Nibbana = universal consciousness?

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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:38 pm

It looks like it's been a very interesting discussion, but at this point it would be bewildering to try and trace the argument back to its source. Wondering if someone could quickly clarify:

-- is it that some Mahayana schools posit a "permanent vinnana lighting the cosmos" aka universal consciousness, and Theravada doesn't teach such a thing/

-- Is it that no Buddhist school teaches such a thing, but some variants of Mahayana present nirvana in "positive" terms which seem to suggest it?

-- is it that Thanissario Bhikkhu seems at times to suggest such a concept?

-- None of the above/something else?

Just to make an uninformed layman's observation, what I see is that Mahayana sutras such as the Avatamsaka do seem to present Buddhahood as a sort of abiding transcendent consciousness -- but I've been advised that this is illusory and only appears that way from the standpoint of beings in samsara.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:44 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:It looks like it's been a very interesting discussion, but at this point it would be bewildering to try and trace the argument back to its source. Wondering if someone could quickly clarify:

-- is it that some Mahayana schools posit a "permanent vinnana lighting the cosmos" aka universal consciousness, and Theravada doesn't teach such a thing/

-- Is it that no Buddhist school teaches such a thing, but some variants of Mahayana present nirvana in "positive" terms which seem to suggest it?

-- is it that Thanissario Bhikkhu seems at times to suggest such a concept?

-- None of the above/something else?

Just to make an uninformed layman's observation, what I see is that Mahayana sutras such as the Avatamsaka do seem to present Buddhahood as a sort of abiding transcendent consciousness -- but I've been advised that this is illusory and only appears that way from the standpoint of beings in samsara.

Often the source of eternalist views entering into discussions of the Buddhadhamma in contemporary discourse is some sort of contact with notions of a perennial philosophy. As for Buddhist traditions, the Indian commentarial sources generally maintain that all consciousnesses are impermanent and there is no such thing as an eternal, universal consciousness. As for the different Buddhist commentarial traditions take on nibbāna, see here.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby mogg » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:01 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
mogg wrote:The title of this thread is entirely incorrect.

This thread was split off from another discussion and titled by a moderator.

It's positing the question "Is Nibbana the same as universal consciousness?" right? To which I am saying no, the premise implied by the title is incorrect. Nibbana is not the same as universal consciousness (as taught in the suttas).
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:53 am

mogg wrote:Nibbana is not the same as universal consciousness (as taught in the suttas).

No, it isn't. Which is what I've said throughout.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:11 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:It looks like it's been a very interesting discussion, but at this point it would be bewildering to try and trace the argument back to its source. Wondering if someone could quickly clarify:

-- is it that some Mahayana schools posit a "permanent vinnana lighting the cosmos" aka universal consciousness, and Theravada doesn't teach such a thing/

-- Is it that no Buddhist school teaches such a thing, but some variants of Mahayana present nirvana in "positive" terms which seem to suggest it?

-- is it that Thanissario Bhikkhu seems at times to suggest such a concept?

-- None of the above/something else?

Just to make an uninformed layman's observation, what I see is that Mahayana sutras such as the Avatamsaka do seem to present Buddhahood as a sort of abiding transcendent consciousness -- but I've been advised that this is illusory and only appears that way from the standpoint of beings in samsara.

Often the source of eternalist views entering into discussions of the Buddhadhamma in contemporary discourse is some sort of contact with notions of a perennial philosophy. As for Buddhist traditions, the Indian commentarial sources generally maintain that all consciousnesses are impermanent and there is no such thing as an eternal, universal consciousness. As for the different Buddhist commentarial traditions take on nibbāna, see here.


Any interesting relevant takes on Nirvana Sutra in this context?
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby mogg » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:20 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
mogg wrote:Nibbana is not the same as universal consciousness (as taught in the suttas).

No, it isn't. Which is what I've said throughout.

I wouldn't expect anything less Geoff. Your website is excellent btw.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:34 pm

Dan74 wrote:Any interesting relevant takes on Nirvana Sutra in this context?

Bhāviveka's Tarkajvālā addresses the notions of permanence, etc., contained in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra:

    [T]he claim that Tathāgata is eternal (nitya) means that the Tathāgata's understanding (abhisamaya) is eternal, and that the Tathāgata is identical to this understanding. It does not mean, however, that [the Tathāgata] does not change. Someone who wants to understand [this point] in more detail, should consult the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. The word "eternal" can refer to something that functions as a continuum (santāna) but is dissolved at every moment, like a river that constantly flows or a fire that constantly burns. Thus [the teaching that the Buddha is eternal] does not contradict the statement that all conditioned states are impermanent (anitya).

