Parinibbana, and doubts.

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Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby Dhammakid » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:09 am

Hello All,
I've been struggling with some recurring thoughts around the concept of Parinibbana.

I thought I had a basic understanding of what it is, and I never thought I would fall into the trap of thinking of it as nihilism or non-existence. But recently some of my previous doubts have resurfaced. I can't help but see traces of non-existence in the idea.

If karma keeps us in manifest form along the 32 planes of existence, and if parinibbana is the removing of all conditions for future manifestation in those realms, then how is that not non-existence?

Where do we go/what are we once parinibbana is realized? I know I know - these are irrelevant questions according to the suttas. But my mind keeps asking them.

Thinking of Nibbana this way scares me, and my former fear of death returns. I don't like to think about what it's like to not exist, to not be able to sense and feel and be.

So I'm guessing this is my deeply rooted "craving for becoming." I know that as a beginner I can't hope to overcome this fetter anytime soon, but because I am a practicing Buddhist and I do read suttas and meditate, I have some knowledge of the teachings. So I can't help but think about this stuff, and that's when fear and dread sets in real heavy.

What can a beginner like me do to combat this?

Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

:anjali:
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:48 am

Greetings Dhammakid,

Firstly, see the following sutta which explains the problems we get into by creating a distinction, and developing views, based on a platform of existence and non-existence.

SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

All mundane states of consciousness are rooted in the kammically active mindstates of greed, aversion, delusion, lovingkindness, generosity and wisdom. Consciousness finds footing in these roots of samsaric existence.

Cetana Sutta (SN) wrote:Monks, whatever one intends, whatever one mentally constructs, whatever lies latent, that becomes an object for the stationing of consciousness. There being an object, there comes to be an establishment of consciousness. When that consciousness is established and grown, there is the descent of name-and-form."


The supramandane consciousness, which constitute the fruits of the ariyan life, is different to the mundane states though, as it does not find footing in name-and-form.

Bahiya Sutta from the Udana

"Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."


The supramundane consciousness, which has transcended notions of existence and non-existence is explained in the second of those two paragraphs and in the following description of nibbana, as sourced from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... bbana.html

"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."

— AN 3.32


Therefore, as suggested by SN 12.15, review what the Buddha had to say about "existence", and hopefully you might escape the trap of nihilism, which concerns you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:18 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:If karma keeps us in manifest form along the 32 planes of existence, and if parinibbana is the removing of all conditions for future manifestation in those realms, then how is that not non-existence?

existence and non-existence are just applicable to conditions. a thing (sankhara) exists or does not exist. when there are no conditions we can't talk neither about existence nor about non-existance.
Dhammakid wrote:Where do we go/what are we once parinibbana is realized? I know I know - these are irrelevant questions according to the suttas. But my mind keeps asking them.

You know it! Why do you still cling to these questions? Okay they're there but they're not your business. Why do you refer to a "self" (atta)?
Dhammakid wrote:Thinking of Nibbana this way scares me, and my former fear of death returns. I don't like to think about what it's like to not exist, to not be able to sense and feel and be.

MN 1
The Blessed One said: "There is the case, monks, where an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — perceives earth as earth. Perceiving earth as earth, he conceives [things] about earth, he conceives [things] in earth, he conceives [things] coming out of earth, he conceives earth as 'mine,' he delights in earth. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.
"He perceives water as water... fire as fire... wind as wind ... beings as beings... gods as gods...Pajapati as Pajapati...Brahma as Brahma... the luminous gods as luminous gods... the gods of refulgent glory as gods of refulgent glory... the gods of abundant fruit as the gods of abundant fruit... the Great Being as the Great Being ... the dimension of the infinitude of space as the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness as the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness as the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of neither-perception-nor-non-perception as the dimension of neither-perception-nor-non-perception ... the seen as the seen... the heard as the heard... the sensed as the sensed... the cognized as the cognized ... singleness as singleness... multiplicity as multiplicity ... the All as the All ...
"He perceives Unbinding as Unbinding. Perceiving Unbinding as Unbinding, he conceives things about Unbinding, he conceives things in Unbinding, he conceives things coming out of Unbinding, he conceives Unbinding as 'mine,' he delights in Unbinding. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.

Dhammakid wrote:So I'm guessing this is my deeply rooted "craving for becoming." I know that as a beginner I can't hope to overcome this fetter anytime soon, but because I am a practicing Buddhist and I do read suttas and meditate, I have some knowledge of the teachings. So I can't help but think about this stuff, and that's when fear and dread sets in real heavy.
What can a beginner like me do to combat this?
Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

A few quotes from Ajahn Chah:
"Asking the wrong questions show that you are still caught in doubting. Talking about practice is all right, if it helps contemplation. But it's up to you yourself to see the Truth."

"We practice to learn letting go, not to increase our holding on. Enlightenment appears when you stop wanting anything."

"The real problem with people nowadays is that they know but still don't do. It's another matter if they don't do because they don't know; but if they already know and still don't do, what's the problem?"

I may be wrong, but I think you've got to have a little more faith in your practice. It'll be all fine, just do it.
I hope there is something which may help you.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby appicchato » Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:56 am

Most excellent reply Paul... :thumbsup:
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby kannada » Tue Aug 18, 2009 11:23 am

Dhammakid wrote:Hello All,
I've been struggling with some recurring thoughts around the concept of Parinibbana.

