Individual wrote:With that said, I find that death poses a big problem for combining cosmological notions of Dependent Origination with the idea of it being merely a subjective experience. It is difficult to picture how the world might operate, without making assumptions, however subtle, of either annihilationism or eternalism, of a self.
Since "self", then, seems to be the key to clarifying misconceptions about Dependent Origination, it seems all the more prudent to meditate on anatta.
It is the realization of the combination of both principles (dependent co-arising and
the impersonality of the aggregates) which strengthens the depth of one's overall conception and comprehension of the Dhamma
that Gotama was endeavoring to teach. With insight into dependent co-arising one understands the whole of the Dhamma (which includes the teaching on anatta
), and, conversely, understanding the whole of the Dhamma, one understands dependent co-arising.
Realization of both these principles aim at one ultimate goal: the attainment of nibbana
. As Ven. Analayo has explained in his book Satipattana
Analayo wrote:The Buddha's consistent refusal to go along with any of the four standard propositions about the survival or the annihilation of an arahant after death was rather bewildering to his contemporaries. According to the Buddha, to entertain these different propositions was as futile as to speculate about the direction in which a fire had departed once it had gone out.
The Buddha found the existing ways of describing a state of realization or awakening inadequate to his realization. His understanding of Nibbana constituted a radical departure from the conceptions of the time. He was well aware of this himself, and after his awakening he immediately reflected on the difficulty of conveying what he had realized to others.
Despite these difficulties, the Buddha did try to explain the nature of Nibbana on several occasions. In the Udana, for instance, he spoke of Nibbana as something beyond this world or another world, beyond coming, going, or staying, beyond the four elements representing material reality, and also beyond all immaterial realms. This "sphere" (ayatana), he pointed out, objectless and without any support, constitutes "the end of suffering." This description shows that Nibbana refers to a dimension completely different from ordinary experiences of the world, and also different from experiences of meditative absorption.
Other discourses refer to such a totally different experience as "non-manifestative" consciousness. A related nuance comes up in a somewhat poetic passage that compares the "unstationed" consciousness of an arahant to a ray of sunlight passing through the window of a room without any opposing wall; the ray does not land anywhere.
Another discourse in the Udana describes Nibbana with the help of a set of past participles as "not born" (a-jati) "not-become" (a-bhuta), "not-made" (a-kata), "not-conditioned" (a-sankhata). This passage again emphasizes that Nibbana is completely "other", in that it is not born or made, not produced or conditioned. It is owing to this "otherness" that Nibbana constitutes freedom from birth (jati), becoming (bhava), karma (kamma), and formations (sankhara). Birth (jati) in a way symbolizes existence in time, while Nibbana, not being subject to birth or death, is timeless or beyond time.
These passages show that Nibbana is markedly different from any other experience, sphere, state, or realm. They clearly indicate that as long as there is even a subtle sense of a somewhere, a something, or a someone, it is not yet an experience of Nibbana.
53. S II 103, where due to the complete absence of craving for any of the four nutriments, consciousness is "unstationed" (appatitthita), this in turn resulting in freedom from future becoming.
And further on, speaking about the limitation of theories such as annihilationism or eternalism or the non-dual explanations of Advaitist followers to explain the depth of the Buddha's understanding of nibbana
, Analayo indicates, in a stunning admission which characterizes the depth of realization that the Dhamma
holds, by stating that: "Nibbana...entails a complete giving up of both subject and object, not a merger of the two. Such an experience constitutes an 'escape' from the entire field of cognition." — thus bringing his presentation full circle.
59. M I 38; this "escape" from the whole field of cognition is identified by the commentary with Nibbana
(Ps I 176). Similarly Thi 6 refers to Nibbana
as the stilling of all cognitions.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV