The Signless and the Deathless: On the Realization of Nirvana (Hardcover)
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An insightful examination of the end of suffering that draws much-needed attention to two overlooked factors of Nirvana: signlessness and deathlessness.
Nirvana is a critical part of the Buddhist path, though it remains a difficult concept to fully understand for Buddhist practitioners. In The Signless and the Deathless: On the Realization of Nirvana, scholar-monk Bhikkhu Analayo breaks new ground, or rediscovers old ground, by showing the reader that realizing Nirvana entails “a complete stepping out of the way the mind usually constructs experience.”
With his extraordinary mastery of canonical Buddhist languages, Venerable Analayo first takes the reader through discussions in early Buddhist suttas on signs (Pali nimitta), the characteristic marks of things that signal to us what they are, and on cultivating concentration on signlessness as a meditative practice. Through practicing bare awareness, we can stop defilements that come from grasping at signs—and stop signs from arising in the first place.
He then turns to deathlessness. Deftly avoiding the extremes of nihilism and eternalism that often cloud our understanding of Nirvana, Venerable Analayo shows us that deathless as an epithet of Nirvana “stands for the complete transcendence of mental affliction by mortality”—ours or others’—and that it is achievable while still alive.
Advanced practitioners and scholars alike will value the work for its meticulous academic expertise and its novel way of explaining the highest of all Buddhist goals—the final end of suffering.
About the Author
Bhikkhu Analayo is a scholar of early Buddhism and a meditation teacher. He completed his PhD research on the Satipatthanasutta at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, in 2000 and his habilitation research with a comparative study of the Majjhima Nikaya in the light of its Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan parallels at the University of Marburg, Germany, in 2007. His over five hundred publications are for the most part based on comparative studies, with a special interest in topics related to meditation and the role of women in Buddhism.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana was ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of twelve in Malandeniya, Sri Lanka. He’s the author of Mindfulness in Plain English, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness, and several more books—including his autobiography, Journey to Mindfulness. He currently lives at Bhavana Society Forest Monastery in West Virginia.
“Venerable Analayo skillfully illuminates how some of the earliest Buddhist texts provide a systematic path for engaging with and experiencing the world in its pure essence, free from the defilements that cause so much suffering. He then takes us one step further to show how this clear perception, once applied and stable, recognizes Nirvana for what it truly is: empty and deathless. An essential read for students of the Buddhadharma.”
— Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
“The Signless and the Deathless is a new approach to a deeper understanding of the central goal of Early Buddhist practice: the breakthrough to Nirvana. Bhikkhu Analayo investigates in detail signless (animitta) concentration—that is, a state of mind free from distraction achieved by way of letting go all characteristic marks of things—and the deathless (amata/amrta)—that is, Nirvana as the complete transcendence of mental affliction by mortality, experienced while still alive. Ven. Analayo's in-depth treatment of these crucial issues is most impressive and convincing because he is thoroughly familiar with early Buddhism both as a scholar and as a practitioner. His exposition is based on an exhaustive and thorough scholarly analysis of the relevant textual sources not only of the Pali canon but also of all other reciter traditions as far as they are still available in the original or in Chinese and Tibetan translation. To read this extraordinary book is a must not only for specialists but for anybody interested in a deeper understanding of the central issues of Buddhist teaching.”
— Lambert Schmithausen