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Nibbana = Unconsciousness?

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Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
12/31/17 8:39 PM
Happy almost New Years everyone

I just re-watched the Kenneth Folk interview on BATGAP and it got me thinking about this again.
Kenneth says that Nibbana means extinction, and basically equates it with unconsciousness, death, annihilation.

I understand that in the Mahasi tradition this may ring true, as the blip is the supposed line between those that have not yet entered the stream and those that have. I’ve experienced many things in my meditation career, but no blips. I'm blip-less. And I can’t say that blipping out has anything to do with my initial motivation for spiritual practice, nor what it has evolved into today. To me losing consciousness is literally antithetical to awakening.

So, does Nibbana = Annihilation? And if you believe it does, does everyone experience Nibbana every night in sleep? 

As a counterpoint, Buddha.net defines Nibbana as the end of wanting, or non-attachment, from the Ni (not) and Vana (craving), not as extinction, or as Kenneth (not Ken) says, oblivion.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
12/31/17 7:57 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
My 2 cents 

The extinction of craving 

known at first through discontinuities in ordinary consciousness which give one a flash preview of the empty ground from which all arises 

later this ground is stabilized eyes open so blipping may still happen but is not necessary 

knowing the empty nature of things is necessary for the extinction of craving , but not sufficient for it -- the whole path needs to be achieved for the defilements to be uprooted 

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
12/31/17 8:56 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Nibbana is used a number of ways in the texts.

Nibbana often is used to refer to Arahatship, as in "in the seeing, just the seen", etc., meaning the elimination of the deeply habitual perceptual illusion that somehow in these unstable sensations is truly a stable, continuous, controlling, knowing, separate Self. In this sense, Nibbana might somewhat dramatically be equated to "oblivion", the oblivion of something that didn't actually exist (so that's a weird sort of oblivion to describe). The life of an arahat is a world of rich, non-dual sensate experience free of that pesky illusion of a continous, controlling, doing, perceiving entity at its core. This really doesn't feel like "oblivion" at all in practice, and instead just feels like a whole bunch of naturally occurring, transient, immediate, clear sensations doing their thing just like they always did but just with much enhanced appreciation of this at a core perceptual level.

Nibbana is also used to refer to Fruition, that vanishing of experience that occurs at the end of a cycle of the stages of insight. In this sense, it might be somewhat dramatically termed "oblivion" or something like that, except that experience reappears and sensations continue after the Fruition, so the term "oblivion" doesn't do justice to the thing, which has this nice afterglow and sense of mental reset when experience recurs.

There is also something called Parinibbana, aka Nibbana Without Remainder, which is what occurs on the death of an arahat or buddha (buddhas are also arahats, just an extra-special, deluxe version with additional excellent aspects). However, to call Parinibbana "oblivion" adopts a particular view, one the Buddha would not acknowledge, see particularly MN 63, which is worth reading. To call Parinibbana "oblivion" would imply that one had adopted the view that the Buddha does not exist after death, a view the Buddha himself didn't declare, as per that sutta.

Far better to attain to Nibbana and see for one's self how this theory might or might not apply in practice.

Happy New Year!

Daniel

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
12/31/17 10:08 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Daniel - san:
Happy almost New Years everyone

I just re-watched the Kenneth Folk interview on BATGAP and it got me thinking about this again.
Kenneth says that Nibbana means extinction, and basically equates it with unconsciousness, death, annihilation.

.....
So, does Nibbana = Annihilation? And if you believe it does, does everyone experience Nibbana every night in sleep?

What an odd idea. It makes no sense to me. Arahats experience nibbana 24/7. Obviously the Buddha was conscious. I have heard this idea before and I suspect it comes from a misunderstanding of what the term translated as consciousness in the Buddhas teachings (suttas) means vs modern day usage of the term. Consciousness in the suttas is used in conjuction with a sense organ and an object - that is all three arise together - with craving as the glue. So we have for example 'eye consciousness' which is a coming together of the consciousness aggregate, the eye, and the object that is seen. This consciousness is said to be able to change extremely fast and I suspect this is where the idea of mind-moments came from (which is not found in the early texts). This consciousness is a consciousness of thingness - that is, it is always boundup with some thing. It can be experienced by simply observing how our attention is grabbed by one thing or another from any of the 6 senses. First we are looking at something, the next moment lost in a thought, the next we are drawn to a sound and on and on. This happens outside our control - which is why Buddha taught that it was a source of stress and should be regarded as not self. This is what the term consciousness as used in the suttas usually refers to.

The Arahat does not experience this kind of consciousness. The consciousness aggregate is no longer boundup with any thing. So we have the Buddha saying things like 'I see but I see no thing, I hear but I hear no thing', and so on. Phenomena are seen but there is no thingness to them. Something like seeing everything at once. Everything is seen but nothing has the ability to grab ones attention. This is also what is meant by the saying 'in seeing there is only the seen'. Because the minds attention can no longer be grabbed by any thing there is great freedom and the proliferation of thoughts, feelings, views that accompany that grabbing are no longer generated.

Nibbana does not equal annihilation. In nibbana one is very much aware - just not aware of any thing. One is aware of the cessation of thingness.

With regards to sleep - try setting your alarm to wake you up at different times during the night. You will most often find that you remember dreaming or have some sense that you were aware. We think we are unconscious during sleep because we do not recall being conscious when we wake up. But remembering being conscious and being conscious are two different things. Even in deep sleep there is consciousness or maybe awareness is a better word.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/1/18 12:26 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.024.than.html

AN 4.24 PTS: A ii 23
Kalaka Sutta: At Kalaka's Park
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 2002

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying in Saketa at Kalaka's park. There he addressed the monks: "Monks!"

