the great Nibbana = annihilation, eternal, or something else thread

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aflatun
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by aflatun »

David N. Snyder wrote: Perhaps neither the classical Theravadins nor the suttanta Theravadins can be generalized to a specific view on nibbana. There is a wide range of views in all of them. I was familiar with Buddhaghosa not accepting the nihilist view, but I had thought most classical Theravadins today were of the atheist-death view for parinibbana (with rebirth up to that point).
With respect to the suttanta camp I would agree, its a wide playing field. But regarding the former I'm not so sure. I guess it depends on how we define classical! If we mean commentarial tradition up to and including Burmese Vipassana, then I'm not aware of any significant departure from Buddhaghosa's general understanding, but I'm happy to be corrected on this if anyone has historical sources that imply otherwise.

For me this view is sharply distinct from those of specifically "Buddhist nihilism" (because despite all aggregates ending Nibbana is an unconditioned ultimate reality) and suttanta style "Buddhist eternalism" (because all aggregates end which rules out sentience). But I would still classify it as a form of "Buddhist Eternalism"...

The only thing I'm aware of that smacks of "absolute death, nothing else" aside from a few modern monks is the Sautrantikas, and I don't know their literature well enough to confirm this. I wouldn't be surprised to find more sublety there, similar to Bhante Sujato.

And so as a hypothesis-which is subject to revision!-my current understanding is that aside from the (maybe) Sautrantikas, this is an entirely modern phenomenon. Of course that doesn't make it wrong by default. But personally I have come to regard it as an aberration and an innovation.
David N. Snyder wrote:Buddhism, especially Theravada does seem to have an appeal to nihilists. Perhaps it is because nibbana gets mistaken as annihilation.
I believe you have nailed it, good sir :)
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by aflatun »

Coëmgenu wrote:
aflatun wrote:Again thank you for this wonderful post, its always a pleasure.

I think I could have been more clear. What I was really objecting to, was "ontological plenum." By this I mean, entity, thing, substance, essence, etc, especially one that is "transcendent." All of this falls into one of the four extremes that are roundly rejected (I'm thinking MMK, specifically the analysis of the unconditioned).
Indeed. Consider the various bells something must ring and whistles something must blow and the jumps and hurdles something must cross in various traditional Buddhisms to be considered even tangentially "real".

For something to be "real" in some Buddhisms, it essentially has to be unarisen, not arisen according to dependent origination, marked by svabhāva, and thus not marked by the three marks.

Oddly enough though, according to Nāgārjuna's MMK, IMO the consequences of Nāgārjuna's analysis of Nibbāna is essentially that absolutely everything is unarisen, unceasing, marked by svabhāva (although not really*), in its way, while simultaneously "definitely not" marked as svabhāvadharmāḥ, as that would be a serious Madhyamaka "heresy".

*Now, "not from itself" is a formal disqualification of svabhāva, but I am not the first to point out that what we are essentially given is "emptiness" as a suggestion, "appearance" as a "real" experience, as real as an experience can be, unarisen, yet somehow also not as svabhāvadharmāḥ. Most curious the dilemma Nāgārjuna leaves his readers in! Traditionally, an unarisen dharma is a svabhāvadharma. That is the view of the Abhidharmikāḥ as poorly as I understand it, and the view, AFAIK, of the sutta-layer of Buddhavacana. Now whether or not that "traditional" definition is the definition of svabhāvadharma operative in prajñāpāramitāsūtrāṇi, that I am less able to guess concerning.

I don't think this internal contradiction in operative definitions of svabhāva is necessarily accidental at all, if indeed it exists as I think it does. It is also easy to see where Nāgārjuna & Zhìyǐ are differing, as much as one is riffing on the other. Zhìyǐ's innovation is a new methodology of contemplating appearances (which are framed as a modality of emptiness* in the positivist Tiāntāi synthesis) based on Madhyamaka.

*rather than have emptiness spontaneously "produce" appearances on its own accord, this "modality", AFAIK, is one of perception and ignorance still.

Methodologies of "regarding of" what we can and cannot call "real" and as "reality" is a major point of contention between Tiāntāi & say, Cittamātra, wherein "only the mind" is "real" (and only vaguely at that): if we can speak of everything as provisionally (or ultimately) "not existing", then it strikes me as also fine to speak of "everything as existing" ("sarvāsti", like in the ancient school) in much the same way, inasmuch as that way is simply a convention to get us along in our prapañca.