And the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is clear that the tathāgatagarbha is taught with the intention of bringing onto the path followers of ātmavāda philosophies who hold views of a self. Therefore, it's a provisional, not definitive, teaching:

    O Mahāmati, the tathāgatas thus teach the garbha in so far as they teach the tathāgatagarbha in order to attract those who are attached to the heterodox ātmavāda. How can people whose minds fall into the conceptual theory bearing on an unreal self (abhūtātmavikalpa) attain quickly the complete awakening in the supreme and exact sambodhi, possessing a mind comprised in the domain of the three gateways of emancipation? O Mahāmati, it is because of this that the tathāgatas teach the tathāgatagarbha. O Mahāmati, with a view to casting aside the heterodox theory, you must treat the tathāgatagarbha as not self.

There's no need to take the tathāgatagarbha teachings literally. After all, the term "tathāgatagarbha " is itself a metaphorical figure of speech.

Lazy_eye wrote:Just to make an uninformed layman's observation, what I see is that Mahayana sutras such as the Avatamsaka do seem to present Buddhahood as a sort of abiding transcendent consciousness -- but I've been advised that this is illusory and only appears that way from the standpoint of beings in samsara.

Bhāviveka's Tarkajvālā:

    To say that there is "pervasion by [the essence of] the Tathāgata" means that [the Tathāgata's] knowledge encompasses all objects of cognition, not that he is omnipresent like Viṣṇu.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:12 pm

    O Mahāmati, the tathāgatas thus teach the garbha in so far as they teach the tathāgatagarbha in order to attract those who are attached to the heterodox ātmavāda. How can people whose minds fall into the conceptual theory bearing on an unreal self (abhūtātmavikalpa) attain quickly the complete awakening in the supreme and exact sambodhi, possessing a mind comprised in the domain of the three gateways of emancipation? O Mahāmati, it is because of this that the tathāgatas teach the tathāgatagarbha. O Mahāmati, with a view to casting aside the heterodox theory, you must treat the tathāgatagarbha as not self.



Have read somewhere that this was explicitly a response to Hindu ascendancy during the Gupta Dynasty -- not so much an actual incorporation of Hindu belief, but rather an attempt to frame Buddhist teachings in Hindu-friendly terms. I.e. an Upaya.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby alan » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:53 pm

"Universal consciousness" is a western idea. We like the way it feels. But it has nothing to do with Buddhism!

Maybe the problem is books that attempt to bridge the gap and explain Buddhist or other ideas to the general public. They often pick words and concepts familiar to the reader. Unfortunately, this over-simplification is often taken as the absolute truth by those not thoughtful enough to enquire further.

Multiply that by a million books, and we have a lot of people with good intentions but poor understanding.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby EmptyShadow » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:22 am

The second level of unbinding, symbolized by a fire so totally out that its embers have grown cold, is what the arahant experiences after this life. All input from the senses cools away and he/she is totally freed from even the subtlest stresses and limitations of existence in space and time.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bbana.html
So an arahat can experience the freedom of the cessation of nama/rupa after parinibbana? How he can experience anything without conciousnes?

Also in the suttas it's said that nibanna is pleasent yet it's not felt.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Also the state of nirodha-samapatti according to definition is the temporary suspension of all consciousness and mental activity.
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/n_ ... apatti.htm

Then if there is no feeling, perception or consciousness then how a state of cessation is experienced as pleasent and why for example when we lose consciousness and after regaining it we can't say that it was pleasent or unpleasent or something else.
Is the expirience of cessation known with the ordinary consciousness after we leave such state or is it expirienced with some other way?
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby BlackBird » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:28 am

I have an inkling that any response a Theravadin might make to concepts of Mahayanist eternalism would be thwarted in their minds with the catch all concept they have of emptiness. 'You can say whatever you like, but that's still a relative truth and is ultimately empty, as is everything. :sage: '

But I only have my own experience of days sitting in my kuti talking to a former Vajrayana monk in Sri Lanka to go on, and he was some what of an eccentric, so I have no clue whether he respresents the general point of view.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby mogg » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:47 am

BlackBird wrote:I have an inkling that any response a Theravadin might make to concepts of Mahayanist eternalism would be thwarted in their minds with the catch all concept they have of emptiness. 'You can say whatever you like, but that's still a relative truth and is ultimately empty, as is everything. :sage: '

But I only have my own experience of days sitting in my kuti talking to a former Vajrayana monk in Sri Lanka to go on, and he was some what of an eccentric, so I have no clue whether he respresents the general point of view.

