What Liberation is NOT

The following 3 little verses are poems the Buddha wrote about nibbana, liberation. The Buddha didn’t really say much about the way nibbana is. He mostly just talked about what it is not. It’s hard to explain an experience to someone that doesn’t share the experience. We mostly just end up muttering something like, “You had to be there.” But here what the Buddha is saying is, “You just have to come here. This is the way.”

I have heard that the Buddha was once living near Savatthi in Jeta’s Forest at Anathapindika’s monastery. The Buddha was teaching, inspiring, and moving the monks with a with a talk about liberation. They were carefully listening to this dhamma and taking his words totally to heart. The Buddha offered them this poem:

Monks, there is a place
where there is no earth,
no water,
no fire,
and no air,
no experience of infinite space,
no experience of infinite consciousness,
no experience of nothingness,
no experience of perception nor non-perception,
not this world,
not another world,
no Moon,
no Sun.

In this place there is no coming,
no going,
no remaining,
no death,
no rebirth.

It is without foundation
Still.
Empty.
This, just this, is the end of all suffering.

Pathamanibbanasuttam, Udana 8.1

The Buddha offered them this poem:

Monks, there is a place
that is uncreated,
unborn,
and unsupported.

Monks, if there were not this place
uncreated,
unborn,
and unsupported,
then there would be no escape from the
created,
born,
and supported.

Because there is such a place
uncreated,
unborn,
and unsupported,
then there is hope of escape from the
created,
born,
and supported.

Tatiyanibbanasuttam, Udana 8.3

The Buddha offered them this poem:

For one reliant, there is unease,
For one free, there is peace.

For one with peace, there is calm,
For one with calm, there is no hunger.

For one with no hunger,
There is no going or coming.

When there is no going or coming,
There is no death or rebirth.

When there is no death or rebirth,
There is no now, later, or anything in between.

There is just an end to all suffering.

Catutthanibbanasuttam, Udana 8.4

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