31. Is the Nirvana Self or Non-Self?

What about the Nirvana?

I was questioned that the Nirvana is neither about coming nor going, and it is not a place.  Would it contradict to the teaching about Nirvana according to the Dhammakaya Meditation?

Answer:  Firstly, I would like to refer to the Lord Buddha’s saying on Nirvana as follows:


Nibbana Sutta (The Nirvana Discourse), in term of what it is not:

"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress."

— Ud 8.1

(Source: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca3/nibbana.html)


The above discourse has raised much disputes among Buddhist scholars about what the Nirvana is and isn’t.  However, if we use the translation art and science to cross-check the two types of Nirvana namely (1) Sauppadisesa Nibbana and (2) Anuppadisesa Nibbana, the concept of Anuppadisesa Nibbana does not fit into the discourse, and it causes conflicts among the Dhamma system.  But if we try placing Sauppadisesa Nibbana into the discourse, it works well and causes no conflict as it implies that ‘the living Nirvana’ or ‘the state of Nirvana when the Lord Buddha or Arahat Saints are still alive’ is the state where the fully enlightened Buddhist Saints do not have to come from, go to, or stasis, because it is the state of mind which they experience.  This Sauppadisesa Nibbana or Nirvana, as a state of mind, is not located at a certain place, and ones are not entitled to pass away or arise.  It does not rely on anything to persist because its phenomena is the state of mind that ones incline to (ayatana).  It is said to be an inclination or ayatana because ones are drawn towards such state of mind similar to the eyes that attract images, ears that attract sound, and nose that attracts smell.  Thus, the living Nirvana is the state of mind of the fully enlightened Buddha and Buddhist Saints where they incliningly experience the followings:

"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."

— AN 3.32

(Source: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca3/nibbana.html)

On the other hand, the ‘Non-Living Nirvana’ or External Nirvana is the crystal realm where the Lord Buddhas and fully enlightened Buddhist Saints dwell after they pass away from the human world (anuppadisesa nibbana).  However, there are different ways of the Nibbaning or experiencing the Nirvana as follows:

(1)   The Nirvana of Nirmanakaya where the living Lord Buddhas and fully enlightened Buddhist Saints who are still alive can enjoy the ‘Nibbana Citta’ or the mental state of Nirvana which functions like ‘ayatana’ or the inclination within themselves.

(2)   The Disembodiment Nirvana where the Lord Buddhas and fully enlightened Buddhist Saints pass away to the Nirvana Realm with their Dhammakaya, abandoning the human body and five aggregates completely.  Their Dhammakayas (Dhamma khanda) enter the Nirvana Realm which is finished with Nibbana-Dhatu or the pure Nirvanic element allowing the Dhammakayas to enjoy the state of supreme bliss by deepening into the supramundane meditation or lokuttara samapatti.

(3)   The Disembodiment Nirvana where the Lord Buddhas and fully enlightened Buddhist Saints pass away to the Nirvana Realm with their Sambhogakaya (body of enjoyment).  Their Nirvana Realm or Buddhakasetra is finished with beautiful crystal palace, pavilions, and properties where they can enjoy bliss and continue doing duties such as preaching to deities, angels, celestial beings, Bodhisattas, and visitors from various realms including the human world who have reached the supramundane state of mind.

(4)  The Disembodiment Nirvana where one dissolves oneself completely.  As such, the human body is left, and the Dhammakaya and Sambhogakaya are completely dissolved until there remains only the fog of Dhamma element.

Note:  According to the translation art and science, when we trace back to the pali canon, we have to take into account of the term ‘Nirvana’ carefully by identifying whether it is a noun or a verb, a living one or non-living one, within a content because it will cause the chain-effect to the following description.  In addition, it happens frequently in translated Tipitaka that translators ‘omit’ the repeated words, phrases, or sentences, and the omissions cause problems to readers when they wish to reinterpret or retranslate a certain content as in the case of Nibbana Sutta that has raised disputes among Buddhist scholars for hundreds of years.


Commentary by Pirajak Suwapatdecha (Pittaya Wong)

9 – 10 August 2019