rowyourboat wrote: . . .
Your quote don't necessarily support your position. viññāna-upādāna-kkhandha
ceases, even for the still living arahant, but one cannot - as the text you quote - "pin down" or try to comphrehend the arahant in those terms. Also, keep in mind that the opperative term here is upādāna
I guess I am also saying that in talking of this 'thing' that we variously label as 'thatagata, 'arahath', 'self' etc, there is progressively truer levels of truth. It is more accurate to talk of this thing in terms of it's aggregates than it's conventional label. What is perhaps important to grasp is that the conventional label is made up of more untruths (like sukha, for example) than the ultimate one. So there is nothing magical, mysterious or unfathomable about the conventional label - simply somethings about it cannot be pinned down (or perhaps verified would be a better term) simply because they are not true. There really isn't that much of an arahath- it is just a mirage of an oasis in the desert. That is not to say that aggregates/heat waves, don't exist, even in a limited sense (see the water-bubble/phena sutta).
The delusion can be comprehended (the oasis in the desert). It's more truer components can be comprehended (the hot air etc). But when that mirage comes to an end what takes its place (air), let's say we cannot sense- hence we are not able to make any statements about it. The arahath, the aggregates and nibbana are like this. There are some bits which cannot be pinned down, because their existence is a not a truth (labels), others which can be fully comprehended (aggregates) and it is their full comprehension which leads to their fading away and cessation.
In some senses we die a little death at stream entry, when the Self is seen through. Then a greater death when the arahath completely wipes out the sense of self. Then the highest wiping out, is at the death of an arahath. whether there is something beyond is not something we need to worry about because suffering has ceased. The buddha promises the cessation of suffering. It is interesting he does not say the purpose of his teaching is nibbana, because IMO that would be unquantifiable, whereas cessation of suffering IS quantifiable- in terms of the aggregates ceasing. To define nibbana in terms of aggregates (consciousness etc) is a mistake. We don't have words or concepts which fit.
However it must be noted that cessation of the aggregates (desire, ego, self are all aggregates) is synonymous with nibbana. Once again the limitation of this word 'cessation' becomes apparent - as you quite rightly said, the aggregates of an arahath ceases even when alive. This is why looking at the original Pali is important- nirodha
means non-arising, not simply ceasing, which is vaya
. The continuous cycle of arising and passing away, falls away, - a complete 'ending' of sorts take place; some practitioners feel 'it is done' or 'the burden has been lifted' (of the aggregates), leading to that famous exclamation of 'pale stumps...' etc.
As long as craving (and avijja hiding in that) for sensory phenomena (aggregates including conscious experience) exist, the cycle of arising and passing away continue- each moment that arises starts with avijja and ends with dukkha (atleast of the aggregates-sankhara dukkha). When that craving is finally made into 'pale stumps' by battering it with the Truth (anicca, dukkha, anatta) craving for further becoming ceases, and phenomena ceases, avijja ceases.. and any delusional conventional concepts (arahath, thatagata, self) all cease. This is why the stream entrant sees both the arising and the non-arising version of the paticcasamuppada. Experientially every arising is an arising of the paticcasamuppada, but only one ceasing- the complete one- is the ending of craving. This can also be called nibbana, but in the sense of the flame going out. Nibbana meaning extinguishing. Extinguishing of what: the aggregates or in other words, all sensory phenomena. I believe the Buddha commonly used it in this sense of extinguishing what is present, rather than as a pointer to what remains (because that is unclassifiable, and leads to reification).
Having said all this, I must say that no stream entrant can easily put his experience into concepts. The Buddha said he could talk about the satipatthana for an aeon, and all that ultimately matters now is having had the experience. It's a bit like a plane crash
- we look back and see what really happened and make sense of it. This is the only way it can done, because the concepts would otherwise get in the way of the process and attendant defilements would hinder it.
The word 'insight' is an unfortunate as well as an ironic coincidence. When we say insight we mean/imagine some conceptual understanding. The Buddhas original terms were 'nana' and 'dassana'- to know and see. 'Seeing', meaning experiencing is the most important aspect. It denotes that this is not theoretical but something is seen to change. Hence, even if we don't have the full conceptual understanding of the process leading upto stream entry (also helps to remember there are different types of stream entrants, possibly with different degrees of understanding of what happened), it nevertheless happens in full- and you could say that is all that matters.