"The Great Chronicle of Buddhas"
(Translated by Professors U Ko Lay and U Tin Lwin)
Vol. 1, Part 1, Page 272-275, 1991
What is Nibbana, the cessation of suffering? When the Unconditioned Element Asankhata—Dhatu, the unique Ultimate Reality, which has the characteristics of peace, is realised with the fourfold knowledge of the Path, all the defilements numbering one thousand and five hundred, are completely eradicated, never will they rise again. In any existence when the Arahattamagga is attained, the suffering in the form of the five aggregates ceases once and for all immediately after death, just as a heap of fire has been extinguished. There is no more rebirth in any realms of existence. That Unconditioned Element, the unique Ultimate Reality, which has the characteristics of peace and all the unique attributes described above is called Nibbana.
The worldlings do not know full well the nature of Nibbana as the Noble Ones do. If they, without knowing it, say or write to let others understand it as the Noble Ones do, they could go wrong. Let alone speaking of Nibbana, when they speak even of a mundane object which they know only from books, as though they have seen it with their own eyes, they are likely to make mistakes. The common worldling. not being able to see every aspect of it like the Noble Ones do, should speak of Nibbana only in the aforesaid manner.
When Nibbana is considered as to what it is like those who have not understood what it really is, are likely to regard Nibbana as a kind of indestructible country or city. When Nibbana is mentioned as a secure city in a discourse at a water-pouring ceremony, it is just a figurative usage. Nibbana is not a city, nor is it a country. Yet there are some who believe and say that Nibbana is a city where those who have passed into it live happily with mind and body free of old age, sickness and death. The truth is that passing of Buddha., Pacceka-Buddhas and Arahats into Nibbana means complete cessation of the five aggregates, material and mental, of an arahat at his death in his last existence; they will no longer appear in any realm of existence. (Nibbana is the Ultimate Reality which is the object of the Path and Fruition. Parinibbana is complete cessation of the material and mental aggregates which will never come into being again.) Their passing into Nibbana is not going into the city of Nibbana. There is no such thing as the city of Nibbana.
The Myanmar word ( Nibban) is a Pali derivative. When people perform meritorious deeds, their, teachers will admonish them to pray for Nibbana. Though they do so accordingly, they generally do not know well what Nibbana means. So they are not very enthusiastic about it.. The teachers therefore should ask them to pray for the extinction of all suffering and sorrow because the words are pure Myanmar and the devotees will understand thoroughly and pray enthusiastically and seriously.
Two kinds of Nibbana
Suppose there is a very costly garment. When its owner is still alive you say, "it is an excellent garment with a user. When he dies, you say, "It is an excellent garment with no user." (The same garment is spoken of in accordance with the time in which he lives or in which he no longer lives.) Similarly, the Unconditioned Element, the Ultimate Reality of Nibbana, which has the characteristic of peace and which is the object the Venerable Ones such as Sariputta contemplate by means of the Path and Fruition is called Sa-upadisesa Nibbana (Nibbana with the five aggregates of upadisesa contemplating) it before his death; after his death, however, since there are no longer the five aggregates that contemplate Nibbana, it is called AnupadisesaNibbana (Nibbana without the five aggregates of Upadisesa contemplating it.)
The peace of Nibbana is aspired for only when it is pondered after overcoming craving by wisdom. That the peace of Nibbana is something which should really be aspired for will not be understood if craving is foremost in one's thinking and not overcome by wisdom.
Three kinds of Nibbana
Nibbana is also of three kinds according to its attributes which are clearly manifest in it: (1) Sunnata Nibbana, (2) Animitta Nibbana and (3) AppanihitaNibbana.
(1) The first attribute is that Nibbana is devoid of all distractions (palibodha); hence Sunnata Nibbana. (Sunnata means 'void'.)
(2) The second attribute is that it is devoid of consciousness (citta) mental concomitants (cetasika) and matter (rupa) which as conditioned things are the cause of defilements. Conditioned things, whether mental or material, cannot only arise individually and without combining with one another. Material things arise only when at least eight of them form a combination. (That is why they are called atthakalapa, unit of eight.) Mental things also arise only when at least eight elements , make a combination. (By this is meant panca-vinnana, the fivefold consciousness.) When such combinations of mental and material components brought together to form an aggregate are wrongly taken to be my self, my body, a thing of substance, they give rise to mental defilements such as craving etc. Conditioned things are thus known as nimitta, ground or cause. In particular mundane consciousness, mental concomitants and matter are called nimitta. In Nibbana, however, there are no such things of substance as "myself", "my body", which cause the emergence of defilements. Hence the name Animitta Nibbana.
(3) The third attribute is that Nibbana is devoid of craving which is tanha. As has been said before, Nibbana has nothing to crave for. Nibbana is not to be craved. Therefore it is also called Appanihita Nibbana. In this way there are three kinds of Nibbana according to its attributes.
This Truth of Cessation of Suffering is in short called the Truth of Cessation. This Truth of Cessation is the Unconditioned (Asankhata) Element. (It is not conditioned by any factor.) Therefore this Truth of Cessation, the Unconditioned Element, the Ultimate Reality of Nibbana, is named Appaccaya - Dhamma, Uncaused Phenomenon, or AsankhataDhamma, Unconditioned Phenomenon, in the Dhammasangani.
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