Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

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nomono
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Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by nomono »

So, I had always problems understanding the Theravada teachings on nibbana or ultimate reality. Often people think Theravada teaches that in attaining enlightenment one becomes nothing (in the materialist sense). I knew that it was not right and that Theravadins didnt teach nihilism but had a hard time in understanding what Theravada Buddhism teaches about nibbana and consciousness. There is I know the stance that Buddhas dont interact with samsara anymore contrary to Mahayana but I couldnt believe that Theravada teaches that in attaining Buddhahood you go poof like in the materialist sense. I didnt understand what the cessation of consciousness after enlightenment meant. People always would show suttas where the Buddha says "The Buddha does neither exist nor not exist" etc..
Then today I read Thanissario Bhikkhus Chapter 7 of "The Paradox of Becoming" on dhammatalks.org. He talks there that nibbana means the cessation of the consciousness of the senses and that something else is realized in attaining in nibbana, namely the consciousness without surface which is unconditioned, unbinding and beyond time and space etc.. whats interesting is that he says that an Arahant isnt just unconscious after death.

...
SN 35:23 indicates that the “all” in “all that is sensed, being unrelished, will grow cold right here” denotes the six sense media. The term “Such” refers to the fact that the arahant’s attainment is effortlessly unaffected by the arising or passing away of anything related to the six senses. Because sensory consciousness arises in dependence on the six sense media, this Suchness is unaffected at the arahant’s death, when sensory consciousness totally ends.
However, a third analogy raises the question of whether there is another mode of consciousness unaffected by the arahant’s death. In this analogy, awakened consciousness is depicted not as a seed but as a beam of light, the four nutriments of consciousness are the various places where a beam of light might land, while passion and delight are the means of its landing.
...(here comes a sutta quote)
This analogy does not specifically state whether it refers to the arahant before or after death. However, in the context of this analogy, the beam of light depends on the wall, the ground, etc., only for the fact of its appearance and growth within space and time. This suggests that it otherwise would not be affected when the nutriments disappear. Thus the analogy would refer to the arahant both before and after death.
This interpretation is supported by two contexts, one authorial and the other textual. The authorial context is that if the Buddha’s Awakening had revealed that total Unbinding was a state of total unconsciousness, he would never have thought of using this analogy to describe the awakened state.
The textual context is provided by MN 49, which states that—in contrast to the consciousness of an unawakened being, which is known only through its interaction with kamma—the arahant’s knowledge of unconditioned consciousness is totally unmediated.
“‘Having directly known the all [the six sense media and their objects—see SN 35:23] as the all, and having directly known the extent of what has not been experienced through the allness of the all, I wasn’t the all, I wasn’t in the all, I wasn’t coming forth from the all, I wasn’t “The all is mine.” I didn’t affirm the all….
“‘Consciousness without surface,
without end,
luminous all around,
has not been experienced through the earthness of earth… the liquidity of liquid… the fieriness of fire… the windiness of wind… the being-ness of beings… the deva-ness of devas… the Pajāpati-ness of Pajāpati… the brahmā-ness of Brahmā… the radiant-ness of the radiant (devas)… the beautiful black-ness of the beautiful black (devas)… the sky-fruit-ness of the sky-fruit (devas)… the conqueror-ness of the conqueror… the allness of the all.’”— MN 49
A basic feature of the Buddha’s teachings on causality is that if x depends on y for its existence, it will cease when y ceases. But because consciousness without surface—unlike sensory consciousness—is known independently of the six sense media, it will not cease when they do.
“‘Consciousness without surface, without end, luminous all around: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end. With the cessation of consciousness
each is here brought to an end.’”— DN 11
....
Reading this verse in light of MN 49, the “cessation of consciousness” would seem to refer to the cessation of the aggregate of sensory consciousness, whereas “consciousness without surface” would not be touched by that cessation. This is because this mode of consciousness would also lie outside the aggregates, inasmuch as the aggregate of consciousness covers only those forms of consciousness that can be located in space and time. Consciousness without surface, however, no longer has a “place” defined by craving and clinging, and so does not fall under the categories of time or space.
This consciousness should not be confused with the “radiant mind” of AN 1:51-52. As those discourses state, the radiant mind is something that can be developed. In terms of the duties of the four noble truths, this indicates that the radiant mind is part of the truth of the path. As with other skillful states of becoming, it is to be developed until it has served its purpose and then relinquished. Consciousness without surface, however, is related to the truth of cessation, and as such cannot be developed. It can only be realized.
Viewed in terms of the third analogy, the radiance of the radiant mind would count as something that can be pointed to, for it still lands on its nutriment. Thus it is a state of becoming centered on a location. Consciousness without surface, however, does not land and so its luminosity cannot be pointed to, for it reflects off of nothing.
A practical test for distinguishing between these two types of awareness would be to contemplate any form of awareness, no matter how radiant or pure, so as to foster a sense of dispassion for it, using the techniques recommended in Chapter Six. This would deprive the radiant mind of its nutriment, but would have no effect on consciousness without surface, which has no need for nutriment, just as a light beam has no need for anywhere to land.
The analogy between consciousness without surface and an unreflected light beam carries other implications as well. The first is that, just as a light beam that is not reflected off any surface cannot be apprehended—and in that sense has no location—in the same way, a person whose consciousness does not land and become established on any object cannot be apprehended either in this life or after death, even by those with extensive psychic powers.

