Nature of Parinibbāna

Referring to this: What do you think of those who say there's nothing after the end of namarupa? - #47 by RobertK

As far as I can see B. Bodhi’s position is very close, yet still falls on the wrong side of the question: is there something or nothing after parinibbāna?

Nothing is the answer I got from basically all the teachers I asked in Na Uyana. It’s the answer I got here. And only in the post above that this shows an inconsistent application of dhamma.

B. Bodhi very clearly says Nibbāna element itself is what is after parinibbāna. He denies that it’s nothing, equating nothing as with the atheist notion of death.

So here I list down several versions of annihilationism. B. @bksubhuti in his blog post mentioned the first:

  1. Annihilationism/nihilism doesn’t believe in rebirth. Auto cessation for everyone. This is the atheist materialist most common notion of death. We disagree with this in so far as we believe that rebirth is a fact of life, unless one becomes an arahant.

  2. Annihilation is ending of self. In Buddhist point of view, since there’s never a self, what annihilates is not self which annihilates, but just suffering, 5 aggregates, 6 sense bases at parinibbāna. Thus it cannot be labeled as annihilationism.

  3. Annihilationism means after ending of rebirth, parinibbāna, there’s nothing after death. Nothing after parinibbāna. Those who believe in this definition of annihilationism would automatically lean on the side of something after parinibbāna. Be it mahayana saying phenomena rolls on, just since concept of rebirth is seen as empty, rebirth ends with the concept seen as empty, to dhammakāya, to consciousness unestablished, to just plain Nibbāna, the deathless, the unconditioned, etc…

I believe that only the first 2 definition of annihilation is valid for Buddhist doctrine, then one can arrive at the right view of nothing after parinibbāna. If one takes up definition 3 as annihilationism, then naturally, one would say it’s something, anything after parinibbāna.

It’s very clear at least from the Na Uyana side that B. Bodhi’s view is incompatible with classical Theravada. I think it’s worth acknowledging this. I don’t wish to see classical Theravada diversing into can fit multiple interpretation of parinibbāna even with the commentaries, subcommentaries helping to clarify matters.

If there is any hero reverence of B. Bodhi, it’s best to lay it aside and just see the view and judge it rather than the person.

I have started on this because some friends of mine in mahayana used B. Bodhi’s talk to support that there’s something after parinibbāna. It’s very clearly not in alignment with right view since people with wrong view can see that it sides with their answer to the question: is there something or nothing after parinibbāna.

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It should be noted that Ven Bodhi has been living in Mahayana Temples exclusively 15+ years. Wisdom Publications is actually a committed organization for the preservation of mahayana teachings. This statement was actually on the Nikaya translation books published by Wisdom. I’m not sure if they are still on it now (take a peek).

I think there were even some teachings Ven Bodhi did on the Chinese New year which raised some eyebrows

Back to the topic

It should be noted that the only reason The Buddha was silent on this issue (which we all wish he spoke up), was because there is no real self that that gets annihilated. The khandas are what gets annihilated. When the Buddha was asked this, it was in regards to the “self” existing, not existing, or both after Parinibbana.

The proper explanation is to say that:

  • khandaparinibbāna is the extinction of the 5 khandas at the death of an arahant (even though the rūpakkhanda will remain).
  • Nothing exists outside of the 5 khandas.
  • Therefore nothing exists after parinibbāna for the arahant after death.
  • There are no more causes for rebirth in any other way.

It should be noted that while Ven Bodhi has made a great translation of many suttas. He has also done irreversible damage to the proper classical theravāda world by posting his negative comments against the commentaries. This has led to a whole suttanta movement which primarily exists only in the West (or by monks who speak English in the East). It has created a whole suttanta movement that rejects the commentaries and abhidhamma. Because of that, these types of wrong views are easily available to the one who wants to make up his own interpretations.

His Majjhimanikāya translation was mild because it really was not his original work. It was originally translated by ven Ñanamoli, who is our vsm translator. However, he totally “let loose” with negative comments on the Aṅguttara and Saṃyutta Nikāya translations.

I sometimes wonder if his work is actually a net gain for the world.

Because he is a father or an uncle of the suttanta movement, he is probably well aware of his offspring and what they will believe and “hang him up to dry” with what he says. The PTS books also did similar things. They were the first of the 19th century to go ahead with such negative comments.

