Item 1. could also qualify as long as the right discernment becomes permanent. If one only has occasional moments of right discernment mixing with other moments of wrong discernment, then it cannot be considered Unbinding..
Thanks Santa100, for a logical perspective!
My enquiry lies also in the point you made (underlined in the quote above). It would seem that an aspirant must be under constant supervision in order to know that they have 'unbound' or they risk becoming bound once more. In a way I see this as not truly being 'unbound' if there is a risk of relapse, perhaps I am mistaken in taking 'Unbound' in a way which would imply it is the end of the 3 poisons forever, I wonder?

Logically, all is anicca, and hence everything is subject to change, so it seems logical that one needs to be vigilant with the mind even after being Unbound. Yet, as I say, being 'Unbound' would imply a state which has a more 'continuous property' about it. Hence being 'Unbound' would imply that one will never be re-bound to the 3 poinsons etc.

Additionally, I have seen people in general refer to nibbana as being something which once achieved is not lost i.e. continuous or not subject to change. This raises the question as to whether Unbinding and Nibbana (and ceasing) are the same or different?

:) metta
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
vinasp
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Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by vinasp »

Hi Sarva,

To take AN 4.179 first, the line:

"Friend Sariputta, what is the cause, what is the reason, why some beings do not become totally unbound in the present life?"

The PTS Gradual Sayings, vol II, page 173, reads as follows:

"Pray, Sariputta, your reverence, what is the reason, what is the cause
why certain beings in this world are not fully set free [4] in this
very life?"

Note 4. Parinibbayanti, lit. extinct. .....

In the AN 9.36 passage which you cite, the last word "unbinding" is,
in the Pali: nibbanan.

That passage also contains the word: parinibbayi, which the DPR dictionary
says means: one who has attained the final release (adj.)

It looks as if "unbinding" is just Thanissaro's translation of nibbana,
and related terms.

Regards, Vincent.
Sarva
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

Thanks Vincent!
This answers my doubt on whether the word implied something different to 'ceasing' or extinction, Nibanna etc. I feel my last quesiton to Santa100 above and in the OP has been well answered :)

My remaining doubt is:

Does extiction/ceassing/unbinding mean that one discerns correctly the arising and passing away in 1. AN 4.179 - Nibbana Sutta: Unbinding, my first quote.

or does it mean the one arrives at knowing that the 3 poisons will never arise again (in oneself)e.g. as in the second quote AN 9.36 Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption?

I would go with complete extinction (hence the words nibbana, ceasing, unbinding, etc, which are used), however there seems to be room for doubt (at least in the way I read AN 4.179).
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
vinasp
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Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by vinasp »

Hi Sarva,

To answer some of your questions:

Sarva: Is ‘Unbinding’ the same as ‘Nibbana’ and are they the same as the “end of stress”?

Answer: Yes.

Sarva: I am not clear if it means an end of something, such as aggregates of clinging, for good so we should not expect to witness them again ..."

Answer: Nibbana is the end of craving, clinging, the three asava's, greed,
hatred and delusion, and also ignorance. It is probably the end of the five
aggregates of clinging.

Sarva: or if it means Unbinding is the observations of how all things arise and pass away ..."

Answer: I would say "no", one can see this without being enlightened.

Sarva: In the quote from AN 9.36 below, unbinding appears to be the resolution or end of all fabrications for good:"

Answer: Yes.

Regards, Vincent.
santa100
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by santa100 »

Also, habit energy is very important. For example, we have strong clinging and attachment because we've been reinforcing negative habit energy for so long. We're also struggling to maintain right discernment because we haven't reinforced the good habit energy long enough. The Buddha and His Arhants disciples could maintain right discernement at all time with ease because it's become second nature to them. They're no longer capable of having evil thoughts! For them, Unbinding is obvious and natural and they no longer have to struggle to maintain right discernement. It's become second nature to them..
Sarva
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

vinasp wrote:....
Sarva: or if it means Unbinding is the observations of how all things arise and pass away ..."

Answer: I would say "no", one can see this without being enlightened.

Sarva: In the quote from AN 9.36 below, unbinding appears to be the resolution or end of all fabrications for good:"

Answer: Yes.

Regards, Vincent.
Thanks Vincent
Then what is required is some form of benchmark or measure with which to know when the unbinding is the end of all fabrications/poisons for good.

My understanding from the sutta is that this is known intuitively. Which would imply that any doubt, or need to ask for a benchmark would imply that the 'intuitive knowing' is not yet present.
"Having seen well in advance that arrow
where generations are fastened & hung
— 'I know, I see, that's just how it is!' —
there's nothing of the Tathagata fastened."
Kalaka Sutta: At Kalaka's Park
"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
Bahiya Sutta: About Bahiya
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
vinasp
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Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by vinasp »

Hi Sarva,

Sarva: "Logically, all is anicca, and hence everything is subject to change .."