Effluents ended,
independent of nutriment,
their pasture—emptiness
& freedom without sign:
their trail,
like that of birds through space,
can’t be traced.— Dhp 93

“And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmās, & Pajāpati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that ‘The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathāgata) is dependent on this.’ Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now.”— MN 22

I see a lot of parallels with the Mahayana teaching that in attaining Nirvana, the deluded consciousness thats based on the senses ceases and Primordial Awareness is recognized.
I couldnt quote everything of his writing because it would be too long but there are lot of beautiful suttas quoted by him in his book.
Is this teaching of the consciousness without surface fringe or the general Theravadin stance on nibbana, namely that a Buddha isnt going just poof? I find it very problematic sometimes when for example Ven. Ajahn Brahm uses words like going poof, becoming nothing etc..that does lead people who do not know a lot about the Dharma to nihilistic views.
So whats your opinion on that? Is this preached and held by the majority of Theravada Buddhism?
And which Pali word does correspond with consciousness without surface?
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

The trick here is:
  • the Venerable is an eternalist, sort of.
:heart:
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by cappuccino »

Nirvana is a realm


I accept Buddha is there


Enough said
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by equilibrium »

.....becoming nothing etc..
If this were the case.....Nibbana would not be possible !

It ought to be experienced !
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by cappuccino »

cappuccino wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 3:24 pm Nirvana is a realm
“There is that sphere where there is no earth, no water, no fire nor wind; no sphere of infinity of space, of infinity of consciousness, of nothingness or even of neither-perception-nor non-perception; there, there is neither this world nor the other world, neither moon nor sun; this sphere I call neither a coming nor a going nor a staying still, neither a dying nor a reappearance; it has no basis, no evolution and no support: this, just this, is the end of dukkha.”
~ Ud 8.1
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by bodhifollower »

The Buddha plainly states that Nibbana is the highest, best, most pleasurable state of mind. "The goal of the holy life." That is all. Anything else that others claim about Nibbana is made up. Because they do not know. The state of mind is completely beyond mere logic. It's hard to see. You and all other teachers trying to explain Nibbana, is a waste of time and energy. You are merely deluding yourselves and confusing others.
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by santa100 »

wrote:Is this teaching of the consciousness without surface fringe or the general Theravadin stance on nibbana, namely that a Buddha isnt going just poof?
Is this preached and held by the majority of Theravada Buddhism?
And which Pali word does correspond with consciousness without surface?
Refer to a previous thread on similar topic here
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

cappuccino wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 3:24 pm Nirvana is a realm


I accept Buddha is there


Enough said





On the contrary,
Nibbana is not a realm:
  • the London Buddhist Vihara wrote: Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit) is not a realm of existence or heaven. It is a state attained by the complete liberation from dukka, by the complete elimination of the root cause, which is craving (tanha). A person who has attained the state of Nibbana will no longer acquire kamma that keeps the cycle of life going, hence there will no longer be rebirth.
    Nibbana cannot be described in terms of our normal experiences, which are so limited. Therefore Nibbana is generally described in negative terms such as 'extinction of desire', 'extinction of hatred', 'Unconditioned' (conditions that produce cause and effect), 'Cessation' (of continuity) etc.
    A person who has attained Nibbana experiences a state of supreme joy that comes from being completely free from attachment, free from hatred, free from delusions.
    Nibbana can be attained in this life, not after death. As this is a long and difficult process, the success of attainment in this life very much depends on whether the person had practised the path in his/her previous lifetimes. The Buddha and many of his followers attained this state during their own lifetimes.
:heart:
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by DooDoot »

cappuccino wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 3:24 pm Nirvana is a realm


