To quote a classic from Ajahn Chah...tiltbillings wrote:aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging -- must be given some sort of heavy duty symbolic reading, or they would most assuredly have to be, following your line of thought, ontological.
In other words, becoming something (bhava) and establishing an identity (jati) is the requisite condition for experience aging-and-decay."Do not be a bodhisatta; do not be an arahant; do not be anything at all. If you are a bodhisatta, you will suffer; if you are an arahant, you will suffer; if you are anything at all, you will suffer."
Therefore, if there is no becoming something, there is no establishing an identity, so in turn, there is no experience of aging-and-decay... there is instead, only the deathless.
Or, back again to Ajahn Chah...
Do not make a self that must be subject to aging-and-decay.A visiting Zen student asked Ajahn Chah, "How old are you? Do you live here all year round?" "I live nowhere," he replied. "There is no place you can find me. I have no age. To have age, you must exist, and to think you exist is already a problem. Don't make problems; then the world has none either. Don't make a self. There's nothing more to say."
It's not a case of heavy duty symbolic rendering - it is just the Dhamma being explained at different levels, as per Mike's recent discussion on that topic. To one who takes it as granted that they exist, aging-and-decay can only be fathomed vis-a-vis that very self-same assumed self. Thus, aging-and-death for that cognitively-distorted and self-established "being" is very much experiential. To regard it as ontological is to tacitly assume that the self (to whom aging and decay could occur) really exists, although sabba dhamma anatta.
A question for you, perhaps... if you were to explain jara-marana (again and death) in a manner entirely devoid of implicit reference to a false self, how would you explain it? Consider also whether this explanation would be appropriate to a situation where each of the preceding nidanas, conditioned by avijja, had already transpired?