Nibbana vs. annihilation?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:40 pm

The great ocean is deep, boundless, hard to fathom."[/color]

"Even so, great king, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, great king, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean. 'The Tathagata exists after death' doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata both exists and doesn't exist after death' doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata neither exists nor doesn't exist after death' doesn't apply.


Jason Merritt wrote:while some Theravadins describe nibbana as the end of all consciousness, stressing the cessation aspect of nibbana, others describe nibbana as a state of purified awareness and stress its transcendent aspect. To be honest, I can see how both views — i.e., the annihilation of consciousness vs. an awareness untouched by death — seem like the extremes of annihilationism and eternalism. Nevertheless, both have support in the suttas, as well as sophisticated arguments as to why their view doesn't fall into either extreme.


Hi all,

I was thinking over Jason's blog posts and it occurred to me there might be a sense in which both "sides" in this debate are right, provided their positions are being offered as correctives rather than absolutes. Those teachers who use positive terms to describe Nibbana may be doing so in order to direct us away from nibbana as utter nothingness -- a formulation which contradicts the Buddha's teachings (annihilation=the Tathagata doesn't exist after death).

Alex, and others coming from a similar angle, may wish to direct us away from eternalistic conceptions of nibbana, a risk which can be easily seen in some of the positive fomulations, and which also contradicts the teachings (eternal "awareness"=the Tathagata exists after death).

The problem arises if, on either side, we take the corrective as a definitive statement. I think Alex goes too far in equating nibbana with materialist oblivion, for the simple reason that making this equation would require him to have experienced both. He would have had to directly realize nibbana, as well as nothingness, and then come back to tell us whether they are the same. But that's impossible.

The effort to describe the Unconditioned by means of language presents an obvious paradox. Language belongs to conditional existence and is thus part of the same processes which come to an end when parinibbana is attained. As de Saussure tells us, linguistic signifiers only gain meaning via their relationship to other signifiers. Dhamma deconstructs the whole system and with it go all the signifiers.

Therefore, if we speak of any kind of "awareness", "consciousness", "existence" or "luminosity" we are borrowing terms from the conditioned in order to make some point about the unconditioned. Still, we can use conventional language to make that point -- indeed, we have no choice.

We do this elsewhere in Buddhism. For example, even though we consider anatta to be one of the characteristics of samsaric existence, we don't routinely avoid personal pronouns. We recognize both the conventions of language and the fact that we -- as ordinary beings -- still adhere to a conventional world view (i.e. most of us still harbor the illusion of personality).

The existence of both positive and negative teachings on Nibbana is in keeping with the Buddha's method throughout the suttas. He does this repeatedly, usually by starting with the negative presentation and following it with the positive one. I think it's important to keep this in mind. If we look only at the positive side, then the dhamma may turn into something resembling a quest for eternal bliss -- similar to Hindu aspirations for union with Brahma, etc. If we look exclusively at the negative side, Buddhism becomes rather perverse -- a religion for suicidal people who believe that suicide doesn't work??

It is practically impossible not to use some sort of positive terminology. Looking through the links which Cooran provided earlier, we see that almost every teacher does this to a greater or lesser degree. Mahasi Sayadaw, for example, speaks of "the state of peaceful coolness or santi". But this implies some form of awareness that experiences the "coolness". There is no coolness in oblivion, just as there is no warmth or anything else. Even Alex does this at one point when he says nibbana is "total peace! total freedom!" Neither term is applicable to oblivion; the dead don't know peace any more than they know stress.

Oblivion is not "deep, boundless, hard to fathom". None of these adjectives apply.

Leonard Bullen wrote:We can, inadequately and not very accurately, describe it as a positive state of being. It is characterized by supreme bliss and complete freedom from suffering and is so utterly different from ordinary existence that no real description of it can be given. The Unconditioned can be indicated ... only by stating what it is not; for it is beyond words and beyond thought.


Now, interestingly, the quote above could also apply to materialist death. Oblivion is also "utterly different from ordinary existence"; "no real description of it can be given"; we can only state "what it is not". But it does not necessarily follow from this that nibbana=oblivion. It simply follows that both oblivion and nibbana are inconceivable and indescribable.

Or, as Wittgenstein said, "what we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence".
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 778
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:27 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Now, interestingly, the quote above could also apply to materialist death. Oblivion is also "utterly different from ordinary existence"; "no real description of it can be given"; we can only state "what it is not". But it does not necessarily follow from this that nibbana=oblivion. It simply follows that both oblivion and nibbana are inconceivable and indescribable.

