Mind Like Fire Unbound

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
JohnK
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Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by JohnK » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:02 pm

I finally got to opening the book by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Mind Like Fire Unbound.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... dition.pdf
He makes the point that while nibbana literally means extinguishing (as in fire), we should understand how fire was presumed to operate at the time of the Buddha. He paraphrases his teacher (Ajaan Fuang Jotiko) as saying the mind released is like fire that has gone out -- the fire is not annihilated but is still there, diffused in the air; it simply no longer latches on to any fuel -- interesting.
Thought I would share an early paragraph:
To understand the implications of nibbana in the present life, it is necessary to
know something of the way in which fire is described in the Pali Canon. There,
fire is said to be caused by the excitation or agitation of the heat property. To
continue burning, it must have sustenance (upadana). Its relationship to its
sustenance is one of clinging, dependence, & entrapment. When it goes out, the
heat property is no longer agitated, and the fire is said to be freed. Thus the
metaphor of nibbana in this case would have implications of calming together
with release from dependencies, attachments, & bondage. This in turn suggests
that of all the attempts to describe the etymology of the word nibbana, the
closest is the one Buddhaghosa proposed in The Path of Purification: Un-(nir) + binding
(vana): Unbinding.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:09 pm

I learnt a lot from it, John. You might also be interested in What the Buddha Thought by Richard Gombrich. He has a lot to say about the fire analogy, which he thinks has been missed by lots of commentators, and is the key to understanding a great deal of the Dhamma.

JohnK
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by JohnK » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:24 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:09 pm
Thanks for the tip!
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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cappuccino
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by cappuccino » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:17 pm

eternalism is constancy of self, no

Nirvana is described as everlasting, as in eternal
Last edited by cappuccino on Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Zom
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by Zom » Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:35 pm

He makes the point that while nibbana literally means extinguishing (as in fire), we should understand how fire was presumed to operate at the time of the Buddha.
How else could he interpret that if he believes in eternal consciousness?

Such interpretation is just banana-nibbana, as one famous buddhist teacher said 8-)
Last edited by Zom on Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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DNS
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by DNS » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:46 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 8:35 pm
Such interpretation is just banana-nibbana, as one famous buddhist teacher said 8-)
From that link:
Banana Nibbana

When I was a teenager, I asked many Christian teachers to explain the meaning of god. Either they would tell me what it was not or they would give me an answer that was unintelligible. For example, they would say God is “the ineffible” or “the ultimate reality” or “the ground of all being” or “infinite conciousness” or “the pure knowing”.

Later I asked many Buddhist teachers to explain the meaning of nibbana . . . . (as above) Then insight arose: I’ve heard such mumbo-jumbo somewhere before! For the very same reasons i rejected meaningless descriptions of god as a youth, so even now I reject all the gobbledygook descriptions of the Buddhist nibbana.
That's not what I have experienced. The Christians I have talked to have a clear definition of god; that he is a creator-god, who had his only son, a personal god, a being, who resurrected in the flesh; nothing "ineffible" there, nothing pantheistic there.

There might be a few liberal denominations and sects who have a more pantheistic outlook, but the vast majority accept a personal-god, a being named Jesus who lived in the flesh among us and rose from the dead, in the flesh (literally).

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mikenz66
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:08 pm

DNS wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:46 pm
There might be a few liberal denominations and sects who have a more pantheistic outlook, but the vast majority accept a personal-god, a being named Jesus who lived in the flesh among us and rose from the dead, in the flesh (literally).
This is getting a bit off-topic, but my impression is that the traditional denominations in the UK and NZ (i.e. excluding the Evangelical ones) abandoned that sort of personal God quite a while ago and see Genesis and Ressurection as mythological, not literal.

However, I dropped out of the Anglican church early in my teens, so I'm no expert...

Perhaps those denominations such as Anglican (Episcopal in the US) are a minority in the US.

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DNS
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by DNS » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:16 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:08 pm
This is getting a bit off-topic, but my impression is that the traditional denominations in the UK and NZ (i.e. excluding the Evangelical ones) abandoned that sort of personal God quite a while ago and see Genesis and Ressurection as mythological, not literal.
However, I dropped out of the Anglican church early in my teens, so I'm no expert...
Perhaps those denominations such as Anglican (Episcopal in the US) are a minority in the US.
Yes, I think the U.S. probably has more than it's fair share of evangelicals. I went to universities in Texas, which is pretty much the bible belt, so that could explain my experience among Christians.

rightviewftw
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by rightviewftw » Sat Apr 28, 2018 4:55 am

JohnK wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:02 pm
I finally got to opening the book by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Mind Like Fire Unbound.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... dition.pdf
He makes the point that while nibbana literally means extinguishing (as in fire), we should understand how fire was presumed to operate at the time of the Buddha. He paraphrases his teacher (Ajaan Fuang Jotiko) as saying the mind released is like fire that has gone out -- the fire is not annihilated but is still there, diffused in the air; it simply no longer latches on to any fuel -- interesting.
Thought I would share an early paragraph:
To understand the implications of nibbana in the present life, it is necessary to
know something of the way in which fire is described in the Pali Canon. There,
fire is said to be caused by the excitation or agitation of the heat property. To
continue burning, it must have sustenance (upadana). Its relationship to its
sustenance is one of clinging, dependence, & entrapment. When it goes out, the
heat property is no longer agitated, and the fire is said to be freed. Thus the
metaphor of nibbana in this case would have implications of calming together
with release from dependencies, attachments, & bondage. This in turn suggests
that of all the attempts to describe the etymology of the word nibbana, the
closest is the one Buddhaghosa proposed in The Path of Purification: Un-(nir) + binding
(vana): Unbinding.
that really does kind of sound like eternalism, OP's interpretation in particular. A sankhara that becomes free, forever dissolved within the evovling world systems.

i am pretty sure that the burning fire originally represents sankharas, exhaustion of fuel represents the exhaustion of causes for arising of sankharas(suffering) and the cessation of fire is the cessation of suffering, abscence of fire is abscence of sankharas.

idea to entertain: Sankhara transl. formation, plural formations, formations spawn of past formations, transformation, formed in sequence, in formation, information, nibbana has no information, no-formation, not-formed, unborn, ducy

if Ven. Thanissaro is indeed an eternalist it would be quite ironic and sad
Last edited by rightviewftw on Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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mikenz66
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:35 am

I don't think it is particularly controversial that, from a traditional Theravada point of view, many of the Thai Forest Ajahns teach a form of eternalism. See Ven Dhammanando's summary here:
viewtopic.php?t=22741&start=60#p329417

Of course, that doesn't mean that the teachings of those Ajahns is worthless. There are a variety of ways to interepret the suttas, and to interpret personal experience.

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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:32 am

isn't that actually what the brahmins or whatever believed, that the buddha went against? 'where does a fire go when it goes out' is an invalid question. without the sufficient conditions for a fire, there is no fire

nibbāna is also compared to turning back a whirlpool, the vortical interplay between name-and-form and consciousness. only the ocean remains without a change in volume
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by justindesilva » Sat Apr 28, 2018 10:22 am

I understand that most westerners try to understand nibbana before even learning the basics of buddhism.I feel that a student of buddhism should understand what anitya dukka and anatma means in a basic format. As ven Walpola Rahula in his book what the budda taught shows buddists get entangled in a web in trying to understand simple nirvana. Nirvana has to be felt.

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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by rightviewftw » Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:39 pm

justindesilva wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 10:22 am
I understand that most westerners try to understand nibbana before even learning the basics of buddhism.
i think that people often might be going about it backwards as well. Instead of studying the conditioned element people pounder and philosophise about the unconditioned, thus disenchantment with the conditioned does not become conditioned, the realization of non-self does not become conditioned and views about the unconditioned are conditioned.

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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by justindesilva » Sat Apr 28, 2018 1:51 pm

rightviewftw wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:39 pm
justindesilva wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 10:22 am
I understand that most westerners try to understand nibbana before even learning the basics of buddhism.
i think that people often might be going about it backwards as well. Instead of studying the conditioned element people pounder and philosophise about the unconditioned, thus disenchantment with the conditioned does not become conditioned, the realization of non-self does not become conditioned and views about the unconditioned are conditioned.
may I be cleared. Do you mean to say that we have to arrive at anicca dukka anatma working backwards from nibbana.? To my knowledge in Buddhism that is impossible.

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Re: Mind Like Fire Unbound

Post by auto » Sat Apr 28, 2018 2:25 pm

Nirvana is chemical substance characteristic what prevents reaction to other chemicals, makes it stable so it deserves to have a name and place.

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