Nibbana vs. annihilation?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:08 am

Greetings Alex,

Alex123 wrote:Do you accept the possibility that kamma done prior to Arhatship may come up for an Arahant?

Only to the extent that ignorance in a "previous life" may be a contributing factor to the presence of "current life" for the arahant (if we are to speak ontologically rather than phenomenologically).

Alex123 wrote:In any case, where this discussion originated was the fact that even an Arahant or the Buddha can experience physical pain. Not only that, but there are multiple kinds of dukkha, and the Arahat has eliminated only the dukkha due to mental defilements. Dukkha of painful feeling still remains, dukkha of change still remains.

"Whatever is felt is included in suffering." yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmi’nti -SN 36.11(1)

"All formations are stressful." Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā’’ti - Dhp 278

We're going in circles. If you want to see my perspective on this see: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5935&start=60#p92743 which you didn't really address because you went off down a 1-life vs 3-life D.O. tangent, which as I pointed out in response, isn't relevant because regardless of the schema used, avijja, sankhara and their dependent relationship are all partitioned in the same temporal region.

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: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:38 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Alex,

So if ignorance ceases, and sankharas cease in turn, what justification is there for saying an arahant experiences dukkha (of the 2nd definiton)?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Just because one has no ignorance that doesn't prevent one from becoming sick and experiencing death like pains, or from being hurt by other people. Buddha was sick. Buddha was also hurt severely when Devadatta tried to kill him by throwing a boulder at Him, which missed and splinter of it broke off and hurt the Buddha causing him to bleed. Just because one has no ignorance doesn't remove the possibility of painful bodily feelings.

Just because one has no ignorance, it doesn't change the fact that all things are anicca. Because things are anicca, they are ultimately dukkha.
Just because one has no ignorance, it doesn't change the fact that illness, aging and perhaps painful death can/will occur.


With metta,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:47 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

It appears we might be talking at cross-purposes. I was talking of nibbana, not vinnananirodha.

To differentiate the two, I understand nibbana as what the Buddha experienced from the time of his enlightenment to the time of his death (and I shant speculate beyond that). Vinnananirodha was a temporary state, induced through meditation, which acted as a painkiller.

Physical sensations are not dependent upon avijja... hence, the Buddha could still experience them.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Yes, but you keep mentioning an interpretation where after nibbana certain things to do with dependent origination have completely ceased. I'm pointing out (and Ven Nanananda agrees) that many of those passages seem to be talking about a temporary cessation of certain things.

So I'm curious to see a coherent account of what has ceased (permanently) after nibbana and what carries on after the nibbanizing experience.

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:52 am

mikenz66 wrote:
So I'm curious to see a coherent account of what has ceased (permanently) after nibbana and what carries on after the nibbanizing experience.

Mike



An Arahant (or 5 khandhas that we call an Arahat) doesn't experience any fetters, and there is no cognition of "I, me, mine". The aggregates are devoid of negative mental qualities. Since there is no craving and consciousness doesn't produce new kamma, at death all these aggregates cease and never re occur (Parinibbana).
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Re: Nihilism / annihilationism misrepresents the Buddha

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:58 am

Kenshou wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:What is the most basic definition of nibbana given by the Buddha?

Mystical non-dual eternal unity with the transcendental "ground-of-being", right?

No?
Well, yeah and something completely other.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:58 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:So I'm curious to see a coherent account of what has ceased (permanently) after nibbana and what carries on after the nibbanizing experience.

As is sometimes pointed out, arahantship (cessation of avijja) doesn't end all consciousness (i.e. the arahant doesn't turn into a deaf and dumb mute)... the sense-bases don't cease to fuction, their ears and eyes don't just suddenly disappear into thin air or fall onto the ground.

What happens is that these things (which are listed in the dependent origination sequence) no longer come to be conditioned by ignorance. What this is saying is that once ignorance ceases, dependent origination no longer provides an explanation for existence because there is no more existence/becoming/being/house-building etc. There is no "origination", and the arahant is not "dependent".

So in terms of "what carries on after the nibbanizing experience" be careful to differentiate that which exists ontologically (i.e. ear, eye, nose) versus what doesn't exist phenomenologically (i.e. consciousness conditioned by ignorance).

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: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:39 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:So I'm curious to see a coherent account of what has ceased (permanently) after nibbana and what carries on after the nibbanizing experience.

As is sometimes pointed out, arahantship (cessation of avijja) doesn't end all consciousness (i.e. the arahant doesn't turn into a deaf and dumb mute)... the sense-bases don't cease to fuction, their ears and eyes don't just suddenly disappear into thin air or fall onto the ground.

