Nibbāna 22: Gnosis in the Here-and-Now

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“Nanda, having comprehended your awareness with my own awareness, I realized that ‘Nanda, through the ending of the effluents, has entered and remains in the effluent-free awareness-release and discernment-release, directly knowing and realizing them for himself right in the here-and-now.’ … When your mind, through lack of clinging, was released from the effluents, I was thereby released from that promise.”

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

“In whom the mire of sensuality is crossed over,
the thorn of sensuality crushed,
the ending of delusion reached:
He doesn’t quiver
from pleasures and pains: a monk.”

This shows that as soon as one completes the training in the Holy Life, he is in Nibbāna. Only before attaining Arahantship, when the training is incomplete, can one go to heaven.

Thus Nibbāna is a result that comes of its own accord. There is no justification for a periphrastic usage like, ‘on reaching Nibbāna’. No glimpse of a distant object is necessary, no ticket for a long journey needs to be purchased, no need to navigate a meandering course. As soon as the Noble Eightfold Path is perfected one attains Nibbāna — right then and there.

svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo
sanditthiko akāliko
ehi-passiko opanayiko
paccatam veditabbo viññuhi”ti

“The Dhamma is well-proclaimed by the Blessed One, visible here and now, timeless, inviting of inspection, onward-leading, and directly experienceable by the wise.” — (many occurrences throughout the Suttas)

Now, why do the scholars try to refute this by projecting Nibbāna into the future, somewhere far away? This contradicts the words sanditthiko akāliko, ‘visible here-and-now, timeless’ in the verse quoted above. In the case of an examination, after answering the questions one has to wait for the grade: pass or fail. In the Holy Life, as soon as you answer the question correctly you pass, and the certificate is already there. The term aññā used in such contexts means recognition, perfect knowledge: Arahantship. It stands for full certainty of final knowledge, the experience of Nibbāna :

“Bhikkhus, there are these four establishments of mindfulness. What four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body … feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world.

“When, bhikkhus, these four establishments of mindfulness have been developed and cultivated, one of two fruits may be expected: either final knowledge in this very life or, if there is a residue of clinging, the state of non-return.” —  Añña Sutta (SN 47.36)

Dhamme aññā, perfection of knowledge of Dhamma, the experience of the fruit of Arahantship gives the final certificate of attainment, aññāphalo:

“…the concentration whereby — neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed — still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis.”— Ānanda Sutta (AN 9.37).

That is why Nibbāna is called something ‘to be realized’: 

“‘This Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering is to be realized’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light.” — Dhamma­cakka­ppavattana Sutta (SN 56.11)

One becomes certain that khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ: “birth is extinct and the Holy Life is lived completely.” 

“‘This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.’ His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the fermentation of sensuality, the fermentation of becoming, the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, ‘Released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is extinct, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world’.” — Sāmaññaphala Sutta (DN 2)

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Dev Jacobsen

Musician, author and yogi, developer of Palingenics.

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