Or, as Wittgenstein said, "what we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence".


Thank you for that Lazy eye. Your very sober assessment of this discussion is warranted. However, if we have faith in the Buddha then we can have some trust with regard to Nibbana. When it comes to Oblivion who do we trust? The Buddha did not teach of oblivion. Oblivion is a concept which we worldlings have concocted and which may not be applicable to anything. It seems to me Alex is going farther than simply correcting a tendency towards a hope for eternal existence. I could be wrong but that is why I stick to relying on more explicit teaching rather than deduce conclusions that seem to be implied. Oblivion is a word which nobody is claiming to have any experience of. For Nibbana we have the Aria Sangha.

Namo Buddhaya Namo Dhammaya Namo Sanghaya.


Metta

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:44 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Alex,

What is your opinion, from a Dhamma perspective...

Would we all be better off permanently dead?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Then there would be no dukkha (physical, and for unawakened, mental as well) there would be no anicca.

It would be wonderful if I was never born. It would be awesome if there was one life and suicide could end it all quickly and easily... It is better not to exist at all, (unless one could be of real help to others).
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:47 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html
"But in the case of a well-taught noble disciple, O monks, when he is touched by a painful feeling, he will not worry nor grieve and lament, he will not beat his breast and weep, nor will he be distraught. It is one kind of feeling he experiences, a bodily one, but not a mental feeling. It is as if a man were pierced by a dart, but was not hit by a second dart following the first one. So this person experiences feelings caused by a single dart only. It is similar with a well-taught noble disciple: when touched by a painful feeling, he will no worry nor grieve and lament, he will not beat his breast and weep, nor will he be distraught. He experiences one single feeling, a bodily one.



Pain exists, suffering is optional.

The Buddha did not deny the existence of pain, but he did not react to physical pain with craving or aversion. He did not suffer, even while still alive.


Right. In my recent posts I have tried to use word dukkha rather than suffering, because "Arhat" doesn't suffer emotionally/mentally (no feeling or perception of I, ME, MINE) - but excruciating and painful bodily feelings are still there.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:54 pm

Hello Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:As the Buddha says... sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta. This is after all where the "three characteristics" (ti-lakkhana) of the commentarial tradition derive... but as the Buddha says (in SN 12.15 for example), "Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of sankharas". So if ignorance ceases, and sankharas cease in turn, what justification is there for saying an arahant experiences dukkha (of the 2nd definiton)?

Metta,
Retro. :)


The D.O. is not just momentary and there can be present results due to causes done Aeons ago. Even in sutta-pitaka it is defined within 2-3 lives. So cessation of suffering could also mean the cessation of suffering that would happen if rebirth occured.

Furthermore not all sankharas cease for an arahant/Buddha. The many sankharas that due to PREVIOUS ignorance/craving done maybe even Aeons ago can still arise and remain for a while. There are still vipaka sankharas left and they can be painful. Arhat just doesn't make any new sankharas, but there is almost infinite store of sankharas due to past causes that could ripen within the limited time the Arhat has left.
Last edited by Alex123 on Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:11 pm

Hello Lazy_Eye, thank you for your post.

Lazy_eye wrote:The great ocean is deep, boundless, hard to fathom."[/color]

"Even so, great king, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, great king, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean. 'The Tathagata exists after death' doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata both exists and doesn't exist after death' doesn't apply. 'The Tathagata neither exists nor doesn't exist after death' doesn't apply.


Note: The refusal to non-existence of an Arahant is applied ONLY to post-parinibbana state. The Yamaka and the next sutta clearly says that
...when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.085.than.html



As an Awakened process, an Arahant, is not Being something or someone. There is no "I, ME, MINE" delusion, here is no internal identification with any aggregate. Thus an Arahant cannot be measured as being something or someone. In that way an Arahant is not measured and cannot be controlled by greed,hatred or delusion.


I think Alex goes too far in equating nibbana with materialist oblivion, for the simple reason that making this equation would require him to have experienced both.


When there is no consciousness, there is no perception of Nothingness or Somethingness. There is no perception of long/short, good/bad, etc. The total peace that I've talked about is not peace as a feeling, but peace as absence of ALL feelings, perceptions, consciousness, awareness. Nibbana cannot be imagined in a sense that there isn't anything to imagine about it for all imaginations are in a sphere of consciousness, and there isn't any when Nibbana occurs.




