Nibbidā: Disillusionment

Ajahn Thiradhammo

Nibbidā: Disillusionment

Nibbidā is an experience which is hard to explain to most people.

It can be translated as disillusionment, disenchantment, or world weariness. It is an experience of being put off by or fed up with the phenomenal world, much like what happens when you suddenly see someone as they really are after being fooled by their charm for so long.

Nibbidā is not simply depression or despair from facing hardship or loss, but rather a deep disappointment that one has been deluded for so long. It arises from a deep insight into the true nature of life.

Even though we know that everything is impermanent on a conceptual level, this insight shakes the very fabric of our view of life, much like the realization that the love affair is really over.

The arising of nibbidā is facilitated through:

• contemplating the rising and passing of the six senses (S.IV,140),

• contemplating the impermanence of feelings (M.I,500),

• seeing no permanent self in the six internal and external sense bases, sense knowing, sense contact, and any Feeling, Recognizing, Willing and Habiting and Bare Knowing arising from sense contact (M.III,279f),

• seeing no permanent self through the parts of the body representing five of the six elements (M.I,422f; M.III,240f),

• knowing the disadvantage in the four elements (S.II,172f).

Nibbidā regarding the Five Groups of Grasping is what ‘accords with Dhamma’ (S.III,40) and is supported by:

• developing The Eightfold Path (M.II,82f),

• developing The Seven Factors of Awakening (S.V,82),

• developing The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (S.V,179) and

• thinking and reflecting upon The Four Noble Truths (S.V,418f).

Its cause is knowledge and vision of the way things really are (yathābhūta ñāṇadassana) (S.II,30).

Nibbidā, although having a type of fear connected to it, also brings a relief that all the details have fallen into place.

There are no longer any doubts or alternatives – this is it; no use fighting against it.

Our enthusiasm and passion for the way things used to be is exhausted – we surrender dispassionately.

This reflection by Ajahn Thiradhammo is from the book, Beyond I-Making, “Liberation,” (pdf) pp. 302-303. [Please refer to the book for additional notes, references, and translation information.]