Nibbana: texts on this

How is nibbana unconditioned?

67. [Question 1] Is Nibbána non-existent because it is unapprehendable, like the hare’s horn?
[Answer] That is not so, because it is apprehendable by the [right] means. For it is apprehendable [by some, namely, the nobles ones] by the [right] means, in other words, by the way that is appropriate to it, [the way of virtue, concentration, and understanding]; it is like the supramundane consciousness of others, [which is apprehendable only by certain of the Noble Ones] by means of knowledge of penetration of others’ minds. Therefore it should not be said that it is non-existent because unapprehendable; for it should not be said that what the foolish ordinary man does not apprehend is unapprehendable.
68. Again, it should not be said that Nibbána does not exist. Why not? Because it then follows that the way would be futile. [508] For if Nibbána were non- existent, then it would follow that the right way, which includes the three aggregates beginning with virtue and is headed by right understanding, would be futile. And it is not futile because it does reach Nibbána.
[Q. 2] But futility of the way does not follow because what is reached is absence, [that is, absence of the five aggregates consequent upon the cutting off of the defilements].
[A.] That is not so. Because, though there is absence of past and future [aggregates], there is nevertheless no reaching of Nibbána [simply because of that].
[Q. 3] Then is the absence of present [aggregates] as well Nibbána?
[A.] That is not so. Because their absence is an impossibility, since if they are absent their non-presence follows. [Besides, if Nibbána were absence of present aggregates too,] that would entail the fault of excluding the arising of the Nibbána element with result of past clinging left, at the path moment, which has present aggregates as its support.
[Q. 4] Then will there be no fault if it is non-presence of defilements [that is Nibbána]?
[A.] That is not so. Because it would then follow that the noble path was meaningless. For if it were so, then, since defilements [can be] non-existent also before the moment of the noble path, it follows that the noble path would be meaningless. Consequently that is no reason; [it is unreasonable to say that Nibbána is unapprehendable, that it is non-existence, and so on].
69. [Q. 5] But is not Nibbána destruction, because of the passage beginning, “That, friend, which is the destruction of greed … [of hate … of delusion … is Nibbána]?” (S IV 251).
[A.] That is not so, because it would follow that Arahantship also was mere destruction. For that too is described in the [same] way beginning, “That, friend, which is the destruction of greed … of hate … of delusion … is Arahantship]” (S IV 252).
And what is more, the fallacy then follows that Nibbána would be temporary, etc.; for if it were so, it would follow that Nibbána would be temporary, have the characteristic of being formed, and be obtainable regardless of right effort; and precisely because of its having formed characteristics it would be included in the formed, and it would be burning with the fires of greed, etc., and because of its burning it would follow that it was suffering.
[Q. 6] Is there no fallacy if Nibbána is that kind of destruction subsequent to which there is no more occurrence?
[A.] That is not so. Because there is no such kind of destruction. And even if there were, the aforesaid fallacies would not be avoided.
Also because it would follow that the noble path was Nibbána. For the noble path causes the destruction of defects, and that is why it is called “destruction”; and subsequent to that there is no more occurrence of the defects.
70. But it is because the kind of destruction called “cessation consisting in non-arising,” [that is, Nibbána,] serves figuratively speaking as decisive-support [for the path] that [Nibbána] is called “destruction” as a metaphor for it.
[Q. 7] Why is it not stated in its own form?
[A.] Because of its extreme subtlety. And its extreme subtlety is established because it inclined the Blessed One to inaction, [that is, to not teaching the Dhamma (see M I 186)] and because a Noble One’s eye is needed to see it (see M I 510).
71. It is not shared by all because it can only be reached by one who is possessed of the path. And it is uncreated because it has no first beginning.
[Q. 8] Since it is, when the path is, then it is not uncreated.
[A.] That is not so, because it is not arousable by the path; it is only reachable, not arousable, by the path; that is why it is uncreated. It is because it is uncreated that it is free from ageing and death. It is because of the absence of its creation and of its ageing and death that it is permanent. [509]
72. [Q. 9] Then it follows that Nibbána, too, has the kind of permanence [claimed] of the atom and so on.
[A.] That is not so. Because of the absence of any cause [that brings about its arising].
[Q. 10] Because Nibbána has permanence, then, these [that is, the atom, etc.] are permanent as well.
[A.] That is not so. Because [in that proposition] the characteristic of [logical] cause does not arise. [In other words, to say that Nibbána is permanent is not to assert a reason why the atom, etc., should be permanent]
[Q. 11] Then they are permanent because of the absence of their arising, as Nibbána is.
[A.] That is not so. Because the atom and so on have not been established as facts.
73. The aforesaid logical reasoning proves that only this [that is, Nibbána] is permanent [precisely because it is uncreated]; and it is immaterial because it transcends the individual essence of matter.
The Buddhas’ goal is one and has no plurality. But this [single goal, Nibbána,] is firstly called with result of past clinging left since it is made known together with the [aggregates resulting from past] clinging still remaining [during the Arahant’s life], being thus made known in terms of the stilling of defilement and the remaining [result of past] clinging that are present in one who has reached it by means of development. But [secondly, it is called without result of past clinging left] since after the last consciousness of the Arahant, who has abandoned arousing [future aggregates] and so prevented kamma from giving result in a future [existence], there is no further arising of aggregates of existence, and those already arisen have disappeared. So the [result of past] clinging that remained is non-existent; and it is in terms of this non-existence, in the sense that “there is no [result of past] clinging here” that that [same goal is called] without result of past clinging left (see It 38).
74. Because it can be arrived at by distinction of knowledge that succeeds through untiring perseverance, and because it is the word of the Omniscient One, Nibbána is not non-existent as regards individual essence in the ultimate sense; for this is said: “Bhikkhus, there is an unborn, an unbecome, an unmade, an unformed” (It 37; Ud 80).18 This is the section of the definition dealing with the description of the cessation of suffering.

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