Nirvana

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Nirvana

Postby David_2010 » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:12 am

This is only my second post, other than my introduction, but, I've recently started to investigate Buddhism and really like a lot of the practices and ideas within it, but, I'm a bit confused by something, what is Nirvana?, like, I know it's freedom from suffering, but, is it just freedom in this life, then you die, and that's it, nothing survives, or, do you (in some sense) survive outside of time and space, which I think I've seen stated about Nirvana.

On another forum I'm on, there was someone who's from a Tibetan background who explained it to me this way, and I'm just paraphrasing here, so, I may explain it wrong, but, she said, you're, basically, still you, but, you're free of all your hangups, like you've been slowed down that you don't care about whether you're you or not (I'm probably explaining it wrong), and you're free of all suffering, is that it?. Like would the historical Buddha (the one that, basically, founded Buddhism), still exist in some form somewhere?, I know there's the concept of No Self, and it's different to the Hindu, Christian and other religious views of eternal soul, but, I'd like any help understanding it a bit more.

Thanks for any help.

David.
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Re: Nirvana

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:19 am

Greetings David,

There's a nice little study guide containing sutta extracts to be found at Access To Insight.

Nibbana Study Guide (A2I)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... bbana.html

I'd recommend starting there... then move on to...

Where Is The Buddha? by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... Buddha.pdf

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: Nirvana

Postby David_2010 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:02 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings David,

There's a nice little study guide containing sutta extracts to be found at Access To Insight.

Nibbana Study Guide (A2I)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... bbana.html

I'd recommend starting there... then move on to...

Where Is The Buddha? by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... Buddha.pdf

Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks very much for those links :).

David.
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Re: Nirvana

Postby Stephen » Mon Mar 15, 2010 2:14 am

One who has achieved Nibbana has eradicated all craving, aversion and delusion by uprooting ignorance. They live in complete and utter harmony with the true nature of all phenomena (with reality) and have no further desire for sense pleasures, for re-becoming or for non-existence.

Supposedly this also means the end of rebirths, of Samsara, but these concepts are viewed differently by different people. Whenever in doubt, take what is self-evident where applicable and what you have realized for yourself. What you do not understand yet... wait and see.
The "self", which is a construct of the mind, is non-self. It is not us, and we are not it. This self blinds us to reality; it is our Mara, our Satan, our Hades. Cast it out and behold the path to freedom.
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Re: Nirvana

Postby Jason » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:57 pm

David,

David_2010 wrote:This is only my second post, other than my introduction, but, I've recently started to investigate Buddhism and really like a lot of the practices and ideas within it, but, I'm a bit confused by something, what is Nirvana?, like, I know it's freedom from suffering, but, is it just freedom in this life, then you die, and that's it, nothing survives, or, do you (in some sense) survive outside of time and space, which I think I've seen stated about Nirvana.

On another forum I'm on, there was someone who's from a Tibetan background who explained it to me this way, and I'm just paraphrasing here, so, I may explain it wrong, but, she said, you're, basically, still you, but, you're free of all your hangups, like you've been slowed down that you don't care about whether you're you or not (I'm probably explaining it wrong), and you're free of all suffering, is that it?. Like would the historical Buddha (the one that, basically, founded Buddhism), still exist in some form somewhere?, I know there's the concept of No Self, and it's different to the Hindu, Christian and other religious views of eternal soul, but, I'd like any help understanding it a bit more.


In the suttas, nibbana (Skt. nirvana) is said to be the end of suffering, the extinction of craving (AN 10.60), the extinguishing of greed, hatred and delusion (SN 38.1) and the highest bliss/happiness (Dhp 203-4). Beyond that, it's open to interpretation.

In one sense, one could say that samsara is the antithesis of nibbana. Pragmatically speaking, samsara, literally "wandering on," is the potential for the arising of human [mental] suffering, while nibbana, literally, "extinguishing," is the cessation of that potential. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it, "Samsara is a process of creating places, even whole worlds, (this is called becoming) and then wandering through them (this is called birth). Nirvana is the end of this process." Nirvana is "realized only when the mind stops defining itself in terms of place ... it's realized through unestablished consciousness."

