The recent rebirth thread has been closed, having run its course. However, there was an unresolved issue left and the poster had sought a response.
Specifically, it was proposed that if there is only one life, "instant nibbana" can be attained through suicide. As Alex123 explained,
Alex123 wrote:If all existence is suffering and the death would be the end of the suffering (and equivalent to parinibbana), why not hasten it? Isn't cessation of dukkha (mental and physical) is what Buddhism all about?
...Even 8th Jhana is still imperfect. No feelings & perceptions is much better. If there was one life, it would be easy to accomplish that.
Now this line of thinking raises a rather important question: what kind of state is Nibbana?
For a physicalist, suicide leads to utter annihilation. It's not simply the extinguishing of conditioned consciousness but of any sort of awareness whatsoever. If we draw an equation between the goal of Buddhist practice and the goal of suicide, then we are implying that Buddhist nibbana is identical to annihilation and oblivion (what a materialist would expect to happen after death). But is that the case?
Thannisaro Bhikkhu writes:
When we first learn that the name for the goal of Buddhist practice, nibbana (nirvana), literally means the extinguishing of a fire, it's hard to imagine a deadlier image for a spiritual goal: utter annihilation. It turns out, though, that this reading of the concept is a mistake in translation, not so much of a word as of an image. What did an extinguished fire represent to the Indians of the Buddha's day? Anything but annihilation.
According to the ancient Brahmans, when a fire was extinguished it went into a state of latency. Rather than ceasing to exist, it became dormant and in that state — unbound from any particular fuel — it became diffused throughout the cosmos.
The image underlying nibbana is one of freedom. The Pali commentaries support this point by tracing the word nibbana to its verbal root, which means "unbinding." What kind of unbinding? The texts describe two levels. One is the unbinding in this lifetime, symbolized by a fire that has gone out but whose embers are still warm. This stands for the enlightened arahant, who is conscious of sights and sounds, sensitive to pleasure and pain, but freed from passion, aversion, and delusion. The second level of unbinding, symbolized by a fire so totally out that its embers have grown cold, is what the arahant experiences after this life. All input from the senses cools away and he/she is totally freed from even the subtlest stresses and limitations of existence in space and time.
The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable, even in terms of existence or nonexistence, because words work only for things that have limits. All he really says about it — apart from images and metaphors — is that one can have foretastes of the experience in this lifetime, and that it's the ultimate happiness, something truly worth knowing.
The consciousness of nirvana is said to be "without surface" (anidassanam), for it doesn't land. Because the consciousness-aggregate covers only consciousness that is near or far, past, present, or future — i.e., in connection with space and time — consciousness without surface is not included in the aggregates. It's not eternal because eternity is a function of time. And because non-local also means undefined, the Buddha insisted that an awakened person — unlike ordinary people — can't be located or defined in any relation to the aggregates in this life; after death, he/she can't be described as existing, not existing, neither, or both, because descriptions can apply only to definable things.
The suttas, likewise, speak of "consciousness without surface, without end, luminous all around". Is this equivalent to oblivion?
If we equate nibbana with nothingness, then we would be concluding that an enlightened person does not exist after death. But according to the Buddha, there are four things we cannot say about an awakened person: that he exists after death, does not exist, both does and does not exist, neither exists or does not exist.
Moreover, if the goal is utter annihilation, why do arhats continue to live? They could undertake santhara, like the Jains, or even take the knife to their throats without blame (since they are without desire).
Note: this is not an attempt to revive the rebirth thread. Please limit any responses to the topic of nibbana and whether it is comparable to post-mortem nothingness.