"Yes, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said: "Monks, whatever in the cosmos — with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, its generations with their contemplatives & brahmans royalty & common people — is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: That do I know. Whatever in the cosmos — with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, its generations with their contemplatives & brahmans, their royalty & common people — is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: That I directly know. That has been realized by the Tathagata, but in the Tathagata[1] it has not been established.[2]

"If I were to say, 'I don't know whatever in the cosmos... is seen, heard, sensed, cognized... pondered by the intellect,' that would be a falsehood in me. If I were to say, 'I both know and don't know whatever in the cosmos... is seen, heard, sensed, cognized... pondered by the intellect,' that would be just the same. If I were to say, 'I neither know nor don't know whatever in the cosmos... is seen, heard, sensed, cognized... pondered by the intellect,' that would be a fault in me.

"Thus, monks, the Tathagata, when seeing what is to be seen, doesn't construe an [object as] seen. He doesn't construe an unseen. He doesn't construe an to-be-seen. He doesn't construe a seer.

"When hearing...

"When sensing...

"When cognizing what is to be cognized, he doesn't construe an [object as] cognized. He doesn't construe an uncognized. He doesn't construe an to-be-cognized. He doesn't construe a cognizer.

Thus, monks, the Tathagata — being the same with regard to all phenomena that can be seen, heard, sensed, & cognized — is 'Such.' And I tell you: There's no other 'Such' higher or more sublime.

"Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
and fastened onto as true by others,
One who is Such — among the self-fettered —
wouldn't further claim to be true or even false.

"Having seen well in advance that arrow
where generations are fastened & hung
— 'I know, I see, that's just how it is!' —
there's nothing of the Tathagata fastened."
Notes

1.
Reading tathagate with the Thai edition.
2.
I.e., the Tathagata hasn't taken a stance on it.

See also: MN 2; MN 58; MN 63; MN 72; AN 10.93; AN 10.94; AN 10.95; AN 10.96; Ud 1.10; Ud 8.1.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/1/18 12:31 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Geoff:
"For
the Theravāda, nibbāna is an ultimately real dhamma (paramatthadhamma)
and the only dhamma that is not conditioned (asaṅkhata). It is an object
of supramundane cognition (lokuttaracitta) and is included in the
mental phenomena sensory sphere (dhammāyatana) and the mental phenomena
component (dhammadhātu). The four paths, four fruits, and nibbāna are
classified as the unincluded level (apariyāpanna bhūmi), that is, not
included in the sensual realm, the form realm, or the formless realm.
According to the Visuddhimagga, nibbāna "has peace as its
characteristic. Its function is not to die; or its function is to
comfort. It is manifested as the signless; or it is manifested as
non-diversification (nippapañca)."

According
to the Sarvāstivāda, nirvāṇa is an analytical cessation
(pratisaṃkhyānirodha) that is a disjunction from impure dharmas that
occurs through analysis (pratisaṃkhyāna), which is a specific type of
discernment (prajñā). This analytical cessation is substantially
existent (dravyasat) and ultimately exists (paramārthasat).

For
Sautrāntika commentators nirvāṇa as an analytical cessation
(pratisaṃkhyānirodha) is a merely a conceptual designation (prajñapti)
and doesn't refer to an entity or state that is substantially existent
(dravyasat). It is a non-implicative negation (prasajyapratiṣedha), that
is, a negation that doesn't imply the presence of some other entity.
Therefore nirvāṇa simply refers to a cessation that is the termination
of defilements that are abandoned by the correct practice of the noble
path.

According
to the Yogācāra, for those on the bodhisattva path, nirvāṇa is
non-abiding (apratiṣṭha nirvāṇa). The dependent nature
(paratantrasvabhāva) is the basis (āśraya) of both defilement and
purification. The all-basis consciousness (ālayavijñāna) is the defiled
portion (saṃkleśabhāga) of the dependent nature. Purified suchness
(viśuddhā tathatā) is the purified portion (vyavadānabhāga) of the
dependent nature. Synonyms for purified suchness are the perfected
nature (pariniṣpanna) and non-abiding nirvāṇa. Non-abiding nirvāṇa is
the revolved basis (āśrayaparāvṛtti) that has eliminated defilements
without abandoning saṃsāra.

Madhyamaka
authors accept the notion of non-abiding nirvāṇa, but they don't use
the three natures model used by the Yogācāra. Rather, they simply
consider all things to be conceptual designations (prajñapti) that are
empty of nature (svabhāva). For them, conceptual designations are
relative truth (saṃvṛtisatya) and only emptiness is ultimate truth
(paramārthasatya).

Zen,
Pure Land, Vajrayāna, etc., are practice traditions more so than
doctrinal schools, and authors writing from any of these perspectives
would generally rely on Yogācāra or Madhyamaka śāstras or a specific
Mahāyāna sūtra."


Dmytro asked: "Hi Ñāṇa,
And how you would put the Buddha's description of Nibbana in relation to said above?"

Geoff replied: "Given
the definition given in SN 38.1, SN 43.1-44, and Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga
184, I would say that it's a designation (paññatti, prajñapti) referring
to the elimination of passion, aggression, and delusion. Or with regard
to the four paths (stream-entry, etc.), a designation referring to the
elimination of fetters terminated by each path. This is similar to the
Sautrāntika interpretation."


RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/1/18 2:43 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Whoa. I’m honored by the caliber of the respondents here, makes me think I asked a good question : )

@Noah
That’s interesting, I’ve not heard that take before, is that a Mahasi teaching? Blipping being antecedent to a conscious experience of Nibbana? 
When you say the whole path needs to be achieved are you referring to the Eightfold Path or the full development of the Ten Paramis? What tradition/teachers are you most into nowadays?