As for nibbana being the annihilation or cessation of consciousness after death, that's how some people interpret the term anupadises-nibbana-dhatu (nibbana element with no fuel remaining) in Iti 44 — as well as the line, "With the cessation of [the aggregate of] consciousness each is here brought to an end" from DN 11 — but that's certainly not how it's understood by everyone.

In The Mind Like Fire Unbound, for example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes that, "This experience of the goal — absolutely unlimited freedom, beyond classification and exclusive of all else — is termed the elemental nibbana property with no 'fuel' remaining (anupadisesa-nibbana-dhatu)." He also points to the term vinnanam-anidassanam (consciousness without feature) in DN 11, and notes that this consciousness, not "partaking the allness of the all," doesn't come under the aggregate of consciousness because it stands outside of space and time. As such, it is a type of awareness that is "not harmed by death." This is a very controversial view, however, and not one supported by Theravadin orthodoxy.

In terms of the aggregate of consciousness (vinnana-khandha), it's clear that consciousness is a dependently existing phenomena. Sensory consciousness can only arise with the presence of the appropriate sense organ and its corresponding object of reference. The process of seeing, for example, is described as a conditional process where "dependent on eye and visible forms, eye-consciousness arises" (SN 12.43). Without the presence of the appropriate sense organ (e.g., the eye) or the corresponding object of reference (e.g., rock), sensory-consciousness (e.g., eye-consciousness) can't arise. So none of the six forms of sensory consciousness can stand on its own without the corresponding stimulus to make it manifest or arise.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of sutta passages which could seem to suggest that there's a form of consciousness that doesn't come under the aggregate of consciousness. For example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu states in a note to his translation of MN 109:

    One form of consciousness apparently does not come under the aggregate of consciousness. This type of consciousness is termed vinnanam anidassanam — consciousness without a surface, or consciousness without feature. MN 49 says specifically that this consciousness does not partake of the "allness of the all," the "all" being conterminous with the five aggregates. The standard definition of the aggregate of consciousness states that this aggregate includes all consciousness, "past, present, or future... near or far." However, because vinnanam anidassanam stands outside of space and time it would not be covered by these terms. Similarly, where SN 22.97 says that no consciousness is eternal, "eternal" is a concept that applies only within the dimension of time, and thus would not apply to this form of consciousness.

There are those in academia who also acknowledge this possibility. Peter Harvey, professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland, writes in his Introduction to Buddhism:

    Nevertheless, certain passages in the Suttas hint that Nibbana may be a radically transformed state of consciousness (vinnana):

      The consciousness in which nothing can be made manifest (like space), endless, accessible from all sides (or: wholly radiant):
      Here it is that solidity, cohesion, heat and motion have no footing,
      Here long and short, coarse and fine, foul and lovely (have no footing),
      Here it is that mind (nama) and body (rupa) stop without remainder:
      By the stopping of consciousness, (all) this stops here. (D.I.223)

    Like Ud.80, above, this describes a state beyond the four physical elements, where mind-and-body are transcended. As the heart of Conditioned Arising is the mutual conditioning of consciousness and mind-and-body, this state is where this interaction ceases: from the stopping of consciousness, mind-and-body stops. Consciousness is not non-existent when it stops, however; for it is said to be non-manifestive and endless. One passage on the stopping (nirodha) of the nidana of consciousness (S.III.54-5) says that there is no longer any object (arammana) or support (patittha) for consciousness; consciousness is thus 'unsupported' (apatitthita) and free of constructing activities, so that it is released, steadfast, content, undisturbed, and attains Nibbana. This description, of a 'stopped' consciousness which is unsupported by any mental object, where mind-and-body are transcended, seems to accord well with the Ud.80 description of Nibbana itself.

