Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

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Ceisiwr
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Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Ceisiwr »

Greetings everyone,

Today I was reading this sutta and came across an odd situation:
Then the Buddha said to Venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, who’s making that dreadful racket? You’d think it was fishermen hauling in a catch!”

And Ānanda told him what had happened.

“Well then, Ānanda, in my name tell those mendicants that the teacher summons them.”

“Yes, sir,” Ānanda replied. He went to those mendicants and said, “Venerables, the teacher summons you.”

“Yes, reverend,” replied those mendicants. Then they rose from their seats and went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to them:

“Mendicants, what’s with that dreadful racket? You’d think it was fishermen hauling in a catch!”

And they told him what had happened.

“Go away, mendicants, I dismiss you. You are not to stay in my presence.”

“Yes, sir,” replied those mendicants. They got up from their seats, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha, keeping him on their right. They set their lodgings in order and left, taking their bowls and robes.

Now at that time the Sakyans of Cātumā were sitting together at the meeting hall on some business. Seeing those mendicants coming off in the distance, they went up to them and said, “Hello venerables, where are you going?”

“Sirs, the mendicant Saṅgha has been dismissed by the Buddha.”

“Well then, venerables, sit here for a minute. Hopefully we’ll be able to restore the Buddha’s confidence.”

“Yes, sirs,” replied the mendicants.

Then the Sakyans of Cātumā went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“May the Buddha approve of the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha welcome the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha support the mendicant Saṅgha now as he did in the past! There are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. If young seedlings don’t get water they may change and fall apart. In the same way, there are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. If a young calf doesn’t see its mother it may change and fall apart. In the same way, there are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. May the Buddha approve of the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha welcome the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha support the mendicant Saṅgha now as he did in the past!”

Then Brahmā Sahampati knew what the Buddha was thinking. As easily as a strong person would extend or contract their arm, he vanished from the Brahmā realm and reappeared in front of the Buddha. He arranged his robe over one shoulder, raised his joined palms toward the Buddha, and said:

“May the Buddha approve of the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha welcome the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha support the mendicant Saṅgha now as he did in the past! There are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. If young seedlings don’t get water they may change and fall apart. … If a young calf doesn’t see its mother it may change and fall apart. In the same way, there are mendicants here who are junior, recently gone forth, newly come to this teaching and training. If they don’t get to see the Buddha they may change and fall apart. May the Buddha approve of the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha welcome the mendicant Saṅgha! May the Buddha support the mendicant Saṅgha now as he did in the past!”

The Sakyans of Cātumā and Brahmā Sahampati were able to restore the Buddha’s confidence with the similes of the seedlings and the calf.

Then Venerable Mahāmoggallāna addressed the mendicants, “Get up, reverends, and pick up your bowls and robes. The Buddha’s confidence has been restored.”

“Yes, reverend,” replied those mendicants. Then they rose from their seats and, taking their bowls and robes, went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to Venerable Sāriputta, “Sāriputta, what did you think when the mendicant Saṅgha was dismissed by me?”

“Sir, I thought this: ‘The Buddha has dismissed the mendicant Saṅgha. Now he will remain passive, dwelling in blissful meditation in the present life, and so will we.’”

“Hold on, Sāriputta, hold on! Don’t you ever think such a thing again!”

Then the Buddha addressed Venerable Mahāmoggallāna, “Moggallāna, what did you think when the mendicant Saṅgha was dismissed by me?”

“Sir, I thought this: ‘The Buddha has dismissed the mendicant Saṅgha. Now he will remain passive, dwelling in blissful meditation in the present life. Meanwhile, Venerable Sāriputta and I will lead the mendicant Saṅgha.’”

“Good, good, Moggallāna! For either I should lead the mendicant Saṅgha, or else Sāriputta and Moggallāna.”
https://suttacentral.net/mn67/en/sujato

Here we have the Buddha seemingly annoyed at monks who were making too much noise, so much so that he dismisses them from his sight. It then seems he prefered to dwell alone. He only then changes his mind when begged to do so. I find this strange since it seems to show that the Buddha was annoyed at the monks for making noise and that he prefers the peace and quiet of solitude. It seems that the Buddha is still under the sway of likes, dislikes and has experiences of displeasure, so much so that he has to be convinced to change his mind. Given that the criterion of embarrassment means that this event likely occurred, how are we to interpret it? If the Buddha really was annoyed and preferred to be left alone, then are we missing something about understanding what Nibbana is? Do we have an idealised view of it and so, by extension, the Buddha? Did he sometimes get annoyed and grumpy?

Also, as a side note, its interesting that he states here that he would appoint successors to him. Elsewhere in the canon he states he would't appoint anyone to lead the sangha, and indeed when he has his parinibbana he refuses to do just that. However, by that point Sariputta and Mahāmoggallāna had died so he could have changed his mind.