To me, the word 'emptiness' implies perception. You 'perceive' emptiness. At the end of the day, language breaks down when discussing this issue.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby BlackBird » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:02 am

mogg wrote:
BlackBird wrote:I have an inkling that any response a Theravadin might make to concepts of Mahayanist eternalism would be thwarted in their minds with the catch all concept they have of emptiness. 'You can say whatever you like, but that's still a relative truth and is ultimately empty, as is everything. :sage: '

But I only have my own experience of days sitting in my kuti talking to a former Vajrayana monk in Sri Lanka to go on, and he was some what of an eccentric, so I have no clue whether he respresents the general point of view.

To me, the word 'emptiness' implies perception. You 'perceive' emptiness. At the end of the day, language breaks down when discussing this issue.


Aha but you see my dear confused Theravadin, that 'implies' is empty, 'perception' is empty, and 'language breaking down' is also empty!
:rofl: ;)

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"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby mogg » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:13 am

BlackBird wrote:
mogg wrote:
BlackBird wrote:I have an inkling that any response a Theravadin might make to concepts of Mahayanist eternalism would be thwarted in their minds with the catch all concept they have of emptiness. 'You can say whatever you like, but that's still a relative truth and is ultimately empty, as is everything. :sage: '

But I only have my own experience of days sitting in my kuti talking to a former Vajrayana monk in Sri Lanka to go on, and he was some what of an eccentric, so I have no clue whether he respresents the general point of view.

To me, the word 'emptiness' implies perception. You 'perceive' emptiness. At the end of the day, language breaks down when discussing this issue.


Aha but you see my dear confused Theravadin, that 'implies' is empty, 'perception' is empty, and 'language breaking down' is also empty!
:rofl: ;)

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Jack

There's no head-exploding gif unfortunately :)
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:15 pm

EmptyShadow wrote:
The second level of unbinding, symbolized by a fire so totally out that its embers have grown cold, is what the arahant experiences after this life. All input from the senses cools away and he/she is totally freed from even the subtlest stresses and limitations of existence in space and time.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bbana.html
So an arahat can experience the freedom of the cessation of nama/rupa after parinibbana?

That seems to be Ven. Ṭhānissaro's opinion. Other people consider such an opinion a view of partial eternalism.

EmptyShadow wrote:Also in the suttas it's said that nibanna is pleasent yet it's not felt.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The sutta in question is subject to interpretation.

EmptyShadow wrote:Then if there is no feeling, perception or consciousness then how a state of cessation is experienced as pleasent and why for example when we lose consciousness and after regaining it we can't say that it was pleasent or unpleasent or something else.
Is the expirience of cessation known with the ordinary consciousness after we leave such state or is it expirienced with some other way?

Nibbāna is not the same as the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling. The four paths and fruitions are always conscious and percipient attainments.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby piotr » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:15 pm

Hi,

Ñāṇa wrote:Nibbāna is not the same as the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.


Yet it is called this way by the Buddha.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:44 pm

BlackBird wrote:I have an inkling that any response a Theravadin might make to concepts of Mahayanist eternalism would be thwarted in their minds with the catch all concept they have of emptiness. 'You can say whatever you like, but that's still a relative truth and is ultimately empty, as is everything. :sage: '

But I only have my own experience of days sitting in my kuti talking to a former Vajrayana monk in Sri Lanka to go on, and he was some what of an eccentric, so I have no clue whether he respresents the general point of view.

Emptiness doesn't mean anything goes. Functional things still function according to causes and conditions. Therefore, there is no negation of causal efficacy in terms of correct conventions. This is why it's possible to differentiate between correct conventions (tathyasaṃvṛti) based on appearances apprehended by clear sense faculties, on the one hand, and false conventions (mithyāsaṃvṛti) which occur due to impaired sense faculties or false philosophical speculation, on the other. Examples of the latter would include an experience of double vision due to impaired faculties, or positing an omnipotent creator god due to upholding a wrong view.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:46 pm

piotr wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Nibbāna is not the same as the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling.


Yet it is called this way by the Buddha.

Not all arahants are liberated both ways. Arahants liberated through discernment do not attain the formless attainments, and therefore do not attain the cessation of perception and feeling. Nevertheless, they have realized nibbāna and are fully liberated.
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby piotr » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:53 pm

Hi,

Ñāṇa wrote:Not all arahants are liberated both ways. Arahants liberated through discernment do not attain the formless attainments, and therefore do not attain the cessation of perception and feeling. Nevertheless, they have realized nibbāna and are fully liberated.


Do you know where from comes an idea that in order to attain cessation of perceptions and feelings one has to master formless attainments?
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Nibbana = universal consciousness?

Postby Nyana » Fri Apr 26, 2013 2:04 pm

piotr wrote:Do you know where from comes an idea that in order to attain cessation of perceptions and feelings one has to master formless attainments?

The sequential progression of meditative attainments is implicit in the suttas, and explicit in Theravāda exegesis.
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