    To say that Nibbana is unconditioned, objectless consciousness indicates something of its nature, but it does not penetrate far into its mystery. For it seems impossible to imagine what awareness devoid of any object would be like. As regards the 'stopping' of mind-and-body, as a state occurring during life, this is perhaps to be understood as one where all mental processes (including ordinary consciousness) temporarily cease, and the matter of the body is seen as so ephemeral as not to signify a 'body'. A passage at M. I.329-30 which parallels D.I.223 says that the non-manifestive consciousness 'is not reached by the solidness of solidity, by the cohesiveness of cohesion...'. The analysis of Nibbana as objectless consciousness, though, is the author's own interpretation. Theravadin tradition sees Nibbana as 'objectless' (Dhs.I408), but regards 'consciousness' as always having an object. D.I.223 is thus interpreted as concerning NIbbana as to-be-known-by-consciousness: Nibbana is itself the object of the Arahat's consciousness (Pati.II.I43-5).

And while the view that there's a type of consciousness that lies outside of space and time, and therefore, outside the consciousness-aggregate altogether, isn't a view that's supported by the "classical" Theravada Tradition in which the entire Tipitaka and its commentaries are considered authoritative, I think the imagery of consciousness that "does not land or increase" mentioned in SN 12.64 does seem to support such a possibility, even if some might say that comparing this imagery of consciousness that "does not land or grow" to the consciousness of nibbana is taking it out of context. At least I think so.

The commentaries, on the other hand, gloss the term vinnanam anidassanam in a way that denies such a possibility. Using the Kevatta Sutta (DN 11), for example, Suan Lu Zaw, a Burmese lay-teacher of Pali and Abhidhamma, explains that according the the Kevatta Sutta Atthakatha [DN 11 commentary], vinnanam does not refer to the usual meaning of "consciousness" here, but instead defines it as, "There, to be known specifically, so (it is) "vinnanam." This is the name of Nibbana." He also explains that the following line of DN 11, "Here (in Nibbana), nama as well as rupa cease without remainder. By ceasing of consciousness, nama as well as rupa ceases here" illustrates this point. He states that, "Nibbana does not become a sort of consciousness just because one of the Pali names happens to be vinnanam."

He concludes by using a quote from a section of the Dhammapada Attakatha [Dhammapada commentary], which apparently states that there is no consciousness component in parinibbana after the death of an arahant. This, of course, is in direct contrast to Thanissaro Bhikkhu's note to this particular sutta, which suggests that this term refers to a consciousness that lies outside of space and time, and therefore, outside the consciousness-aggregate altogether.

Basically, what this controversy seems to boil down to is the experience of nibbana and the nature of that experience, especially after death. The general tendency is to either describe nibbana as the ending of all consciousness, all awareness, or in other words, to stress the cessation aspect of nibbana, or to describe nibbana as a state of purified awareness, "consciousness without feature," or in other words, to stress the transcendent aspect of nibbana. The "classical" Theravada Tradition favors the former view of nibbana while others, especially some within the Thai Forest Tradition, favor the latter.

As for which view is right, however, I can't say. Perhaps consciousness is purely a conditional phenomenon with nothing else underlying it. Perhaps consciousness is something that is fundamental to the basic structure of the universe. Perhaps there is a separate type of consciousness that doesn't partake of any of the six senses or their objects. Who knows, perhaps none of them are right. For me, the jury is still out on this one, especially since I can see how both views — i.e., the cessation of consciousness vs. an awareness untouched by death — seem to fall into the extremes of annihilationism and eternalism. Nevertheless, both have support in the suttas, as well as sophisticated arguments as to why their view don't fall into either extreme.

I used to lean towards the classical position that all consciousness ceases at death, but now I tend to lean more towards the view that there is a type of consciousness that lies outside of space and time. I think the imagery of consciousness that "does not land or increase" mentioned in SN 12.64 does support such a possibility, as does various other passages throughout the Canon. My position on this may change again, but for now I simply find the latter to be more interesting, as well as motivating as far as my practice is concerned.