There is also another sutta where the Buddha seems to dislike his popularity and seems to want to be just left alone:
Now, at that time Venerable Nāgita was the Buddha’s attendant. Then the Buddha said to Nāgita, “Nāgita, who’s making that dreadful racket? You’d think it was fishermen hauling in a catch!”

“Sir, it’s these brahmins and householders of Icchānaṅgala. They’ve brought many different foods, and they’re standing outside the gates wanting to offer it specially to the Buddha and the mendicant Saṅgha.”

“Nāgita, may I never become famous. May fame not come to me. There are those who can’t get the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of awakening when they want, without trouble or difficulty like I can. Let them enjoy the filthy, lazy pleasure of possessions, honor, and popularity.”
https://suttacentral.net/an8.86/en/sujato


Anyway, thoughts on these suttas and the questions they raise?

Metta

:)
“Bhikkhus, whatever is not yours, abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness. ” SN 35:101

santa100
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by santa100 »

Ceisiwr wrote:I find this strange since it seems to show that the Buddha was annoyed at the monks for making noise
Annoyed or not is speculative. One thing we know for sure is that it was never the aim of the Buddha to be a people pleaser. He was a teacher of Devas and men. And sometimes He simply gave it to them straight without sugar-coating the words, telling them exactly what they needed to hear. Just like sometimes the bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie. Remember those 6 scenarios of when to use strong stern words the Buddha instructed in MN 58
There is also another sutta where the Buddha seems to dislike his popularity and seems to want to be just left alone
To be fair, the preference for spending time alone to cultivate the Dhamma is the default operation mode for all practitioners, Teacher and disciples alike. A standard stockphrase in many suttas:
These are the feet of trees, Ānanda, these are empty huts. Meditate, Ānanda, do not be negligent, lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you.”

JohnK
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by JohnK »

Just my immediate thoughts on this:
Displeasure does not strike me as a concern -- it's not the vedana that is a problem, but the reaction to it.
Same for preferences -- it seems that attachment to preferences would be the important part, i.e., reactions to having preferences met or not met.
So, if one thinks that the Buddha experienced no vedana and had no preferences, I suspect that would be an idealized image.

Hmm, is the Buddha annoyed or just expressing his preference? -- the sutta indicates that it was not his intention that the monks be abandoned (just that they be led by the senior monks). So, it is not completely clear that the Buddha is annoyed -- he could be teaching (rebuking does not strike me as a problem), and the situation does in fact turn out to be a teaching on the four fears of those gone forth.

The part that does stand out to me is the attributed loss and restoration of confidence -- but it is attributed; the Buddha does not say "I had lost confidence" -- and as usual, does the Pali word carry the same connotations as the English "confidence?"

The sutta does seem to flash back to SN6.1 when, after his awakening, the Buddha is reluctant to teach (Brahma Sahampati shows up then, too!) -- it could be wearying/tiresome and troubling -- hmm, is that just an acknowledgement of likely unpleasant vedana and a preference not to experience it?
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]

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Sam Vara
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Sam Vara »

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
Do we have an idealised view of it and so, by extension, the Buddha? Did he sometimes get annoyed and grumpy?
Our views of the Buddha as a person, a human being like us, are an interesting set of phenomena. Unlike some strands of Christianity, Buddhists have tended not to dwell on this aspect and there is a sense of the impersonal about him. But this, of course, especially for a Western culture saturated in narrative and addicted to personality, provides us with a blank canvas upon which to project our ideas. And this projection is quite possibly unconscious.

One book which deals with the Buddha as a person is The Broken Gong by Harold Beaver.

https://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/the-broken-gong/

HB was Ajahn Sucitto's literature teacher when he was an undergraduate at Warwick, and I believe there was some form of collaboration over the book. It acknowledges the fact that - for most of us - the Buddha is essentially a fictional character, known as a person only through the writings of others. The book is an attempt to use literary analysis to work out what sort of a person he was. It's distinctly odd, and likely to be as wrong as any other attempt, but refreshing and unique.

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by beanyan »

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
Here we have the Buddha seemingly annoyed at monks who were making too much noise, so much so that he dismisses them from his sight. It then seems he prefered to dwell alone. He only then changes his mind when begged to do so. I find this strange since it seems to show that the Buddha was annoyed at the monks for making noise and that he prefers the peace and quiet of solitude. It seems that the Buddha is still under the sway of likes, dislikes and has experiences of displeasure, so much so that he has to be convinced to change his mind. Given that the criterion of embarrassment means that this event likely occurred, how are we to interpret it?
He is presented here as a paccekabuddha being impressed into service.

