The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

4 Attributes of Freedom

by The Dalai Lama
December 10, 2014
Wed, 12/10/2014 - 13:09 -- The Dalai Lama

From the Dalai Lama’s new book Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions.


Four Attributes of True Cessation

Nibbāna is the true cessation of dukkha and its origins. It is perceived by the four types of ariyas—stream-enterer, once-returner, nonreturner, and arahant—who experience the paths and fruits (magga-phala).

  1. True cessation is escape or freedom (nissaraṇa) from dukkha.

Stream-enterers enjoy the peace of freedom from the view of a personal identity, deluded doubt, the view of rules and practices, and other wrong views. While not free from any new defilements, once-returners have reduced their sensual desire and malice. Nonreturners are free from the five lower fetters, and arahants are free from all fetters, defilements, and pollutants. Arahants first attain nibbāna with remainder (saupādisesa, sopadhiśeṣa), in which the five polluted aggregates received at birth remain, but when they die and those aggregates are forever forsaken, nibbāna without remainder (anupādisesa, anupadhiśeṣa) is attained.

  1. True cessation is secluded from disturbance (paviveka).

Unlike ordinary beings who are plagued by defilements and whose rebirths fluctuate from the hells to the immaterial realm, the four ariyas are free from these disturbances. Their minds become progressively more peaceful until liberation is attained.

  1. True cessation is the deathless (amata).

True cessations do not fade or disappear even though the four ariyas still have the polluted aggregates received at birth. While stream-enterers, once-returners, and nonreturners may die and be reborn, their true cessations are never lost and continue on. Nibbāna is unoriginated and uncreated, free from the vagaries of constant rebirth and death.

  1. True cessation is unconditioned (asaṅkhata).

Conditioned and impermanent, our unsatisfactory saṃsāric aggregates lead to constant insecurity and fear. Completely free from this conditioning, true cessations are genuine peace. The true cessations of the four ariyas never decline, decay, or cease; they do not need to be generated anew each day or in each meditation session.

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