The existence of both positive and negative teachings on Nibbana is in keeping with the Buddha's method throughout the suttas. He does this repeatedly, usually by starting with the negative presentation and following it with the positive one.


The positive description describes nibbana as experienced by 5 aggregates of an Arahant. But ultimately pariNibbana is not a new experience, it is an end to it.

Even Alex does this at one point when he says nibbana is "total peace! total freedom!" Neither term is applicable to oblivion; the dead don't know peace any more than they know stress.
[/quote]

As I've said, the "peace" is not reference to a feeling (vedana) but an absence of ALL experience. All and any experience is ultimately just irritating...
The true "happiness" is not a presence of pleasant feelings, but total absence of ALL dukkha.


Here is a very rough example of what PariNibbana "feels" like. Have you ever been totally knocked out unconscious? Between the last moment of consciousness prior to being knocked out and first consciousness when you got up, there wasn't any experience. You didn't see black space, didn't feel warmth or coldness, didn't percieve time as lasting a long or short time. Something similar is with parinibbana except for
a) "You" don't ever wake up
b) There is no alive body left, and mere bodily remains crumble to dust.
c) 100% absence of any awareness (if being knocked unconsciousness isn't 100% temporary end of consciousness).



With metta,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:29 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:Hello Alex,
According to the Suttas it is not appropriate to say that an Arhat doesn't exist.

Please carefully read those suttas, they refuste to answer Arhat exist/doesn't/both/neither AFTER DEATH. The question isn't asked about alive Arahant.

And yet you continue to identify the awakened one with the aggregates.

I am only doing it to distinguish one set of 5 aggregates (The Buddha) from another (some other "person").



Here you are saying that the Awakened one does not exist.


Right. See Yamaka/Anuruddha sutta. Because an arahant doesn't truly exist, the question about what happens to an Arahant (as an existing being) is wrongly put. It assumes that there is an Arahant that can either exist after death, not exist, both, neither.

This is why tetralema doesn't apply. It assumes

Now, If the Blessed one will say nothing of the postmortem status of an arahat, why is it that you are so flippant about doing it. I believe this is a serious issue which we should leave to the record of the word of the Buddha and not deduce what he himself would say nothing about.

Metta

Gabe


He refused to answer the wrongly put question that assumed an existing being. What I am talking about is just a process that we conviniently call "An Arahant, Buddha, etc".

The suttas are clear that Final Nibbana is the end. It is not some retirement home for a job well done. Nothing is not something. Cessation is not a begining. We existed for almost infinitely long time already, and it all sucked in the end. Cessation is final rest, final "peace" from this load of dukkha.


"The body disintegrated, perception ceased, pain & rapture were entirely consumed, fabrications were stilled: consciousness (Viññāṇaṃ) has come to its end.” – Ud 8.9http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.09.than.html

Such is very inspirational description of Nibbāna.

Trying to salvage anything for Nibbāna is just trying to salvage more suffering. It betrays the fact that one is attached to that which one tries to salvage.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:35 pm

Alex123 wrote:Note: The refusal to non-existence of an Arahant is applied ONLY to post-parinibbana state.


And yet in the face of that refusal you think yourself wise enough to exclaim what the Buddha would not.


Metta

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:46 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Note: The refusal to non-existence of an Arahant is applied ONLY to post-parinibbana state.


And yet in the face of that refusal you think yourself wise enough to exclaim what the Buddha would not.


Metta

Gabe


What didn't Buddha exclaim?

With the breakup of the body, following the exhaustion of life, all feelings, not being delighted in, will become cool right here; mere
bodily remains will be left.
"
- SN12.51(1). Ven BB Transl.


No hint or possibility to salvage anything to exist timelessly or eternally when Parinibbana occurs.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:51 pm

Alex123 wrote:He refused to answer the wrongly put question that assumed an existing being. What I am talking about is just a process that we conviniently call "An Arahant, Buddha, etc".


You Also assume an existing being unless you are enlightened. We do not talk of a process out of "convenience" because we are not fully awakened and likely not even partially. You are deducing out of ignorance. I have said nothing about the status of a Buddha which is not explicitly stated in the scriptures.

Metta

Gabe
Last edited by Prasadachitta on Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:12 pm

Alex123 wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Note: The refusal to non-existence of an Arahant is applied ONLY to post-parinibbana state.


And yet in the face of that refusal you think yourself wise enough to exclaim what the Buddha would not.


Metta

Gabe


What didn't Buddha exclaim?