Thus my interpretation is that the distinction between paccekabuddhas and a samasambuddha is a fake distinction created centuries later and all buddhas are actually paccekabuddhas and thus prize solitude above all else.
Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
If the Buddha really was annoyed and preferred to be left alone, then are we missing something about understanding what Nibbana is? Do we have an idealised view of it and so, by extension, the Buddha? Did he sometimes get annoyed and grumpy?
I think the real issue is your understanding of "nibbana in the here and now" vs parinibbana. My interpretation of "nibbana in the here and now" has always been that it only means a certainty that "this is my last birth and after death I go to nibbana." The more "mainstream" position seems to be that its a magical state that means you never suffer anymore although still in the body; and that is why your view of "nibbana in the here and now" is at odds with grumpy paccekabuddhas who want their solitude.

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NuanceOfSuchness
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by NuanceOfSuchness »

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm

It seems that the Buddha is still under the sway of likes, dislikes

:)
Perception is a funny thing. What if you were to read it without your conditioned filters? - (rhetorical question)

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Dhammanando »

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 8:47 pm
The book is an attempt to use literary analysis to work out what sort of a person he was. It's distinctly odd, and likely to be as wrong as any other attempt, but refreshing and unique.
Another in a similar vein – though by a psychologist rather than a literatus – is Rune Johansson's The Psychology of Nirvana, esp. chapter 17.

pdf file of book
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Dhammanando »

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
Also, as a side note, its interesting that he states here that he would appoint successors to him. Elsewhere in the canon he states he would't appoint anyone to lead the sangha, and indeed when he has his parinibbana he refuses to do just that. However, by that point Sariputta and Mahāmoggallāna had died so he could have changed his mind.
I don't think there's any contradiction in the four relevant passages, which differ greatly in both context and phrasing.

In the Vinaya account, Devadatta asks the Buddha to retire and let him take over leadership of the sangha. The phrase used is mamaṃ bhikkhusaṅghaṃ nissajjatu, "Let [the Blessed One] hand over the bhikkhusangha to me!" The Buddha replies that he "wouldn't hand it over" (na nissajjeyyaṃ) even to Sāriputta and Moggallāna, let alone a lickspittle like Devadatta. In this case it seems that Devadatta wished to wholly and permanently take over the leadership of the sangha.

In the Cātumā Sutta that you cite, the Buddha's entrusting of the sangha to Sāriputta and Moggallāna is only a temporary arrangement, as is evident both from the context and the use of the verb pariharati ("to take care of"), rather than the "hand over to" of the Vinaya passage.


As for the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, I don't think it's quite correct to say:
Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
Elsewhere in the canon he states he would't appoint anyone to lead the sangha, and indeed when he has his parinibbana he refuses to do just that.
It wasn't really a "refusal", for nobody had asked the Buddha to appoint a leader to replace him. On both occasions in the sutta when the issue is hinted at the Buddha does so on his own initiative.

First at Nādika:
Then venerable Ānanda approached the Gracious One, and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side venerable Ānanda said this to the Gracious One:

“I have seen, reverend Sir, the Gracious One comfortable, I have seen, reverend Sir, the Gracious One bearing up while sick, and my body, reverend Sir, became faint as it were, and although I could not see straight, and things were not clear, it appeared to me, reverend Sir, that the Gracious One was sick, but it was some small comfort that the Gracious One would not attain Final Emancipation until the Gracious One had spoken regarding the Community of monks.”

“But what, Ānanda, does the Community of monks expect of me? The Teaching has been taught by me, Ānanda, without having made a distinction between esoteric and exoteric, for the Realised One there is nothing, Ānanda, of a closed teacher’s fist in regard to the Teaching.

To whoever, Ānanda, this thought occurs: ‘I will lead the Community of monks’ or ‘I am the instructor of the Community of monks’ let him speak, Ānanda, regarding the Community of monks. But to the Realised One, Ānanda, this thought does not occur: ‘I will lead the Community of monks’ or ‘I am the instructor of the Community of monks’. Then why, Ānanda, should the Realised One speak regarding the Community of monks?
And later at Kusināra:
Then the Gracious One addressed venerable Ānanda, saying: “It may be, Ānanda, that some of you may think in this way: ‘Past is the Teacher’s word, there is now no Teacher for us.’ But it should not be seen like that, Ānanda, whatever Teaching and Discipline has been taught by me or laid down, Ānanda, that is your Teacher after my passing away.
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Sam Vara
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Sam Vara »

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 1:30 am

Another in a similar vein – though by a psychologist rather than a literatus – is Rune Johansson's The Psychology of Nirvana, esp. chapter 17.

https://archive.org/details/ThePsycholo ... a/mode/2up
Many thanks, Bhante. I have his Pali Buddhist Texts and will look out for this. Amazon or the Library at Cittaviveka when the lockdown ends...

