Hello Lazy_eye, all,
Alex, I have some objections for you to field...
1) You are dealing only with what exists within the set Samsara = X(a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k,l). Even if all the components in the set, together with the set itself, are rendered null, this tells us nothing (literally!) about any possible Y or Z that might be operative beyond the set. Since we ourselves, and our language and terminology, exist within the set, we can say nothing about it. We thus cannot say whether nibbana=oblivion, as you state here. The only way to resolve the matter would be through direct realization.
Yes you are right in a certain way. I have also read and studied the possibility (that I later rejected) that when the Buddha has said ABCDEF is not Self, it logically doesn't exclude the possibility that X could be a Self. However when something totally covers all the range of experience, then it is possible to make such justifications. For example the 5 aggregates is the all range of experience by aggregate sphere, and so on with others. Without them, no experience is possible. No experience should NOT be made into an experience called "no experience".
None of us have any direct realization of Parinibbana OR materialist oblivion so we can only make guesses based on the somewhat conflicting references in the suttas, commentaries and advice from our teachers.
But short lasting experiences that approximate those states, at least from the mental side can happen, and it is possible to extrapolate the personal experiences + what suttas tell + wise reflection. I had very interesting experiences of blanking/passing out. When consciousness ceases, there is no experience of "blackness" or "time/timelessness". So it is wrong to assume that materialistic or Parinibbana is falling into some new experience, such as black void. None of this can occur without consciousness.
2) The Buddha and many teachers after him, including every one of the sources linked to by Cooran earlier in this thread, refer to nibbana not only as a subtractive process (as you do) but also in terms which involve qualia. By definition, qualia imply some type of awareness. We do not say that a concrete divider or a dead tree stump is "at ease", "happy", "liberated" or "in a state of peaceful coolness", unless we are trying to be cute.
These passages dealing with ALIVE ARAHANT (or to say precisely with aggregates still remaining)? Because passages dealing with what happens when "the body breaks up" is clear. Mere bodily remains, and even they turn to dust. No new experience.
3) The concepts (or non-concepts, if you like) "nibbana" and "oblivion" belong to conflicting philosophical systems and their meaning has to be understood within the context of their respective paradigms. For a Buddhist to start talking about suicide as the path to nothingness is like Richard Dawkins talking about nibbana. Different animals. As a follower of the Buddha you don't accept the the materialist paradigm, so to refer to the dhammic consequences of "there only being one life" is a logical absurdity from either perspective. It's mixing the premises of one system with the conclusions of another, creating a philosophical monster.
Right. I don't accept one life only belief. If I did, then suicide would be the most rational thing to eventually do. But as for the death of An Arahant (not a worldling or sekhas, who are still subject to rebirth) it is not experientially different from atheistic anihhilation in experience. The only difference is how it is interpreted. The atheists hold different and wrong beliefs (they may believe in a Self and that life is good, thus death is bad).
4) Although the Buddha rejected both annihilationism and eternalism, he preferred eternalism as the lesser of evils because of its potential to inspire the holy life (see here
). Since the Middle Way is hard to understand and we invariably lean towards one of the two poles, it is better to lean towards eternalism. Does your equation of nibbana with suicidal oblivion promote the undertaking of the holy life?
Actually the highest of outside views was the belief in anihhilation because it was closer to non-lust as opposed to eternalism which was viewed as being close to lust. I think that what you've talked about moral & ontological nihilism which the Buddha, and I, consider to be very wrong.
 "The supreme view-point external [to the Dhamma]
is this: 'I should not be; it should not occur to me; I will not be; it will not occur to me.'
Of one with this view it may be expected that '[the perception of] unloathsomeness of becoming will not occur to him, and [the perception of] loathsomeness of the cessation of becoming will not occur to him.' And there are beings who have this view. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
The difference between that supreme view-point external to the Dhamma is the anatta, kamma and possibly few other teachings. But please not as to what kind of superior external view is endorsed and why it was endorsed by the Buddha. It leans closer to complete cessation and relinquishment, then the belief in eternal existence.