It would be awesome if there was one life and suicide could end it all quickly and easily
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:43 pm

37. "So teaching, so proclaiming, O monks, I have been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans: 'A nihilist[38] is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'[39]

"As I am not as I do not teach, so have I been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans thus: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.'

"What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.nypo.html


The Buddha does not teach the non being of an existing being. The Buddha teaches a very deep and subtle profound truth.


Metta


Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
User avatar
Prasadachitta
 
Posts: 974
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:52 am
Location: San Francisco (The Mission) Ca USA

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:49 pm

Hi Retro, Alex, Lazyeye,
retrofuturist wrote:As the Buddha says... sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta. This is after all where the "three characteristics" (ti-lakkhana) of the commentarial tradition derive... but as the Buddha says (in SN 12.15 for example), "Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of sankharas". So if ignorance ceases, and sankharas cease in turn, what justification is there for saying an arahant experiences dukkha (of the 2nd definiton)?

Alex123 wrote:The D.O. is not just momentary and there can be present results due to causes done Aeons ago. Even in sutta-pitaka it is defined within 2-3 lives. So cessation of suffering could also mean the cessation of suffering that would happen if rebirth occured.

Furthermore not all sankharas cease for an arahant/Buddha. The many sankharas that due to PREVIOUS ignorance/craving done maybe even Aeons ago can still arise and remain for a while. There are still vipaka sankharas left and they can be painful. Arhat just doesn't make any new sankharas, but there is almost infinite store of sankharas due to past causes that could ripen within the limited time the Arhat has left.

Lazy_eye wrote:I was thinking over Jason's blog posts and it occurred to me there might be a sense in which both "sides" in this debate are right, provided their positions are being offered as correctives rather than absolutes. Those teachers who use positive terms to describe Nibbana may be doing so in order to direct us away from nibbana as utter nothingness -- a formulation which contradicts the Buddha's teachings (annihilation=the Tathagata doesn't exist after death).

This is an interesting discussion. I recall Bhikkhu Bodhi saying in his lectures on On the Buddha's Words when he got to Nibbana, that he was going to alienate half the audience no matter what he said.

Retro, I know that what you are arguing is a possible interpretation, but I wonder if you'd be able to give a reference to a coherent discussion of the pros and cons of considering such quotes as referring to:
1. Nibbana as something permanent;
2. Nibbna as an experience of nibbana, after which the arahant returns to "normal life".
I tried to discuss this in a thread a little while ago:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5339

I know those who like Bhikkhu Nanananda's interpretations often take the view that Retro expresses, but I've yet to find a really clear expression from the Venerable himself. As I pointed out here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 339#p83074 he says in hie notes to SN1.2:
SN1.2 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #passage-2
Nanananda wrote:When delight and existence [8] are exhausted
When perception and conciousness[9] are both destroyed
When feelings cease and are thus appeased [10] - thus, O friend,
Do I know, for them that live
Deliverance, freedom, detatchment.

[Note 8] Delight (nandi) is said to be the root of existence (bhava), and hence the fading away of the former results in the cessation of the latter. It amounts to a realization, here and now, of the fact that one has crossed over all forms of existence (bhavass paragu - Dhp v. 348). This experience that hte consciousness is not established anywhere - neither here (neva idha), nor beyond (na huam), no in between (na ubhayamantara - Ud. 81) - provides for the arahant certitude often expressed in the words: 'Extinct is birth, lived is the holy life, done is the task, and there is nothing beyond this for (a designation of) the conditions of this existence.'

[Note 9] This refers to the experience of the cessation of consciousness (vinnananirodha DI.213) with the removal of its support name and form. The experience is described in the Suttas as a very unusual kind of 'jhana' or 'samadhi', since it does not partake of any perceptual data. (A.IV.427, V.7,8,318,319,324f,353ff).

[Note 10] The cessation of appeasement of feelings is yet another aspect of this experience. Thereby the arahant realizes the extinction of all suffering, mental as well as physical, which in effects is the bliss of nibbana as the deliverance from all samsaric suffering. What is most significant about this paradoxical jhana is that, despite the extinction of all that normally constitutes our waking experience, the arahant is still said to be mindful and aware. It is sometimes referred to as 'the sphere' (ayatana) in which the six sense spheres have totally ceased (See MIII.218, S.IV.98)

I think, like Bhikkhu Bodhi, we have to acknowledge that there are many ways to interpret these Suttas. My interest is to hear the different interpretations without feeling like I have to argue for or against any one in particular.