I accept Buddha is there


Enough said
:roll:
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by DooDoot »

nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pm I didnt understand what the cessation of consciousness after enlightenment meant.
Cessation means cessation of craving. Refer to SN 22.5. Cessation of consciousness means consciousness no longer affected by craving. Refer to SN 22.53 as merely one of many examples (Including SN 12.44; MN 38; MN 148; Iti 44; SN 22.85; etc).
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pmPeople always would show suttas where the Buddha says "The Buddha does neither exist nor not exist" etc..
These suttas are about "identity". A Buddha is not a self or an identity; therefore the term "death" ("marana") does not pertain to a Buddha.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pmThen today I read Thanissario
Waste of time. He, particularly in the past, was/is confused. The only correct book i have ever read by him is called "Shape of Suffering", which I suspected he copied from my old internet posts.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pm He talks there that nibbana means the cessation of the consciousness of the senses
I explained what "cessation" means in this context.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pmsomething else is realized in attaining in nibbana, namely the consciousness without surface which is unconditioned, unbinding and beyond time and space etc..
There are countless suttas about the attaining of Nibbana that don't refer to consciousness without surface. Consciousness without surface is not the unconditioned. Consciousness without surface is not a teaching given to Buddhists. It is a teaching given to Brahmins (MN 49 & DN 11) and is not related to Nibbana.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pmSN 35:23 indicates that the “all” in “all that is sensed, being unrelished, will grow cold right here” denotes the six sense media.
There are two types of Nibbana: (i) here & now; and (ii) when life ends. “All that is sensed, being unrelished, will grow cold right here” is the 2nd type of Nibbana . Refer to Iti 44.

That's enough for now.
Last edited by DooDoot on Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Since this isn't really a "beginners" topic, and there is no obvious straightforward answer to the question, I'm going to move this to General Theravada so posts do not require moderator approval.

:thanks:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by cappuccino »

DooDoot wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:10 pm “All that is sensed, being unrelished, will grow cold right here”
yes, it is sensed, meaning one is sensing it


this should be easy to understand
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by SteRo »

nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pm Then today I read Thanissario Bhikkhus Chapter 7 of "The Paradox of Becoming" on dhammatalks.org. He talks there that nibbana means the cessation of the consciousness of the senses and that something else is realized in attaining in nibbana, namely the consciousness without surface which is unconditioned, unbinding and beyond time and space etc.. ...
I see a lot of parallels with the Mahayana teaching that in attaining Nirvana, the deluded consciousness thats based on the senses ceases and Primordial Awareness is recognized.
I like many of Thanissario's sutta translations but if he personally comes to the conclusion you have been reading on dhammatalks.org then he certainly harbors eternalist views like those cultivated in many Mahayana sects.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pm I find it very problematic sometimes when for example Ven. Ajahn Brahm uses words like going poof, becoming nothing etc..that does lead people who do not know a lot about the Dharma to nihilistic views.
So whats your opinion on that?
Ajahn Brahm's wording seems to be more skilful than Thanissario's.
The question is what are the natural ignorant tendencies and what wording should be used to undermine these. Since the natural ignorant tendencies are grasping as permanent and clinging to becoming Thanissario's wording seems to support these tendencies while Ajahn Brahm's wording seems to undermine these tendencies.
If however one is a very fearful individual then one may be put off by Ajahn Brahm's wording since one is seeking shelter, a home, a permananent refuge and thus one may be put off by the dhamma Ajahn Brahm purports to teach. So it depends on the indvidual's experience.
nomono wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 12:24 pm Is this preached and held by the majority of Theravada Buddhism?
There is a lineage in the thai forest tradition that preaches eternalist views similar to what you seem to have read on Thanissario's page. But I think it isn't the majority in theravada that holds such views although it might be the most popular views since the root of popularity is shared with many Mahayana sects.
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by coconut »

cappuccino wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 4:07 pm
cappuccino wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 3:24 pm Nirvana is a realm
“There is that sphere where there is no earth, no water, no fire nor wind; no sphere of infinity of space, of infinity of consciousness, of nothingness or even of neither-perception-nor non-perception; there, there is neither this world nor the other world, neither moon nor sun; this sphere I call neither a coming nor a going nor a staying still, neither a dying nor a reappearance; it has no basis, no evolution and no support: this, just this, is the end of dukkha.”
~ Ud 8.1
You could say Nibbana is a place, but the Buddha is not there. There is no-self, if there is no self then there is only environments. Your body is an environment, so is your mind.

Environments are made of activities, the less activities there are the higher you go. You could say Nibbana is a place of no activity, no arising and no ceasing, because that's what activity means arising and ceasing, aka impermanance.

Someone who has 100% wisdom will choose the place with the least activity. That's what a Buddha is, 100% wisdom.

As to OP about ultimate reality, there is no ultimate reality described in the suttas, as Ven Thanissaro discusses in his book Mirror of Insight:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/Mirro ... n0001.html
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Re: Question about consciousness, nibbana and ultimate reality in Theravada

Post by confusedlayman »

Nibbana is cessation of ignorance greed hate delusion etc.. so one live without clinging

Parinibbana means no experience
dont think
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