Jason
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Nirvana

Postby char101 » Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:31 pm

Jason wrote:I used to lean towards the classical position that all consciousness ceases at death, but now I tend to lean more towards the view that there is a type of consciousness that lies outside of space and time. I think the imagery of consciousness that "does not land or increase" mentioned in SN 12.64 does support such a possibility, as does various other passages throughout the Canon. My position on this may change again, but for now I simply find the latter to be more interesting, as well as motivating as far as my practice is concerned.


I believe that is to be taken literally, where consciousness does not have a place to land, and not a type of consciousness that does not land.

Consciousness does not cease at death. Metaphysically consciousness arise and cease at any moment, but I think you mean if all consciousness cease at parinibbana.

I believe there is something left after parinibbana, something which does not change, does not have a start nor and end, and which is unconditioned, i.e. vijja (the kind of knowledge that frees someone from samsara). At one end there is avijja which produces samsara, it is only logical to take the other end as vijja. The person (body and mind) may be gone, but the knowledge he has realized will stay.
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Re: Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:03 pm

Great post Jason! It helpsme a lot to understand some things that i didnt get. I mean, i still dont understand what Nibbana is lol, but at least i know now that there are 2 main views about Nibbana and state of consciousness.
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Re: Nirvana

Postby pegembara » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:59 am

As for which view is right, however, I can't say. Perhaps consciousness is purely a conditional phenomenon with nothing else underlying it. Perhaps consciousness is something that is fundamental to the basic structure of the universe. Perhaps there is a separate type of consciousness that doesn't partake of any of the six senses or their objects. Who knows, perhaps none of them are right. For me, the jury is still out on this one, especially since I can see how both views — i.e., the cessation of consciousness vs. an awareness untouched by death — seem to fall into the extremes of annihilationism and eternalism. Nevertheless, both have support in the suttas, as well as sophisticated arguments as to why their view don't fall into either extreme.



Here are other passages that suggest this consciousness is not the vinnana of the namarupa.

"If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



"And then, monks, the Bodhisattva thought, "With what being present, does aging and death occur? What conditions aging and death?" And then, monks, as a result of wisdom born of profound consideration the realization dawned on him, "Birth being present, aging and death occurs, birth conditions aging and death."

"Then he thought, "What conditions birth?" And the realization dawned on him, "Becoming conditions birth"… "What conditions becoming?"… "Clinging conditions becoming."… "Craving Conditions clinging"… "Feeling conditions craving."… "Contact conditions feeling"… "The Six sense Bases condition contact"… "Mind and body condition the six sense bases"… "Consciousness conditions mind and body"… And then the Bodhisattva Vipassi thought, "With what being present does consciousness occur? What conditions consciousness?" And then, as a result of the wisdom born profound consideration, the realization dawned on him, "Mind and body conditions consciousness’."

"Then, monks, the Bodhisattva Vipassi thought, "This consciousness turns back at mind and body, it does not go any further. To this extent there is birth and decay, there is death and falling into other states and being reborn, namely mind - and- body conditions consciousness and consciousness conditions mind - and - body, mind - and - body conditions the six sense bases, the six sense bases conditions contact, contact conditions feeling, feeling conditions craving, craving conditions clinging, clinging conditions becoming, becoming conditions birth, birth conditions aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and distress. And thus this whole mass of sufferings takes its origin". And at the thought, "Origin, origin," there arose in the Bodhisattva Vipassi, with insight into things never realized before, knowledge, wisdom, awareness, and light.

http://www.buddhasutra.com/files/mahapadana_sutta.htm


According to Bh Nanananda even the concept of death is impermanent.

That is why we have pointed out that the concepts of birth, decay-and-death are of
the nature of fading away. That is also why decay-and-death have been described as
impermanent, made up, dependently arisen, of a nature to wither away, pass away,
fade away and cease: Aniccam sankhatam pañiccasamuppannam khayadhammam
vayadhammam virāgadhammam nirodhadhammam.

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