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10112
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Vepacitta » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:10 pm

I think, like Bhikkhu Bodhi, we have to acknowledge that there are many ways to interpret these Suttas. My interest is to hear the different interpretations without feeling like I have to argue for or against any one in particular.


:goodpost: Mike!

V.
I'm your friendly, neighbourhood Asura
User avatar
Vepacitta
 
Posts: 299
Joined: Tue May 18, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Somewhere on the slopes of Mt. Meru

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:48 pm

Alex123 wrote: When there is no consciousness, there is no perception of Nothingness or Somethingness. There is no perception of long/short, good/bad, etc. The total peace that I've talked about is not peace as a feeling, but peace as absence of ALL feelings, perceptions, consciousness, awareness. Nibbana cannot be imagined in a sense that there isn't anything to imagine about it for all imaginations are in a sphere of consciousness, and there isn't any when Nibbana occurs.
The true "happiness" is not a presence of pleasant feelings, but total absence of ALL dukkha. Here is a very rough example of what PariNibbana "feels" like. Have you ever been totally knocked out unconscious?


Alex, I have some objections for you to field...

1) You are dealing only with what exists within the set Samsara = X(a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k,l). Even if all the components in the set, together with the set itself, are rendered null, this tells us nothing (literally!) about any possible Y or Z that might be operative beyond the set. Since we ourselves, and our language and terminology, exist within the set, we can say nothing about it. We thus cannot say whether nibbana=oblivion, as you state here. The only way to resolve the matter would be through direct realization.

None of us have any direct realization of Parinibbana OR materialist oblivion so we can only make guesses based on the somewhat conflicting references in the suttas, commentaries and advice from our teachers.

2) The Buddha and many teachers after him, including every one of the sources linked to by Cooran earlier in this thread, refer to nibbana not only as a subtractive process (as you do) but also in terms which involve qualia. By definition, qualia imply some type of awareness. We do not say that a concrete divider or a dead tree stump is "at ease", "happy", "liberated" or "in a state of peaceful coolness", unless we are trying to be cute.

3) The concepts (or non-concepts, if you like) "nibbana" and "oblivion" belong to conflicting philosophical systems and their meaning has to be understood within the context of their respective paradigms. For a Buddhist to start talking about suicide as the path to nothingness is like Richard Dawkins talking about nibbana. Different animals. As a follower of the Buddha you don't accept the the materialist paradigm, so to refer to the dhammic consequences of "there only being one life" is a logical absurdity from either perspective. It's mixing the premises of one system with the conclusions of another, creating a philosophical monster.

4) Although the Buddha rejected both annihilationism and eternalism, he preferred eternalism as the lesser of evils because of its potential to inspire the holy life (see here). Since the Middle Way is hard to understand and we invariably lean towards one of the two poles, it is better to lean towards eternalism. Does your equation of nibbana with suicidal oblivion promote the undertaking of the holy life?

Alex123 wrote:Any kind of justification of existence after Parinibbana is simply clinging to existence.


I agree that Buddhists who incline towards Nibbana as an "experience" may have at least some residual attachment to becoming. Guilty as charged, may I add! Until we perfect our practice, we won't have achieved full equanimity and we will necessarily incline towards desire or aversion. By the same token, the view of Nibbana as oblivion tends to aversion, as some of your statements suggest, e.g:

It would be wonderful if I was never born. It would be awesome if there was one life and suicide could end it all quickly and easily... It is better not to exist at all...


it all sucked in the end


All and any experience is ultimately just irritating...


Ok, enough for now. Thanks for your provocative and rigorously argued posts, Alex. I'm learning a lot from this discussion. :)

Metta,

LE
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:20 pm, edited 6 times in total.
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 778
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:10 pm

Alex123 wrote:Here is a very rough example of what PariNibbana "feels" like. Have you ever been...


Alex, how do you know what parinibbana feels like? For that matter, nibbana?
Please clarify.
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15941
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Individual » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:53 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I was thinking over Jason's blog posts and it occurred to me there might be a sense in which both "sides" in this debate are right, provided their positions are being offered as correctives rather than absolutes. Those teachers who use positive terms to describe Nibbana may be doing so in order to direct us away from nibbana as utter nothingness -- a formulation which contradicts the Buddha's teachings (annihilation=the Tathagata doesn't exist after death).

Alex, and others coming from a similar angle, may wish to direct us away from eternalistic conceptions of nibbana, a risk which can be easily seen in some of the positive fomulations, and which also contradicts the teachings (eternal "awareness"=the Tathagata exists after death).