Consider the Buddhavacana of the Sarvāstivāda:
如是我聞:
Like this I heard:

一時,佛住舍衛國祇樹給孤獨園。
One time, the Buddha dwelt at Śrāvastī at Anāthapiṇḍada’s park at Jetavana.

時,有生聞婆羅門往詣佛所,面相問訊已,退坐一面,白佛言:「瞿曇!所謂一切有,云何一切有?」
At that time, there dwelt śrāvakāḥ brāhmaṇāḥ proceeding in the accomplishments of the Buddha, their facial features greeted (the Buddha), afterwards withdrawing to sit to the side, they beseeched the Buddha, asking: "Gautama! It is so said that all exists [i.e. sarvāsti in the original], how so does all exist?"

佛告生聞婆羅門:「我今問汝,隨意答我。婆羅門!於意云何?眼是有不?」
The Buddha replied to the dwelling śrāvakāḥ brāhmaṇāḥ: "I presently ask of you, as you wish for my response. Brāhmaṇāḥ! In thought, how is this? With the eye is this not the case?

答言:「是有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "It is, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「色是有不?」
"With appearance is this not the case?"

答言:「是有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "It is, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「婆羅門!有色、有眼識、有眼觸、有眼觸因緣生受,若苦、若樂、不苦不樂不?」
"Brāhmaṇāḥ! There exists appearance, there exists cakṣurvijñāna, there exists the eye's sparśa, there exists the eye's sparśa's causal predestination's development of feelings, if bleak, if joyous, if not bleak, if not joyous?"

答言:「有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "There exists these things, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「耳、鼻、舌、身、意亦如是說」。
And that is all, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, and thoughts also too are thus.

如是廣說,乃至「非其境界故。」
[this part is giving me troubles translating, its something about sense objects]

佛說此經已,生聞婆羅門聞佛所說,歡喜隨喜,從坐起去。
Buddhavacana this sūtra was thereafter, the dwelling myriad brāhmaṇāḥ heard the Buddha teach it, joyously with anumodana, from their seats they rose to go forth.
(SA 320, this is also generally identified as possible sectarian literature in EBT studies, on account of the name of a Buddhist school showing up in their own Buddhavacana)

At some point it all seems to break down into a semantic game, specifically with the notions of "existence" and "non-existence".

TBH I don't even believe in non-existence (because it literally doesn't exist) and I don't know why some other people do.
aflatun wrote:Anyway, the way Santi has stated the case, combining "Nibbana is a transcendent reality" with the interpenetration discourse, IMO I don't see anything distinct from the Plotinian One and its emanations, the Platonic Good and its images, Ibn Al Arabi's Wujud and its imaginal disclosure as the "world," the Tao that cannot be named and the 10,000 things, Brahman and Maya, etc. I think there's a critical distinction! I'm not trying to be a jerk, but this distinction is very important. Its what makes Nagarjuna, and a fortiori the Buddha, so special and unique.
There are certainly similarities that you are picking up on. For instance, in Tiāntāi the Buddha is referred to as the "root sign" or "seed sign" (本相/實相, běn/shí xiàng, *ādilakṣaṇa) which all signification is fundamentally of. This is very similar to some theisms in some ways (it is also similar, in its way, to Platonic treatment of forms), but to draw too many other parallels is complicated by the shared Buddhist metaphysic which Tiāntāi has inherited from its predecessors.

*this is a Sanskritization/reconstruction. This word doesn't appear in Buddhist literature AFAIK. It is included to demonstrate that 本 is generally a rendering of ādi-, as in ādi-buddha, and carries much the same meaning. Consider its usage in 本覺, hongaku.

I'll respond to the second half of your message when I have time, making sure to keep the discourse relevant to at least EBTs and EBT studies, which is generally synonymous enough with manners of Theravāda.
Your posts always humble me! I will try to respond later today, sorry for the lag.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by Santi253 »

Nicolas wrote:
Santi253 wrote:If you die and nothing happens, it doesn't matter if you're suffering or not.
What do you mean by "nothing happens"? Because "nothing happens" sounds a lot like Nibbana, no coming and passing away, no objects, etc. And it does matter if there is no you suffering, one might say that's the point. It sounds like you want an "I" or an individual being to experience non-suffering. I think that at this point we get into a semantics or labeling problem because one could also say that this "atheist death" is transcending both life and death.
This is what I believe about Nirvana, as explained by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
Regarding the nature of Nibbana, the question is often asked: Does Nibbana signify only extinction of the defilements and liberation from samsara or does it signify some reality existing in itself? Nibbana is not only the destruction of defilements and the end of samsara but a reality transcendent to the entire world of mundane experience, a reality transcendent to all the realms of phenomenal existence.