Of course, what was conditioned still arises...
retrofuturist wrote:What happens is that these things (which are listed in the dependent origination sequence) no longer come to be conditioned by ignorance. What this is saying is that once ignorance ceases, dependent origination no longer provides an explanation for existence because there is no more existence/becoming/being/house-building etc. There is no "origination", and the arahant is not "dependent".

So nothing is conditioned by those past conditions any more?
retrofuturist wrote:So in terms of "what carries on after the nibbanizing experience" be careful to differentiate that which exists ontologically (i.e. ear, eye, nose) versus what doesn't exist phenomenologically (i.e. consciousness conditioned by ignorance).

Sorry, I don't really understand what you're getting at here. Are you saying that aspects of an arahant such as personality, feeling and so on, are not conditioned by past kamma?

I'm still curious to see a coherent explanation of your interpretation that dependent origination ceases at the nibbanizing moment. Perhaps it is in the suttas, but it's certainly not obvious to me. Can you provide some references?

It seems to me that questions of timing are tricky. Take the common sutta statement: "Birth is ended". I know some people interpret this to mean that birth is something that is happening at every moment, and now (after nibbana) it has stopped. But clearly it is not the only way of interpreting the statement, which, more conventionally, is interpreted as saying "There will be no more birth in the future".

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:38 am

Regarding the nature of Nibbana,

Here's an interpretation from Ajahn Brahm, who is one who claims to base his dhamma directly on the Suttas. I don't necessarily agree with his conclusions here (he seems to be using an unusual translation of bhava) but I post it to illustrate a possible interpretation.
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... NATION.htm
Even Arahants, Enlightened monks and nuns, experience suffering. They are not released from suffering, they are still in the world, in jail. The main difference between an ordinary 'prisoner' and an Arahant is that the latter is certain to leave soon. Using the simile from the Theragatha (Th 1003, 606), an Arahant is like a workman having completed the job and now calmly waiting for his wages. In the sutta called 'The Dart' (SN 36, 6 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.006.nypo.html) suffering is compared to being stabbed with two darts. An Arahant is only stabbed with one dart. The two 'darts' refer to bodily suffering and mental suffering. The Arahant, alone of this world, only experiences bodily suffering. But it is still enough to say that an Arahant in this life still experiences suffering. As the Enlightened nun Vajir explained (SN 5, 10 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.010.bodh.html), what it feels like to be an Arahant is just experiencing suffering arising and suffering passing away, and this was confirmed by The Buddha in the Kaccnagotta Sutta (SN 12, 15), already mentioned above. Arahants experience suffering because all existence (bhava) or birth (jati) is suffering. Only when they pass away, or `parinibbna', when existence ceases, does suffering end once and for all.

"Bhava-nirodho nibbnam" - "Nibbana is the cessation of existence." (SN 12, 68) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.068.than.html

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:50 am

mikenz66 wrote:. . .
. . . "Bhava-nirodho nibbnam" - "Nibbana is the cessation of existence." (SN 12, 68)
All depends upon what you hang on the word bhava.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:14 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:So nothing is conditioned by those past conditions any more?

Are you able to give a bit more detail about your question as I'm a little unsure exactly what you're asking? However, this may be relevant for the arahant who no longer experiences dependent arising, from the aptly titled...

Ud 8.4: Nibbana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Thanissaro translation wrote:One who is dependent has wavering. One who is independent has no wavering. There being no wavering, there is calm. There being calm, there is no desire. There being no desire, there is no coming or going. There being no coming or going, there is no passing away or arising. There being no passing away or arising, there is neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two. This, just this, is the end of stress.

Ireland translation wrote:For the supported there is instability, for the unsupported there is no instability; when there is no instability there is serenity; when there is serenity there is no inclination: when there is no inclination there is no coming-and-going; when there is no coming-and-going there is no decease-and-uprising; when there is no decease-and-uprising there is neither "here" nor "beyond" nor "in between the two." Just this is the end of suffering.

To cautiously use a sometimes abused term, the experience of the arahant is non-manifestative. When one is accustomed to Yes/No or True/False responses, how does one interpret a zero, or a blank response, or an n/a? It's hard to explain when one's existing terms of reference no longer apply, and when one's current terms of reference actually prohibit understanding rather than facilitate it. This is why nibbana is described as it is, and not as an absolute - the Buddha wasn't being needlessly cryptic. Have a look at A2I's nibbana study guide - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... bbana.html - in this context.

SN 12.15 wrote:By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.


Mike wrote:Sorry, I don't really understand what you're getting at here. Are you saying that aspects of an arahant such as personality, feeling and so on, are not conditioned by past kamma?

Something like personality is, but the ability to be touched by vipaka (kammically-resultant mental happiness or suffering) directly attributable to past actions made prior to nibanna disappears, because through attaining nibbana these causal net of kamma and its resultants (which is based on ignorance and false perceptions of self) is "seen through".