@Daniel
I was aware of the second and third definitions of Nibbana, but not the first. By that definition, all fourth pathers are in a constant ‘state’ of Nibbana? What is your preferred definition?
As far as me experiencing blipping out, I am on the path to cultivate the innate Four Brahma-viharas, which IME are themselves qualities of awareness, nothing that takes effort to achieve. The focus on anatta by pragmatic dharma practitioners strikes me as a means to an end, and not the end. The means is a realization of dukkha, anicca, and anatta. The end is non-attachment to phenomenon, and the end of that is bliss, compassion, fearlessness and love. The focus on bare sensate non-personal phenomena all seems very dry to me, and something that I experience in my own practice, although I have not reached the level of any of you.
Regarding MN63, I have a love/hate relationship with that sutta. I understand the Buddha’s point about overly philosophizing and intellectualizing the path, but this exploration isn’t just fun and games to me, it’s more about building faith in a practice and a commitment to a goal. There's an element of shut-up and practice in there, and to me asking questions is part of the practice. I’m not convinced that all spiritual pursuits lead to the same goal, or that we’re all talking about the same thing. My goal is joy, love, compassion and equanimity, not an unconscious blip with a nice afterglow. This may be a case of the blind men and the elephant though, I just want a quick peek at the elephant lol.
Another subject I am very interested in, and it’s related, is do you still have the same view regarding the emotional perfection models of enlightenment that you did in MCTB1, and will that subject be revisited in your revised edition? I’m wondering if you consider emotional defilements to be more central to spiritual development than you seemingly once did, taking into account the whole AF experiment and people’s need (mine included) to be free of dukkha as a prime motivation for pursuing spiritual practice in the first place. And dukkha being an incompleteness of sorts, grasping, an emotional beehive.

@Chuck 
I was pretty excited when I saw your response. I don’t contribute much to the DhO these days as work has taken over my life and I hope to have a more practice centric lifestyle at some not-too-far-distant time, but your approach to dharma and your own self-described experience with practice has always spoken to me.
Confession: I also find this unconscious blip definition of Nibbana odd, even with the nice afterglow as Daniel describes, as sitting practice itself gives me a nice afterglow, the result of letting be and non-attachment I assume.  
What you describe as the Arahat’s experience of phenomenon is something that I have experienced as well, although it came in the context of a time in my life where there was more and deeper practice. At this time, I was not able to feel fear, get angry or feel embarrassment (for example). My vipassana training was bare awareness of thoughts, sensations and emotions (combo of the two). I’m wondering why an Arahat would experience pride or offense (for example) and if you have any ideas about that.
So Nibbana is bare awareness, not aware of any thing? Does that mean a lack of thoughts and sensations, or just the non-attachment to phenomenon as you know that they don’t belong to oneself?

@AEN
Thanks for taking me to school. There doesn’t seem to be any commentary that relegates Nibbana to an unconsciousness anywhere in there. I understand these are simply different views, when taken with what Noah, Daniel and Chuck said, it seems that the cessation of defilements would suffice as far as an Arahat having abandoned the ten fetters, and in a constant state of Nibbana. Are there any Arahats around that you know of that are free of the ten fetters? Do any exist? I’m aware of some of the history regarding this subject.
Also, where do you personally come down on the blip, as an experience (albeit unconscious) of Nibbana? What is your own personal definition of Nibbana that aligns with your experience?

Daniel-san

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/2/18 9:28 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
@Daniel-san
I don’t get around here much either these days but thought I would drop by and saw your post. On the blip – yes, it is odd. We seem to be blipless. My sense of it remains the same – that it is a product of a certain type of practice. As all forms of practice are fabricated, it makes sense that different forms will lead to different sorts of experience.

Really, there is nothing in normal experience that accurately conveys this experience. Buddha describes it as the end of the world. It is not a standing back or desensitization to phenomena. Mind/Knowing – this breaks away from identity with all and any phenomena – even time and space. There is great freedom. But it is not just something that happens in the mind – internally. Well, it may be but how and what one sees, hears, etc. actually takes on a different quality or appearance. Normal consciousness is composed of three elements that are fused together into a single compound: subject, object, and mental qualities that we project onto the subject and object and we are not aware that this is taking place. Through observation it possible to see much of this taking place and come to an intellectual understanding of it but it cannot be controlled. When that which knows peels away, the compounding process stops. All the elements are still there – quite naked now – but no more stories, no tightly held beliefs, to time, no space, no world. Because the world is constantly being manufactured by us through this compounding process. And what generates all this can not be found anywhere because the worldly consciousness that looks for it is already built on top of it. And when it is gone, there is nothing left of it.

Because there is no compounding, all phenomena are just left as they are. It helps to consider precursors to emotions. Why do we become angry, or jealous, or afraid – there is something in our environment – which can also be internal environment like a thought or day dream – that triggers a response. That response is first in the body as a pattern of sensations (usually unnoticed) that is rapidly picked up by the mind (the compounding process has already begun at this point). The arahat still has these bodily feelings as conditions change but there is no compounding. With anger, maybe there is a sense of irritation or frustration but there is no subject or object for this to grow and become something like “I am angry at so and so because ...”. It does not mean that one is not capable of experiencing anger but that feeling is not internalized or held on to. You have to keep in mind that the knowing mind no longer identifies with bodily feelings as mine or self. It is as they say unfettered, unbound.

