Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Nirāmisa Sukha?

Revised October 29, 2019

Introduction

1. There are three kinds of happiness:

  • Sense pleasures (āmisa sukha)
  • Mundane meditative (jhānic) pleasures
  • Nibbanic (nirāmisa) sukha
What is Āmisa?

2. Āmisa means material; “āmisa dāna” is offering of material things. Thus āmisa sukha is the pleasures that arise from material things. We are familiar with sensory delights. Indulging in sensory pleasures is all we know to be providing happiness. We want to see beautiful pictures or people; hear soothing music; taste good food, etc.

  • The drawback of sensory pleasures is that the experience lasts only during that particular sensory event. As soon as we finish eating, for example, the satisfaction goes away. Also, even if we wanted to, we cannot keep eating either. We will get sick of it soon enough no matter how good the food is.
  • The same is true for any other sensory 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 satisfying.
Jhānic Pleasures

3. People who have been doing Samatha meditation (for example, breath or kasina) know that it gives a pleasure that is different from any sensory 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 in the future.
  • The ability to get into jhānic states could be lost even in this lifetime if one commits an evil kamma, or start indulging heavily in sense pleasures.
  • Jhānic states are attained via TEMPORARY blocking of the evils 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.
Nirāmisa Sukha

4. The nirāmisa sukha is more permanent even compared to jhānic pleasures. That is especially true if one has attained at least the first stage of Nibbāna, the Sōtapanna stage.

  • Nirāmisa is the opposite of āmisa that we mentioned earlier. Thus nirāmisa sukha does not arise due to material things. Nirāmisa sukha is purely mental and arises due to dissociation from the stressful material world. It is a relief sensation rather than an enjoyment. Imagine the feeling when a pulsating headache goes away. It is a sense of calm and peacefulness.
  • In other words, nirāmisa sukha is present in the absence of worldly stresses.
  • The nirāmisa sukha of a Sōtapanna (or above) is permanent. One can get into an Ariya jhāna at any time. The Sōtapanna status is never lost even through future lives.
Permanent Happiness

6. Upon attaining Nibbāna (i.e., Arahanthood), there is nothing else to do. An Arahant who has developed higher jhānas can even experience the full Nibbanic pleasure (saññā vedayita nirōdha samāpatti) at will (up to seven days at a time.) The death of Arahant results in permanent Nibbāna.

  • The four Nibbānic states result via PERMANENT removal of greed, hate, and ignorance in four stages. That 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 at “Niramisa Sukha“.

Also see: Learning Buddha Dhamma Leads to Niramisa Sukha

More in-depth analyses at: “Nibbana.”

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