Why can't one teacher do both, without looking like a mumbling idiot?
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:04 pm

Greetings Alex,

Alex123 wrote:The D.O. is not just momentary ....Even in sutta-pitaka it is defined within 2-3 lives.

A couple of points in relation to this.

1. I was only talking about the link between avijja and sankhara, so even if one is inclined to partition dependent origination over multiple lives ala Buddhaghosa, these two segments (and the link between them) remain in the same temporal region.

2. If you really do believe it to require "2-3 lives", are you then claiming that even after the complete cessation of ignorance, the results still take 2-3 lifetimes to peter out? This would certainly be at odds with what the Buddha said about arahants.

Alex123 wrote:Furthermore not all sankharas cease for an arahant/Buddha. The many sankharas that due to PREVIOUS ignorance/craving done maybe even Aeons ago can still arise and remain for a while. There are still vipaka sankharas left and they can be painful. Arhat just doesn't make any new sankharas, but there is almost infinite store of sankharas due to past causes that could ripen within the limited time the Arhat has left.

If you could find something from the Sutta Pitaka to substantiate your position, that would be appreciated. This seems much like an interpretation of a particular tenet system rather than anything the Buddha is recorded to have said. Again, nothing wrong with that per se... but my inclination is to go straight to the source where possible. Others may find your analysis to have merit, so please don't feel like I'm on the attack.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:23 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Alex123 wrote:He refused to answer the wrongly put question that assumed an existing being. What I am talking about is just a process that we conviniently call "An Arahant, Buddha, etc".


You Also assume an existing being unless you are enlightened. We do not talk of a process out of "convenience" because we are not fully awakened and likely not even partially.
Metta

Gabe


As I know, there is no permanent being within a worldling or an Arahant. There is just more dukkha and avijja within 5 aggregates of a worldling than an Arahant. The reason why I was talking about an Arahat/Tathagata was because that "person" was the subject of discussion of "What happens to a fully awakened at Death"?


You are deducing out of ignorance. I have said nothing about the status of a Buddha which is not explicitly stated in the scriptures.


From suttas, consideration and experience. Yamaka and other suttas explicitly state that an Arahant cannot be found in truth and reality even now, so how can one hold any of 4-5 positions regarding the post-mortem state of an Arahant that was assumed to exist in the first place? I like to stick with the suttas and not my opinions.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2799
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:24 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Retro, I know that what you are arguing is a possible interpretation, but I wonder if you'd be able to give a reference to a coherent discussion of the pros and cons of considering such quotes as referring to:
1. Nibbana as something permanent;
2. Nibbna as an experience of nibbana, after which the arahant returns to "normal life".

I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but I'll have a look around when I get a chance.

One thing to consider though is that, if one accepts the findings of scholars who indicate that the Abhidhamma Pitaka was not authored by the Buddha (even though it may well have been synthesized by scholar monks from his teachings), it might be worthwhile resisting the temptation to retrofit a sequential "mindstate" type analysis over the top of suttas that deal with the subject of nibbana.

As I understand it from what I have read (canonical or not), nibbana is the quenching/cooling of craving that comes about through the eradication of ignorance. On those grounds, there is no basis upon which someone could "un-nibbana", because this would imply a return to ignorance. In my opinion, nibbana shouldn't be thought of as a graded state of bliss, like for example jhanas are, and one who experiences nibbana (e.g. the Buddha) could experience all ranges of jhanas whilst also experiencing nibbana (consider the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and his final meditation session). For that matter, nibbana and unpleasant physical sensation aren't mutually exclusive experiences either. There are suttas that show the Buddha experiencing unpleasant physical sensation.

Again, this may or may not line up against the concepts of "fruit" and "path" moments of the post-Buddha schemas but it seems to be reliably consistent with the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka. In fact, the two questions you ask would not arise for someone who bases their analysis solely on the sutta treatment of nibbana, and perhaps this is why you have not found a direct answer to them in Bhikkhu Nanananda's teachings.

If you find anything of interest during your investigations, please do share.

Metta,
Retro. :)

P.S. If someone could "un-nibbana" and then die with an "un-nibbanised" mindstate, wouldn't there be the possibility of "rebirth", given that the last minute allegedly conditions the nature of the rebirth? This notion of un-nibbana-isation opens a veritable can of worms.
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14613
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PreviousNext

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot], robertk and 24 guests