The sutta quote from AEN "Thus, monks, the Tathagata, when seeing what is to be seen, doesn't construe an [object as] seen. He doesn't construe an unseen. He doesn't construe an to-be-seen. He doesn't construe a seer.” - This is what I am talking about. From the sutta one might conclude that this is the result of some decision – not to construe – but this is not the case. It simply cannot be done.

I can’t see why an arahat would experience pride or offense. But consider the root of such feelings. Maybe I receive praise for doing something. There is a pleasant feeling and that grows around a sense of identity and the thing I am being praised for – that is the compounding as it turns into pride. An arahat can know and appreciate that something was done well – but that is as far as it goes. Similarly they would know when someone is criticizing them but because there is no identity or ownership around it it isn’t owned or taken on though there might be a sense of irritation or frustration. You could say there is no place to hang the feeling or emotion – no place to keep or hold on to it. It is like the sutta that talks about light having no place to land.

Thoughts and sensations continue but as there is no identity with them – maybe better to say no grasping or holding on to them – they lose their power. When they lose their power the tendency for proliferation falls away – that is one thought does not lead to another and another in a cascade of world making opinions and beliefs.

@Angra Mainyu
the more enlightened one is the easier it is to do it but doesn't guarantee anything and there is no 24/7 nibbana thing... and why there would be?

Because nibbana is by definition: the deathless, the unconditioned, imperishable, not subject to change. If you experience something that comes and goes – that can not be it.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/2/18 11:43 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
This is a great answer. I would add that nirvana isn't a state of mind or a place or plane or anything.  It is just this rationally understood.  

Absent distinction or aversion ,  this is indescribable, but manifest and perfect. 

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/3/18 12:18 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
What is Nirvana?

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.sg/2012/09/great-resource-of-buddha-teachings.html

The Recognition of Cessation (Nirodhasaññā)

For whom there is neither a far shore,
Nor a near shore, nor both,
Who is free from distress, without ties,
Him I call a brāhmaṇa.

— Dhammapada 385
When the recognition of dispassion is fully developed and realized, and with no self to be found, nothing to be identified with, one realizes the gnosis and vision of liberation (vimuttiñāṇadassana). This is non-referential inner peace (ajjhattasanti). This is the full recognition of cessation. AN 10.60 Girimānanda Sutta:
Now what, Ānanda, is the recognition of cessation? Here, Ānanda, a monk, gone to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty place, discriminates thus: ‘This is peace, this is excellent, that is: the calming of all fabrications, the release of all acquisitions, the elimination of craving, cessation, nibbāna.’ This, Ānanda, is called the recognition of cessation.
This is the complete absence of agitation (calita natthi). Ud 8.4 Nibbāna Sutta:
There being no agitation, there is tranquility. There being tranquility, there is no inclination. There being no inclination, there is no coming or going. There being no coming or going, there is no passing away or arising. There being no passing away or arising, there is neither a here nor a beyond nor a between-the-two. Just this is the end of unsatisfactoriness.
This is the calming of all specific fabrication and volitional intention. MN 140 Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta:
One does not form any specific fabrication or volitional intention towards either existence or non-existence. Not forming any specific fabrication or volitional intention towards either existence or non-existence, he does not cling to anything in this world. Not clinging, he is not excited. Unexcited, he personally attains complete nibbāna. He discerns that, ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, done is what had to be done, there is nothing further here.’
This is the freedom of absence which is revealed through the complete recognition of selflessness. Ud 1.10 Bāhiya Sutta:
‘The seen will be merely the seen, the heard will be merely the heard, the sensed will be merely the sensed, the known will be merely the known.’ This is how you should train, Bāhiya. 

When, Bāhiya, for you the seen will be merely the seen, the heard will be merely the heard, the sensed will be merely the sensed, the known will be merely the known, then Bāhiya, you will not be that. When, Bāhiya, you are not that, then Bāhiya, you will not be there. When, Bāhiya, you are not there, then Bāhiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor between-the-two. Just this is the end of unsatisfactoriness.
This is noble liberation which is the elimination of craving and clinging. MN 106 Āneñjasappāya Sutta:
This is death-free, namely, the liberation of mind through not clinging.
This is the effortless clarity of consciousness which is non-abiding and not established (appatiṭṭha viññāṇa). SN 22.53 Upaya Sutta:
When that consciousness is not established, not increasing, not concocting, it is liberated. Being liberated, it is steady. Being steady, it is content. Being content, he is not excited. Unexcited, he personally attains complete nibbāna. He discerns that, ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, done is what had to be done, there is nothing further here.’
There is no more seeking of any kind. There is no more personal agenda. There is no identifying with any phenomena or turning anything into a fixed reference point. There is no “here” nor “beyond” nor “between-the-two.”
The awakened mind is measureless (appamāṇacetasa), free from any sort of measuring (pamāṇa). In evocative terms, an awakened one is deep (gambhīra), boundless (appameyya), and fathomless (duppariyogāḷha). Utterly free from any reference to specifically fabricated consciousness (viññāṇasaṅkhayavimutta). “Gone” (atthaṅgata), the measureless mind is untraceable (ananuvejja) even here and now. It doesn’t abide in the head, or in the body, or anywhere else for that matter. It doesn’t have size or shape. It’s not an object or a subject.
Just as the sky is formless and non-illustrative, the measureless mind is non-illustrative and non-indicative (anidassana). This effortless clarity is unmediated by any specific fabrication or volitional intention. It is unaffected knowing: The seen is merely the seen (diṭṭhamatta). The heard is merely the heard (sutamatta). The sensed is merely the sensed (mutamatta). The known is merely the known (viññātamatta). But there is no you there. Of course, this liberating gnosis and vision can’t adequately be pointed out or indicated by words alone. It is to be individually experienced (paccatta veditabba).