Mike wrote:I'm still curious to see a coherent explanation of your interpretation that dependent origination ceases at the nibbanizing moment. Perhaps it is in the suttas, but it's certainly not obvious to me. Can you provide some references?

Well, I take the standard dependent origination sequence in its 'arising' and 'cessation' modes as supporting this. It was repeated many times, so it must be important! :D Of course, coherency of the dependent origination sequence will depend on how certain key terms are regarded... specifically in the context of this discussion, terms like sankhara, bhava, jati and dukkha.

Mike wrote:It seems to me that questions of timing are tricky. Take the common sutta statement: "Birth is ended". I know some people interpret this to mean that birth is something that is happening at every moment, and now (after nibbana) it has stopped. But clearly it is not the only way of interpreting the statement, which, more conventionally, is interpreted as saying "There will be no more birth in the future".

Indeed. To me this is similar in its meaning and implication to the Nibbana Sutta extract provided above, where "coming and going" refers to the various and differing manifestations of dependently-arisen existence and is therefore synonymous with jati. I understand others may see it differently, so I'll caveat this once more by saying it's my understanding - the Mahavihara commentators thought differently. I'm not here to say I'm right, only to say what I have learned.

Ud 8.3 wrote:"There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned."

As Tilt alludes to, how one understands bhava and punabhava (i.e. repeated bhava) has a big impact on how the nature of how the experience of an arahant would be regarded... that's probably why the transcripts from Bhikkhu Nanananda's Nibbana Sermons extend into the hundreds of pages.

As for Ajahn Brahma... yes, I disagree with him too, probably more vehemently than you do.

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: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:15 am

Since a tathagata, even when actually present, is incomprehensible, it is inept to say of him – of the Uttermost Person, the Supernal Person, the Attainer of the Supernal – that after death the tathagata is, or is not, or both is and is not, or neither is nor is not - SN III 118

"And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now. – MN I 139

Dhp 179-180:
Whose conquest can't be undone,
whose conquest no one in the world
can reach;
awakened
[buddha], his pasture endless,
pathless:
by what path will you lead him astray?
In whom there's no craving
— the sticky ensnarer —
to lead him anywherever at all;
awakened
[buddha], his pasture endless,
pathless:
by what path will you lead him astray?


Dhp 254-5: There's no trail in space,
no outside contemplative.
People are smitten
with complications,
but devoid of complication are
the Tathagatas.
There's no trail in space,
no outside contemplative,
no eternal fabrications,
no wavering in the Awakened
[buddha].

What wise man here would seek to define
An immeasurable one by taking his measure?
He who would measure an immeasurable one
Must be, I think, an obstructed worldling
.
- SN I 148
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:06 am

I like Nanananda's description along these lines in his Concept and Reality.
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Sylvester » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:13 am

Something else from a recent interview with Ven Ñāṇananda that may be relevant here. He was giving his views about Ven Nanavira and there's an oblique reference to his disagreement with Ven Nanavira's treatment of anupādis­esa and saupādisesa Nibbana (likely from the latter's Notes on Dhamma - Vinnana).

http://nidahas.com/2010/09/nanananda-heretic-sage-2/

The interview runs a few other pages, so may the Nanananda fans enjoy! It's based on a visit to the Venerable last Nov.

Spoiler - avid Theravadins be prepared for Nagarjuna making an appearance in the interview...
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:36 am

Sylvester wrote:
Spoiler - avid Theravadins be prepared for Nagarjuna making an appearance in the interview...
Interesting stuff, but this is of interest to me historically:
Prof. David J. Kalu­pa­hana is an emi­nent Sri Lankan scholar who stirred up another con­tro­versy when he por­trayed Ven. Nāgār­juna as a reformist try­ing to res­ur­rect early Bud­dhist teach­ings. He had been a lec­turer dur­ing Bhante Ñāṇananda’s uni­ver­sity days as a lay­man at Peradeniya.
Kaluphana's early opinions about Nagarjuna were based upon T.V.R. Murt's horrible book, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism and Kalupahana was very critical of Nagarjuna. The comments by Ven Nanananda about Nagarjuna in CONCEPT AND REALITY were also based upon Murti's book. It was not until quite sometime later that Kalupahana revised (American usage) his opinion of Nagarjuna based upon directly reading Nagarjuna.

The point is that the above quote might be a bit chronologically misleading. It was not until the mid 1980's that Kaluphana began publishing stuff favorable about Nagarjuna as being a "reformist." Kalupahana's stuff published in the mid 70's was critical of Nagarjuna and Ven Nanananda's CONCEPT AND REALITY was published in the very early 70's.