I thought I had a basic understanding of what it is, and I never thought I would fall into the trap of thinking of it as nihilism or non-existence. But recently some of my previous doubts have resurfaced. I can't help but see traces of non-existence in the idea.

If karma keeps us in manifest form along the 32 planes of existence, and if parinibbana is the removing of all conditions for future manifestation in those realms, then how is that not non-existence?

Where do we go/what are we once parinibbana is realized? I know I know - these are irrelevant questions according to the suttas. But my mind keeps asking them.

Thinking of Nibbana this way scares me, and my former fear of death returns. I don't like to think about what it's like to not exist, to not be able to sense and feel and be.

So I'm guessing this is my deeply rooted "craving for becoming." I know that as a beginner I can't hope to overcome this fetter anytime soon, but because I am a practicing Buddhist and I do read suttas and meditate, I have some knowledge of the teachings. So I can't help but think about this stuff, and that's when fear and dread sets in real heavy.

What can a beginner like me do to combat this?

Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

:anjali:
Dhammakid

Hi Dhammakid,

What ceases to exist is what never existed in the first place - 'I' or the selfhood of 'this' or 'that', the fear of death is the death of (the notion of) 'I', nothing else. In place of the delusion of 'self' is clarity, a seeing 'As Is'. A seeing that does not cherish the notion of 'seer', 'seen' or process of 'seeing'. A 'hearing' that does not cherish the notions of 'hearer'', 'heard', or 'hearing' etc. These are the conditions that cease to be.

The inclusion of the notion of an 'I' who sees, hears, speaks, thinks, acts, tastes, etc is delusion, a fiction of the mind. In order to experience this first-hand all that needs be done is to drop all notions. Also, when practicing in this way no concept should be held of a 'seeing' that differs from 'hearing', 'tasting' etc.

Best wishes

k
Just a view - nothing more...
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Aug 18, 2009 12:45 pm

Dhammakid wrote:What can a beginner like me do to combat this?


A common question and concern not just for beginners, but also many who have been studying and practicing for many years.

For now, to put your mind at ease, I would consider Bhikkhu Thanissaro's view on this. It is somewhat controversial, because some consider it to be bordering on eternalism.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... index.html

The Mind Like Fire Unbound suggests that Nibbana is not annhilation, but rather freedom from craving and that the fire can continue in some subtle way, unbound, without fuel. After we get enlightenment, we can see for ourselves, if Bhikkhu Thanissaro has it right, but for now you could use his interpretation if they help.
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:05 am

appicchato wrote:Most excellent reply Paul... :thumbsup:


Thank you for the positive feedback, bhante.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby Jechbi » Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:41 am

apropos to this discussion ...
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby Guy » Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:57 am

Hi Dhammakid,

I am a beginner too, so my advice is probably overly simplistic and possibly not even the right approach. I sometimes have the same kind of doubts as you have described and I think there's nothing wrong with thinking about these things unless the doubt stops us from practicing. What I try to do when I catch myself speculating about what is nibbana, what is pari-nibbana, what will be if/when "I" arrive at such states, etc. etc... is to bring my mind back to the present moment. If these doubts arise during meditation I just give my mind the gentle reminder "I am doubting, this is a hindrance, just watching the breath is good enough". If the thoughts arise at other times whenI am not meditating then I try to take a pragmatic approach - are the thoughts I am having going to lead to a better understanding of the Dhamma and enhance my practice or will they serve as a distraction? Maybe thinking about nibbana and pari-nibbana every now and then is a nice reminder that there is a way out of suffering which serves to encourage us to bring some focus and a sense of purpose to our practice in the here and now - then it's probably not such a bad thing. On the other hand if we start to become obsessed by thinking about what the states of nibbana and pari-nibbana are or might be before we get there then that will probably be a big roadblock for us.

If this approach is wrong in any way, I would appreciate any feedback from some of the more experienced practitioners.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:54 am

we cannot know as beginners what nibbana is. Atleast if we know the successive bliss of arupa jhanas we might get a sense of what lies beyond the 8th jhana and why that is desirable. So leaving aside what happens after death (since we dont know for sure anyway) we might consider what happens if we were enlightened and alive:

"I teach the Dhamma for the abandoning of the gross acquisition of a self, such that, when you practice it, defiling mental qualities will be abandoned, bright mental qualities will grow, and you will enter & remain in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for yourself in the here & now. If the thought should occur to you that, when defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, one's abiding is stressful/painful, you should not see it in that way. When defiling mental qualities are abandoned and bright mental qualities have grown, and one enters & remains in the culmination & abundance of discernment, having known & realized it for oneself in the here & now, there is joy, rapture, serenity, mindfulness, alertness, and a pleasant/happy abiding.

Not a bad place to be is it?

As you grow in the dhamma, as you explore more understand more all these doubts will fall away. Have you not yet seen how unsatisfactory and meaningless life is? Why do you want to prolong it and have it repeatedly millions and billions of times doing the same thing over and over again?

with metta
With Metta

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Re: Parinibbana, and doubts.

Postby Dhammakid » Wed Aug 19, 2009 2:01 pm

Some really great stuff here. Thanks everyone. The links and suttas are very helpful and it has put my mind at ease, at least for now.

I think what helps me a lot is realizing that NIbbana is unconditioned, meaning it couldn't be nihilism or annihilation because only conditioned things can be annihilated. That makes a lot of sense to me.

This clinging to a self and craving for becoming is so deeply rooted. Maybe i underestimated it. Back to the cushion!

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