The Recognition of Cessation and the Seven Factors of Awakening (Satta Bojjhaṅgā)

Sustained, dedicated practice of the recognition of cessation will gradually create the optimal conditions for the arising of all seven factors of awakening. SN 46.76 Nirodha Sutta (abridged):
Here monks, a monk develops the awakening factor of mindfulness accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of dhamma-investigation accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of energy accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of joy accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of tranquility accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of meditative composure accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of equanimity accompanied by the recognition of cessation, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go.

It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that it is of great fruit and benefit. It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that one of two fruits is to be expected: either final gnosis in this very life or, if there is a residue of clinging, the state of nonreturning. It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that it leads to great good. It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that it leads to great security from bondage. It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that it leads to a great sense of urgency. It is in this way that the recognition of cessation is developed and cultivated so that it leads to dwelling in great comfort.

...

The Recognition of Selflessness (Anattasaññā)

Look at the world and see its emptiness Mogharāja, always mindful,
Eliminating the view of self, one goes beyond death.
One who views the world this way is not seen by the king of death.

— Sutta Nipāta 5.15, Mogharājamāṇavapucchā
The contemplation of selflessness is given in AN 10.60 Girimānanda Sutta:
Now what, Ānanda, is the recognition of selflessness? Here, Ānanda, a monk, gone to the wilderness, to the root of a tree, or to an empty place, discriminates thus: ‘The eye is not-self, forms are not-self; the ear is not-self, sounds are not-self; the nose is not-self, odors are not-self; the tongue is not-self, flavors are not-self; the body is not-self, tactual objects are not-self; the mind is not-self, phenomena are not-self.’ Thus he abides contemplating selflessness with regard to the six internal and external sensory spheres. This, Ānanda, is called the recognition of selflessness.
In practice, we need to be able to recognize this absence of self in our immediate experience: When seeing, there is the coming together of visible form, the eye, and visual consciousness. When hearing, there is the coming together of sound, the ear, and auditory consciousness. When touching, there is the coming together of tactual sensation, the body, and tactile consciousness. When thinking, there is the thought, the mind, and mental consciousness. These processes arise simply through ‘contact.’ When a sense faculty and a sensory object make contact, the corresponding sensory consciousness arises. This entire process occurs through specific conditionality (idappaccayatā). There is no independent, fully autonomous agent or self controlling any of this.
An independent, autonomous self would, by definition, be:
permanent
satisfactory
not prone to dis-ease
fully self-determining (be in complete autonomous control of itself)
Thus, what is being negated is a permanent, satisfactory self which is not prone to old age, sickness, and death. As SN 22.59 Pañcavaggiya Sutta (abridged) states:
Monks, form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, and consciousness are not-self. Were form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, or consciousness self, then this form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, and consciousness would not lead to dis-ease.
This criterion of dis-ease is the context for the following statement that:
None can have it of form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, or consciousness: ‘Let my form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, or consciousness be thus, let my form, feeling, recognition, fabrications, or consciousness be not thus.’
By engaging in sustained, dedicated contemplation we find only impermanent processes, conditionally arisen, and not fully self-determining. First we clearly see that all conditioned phenomena of body and mind are impermanent. Next we come to see that whatever is impermanent is unsatisfactory in that it can provide no lasting happiness. Then we realize that all impermanent, unsatisfactory phenomena of body and mind are not-self — they can’t be the basis for a self, which by definition would be permanent and (one would hope) satisfactory. This relationship between the recognition of impermanence, the recognition of unsatisfactoriness, and the recognition of selflessness is illustrated in the following diagram.

With the recognition of selflessness there is an emptying out of both the “subject” and “object” aspects of experience. We come to understand that “I-making” and “mine-making” with regard to the mind and body as well as all external representations is deluded. When the recognition of selflessness is fully developed there is no longer any reification of substantial referents to be experienced in relation to subjective grasping. Whatever is seen is merely the seen (diṭṭhamatta). Whatever is heard or sensed is merely the heard (sutamatta) and merely the sensed (mutamatta). Whatever is known is merely the known (viññātamatta). This is explained in Ud 1.10 Bāhiya Sutta:
‘The seen will be merely the seen, the heard will be merely the heard, the sensed will be merely the sensed, the known will be merely the known.’ This is how you should train, Bāhiya. 

When, Bāhiya, for you the seen will be merely the seen, the heard will be merely the heard, the sensed will be merely the sensed, the known will be merely the known, then Bāhiya, you will not be that. When, Bāhiya, you are not that, then Bāhiya, you will not be there. When, Bāhiya, you are not there, then Bāhiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor between-the-two. Just this is the end of unsatisfactoriness.
When there is no self to be found one’s experience becomes very simple, direct, and uncluttered. When seeing, there is the coming together of visible form, the eye, and visual consciousness, that’s all. There is no separate “seer.” The seer is entirely dependent upon the seen. There can be no seer independent of the seen. There is no separate, independent subject or self.
This is also the case for the sensory object. The “seen” is entirely dependent upon the eye faculty and visual consciousness. There can be no object seen independent of the eye faculty and cognition. This is the case for all possible sensory objects. There is no separate, independent sensory object.
The same holds true for sensory consciousness as well. “Seeing” is entirely dependent upon the eye and visible form. There can be no seeing independent of the eye and cognition. This is the case for all possible sensory cognitions. There is no separate, independent sensory consciousness.
It’s important to understand this experientially. Let’s take the straightforward empirical experience of you looking at this screen right now as an example. Conventionally speaking, you could describe the experience as “I see the computer screen.” Another way of describing this is that there’s a “seer” who “sees” the “seen.” But look at the screen: are there really three independent and separate parts to your experience? Or are “seer,” “sees,” and “seen,” just three conceptual labels applied to this experience in which the three parts are entirely interdependent?
The “seer,” “seen,” and “seeing” are all empty and insubstantial. The eye faculty, visible form, and visual consciousness are all interdependent aspects of the same experience. You can’t peel one away and still have a sensory experience — there is no separation. AN 4.24 Kāḷakārāma Sutta:
Thus, monks, the Tathāgata does not conceive an seen when seeing what is to be seen. He does not conceive an unseen. He does not conceive a to-be-seen. He does not conceive a seer. 

He does not conceive an heard when hearing what is to be heard. He does not conceive an unheard. He does not conceive a to-be-heard. He does not conceive a hearer. 

He does not conceive an sensed when sensing what is to be sensed. He does not conceive an unsensed. He does not conceive a to-be-sensed. He does not conceive a senser. 

He does not conceive an known when knowing what is to be known. He does not conceive an unknown. He does not conceive a to-be-known. He does not conceive a knower.
Sensory consciousness can’t be isolated as separate and independent. Nor can any of these other interdependent phenomena. Even the designations that we apply to these various phenomena are entirely conventional, dependent designations. But this doesn’t mean that we should now interpret our experience as being some sort of cosmic oneness or unity consciousness or whatever one may want to call it. That's just another empty, dependent label isn’t it? The whole point of this analysis is to see the emptiness of all referents, and thereby stop constructing and defining a “self.”
The purpose of correctly engaging in the contemplation of selflessness is stated in AN 7.49 Dutiyasaññā Sutta:
‘The recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, monks, when developed and cultivated, is of great fruit and benefit; it merges with the death-free, has the death-free as its end.’ Thus it was said. In reference to what was it said? 

Monks, when a monk’s mind frequently remains acquainted with the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, his mind is rid of “I-making” and “mine-making” with regard to this conscious body and externally with regard to all representations, and has transcended conceit, is at peace, and is well liberated. 

If, monks, when a monk’s mind frequently remains acquainted with the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, his mind is not rid of “I-making” and “mine-making” with regard to this conscious body and externally with regard to all representations, and has not transcended conceit, is not at peace, and is not well liberated, then he should know, ‘I have not developed the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, there is no stepwise distinction in me, I have not obtained the strength of development.’ In that way he is fully aware there. But if, monks, when a monk’s mind frequently remains acquainted with the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, his mind is rid of “I-making” and “mine-making” with regard to this conscious body and externally with regard to all representations, and has transcended conceit, is at peace, and is well liberated, then he should know, ‘I have developed the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, there is stepwise distinction in me, I have obtained the strength of development.’ In that way he is fully aware there. 

‘The recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, monks, when developed and cultivated, is of great fruit and benefit; it merges with the death-free, has the death-free as its end.’ Thus it was said. And in reference to this it was said.
Here we get to the heart of the matter, which is one of the most subtle aspects of the Buddhadhamma. Simply stated: when ignorance ceases, belief in self simultaneously ceases. And when there is no self to be found, then there is no self to die or take birth. This right here is “death-free.” And it is precisely this that the Buddha is declaring when he says to Mogharāja:
Look at the world and see its emptiness Mogharāja, always mindful,
Eliminating the view of self, one goes beyond death.
One who views the world this way is not seen by the king of death.
When one completely abandons the underlying tendencies which give rise to mistaken apprehensions of a self — any and all notions of “I am” — then there is no self to die. This stilling of the “currents of conceiving” over one’s imagined self, and the resulting peace that is empty of birth, aging, and death, is straightforwardly presented in MN 140 Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta:
‘He has been stilled where the currents of conceiving do not flow. And when the currents of conceiving do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace.’ Thus was it said. With reference to what was it said? 

Monk, “I am” is a conceiving. “I am this” is a conceiving. “I shall be” is a conceiving. “I shall not be” ... “I shall be possessed of form” ... “I shall be formless” ... “I shall be percipient” ... “I shall be non-percipient” ... “I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient” is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a cancer, conceiving is an arrow. By going beyond all conceiving, monk, he is said to be a sage at peace. 

Furthermore, a sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die. He is unagitated, and is free from longing. He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, how could he age? Not aging, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be agitated? Not being agitated, for what will he long? 

So it was in reference to this that it was said, ‘He has been stilled where the currents of conceiving do not flow. And when the currents of conceiving do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace.’
Truly, “a sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die.” In this way, when ignorance ceases, the entire complex of conditioned arising bound up with dissatisfaction also ceases. When all traces of “I-making” and “mine-making” are abandoned through the fully integrated threefold training of ethical conduct, meditation, and discernment, just this is dispassion (virāga). Just this is cessation (nirodha). Just this is extinguishment (nibbāna). Just this is without outflows (anāsava). Just this is not-born (ajāta), not-become (abhūta), not-made (akata), not-fabricated (asaṅkhata), endless (ananta), indestructible (apalokita), and yes, death-free (amata). It is freedom (mutti).

The Recognition of Selflessness and the Seven Factors of Awakening (Satta Bojjhaṅgā)

Sustained, dedicated practice of the recognition of selflessness will gradually create the optimal conditions for the arising of all seven factors of awakening. SN 46.73 Anatta Sutta (abridged):
Here monks, a monk develops the awakening factor of mindfulness accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of dhamma-investigation accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of energy accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of joy accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of tranquility accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of meditative composure accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the awakening factor of equanimity accompanied by the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory, dependent upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, resulting in letting go.