Anicca might mean the complete, permanent disappearance, the vanishing of
many (mental) things.

Sarva: "I have seen people in general refer to nibbana as being something which once achieved is not lost .."

Once attained it is not lost. Do not confuse nibbana with the various kinds
of liberation, some of which are only temporary.

Regards, Vincent.
Sarva
Posts: 209
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

santa100 wrote:Also, habit energy is very important. For example, we have strong clinging and attachment because we've been reinforcing negative habit energy for so long. We're also struggling to maintain right discernment because we haven't reinforced the good habit energy long enough. The Buddha and His Arhants disciples could maintain right discernement at all time with ease because it's become second nature to them. They're no longer capable of having evil thoughts! For them, Unbinding is obvious and natural and they no longer have to struggle to maintain right discernement. It's become second nature to them..
Hi Santa
I agree.
I wonder how we can know? For example, someone might go months without thinking a thought based on craving, aversion or ignorance yet one day, quite out of the blue, a thought could arise based on craving or aversion. So I don't think it is a question of time, we can't wait a month to see if we qualify for example (I am not saying you are suggesting it is, just drawing out a point I am questioning here).

It sounds more like it is a change of insight or discernment which is lasting and known to be a changing point?
This somehow seems a bit too miraculous to me, like there is a 'snap' inside our mind or a 'switching off', which is marked and distinguished?

This is probably why a teacher or arahant is required, to re-confirm to an aspirant that they have 'arrived'. However the Buddha did not have this luxury so I wonder if the answer can be found in the Buddha's teachings...

I am basically looking to how to know when one knows oneself as an arahant. Although I would like to avoid an debated based on speculation as to "what an arahant might think" so I am choosing my questions based on the sutta if possible... with a little help from my friends please :)

Thanks!
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
Sarva
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Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

vinasp wrote:Hi Sarva,

Sarva: "Logically, all is anicca, and hence everything is subject to change .."

Anicca might mean the complete, permanent disappearance, the vanishing of
many (mental) things.

Sarva: "I have seen people in general refer to nibbana as being something which once achieved is not lost .."

Once attained it is not lost. Do not confuse nibbana with the various kinds
of liberation, some of which are only temporary.

Regards, Vincent.
Great! I hadn't considered anicca to me a permenant ending of something which has just been seen to end. I had my focus on the unpredictability of something arising out of blue (as per my reply to Santa above), as if although one may not be craving now one might fall victim tomorrow.

Nonetheless it does make sense that something can come to a complete end. How would we recognise then end of craving/aversion/ignorance is my next question I will need to investigate.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
santa100
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Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by santa100 »

Sarva wrote:
"How would we recognise then end of craving/aversion/ignorance is my next question I will need to investigate."

A little bit of analogy: a martial arts practitioner wouldn't know for sure about his mastery after he had mastered all the blocks and stances, broke all the boards, or after executing those flowery forms flawlessly. He only knows his true mastery of the art if he could walk out of a fight against a much bigger and more powerful opponent alive and unscathed. Similarly, the end of craving isn't measured by how long one's able to sit and meditate, how many jhanas s/he's able to attain, it's only until being thrown into the turbulence of the Eight Winds (gain/loss, praise/blame, fame/disrepute, pleasure/sorrow)..and walking out unscathed, then one'd get a pretty good idea if s/he'd really put an end to craving/aversion/ignorance or not. Remember the night of the Buddha's awakening, He wouldn't claim He got it until after He'd sucessfully defeated all Mara's and his evil army's attacks (Mara used all sort of tricks like intimidation, fame/wealth temptation, sexual temptations,..)..
Sarva
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

Hi Santa
The analogy is helpful. So it is a question of being a part of the world with mindfulness to determine if one has truly become Unbound. :)
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
santa100
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by santa100 »

That's why it's no surprise to see there're great masters who already spent a significant part of their life training, thus thinking they've already achieved their goal, and then all of a sudden, fell for some young voluptuous and beautiful woman. In this particular case, that woman's boobs is the most effective litmus test to see if that master has really "pass" the exam or not... :tongue:
Sarva
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Re: What exactly is 'Unbinding'?

Post by Sarva »

Hi Santa
haha! :)
Well exactly, this is why I find the following verse (quoted above) interesting:
"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
Bahiya Sutta: About Bahiya


It appears that the end of suffering can be explained as knowing that "the seen is merely what is seen" and one is not "with that". So one can still interact with the world, we can still react to a snake or a beautiful women, but one would know it as merely what is cognized and not be "with that".
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
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