Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

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Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby Seeker99 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:16 pm

I came across this while surfing,

"... One of these is Jeffrey Rubin, author of Psychotherapy and Buddhism. Claiming Kornfield as an authority (89), Rubin moves the agenda forward by examining the claims made about Enlightenment by Theravâda Buddhism. In a chapter titled "The emperor of enlightenment may have no clothes," Rubin says: "In this chapter, I shall challenge certain foundational assumptions of the Theravadin Buddhist conception of Enlightenment" (83).

Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87).

... psychological conditioning from the past that inevitably warps personality cannot be completely eradicated and that there is no conflict-free stage of human life in which the mind is permanently purified of conflict. This is consistent with psychoanalytic insights about the essential nontransparency of the human mind; that is, the inevitability of unconsciousness and self-deception.

For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future. From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90)."

Any thoughts on this?
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby cooran » Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:30 pm

Hello Seeker99,

Maybe read this, and let us know what you think?

Bhikkhu Pesala - What is Nibbāna?
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Nib ... bbana.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:49 pm

For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future.

This makes no sense; if there is no root, how can the tree grow back?

Mainly he seems to be taking lessons learned from examining regular people, uninstructed worldlings, and extrapolating that as a universal truth. Of course self-delusion, greed, lust, and anger are going to be "inevitable aspects of human life" when you're a psychologist working with people from the western world. Your findings don't matter unless you can actually show that those things are actually required for cognitive function.

This reminds me of the scientists who said that no one could survive at the higher elevations of Mount Everest because the air was too thin; when people reported that Sherpas were doing it all the time, the scientists wrote it off because the people around them, who were used to living at a low elevation, couldn't do it. Their model of what was essential came solely from observation of the people who could never be expected to break out of that model. Do you see how that might be a problem? The same flaw in methodology is coming into play here. I'd encourage this man to observe those on the Buddha's path, the spiritual masters that can be found all across the globe, and then see how essential greed, hatred, and delusion really are.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby vinasp » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:22 pm

Hi Seeker99,

Is nibbana achievable, psychologically?

Yes it is, but the state attained may be very different from some people's exaggerated ideas of it.

Quote: "Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion."

Which, according to psychoanalytic thinking, would be impossible. Part of the problem
here is that the meaning of these terms is determined by their use in context. The term
'moha' (delusion), for example, is a certain kind of delusion. So its elimination does
not result in a person who can never be mistaken about facts pertaining to the external world.

Rubin is partially correct in that nibbana is not an eternal state of perfection, but
it is a profound transformation. Much, but not all, conditioning from the past is eliminated.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby ground » Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:31 am

Seeker99 wrote:Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87).

This may be true from a Theravadan perspective if the concept of "purifying the mind" is Theravadan.

Seeker99 wrote:From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90)."

Any thoughts on this?

This may be true from a psychoanalytic perspective. :sage:
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:26 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future.

This makes no sense; if there is no root, how can the tree grow back?

Mainly he seems to be taking lessons learned from examining regular people, uninstructed worldlings, and extrapolating that as a universal truth. Of course self-delusion, greed, lust, and anger are going to be "inevitable aspects of human life" when you're a psychologist working with people from the western world. Your findings don't matter unless you can actually show that those things are actually required for cognitive function.

This reminds me of the scientists who said that no one could survive at the higher elevations of Mount Everest because the air was too thin; when people reported that Sherpas were doing it all the time, the scientists wrote it off because the people around them, who were used to living at a low elevation, couldn't do it. Their model of what was essential came solely from observation of the people who could never be expected to break out of that model. Do you see how that might be a problem? The same flaw in methodology is coming into play here. I'd encourage this man to observe those on the Buddha's path, the spiritual masters that can be found all across the globe, and then see how essential greed, hatred, and delusion really are.


Exactly. The writer is using the plight of the puthujjana as the laboratory for understanding Nibbāna.

Nibbāna is not a state “…beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life …”, rather, liberation is un-prompted release from the falsehood of greed, antipathy and delusion (= mere conceptual reflex), where one no longer has an agenda or a dog in that fight.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby Seeker99 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:34 pm

vinasp wrote:
Rubin is partially correct in that nibbana is not an eternal state of perfection, but
it is a profound transformation. Much, but not all, conditioning from the past is eliminated.



Hi Vincent,

Thanks for your reply.

I'm about to conclude in agreement with your understanding that nibbana is a transformation and a realization, not a state of perfection.

The way I understood before was that nibbana is a result of the permanent destruction of the 3 poisons which will not arise ever again, just like what happened to the Buddha supposedly, not at his death but when he attained enlightenment and he lived the rest of his life without experiencing the arising of the 3 poisons ever again.

I have never questioned before the actual mechanics of it though. The arising of the 3 poisons is no doubt a mental function and how and under what condition the brain stops doing it?

It's merely an intellectual curiosity for me. I believe someone actually proved mathematically that reincarnation isn't impossible when challenged with the fact that the world population has been growing exponentially. I was just curious if there's at least some scientific or logical explanation for the possibility of nibbana in a human brain, regardless how unlikely the possibility may sound like.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby SarathW » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:30 am

Seeker99 wrote:I came across this while surfing,

"... One of these is Jeffrey Rubin, author of Psychotherapy and Buddhism. Claiming Kornfield as an authority (89), Rubin moves the agenda forward by examining the claims made about Enlightenment by Theravâda Buddhism. In a chapter titled "The emperor of enlightenment may have no clothes," Rubin says: "In this chapter, I shall challenge certain foundational assumptions of the Theravadin Buddhist conception of Enlightenment" (83).

Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87).

... psychological conditioning from the past that inevitably warps personality cannot be completely eradicated and that there is no conflict-free stage of human life in which the mind is permanently purified of conflict. This is consistent with psychoanalytic insights about the essential nontransparency of the human mind; that is, the inevitability of unconsciousness and self-deception.

For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future. From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90)."

Any thoughts on this?



Hi Seeker 99
The way I understand Nirvana is this.
If you ask me whether I get angry I would say yes.
If you ask me whether there are times that I am not angry, I would say yes.
Anger is a crated state while non anger is uncreated, so is Nirvana
Anger is a worldly (Lokiya) act and non anger is a super mundane act (Alokiya)
Take five threads and make a knot. You can feel and see the knot. Then undo the knot. You cannot see or feel the unknot. Because knot is a created stage undoing the knot is an uncreated stage. Psychological experience you have is only the knowledge that there is no knot.
So Arahant will experience the state of not having anger and attachment. When you keep Nirvana (uncrated) as your object you will not have any link for rebirth. This knowledge is in the Bhavanga consciousness and not in your brain.
I hope this may help you. Metta
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby vinasp » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:28 am

Hi seeker99,

Quote: "I have never questioned before the actual mechanics of it though. The arising of the 3 poisons is no doubt a mental function and how and under what condition the brain stops doing it?"

The ordinary man constructs a self, and continually generates this construction. The
result is suffering. This construction has its origin in a set of cognitive errors.

By correcting these cognitive errors the constructed self is de-constructed and
suffering ceases.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby equilibrium » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:34 pm

Seeker99 wrote:"... One of these is Jeffrey Rubin, author of Psychotherapy and Buddhism. Claiming Kornfield as an authority (89), Rubin moves the agenda forward by examining the claims made about Enlightenment by Theravâda Buddhism. In a chapter titled "The emperor of enlightenment may have no clothes," Rubin says: "In this chapter, I shall challenge certain foundational assumptions of the Theravadin Buddhist conception of Enlightenment" (83).

So he actually knows what enlightenment is then?

Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87).

So he is using the word "assume" so therefore he does not know what it is exactly does he?

... psychological conditioning from the past that inevitably warps personality cannot be completely eradicated and that there is no conflict-free stage of human life in which the mind is permanently purified of conflict. This is consistent with psychoanalytic insights about the essential nontransparency of the human mind; that is, the inevitability of unconsciousness and self-deception.

What is psychoanalytic insights?.....most likely to be his own conclusions, his understanding and his imaginations and false views.

For an individual to be enlightened, they would have to be certain that they were completely awake without any trace of unconsciousness or delusion. Even if that existed in the present, it is not clear to me how one could know for certain that would never change in the future. From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90)."

Does he actually know what "awake" means?.....
He noted "It is not clear to me".....so clearly, he does not know.
He noted "Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life".....he is still attached and clinging to human life, therefore he does not know.
He concludes "ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal".....yes, this is correct to his own personal understanding or so called psychoanalytic perspective.....again reinforcing his own understanding and limitation.....clearly, he does not know what "Enlightenment" is.

He is a man who believes in what he sees to be true but does not understand that he does not understand.....a man trapped in his own believes and views.....there is a difference between reading what Enlightenment is and knowing what it is.....one cannot read then know what it is, it is to be experienced and known.....if one cannot reach it it doesn't mean it doesn't exist, one should try not to project own personal views or interpretations because these are nothing but false views / delusions.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby ignobleone » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:15 pm

cooran wrote:Hello Seeker99,

Maybe read this, and let us know what you think?

Bhikkhu Pesala - What is Nibbāna?
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Nib ... bbana.html

with metta
Chris

I'd suggest to not rely solely on sutta commentary, instead read also the suttas. Some (not all) commentaries are misleading for some (not all) topics since they're not consistent with the suttas. The link, which is apparently based on Milinda Panha (Nagasena is mentioned there,) is an example.

At least a couple of points about Nibbana from the link is misleading:
1. The first sentence of the preface says: "Nibbāna is extremely subtle and hard to describe."
It's a common tone we find in Theravada Buddhist communities, which indicates that many people don't understand what Nibbana technically is. Hard to describe, really?? The suttas describe it in a pretty simple and clear way. Nibbana = Nirodha Samapati (borrowing a commentary term) to say it briefly.
2. Nibbana is cessation of craving. What we can find in the suttas is the cessation of perception and feeling, not cessation of craving.

@Seeker99, Nibbana is differentiated in two types, i.e. Nibbana with remains/trace (attained while the person is still alive, he emerges from Nibbana to daily life activity) and Nibbana without remains/trace (attained after the person dies).
Regarding the question on the title, of course Nibbana is achievable psychologically. Btw, it's more to psychological than physical.
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Re: Is Nirvana (or Nibbana) achievable, psychologically?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:50 pm

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