It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that it is of great fruit and benefit. It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that one of two fruits is to be expected: either final gnosis in this very life or, if there is a residue of clinging, the state of nonreturning. It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that it leads to great good. It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that it leads to great security from bondage. It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that it leads to a great sense of urgency. It is in this way that the recognition of selflessness in what is unsatisfactory is developed and cultivated so that it leads to dwelling in great comfort.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/3/18 1:48 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
[font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"]I don’t know of anyone that is completely free of the ten fetters in the traditional sense[font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"][font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"]I know of a number of friends including Myself who have personally experienced nirvana in the sense of the unfabricated suchness, empty and non-arisen, no subject object, freedom from extremes of existence and nonexistence, “in the seen just the seen”, etc[font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"][font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"]But in the Pali suttas there is also heavy emphasis on the aspect of complete dispassion leading towards unbinding and passionless. I know of someone who after realising “in the seen just the seen” later became so detached that his wife cannot stand it and he might suit a monastic life more, and that if he loses a limb he feels it will be just fine. Suttas seem to suggest this is the norm as practitioners progress. For example, suttas indicate that Arahants can no longer (or have zero interests in) store up or possess personal belongings (like a house or a car or shiny things or children or wife/wives) etc may be an example of this. Also, suttas records that while there are householders up to anagami, there are little or no mentions of arahants who remain as householders - examples of householders attaining arahantship always include a footnote that they later renounce and became monks that very day. [font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"][font=".SF UI Text"][font=".SFUIText"]Even after realisation there are always degrees of tendencies towards grasping, sense of ownership or possessiveness (even if agency is gone), passions, etc. The complete ending of ten fetters - how it might manifest is beyond me.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/3/18 5:22 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Angra Mainyu:
Chuck Kasmire:
Because nibbana is by definition: the deathless, the unconditioned, imperishable, not subject to change.

were you sleeping at the time when Buddha gave his sermons about impermanence?


My admittedly limited understanding of this is that impermance applies to anything which is conditioned/fabricated and dependently originated, not to nibbana (since as mentioned above nibbana is described as unconditioned). Are you suggesting nibbana is a conditioned/fabricated state subject to the 3c's? Or are you making a distinction between nibbana and parinibbana?


All conditioned things are impermanent” – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.

-- Dhp. 277-9 (Buddharakkhita, trans)

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/3/18 9:01 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Angra Mainyu:
Chuck Kasmire:
Because nibbana is by definition: the deathless, the unconditioned, imperishable, not subject to change.

were you sleeping at the time when Buddha gave his sermons about impermanence?

There is a great article on nibbana by Bhikkhu Bhodi - it is just a couple of pages but covers the topic quite well. Here is a quote:
'Dhamma' signifies actual realities, the existing realities as opposed to conceptual things. Dhammas are of two types, conditioned and unconditioned. A conditioned dhamma is an actuality which has come into being through causes orconditions, something which arises through the workings of various conditions. The conditioned dhammas are the five aggregates: material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. The conditioned dhammas do not remain static. They go through a ceaseless process of becoming. They arise, undergo transformation and fall away due to its conditionality.

However, the unconditioned dhamma is not produced by causes and conditions. It has the opposite characteristics from the conditioned: it has no arising, no falling away and it undergoes no transformation. Nevertheless, it is an actuality, and the Buddha refers to Nibbana as an unconditioned Dhamma.

For a more in depth discussion, there is a book titled The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibbana by Ajahn Pasanno & Ajahn Amaro. Here is an example from that book:

Just as a rock of one solid mass remains unshaken by the wind, even so neither visible forms, nor sounds, nor odours, nor tastes, nor bodily impressions, neither the desired nor the undesired, can cause such a one to waver. Steadfast is their mind, gained is deliverance. ~A 6.55

I think you can see from this that if you find that your experience comes and goes then it is by definition conditioned and does not fit the definition of nibbana.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 1:38 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Nirvana isn't an experience .  It is a lack of delusion.  This is it right here and now.   We are just pretending it isn't .   The entire concepts of change, difference and better or worse are just made up and without them, it's all/ we are all -  just this, nirvana.   Another, more evocative word is love. 

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 3:56 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Angra Mainyu:
Chuck Kasmire:
Because nibbana is by definition: the deathless, the unconditioned, imperishable, not subject to change.

were you sleeping at the time when Buddha gave his sermons about impermanence?

@Pawel: Nibbana is by definition, that which is not subject to the 3 marks of existence.  It is permanent, reliable & satisfying.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 4:07 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Daniel-San:
@Noah
That’s interesting, I’ve not heard that take before, is that a Mahasi teaching?

Not that I know of.  Unfortunately only a fraction of Mahasi's books have been translated into English & of those that have, he hasn't written much about 3rd & 4th path (at least that I've heard of).  However, I could make a deductive argument based on what he writes in Manual of Insight, that the defilements which are uprooted at each path (many are listed beyond just the 10 fetters) are, at their subtlest levels, actually perceptual dualities which need to be reversed.  I would not be able to further defend this argument without bringing in the Tibetan awareness traditions.
Blipping being antecedent to a conscious experience of Nibbana? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grBkn9fWD6Y  Dan Brown studied with Mahasi in Burma & later went on to master Mahamudra.  Somewhere in this interview (split into multiple parts) he talks about how at first the cessation provides the preview by strobing in & out of conditioned existence & when the you strobe "out" you get a flash of the ground.  This is later stabilized.
When you say the whole path needs to be achieved are you referring to the Eightfold Path or the full development of the Ten Paramis?

I would say that those two are probably the same thing in the purest, pragmatic sense.  I haven't studied the differences closely enough to draw anything more out.

