1. There are three kinds of happiness:
- Sense pleasures (āmisa sukha)
- Mundane meditative (jhānic) pleasures
- Nibbanic (nirāmisa) sukha
2. Āmisa means material; “āmisa däna” is offering of material things. Thus āmisa sukha is the pleasures that arise from material things. Sense pleasures are the ones all of us are familiar with. We like to indulge in sense pleasures. We like to see beautiful pictures or people; hear soothing music; taste good food, etc.
- The drawback with sense pleasures is that the pleasure lasts only while one is satisfying the particular sense faculty; as soon as we finish eating, for example, the pleasure goes away. Also, we cannot keep eating either, even if we wanted to; we will get sick of it soon enough no matter how good the food is.
- Same is true for any other sense pleasure. One cannot keep listening to music or watch movies for too long at a stretch.
- However, the craving for any sense pleasure comes back after a while. It is never permanently satisfied.
3. People who have been doing samatha meditation (for example, breath or kasina) know that it gives a pleasure that is different from any sense pleasure.
- One could meditate for hours (especially if one gets into a jhānic state), and can enjoy it as long as one wants. Furthermore, even after the session, the calming effect is there for a while. It gives a sense of peacefulness that can last for hours.
- If one dies while in a jhānic state, then one will be born in the corresponding Brahma world (either in the rupa loka or in the arupa loka depending on the jhānic state). However, a birth in one of the lowest four realms is not ruled out for births after that.
- The ability to get into jhānic states could be lost even in this lifetime if one commits a really bad kamma, or start indulging heavily in sense pleasures.
- Jhānic states are attained via TEMPORARY blocking of the defilements of greed and hate from the mind by focusing the mind on a neutral object such as breath, rising and falling of stomach, or a kasina object, for example.
4. The nirāmisa sukha is of more permanent nature even compared to jhānic pleasures, especially if one has attained at least the first stage of Nibbāna, the Sōtapanna stage.
- Nirāmisa is opposite of āmisa that we mentioned earlier; thus nirāmisa sukha does not arise due to material things. It is totally mental, it is in fact the happiness due to release or dissociation from material things. It is more of a relief sensation rather than an enjoyment. It is like the feeling when a pulsating headache goes away; a sense of calm and peacefulness.
- Stated in another way, nirāmisa sukha is present when where there is no suffering.
- The nirāmisa sukha of a Sōtapanna (or above) is never lost. If Ariya jhānas are cultivated, that can be summoned at any time. The Sōtapanna status is never lost even through future lives.
- Once the final stage of Nibbāna is attained, there is nothing else to do. An Arahant who has developed higher jhānas can even experience the full Nibbanic pleasure (saññā vedayita nirōdha samāpatti) can be summoned at will any time during the lifetime for up to seven days at a time. At death, permanent Nibbāna is attained.
- The four Nibbānic states are attained via PERMANENT removal of greed, hate, and ignorance in four stages. This involves insight (vipassanā) meditation, most importantly on the three characteristics of existence: anicca, dukkha, anatta.
- Even before the Sōtapanna stage, one can start feeling the nirāmisa sukha by systematically removing greed, hate, and ignorance; see, “How to Taste Nibbāna“.
More information on nirāmisa sukha can be found at “Niramisa Sukha“.