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Bhante, not only Bh. Bodhi started the Suttavada movement, but also Thanissaro Bh. (his eternalist wing), as well as the Australian brothers (cessationalist wing). The problem with this is not in individuals, but in the peculiarities of Western thinking, Protestant thinking. The same thing happened in Europe when Luther announced his principles of sola scriptura. Immediately discarding comments and traditions, Protestantism gave birth to thousands of schools and movements, some of which created such elaborate interpretations that they even began to change the texts themselves. We shouldn’t think that the text and its editing + translation are a thing in itself. In fact, the canon is the product of a school, its commentary and accepted doctrinal understanding. Therefore, by taking a text in isolation from tradition (preserved and compiled by the same tradition), we will very soon lose this text itself. What is already happening, given how freely each translator is to translate texts by inserting his own reading, his own understanding of the doctrine. It’s easy for me to understand this difference since I grew up in an Eastern European culture where the Orthodox Church is common. And I know all the advantages of interpreting the Fathers, how deeply the tradition reveals the teaching. In science there is the same principle of methodology - reliance on predecessors. As far as I know from your autobiographical book, you also came from an environment where an orthodox approach to religion was accepted. This made it easier for you to accept the Theravada approach.

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Well Ajahn Thanissaro is from the Dhammayut tradition which has the Biography of Ajhan Mun listed as its bible. I try my best to clarify things. Nevertheless, the vinaya book written by Ajahn Thanissaro is not so bad and includes many commentary. However, like ven Bodhi, he expresses his opinion where he thinks common sense according to the West and Current time is better for interpretation. He also sides with the modern Thai Forest Commentary, vinaya mokha. All in all, the book is quite good though and has done great things for saṅgha. My first Theravāda book was Wings to Awakening. At that time (90’s), he was all we had for freely available Dhamma. This came from Access To Insight which was one of the first websites in town.

Not sure who the Australian brothers are.

I mean Ajna Brahma, Sujata Bhikkha, Brahmali Bhikkha, Bhante Sunyo and others.

The problem is that all these respected monks created a lot of good and useful things. And these useful deeds mixed with their mistakes resemble a certain aromatic drink that is fraught with danger…

Returning to the topic of discussion. As for Thanissaro Bh.'s view of Nibbana and consciousness, here, in my opinion, the peculiarity of the cultural baggage of Western thinking, the influence of Christian theology and Western science and philosophy can again be traced.

The answer lies in the particular way Western religion, philosophy and science view the concept of space and time. Initially, in Western scholasticism, the view was created that time and space constitute a certain continuum, three dimensions and time as the fourth, and the Creator is beyond the framework of this continuum, since he is the root cause of time and space and everything in general, all universals and constants. Being beyond the boundaries of time and space, God the Creator, the intelligent first cause of everything, is not subject to conditioning, time and change. This timeless source gives new life to selected intelligent creatures, due to which, being created and perishable by nature, they nevertheless receive an eternal and blissful existence by uniting with this source.

Science, represented by Einstein, in the theory of relativity, picked up this idea. Some areas of science perceive time as a certain coordinate. And it seems that you can move back and forth along it, as in space, or go beyond the framework of four-dimensional space-time.

What is the Buddha’s concept of time and space? Buddha, in my opinion, never taught such an understanding of time. In his understanding, the past no longer exists, the future has not yet arrived, and the present is fleeting, like a mirage. That is, by and large, there is only the moment here and now.

Therefore, when speaking about past, present and future aggregates, the Buddha means clinging to the memory of the past, perception of the present and plans for the future. Therefore, the exit of consciousness beyond the framework of past, present and future aggregates is not a transition to a super-dimension, transcendental to four-dimensional time-space, but simply a non-clinging to the present momentary aggregates, the traces of the past in them and the potential of the future in them. This is going beyond the aggregates of three times.

Thanisaaro Bhikkhu, having seen the hint (MH49, DN 11 and others) that consciousness is not included in the five aggregates (seeing that the aggregates are divided into three times), automatically saw there a departure from the space-time continuum in the spirit of the Christian theologian and Einstein four dimensions.

The Buddha understands time as a flow of interconnected causes and effects. It is impossible to go beyond the framework of causality since time is causality, existence is causality. Being cannot go beyond itself without breaking itself. Consciousness is so tightly inscribed in causality, flesh from flesh from time, that in essence it can be disconnected from causality only through psycholgic non-clinging and ontological extinction. And in no other way.

A post was split to a new topic: The Dangers of Useful Translations and Websites With non Classical Therāvada Views

I think the very most you could say is that he may have influenced it. I don’t believe he considers himself a suttanta monk, and I highly doubt that any suttanta monk would claim him as one of their own. For them he relies far, far to much on the commentaries. For a suttanta monk his criticisms of the commentaries pale in comparison to his adherence.

It’s fine to hold the position that the commentaries are inerrant. But it makes no sense to cast someone as suttanta simply because they don’t hold that view. I think at most you could say that he is not a “Pure Classical Theravadin” which is something he might even agree with.

Sorry if this is not strictly on topic with this thread.

I think Wisdom do a good job with the books -with regard to Bhikkhu Bohi’s translations they really are quality publications- and they have a wide distribution network.

