Is Nirvana Indescribable? Is it Permanent?

| May 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

Nirvana or the awakened state is often said to be indescribable, and typically understood as permanent. We’ll consider both of these claims, and look at a neat thought experiment by philosopher Frank Jackson along the way.

Suttas mentioned:

The Unconditioned (SN 43.12, 14-43)  (The rest of this sutta appears not to be available online).
The Second Discourse About Dabba (Ud. 8.10)  (Slightly different translation).
The Exposition of the Elements (MN 140)
Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood (MN 29)

Previous essay of mine on this issue

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Doug Smith

About the Author ()

Doug is Study Director of the Secular Buddhist Association. He has a PhD in Philosophy, with a minor in Buddhist philosophy and Sanskrit. In 2013 he completed the year-long Integrated Study and Practice Program with the BCBS and NYIMC. A long time scientific skeptic, he pursues a naturalized approach to practice. He is also interested in scholarship about the Tipiṭaka, and the theoretical and historical origins of the dhamma. He posts videos at Doug's Secular Dharma on YouTube. Some of his writing can be found at

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