What tradition/teachers are you most into nowadays?

For formal meditation, I've been doing "practices inspired by Mahamudra."  For everything other than formal meditation, I follow the instructions of Buddhadasa, under my teacher Dhammarato.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 5:04 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
Nirvana isn't an experience .  It is a lack of delusion.  This is it right here and now.   We are just pretending it isn't .   The entire concepts of change, difference and better or worse are just made up and without them, it's all/ we are all -  just this, nirvana.   Another, more evocative word is love. 
It is experienced. If it were not, then no one could ever talk about it. I am not quite sure what you are getting at. In the article I linked to from Bhikkhu Bodhi, he points out that nibbana is more than just the cessation of greed, hatred, and delusion. He writes:
Nibbana is an existing reality
Regarding the nature of Nibbana, the question is often asked: Does Nibbana signify only extinction of the defilements and liberation from samsara or does it signify some reality existing in itself? Nibbana is not only the destruction of defilements and the end of samsara but a reality transcendent to the entire world of mundane experience, a reality transcendent to all the realms of phenomenal existence. ...
He also speaks of Nibbana as something that can be experienced by the body, an experience that is so vivid, so powerful, that it can be described as "touching the deathless element with one's own body."
From my perspective, what we ultimately are will forever remain a mystery. Though these days I tend to think of consciousness as primary. Here using the term consciousness in a more comtemporary sense and not as it is used in the suttas. 

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 7:45 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks, this is an interesting thread. 

My own experience of fruition was one of completely loosing consciousness, the after affects of which were deeply freeing. It seemed different from simply being unconscious. But in a sense it was unconcsiousness. 

It raises the question of wether the fruition experience is a glimpse of nibbana? Some traditions seem to describe it as such. 

If it is, it makes sense that the mind would start considering nibbana as just an endless fruition, or loss of all sense perceptions and consciousness. But its hard to reconcile that with walking around in life...

This confused me for a while, as it was hard to imagine that the goal of all this was just to disappear into the the mother of all fruitions and thats it:-)


B

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 3:17 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I experienced nirvana directly a long time ago on an acid trip and it blew my mind open and I spent most of my life  trying to regain that experience to - go there- or make my mind quiet enough to see it or something.  

About 14,000 hours of observing my mind later, mostly concentrated in the last four years where I have taken meditation,  as a full time , almost obsessive enterprise,it has become apparent to me that this right here is nirvana. It isn't a separate experience or place or plane or state of mind - it is just this .   The fabrications of the mind are like foam on the sea.  I spent my life, I had no choice, trying to read meaning into the patterns of the foam.  When I find myself stopping that pointless excercise - here is the sea and it is me.  Actually, I like the Rasta term - it is I and I.  

In English Nirvana seems like the name of a place I could go- like Denver or Bali.  The word we use that more closely matches what is see is love. 

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 3:55 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
My personal take on this is two-fold:

1. It's not worth a lot of time arguing about because, well, it's better to do the work to get to the point where it actually does matter.

2. I have the same experience Rob Burbea describes in his book - a human being cannot be conscious without the existence of a subject/object duality, even if it's a very, very tenuous and weak version of a duality. Nirvana can be said to be a number of things, including the complete loss of consciousness that accompanies a cessation and including the deep realization that all things are both subject and object and that all things are neither subject or object. This realization can be maintained during our conscious, walking around normal state.

And... it's really hard to tell when people are referring to which definition and our teminology is not usually in sync, thus the confusion and often-times frustration with this issue.

YMMV, of course.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 3:23 PM as a reply to Lars.
Angra Mainyu:
try to explain universe to not bring you back once you are enlightened and dead

seriously, try


Will do, might take me a while to report my results though.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/4/18 8:56 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
Thanks, this gives me a better sense of where you are coming from. English is a very thing based language which must lead to some difficulties for translators. Thanissaro translates samsara as wandering-on – a process - where as I suspect many Buddhists think of it as the physical world we live in. Perhaps this contributes to thinking of nibbana as a physical place – if samsara is a physical place then nibbana must be a different physical place? By thinking of samsara as a process then nibbana presents itself not as a thing but what is present when that process comes to an end.
The fabrications of the mind are like foam on the sea
Nanananda, in his series of talks titled The Mind Stilled uses the analogy of a whirlpool in the ocean. The whirlpool draws in the flotsam and jetsam. Mind is like the ocean and it goes through a process of individuation (the whirlpool) and this whirlpool starts identifying with the flotsam and jetsam that has been caught in it as what it is – no longer knowing that it is the ocean itself. Of course, as long as the whirlpool is obsessed with the debris that it identifies with, it misses what it actually is.

RE: Nibbana = Unconsciousness?
Answer
1/5/18 1:08 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
The only thing I would add, this has been the key insight for me, is that no one cares what the whirlpool thinks and it doesn't matter.   My mind has been ginned up by the sea and will return to it and is still it so if I am satisfied, that is the end of the story.   Let's call nirvana - Existence- I think that is a useful frame.   All that I do or have done or will do is part of existence and nothing can make existence not exist or change the nature of being or separate existence into different grades or types of existence.   My mind is pointless, useless, meaningless and perfect.  Existence is pointless, useless, meaningless and perfect.  LOve is the same as is God, etc.   

to say that nirvana arises when the process of samsara ends is not quite what I see.  Nirvana is existence, here it is no matter what the mind is up to.  In my experience it is more like one of those drawings that look like Freud or a woman's legs depending on how the mind labels it.   Samsara is just a delusional labeling of existence, nirvana is just a rational labeling of existence.  Existence itself is unchanging.