:anjali:

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Dhammanando »

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 6:05 am
Many thanks, Bhante. I have his Pali Buddhist Texts and will look out for this. Amazon or the Library at Cittaviveka when the lockdown ends...
Okay, but just in case you hadn't noticed, the link I gave is actually to a pdf file of the whole book.
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by binocular »

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 5:57 pm
Here we have the Buddha seemingly annoyed at monks who were making too much noise, so much so that he dismisses them from his sight. It then seems he prefered to dwell alone. He only then changes his mind when begged to do so. I find this strange since it seems to show that the Buddha was annoyed at the monks for making noise and that he prefers the peace and quiet of solitude. It seems that the Buddha is still under the sway of likes, dislikes and has experiences of displeasure, so much so that he has to be convinced to change his mind. Given that the criterion of embarrassment means that this event likely occurred, how are we to interpret it? If the Buddha really was annoyed and preferred to be left alone, then are we missing something about understanding what Nibbana is? Do we have an idealised view of it and so, by extension, the Buddha? Did he sometimes get annoyed and grumpy?
I think the Buddha's behavior here is simply the logically continuation of the behavior of someone from a royal family. It has nothing to do with likes or dislikes, but with a sense of entitlement. Entitlement which is at first based on being a member of a royal family, and then based on one's spiritual attainment.

Becoming an arahant doesn't turn a person into a servile plebeian.

- - -
JohnK wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 7:45 pm
The part that does stand out to me is the attributed loss and restoration of confidence -- but it is attributed; the Buddha does not say "I had lost confidence" -- and as usual, does the Pali word carry the same connotations as the English "confidence?"

The sutta does seem to flash back to SN6.1 when, after his awakening, the Buddha is reluctant to teach (Brahma Sahampati shows up then, too!) -- it could be wearying/tiresome and troubling -- hmm, is that just an acknowledgement of likely unpleasant vedana and a preference not to experience it?
As I understand it, that passage was about the Buddha losing confidence that the novice monks are worthy of being taught.
“One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.”
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Sam Vara
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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Sam Vara »

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 8:42 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 6:05 am
Many thanks, Bhante. I have his Pali Buddhist Texts and will look out for this. Amazon or the Library at Cittaviveka when the lockdown ends...
Okay, but just in case you hadn't noticed, the link I gave is actually to a pdf file of the whole book.
I confess I hadn't, but my gratitude keeps pace with the levels of information!

:anjali: :bow:

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by confusedlayman »

ajhan bua also showed strict talk in his video but he is not showing anger.. he is just serious
You can become king of world with all the wealth but it is not equal to 0.1 % of jhana pleasure...

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by Laurens »

I've never understood the state of enlightenment to mean that one's is no longer subject to getting annoyed or not having preferences and such.

The Buddha was visited by Mara many times after his awakening. The defining factor is that the Buddha recognises Mara and thus can act with wisdom rather than on impulse.

In other words an enlightened being might find that something causes annoyance, but they know 'annoyance has arisen' so they know not to identify with it or react impulsively. They can just watch it pass and act with wisdom.

I do think that people tend to have unrealistic ideas of what the Buddha was like. That he was never tempted by Mara. He was, but he could see through his tricks thus he could be around Mara without being affected by him. If you think the Buddha never encountered Mara you'd be missing an important teaching. The training is not about becoming an impossible being who never experiences temptation or anger, it's about being able to be with those things and not be conquered by them, which is something we can all do any time we are annoyed or tempted.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Re: Do we have an idealised image of Nibbana and the Buddha?

Post by confusedlayman »

Laurens wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 9:01 am
I've never understood the state of enlightenment to mean that one's is no longer subject to getting annoyed or not having preferences and such.

The Buddha was visited by Mara many times after his awakening. The defining factor is that the Buddha recognises Mara and thus can act with wisdom rather than on impulse.

In other words an enlightened being might find that something causes annoyance, but they know 'annoyance has arisen' so they know not to identify with it or react impulsively. They can just watch it pass and act with wisdom.

I do think that people tend to have unrealistic ideas of what the Buddha was like. That he was never tempted by Mara. He was, but he could see through his tricks thus he could be around Mara without being affected by him. If you think the Buddha never encountered Mara you'd be missing an important teaching. The training is not about becoming an impossible being who never experiences temptation or anger, it's about being able to be with those things and not be conquered by them, which is something we can all do any time we are annoyed or tempted.
this is starting and learning phase. but mental feeling dont arise for blessed one. if it arose he would not be enlightened. arising of mental stress is because of ignorance. so its not logical to say buddha will get anger but will observe it and move on. i think he wont have arisen anger in first place.
You can become king of world with all the wealth but it is not equal to 0.1 % of jhana pleasure...

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