Another point is the wonderful translations Bhikkhu Bodhi did that were published by the BPS - The

All of these have excellent introductions by ven. Bodhi and faithfully give the Commentary and Tika. Just wonderful.
I would love to see a few more suttas translated in this style by venerable Bodhi.

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I agree with this. When ven Bodhi adds his comments where he may query/disagree the Commentary he is usually clear on what the Commentary says so the reader still gets to clearly hear the opinions of the ancients.

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That is why I said “or uncle”

The problem is that if you criticize 20% of the commentaries and believe 80%. Those 20 % stick out and it has been a major cause of commy-bashing suttanta. The king of commy-bashers, Ajahn Sujato says that the commentaries are right 80% of the time. But when you say 20% of Buddhism is wrong, especially in the controversial points, then you can do anything you really want. We might be able say that Mahayana is 80% correct according to Theravada. Of course there are major single items which will change the whole course of the message.

PTS started it.


Dear Ven Paññādhammika
One of our members pointed out your post on the suttacentral forum.

Where you copied the letter I posted on CT from Bhikkhu Bodhi.
This is of course fine but would you mind giving the link to my post on CT as that is where the original was posted and it also gives context.


It seems that the idea of rejecting the authority of commentaries and considering only the Suttas as authoritative has been around for a very long time.

The Sautrāntika or Sutravadin were an early Buddhist school

Their name means literally “the conclusions of the sutras” where sūtra is lengthened into the vṛddhi derivative sautra, and combined with the word anta, meaning end or conclusion, with a final nominal marker ika (compare with the term vedānta), meaning their philosophy is derived from the sūtras. As stated by the commentator Yasomitra, they hold the sutras, but not the Abhidharma commentaries (sastras), as authoritative

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How do we understand this sutta? It raises the question of what lies beyond the end of the 6 senses. The question is interesting because it doesn’t say “what is there after the death of the arahant Self?” (if that were the question, it would mean that the question is biased by the illusion of the Self). Here, however, the question is not about the Self, but only about the senses. Venerable Sariputta’s answer is to reject everything, even the idea that there is nothing after the end of the 6 senses.
Why accept that there is nothing after parinibbana if Ven. Sariputta himself rejects this possibility?

“Friend, if one says: ‘With the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is something else,’ one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated.881 (2) If one says: ‘Friend, with the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is nothing else,’ one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated. (3) If one says: ‘Friend, with the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is both something else and nothing else,’ one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated. (4) If one says: ‘Friend, with the remainderless fading away and cessation of the six bases for contact, there is neither something else nor nothing else,’ one proliferates that which is not to be proliferated.

(AN 4.173, Ven. Bodhi)

It talks about papancha. Expanding about what will or will not happen after the cessation of the six spheres (Sabbe - Everything), we essentially speculate, build concepts, that is, we continue to imagine something and cognize it with our mind, our sixth sense. But if cognition and the cognizable have ceased completely, all thought ceases. Since thought and concept exist up to those boundaries where the six spheres extend. This sutta simply tells us in a different and more radical way that consciousness has ceased. Through the absence of descriptions, the cessation of consciousness and the six spheres is described.

Despite their name they never really rejected their Abhidharma in toto. They rejected some and accepted other bits. An absolute rejection of Abhidharma seems fairly modern. Even Mahayanists study some Abhidharma.

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It talks about papanca, but it also explicitly rejects the idea that there’s nothing after the end of the 6 senses.

A suttanta may well accept passages from the commentaries. Rejecting the authority of the commentaries does not imply rejecting the truth in the commentaries. It’s just that the suttanta will consider that only the suttas themselves are authoritative, so if the suttas say “X is true”, then the suttanta will say “X is true” and if the suttanta reads that a commentary says “X is true”, the suttanta will say "the commentary is right when it says “X is true”.

AS Nikolay noted it still has a hint of papanca about it.

Bhikkhu Bodhi Note: 880 Mp glosses mā h’evaṃ with evaṃ mā bhaṇi, “Do not speak thus,” and explains that the four questions are asked by way of eternalism, annihilationism, partial eternalism, and “eel-wriggling” (sassata-uccheda-ekaccasassata-amarāvikkhepa). Thus Sāriputta rejects each question. “Eel-wriggling” is agnosticism, skepticism, or intellectual evasiveness.
881 Appapañcaṃ papañceti. Mp: “He creates proliferation [or speculations] in relation to something that should not be proliferated [or speculated about]. He travels along a path that one should not travel on.” The Pāli word papañca suggests mental fabrication, obsessive mental construction, and deluded conceptualization, which the commentaries say arise from craving, conceit, and wrong views (taṇhā, māna, diṭṭhi). It seems to me that Mp understands appapañcaṃ as a contraction of appapañciyaṃ […]
” 882 Tāvatā papañcassa gati. Mp: “As far as the range of the six bases extends, just so far extends the range of proliferation, distinguished by way of craving, views, and conceit.””

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