This is just a small sidebar. Otherwise, Sylvester, interesting stuff. Thanks.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Kenshou » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:42 am

I seem to have trouble understanding what exactly Nanananda is trying to say sometimes. With most teachers, with a little extra digging if need be, what they're getting at is fairly clear, but in many of Nanananda's writings I see a lot of the same "phrasing" with no further elaboration.

I understand that the whole nibbana business is quite a tricky thing to talk about, and I've got nothing against this particular bhikkhu and I'm not accusing him of incompetence, but I just don't quite understand the thrust of what's he's trying to communicate.
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:32 am

Greetings Sylvester,

Magnificent. Thanks for sharing!

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: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Sylvester » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:17 am

I think what will be most tantalising from the interview will be Ven Nanananda's revelation that there was to have been a Nibbana Sermon #34. :stirthepot:

Hi Tilt - I've long since lost my copy of Murti, but vaguely recall his rather esoteric treatment of Madhyamaka as transcending the Tetralemma to find some noumenon behind it all. Did Murti even discuss Nagarjuna as being a reaction to the Sarvastivadin's svabhava and sarvam asti theories? I can't recall if he did, since he was so bent on finding a ultimate atmanvada in Buddhism.

It does look as if Ven Nanananda is citing the neo-Kalupahana, but I could be mistaken. The interview was given last year, so he might have kept up with Kalupahana's revised approach.
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:10 pm

Thanks for that interview Sylvester. Being pointed to stuff like that is the best part of Dhamma Wheel. I have always been a fan of Nagarguna. When I started reading Nanananda I had the sense that he was showing how Pali scriptures point in the same direction as Nagarguna. Nanananda says so here...

“I didn’t quote from the Mahāyāna texts in the Nib­bāna ser­mons,” he says, “because there was no need. All that was needed was already found in the Sut­tas. Teach­ers like Nāgār­juna brought to light what was already there but was hid­den from view. Unfor­tu­nately his later fol­low­ers turned it in to a vāda.”


This has been My tentative feeling about Nagarguna for Years. Nanananda elucidates the deeper meaning of emptiness.

I am very thankful for Nanananda. :bow:


With Metta


Gabe
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:17 pm

Alex123 wrote: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).


Suicide in that case would be a defensible choice. But assuming one can attain arahantship, what's the hurry? Spending the rest of life in a state of ease and freedom seems tolerable enough. Since an arahant is without desire, what would be the reason for interrupting the normal life span?

"One life only" is in effect the same situation (with regard to future continuance) as arahantship, though of course this says nothing about insights attained.

Even if one was unable to reach arahantship, one could spend the rest of life immersed in jhana states which are said to be superior to any sensual pleasure -- drugs, sex, whatever.

And if one were unable to achieve that, there's still the mundane joy of a life well-lived. Since progress on the path is related to insight, until you have reached a certain point there is always going to be some sort of attachment binding you to the world, and some modicum of delusion which will allow you to enjoy it.

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".


Might any attempt to posit a "nibbanic awareness" -- or, really, any use of positive terms to speak of nibbana -- automatically lead us in the direction of...

tathagatagarba?!?! :shock:

because, just looking at this from a beginner's perspective, it would seem that some construct like that is required...i.e. this would be the X mentioned above. At the very least, something to function as a placeholder. I know you reject X. But is acceptance of X the point of transition between classical Theravada and proto-Mahayana?

Hope this question is not too obvious/ignorant.
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Re: Nibbana vs. annihilation?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:04 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Suicide in that case would be a defensible choice. But assuming one can attain arahantship, what's the hurry? Spending the rest of life in a state of ease and freedom seems tolerable enough. Since an arahant is without desire, what would be the reason for interrupting the normal life span?


I do believe that it is possible to attain Arahatship today. However it is probably not possible for ALL people in this life, it may require A LOT of strenuous effort, the result may come at the moment of death. Thus if there was one-life, arhatship at the moment of death wouldn't differ from death of an ordinary person. Also as I've said, reaching genuine Jhana is very difficult, it requires certain conditions, and even that is not a gurantee that one will not be tempted by Sensuality AN 6.60. An Arahant can suffer excruciating physical pain, and that too can be an obstacle to Jhana. Even without mental reaction, physical pain is bad, I know. I have to deal with it all the time.



Might any attempt to posit a "nibbanic awareness" -- or, really, any use of positive terms to speak of nibbana -- automatically lead us in the direction of...

tathagatagarba?!?! :shock:

because, just looking at this from a beginner's perspective, it would seem that some construct like that is required...i.e. this would be the X mentioned above. At the very least, something to function as a placeholder. I know you reject X. But is acceptance of X the point of transition between classical Theravada and proto-Mahayana?

Hope this question is not too obvious/ignorant.


The suttas are quite clear that only bodily remains remain after the break-up of the body of an Arahant. No awareness is left, and there isn't anything to be aware of, so what awareness can be?


With metta,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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