The Buddha refers to Nibbana as a 'dhamma'. For example, he says "of all dhammas, conditioned or unconditioned, the most excellent dhamma, the supreme dhamma is, Nibbana". 'Dhamma' signifies actual realities, the existing realities as opposed to conceptual things. Dhammas are of two types, conditioned and unconditioned. A conditioned dhamma is an actuality which has come into being through causes or conditions, something which arises through the workings of various conditions. The conditioned dhammas are the five aggregates: material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. The conditioned dhammas, do not remain static. They go through a ceaseless process of becoming. They arise, undergo transformation and fall away due to its conditionality.

However, the unconditioned dhamma is not produced by causes and conditions. It has the opposite characteristics from the conditioned: it has no arising, no falling away and it undergoes no transformation. Nevertheless, it is an actuality, and the Buddha refers to Nibbana as an unconditioned Dhamma.

The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as an 'ayatana'. This means realm, plane or sphere. It is a sphere where there is nothing at all that correspond to our mundane experience, and therefore it has to be described by way of negations as the negation of all the limited and determinate qualities of conditioned things.

The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as a, 'Dhatu' an element, the 'deathless element'. He compares the element of Nibbana to an ocean. He says that just as the great ocean remains at the same level no matter how much water pours into it from the rivers, without increase or decrease, so the Nibbana element remains the same, no matter whether many or few people attain Nibbana.

He also speaks of Nibbana as something that can be experienced by the body, an experience that is so vivid, so powerful, that it can be described as "touching the deathless element with one's own body."

The Buddha also refers to Nibbana as a 'state' ('pada') as 'amatapada' - the deathless state - or accutapada, the imperishable state.

Another word used by the Buddha to refer to Nibbana is 'Sacca', which means 'truth', an existing reality. This refers to Nibbana as the truth, a reality that the Noble ones have known through direct experience.

So all these terms, considered as a whole, clearly establish that Nibbana is an actual reality and not the mere destruction of defilements or the cessation of existence. Nibbana is unconditioned, without any origination and is timeless.
http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/nibbanaReal.htm
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by aflatun »

Coëmgenu wrote:
Oddly enough though, according to Nāgārjuna's MMK, IMO the consequences of Nāgārjuna's analysis of Nibbāna is essentially that absolutely everything is unarisen, unceasing, marked by svabhāva (although not really*), in its way, while simultaneously "definitely not" marked as svabhāvadharmāḥ, as that would be a serious Madhyamaka "heresy".
I think that's right, yes. Appearances are undeniable, what is rejected is our misunderstanding/misappropriation of them, a misunderstanding that takes appearances as existent/non existent/both/neither.
*Now, "not from itself" is a formal disqualification of svabhāva, but I am not the first to point out that what we are essentially given is "emptiness" as a suggestion, "appearance" as a "real" experience, as real as an experience can be, unarisen, yet somehow also not as svabhāvadharmāḥ. Most curious the dilemma Nāgārjuna leaves his readers in! Traditionally, an unarisen dharma is a svabhāvadharma. That is the view of the Abhidharmikāḥ as poorly as I understand it, and the view, AFAIK, of the sutta-layer of Buddhavacana. Now whether or not that "traditional" definition is the definition of svabhāvadharma operative in prajñāpāramitāsūtrāṇi, that I am less able to guess concerning.
I'm not sure I follow you. Are you referring to the paradox, or apparent contradiction, between the world as it appears and the assertion that it is empty? As you know this is not something that's seen outside of the equipoise of an arya, which as I understand it, doesn't result in the appearance vanishing into the real void that sits behind it or within it, but rather consists in the understanding that those appearances were always "like reflections of the moon on water," unarisen, bottomless, natureless, just as they are.
I don't think this internal contradiction in operative definitions of svabhāva is necessarily accidental at all, if indeed it exists as I think it does. It is also easy to see where Nāgārjuna & Zhìyǐ are differing, as much as one is riffing on the other. Zhìyǐ's innovation is a new methodology of contemplating appearances (which are framed as a modality of emptiness* in the positivist Tiāntāi synthesis) based on Madhyamaka.
I'm not familiar with Zhiyi, but what you're describing doesn't sound all that different! Hook us up with some text, professor!


Consider the Buddhavacana of the Sarvāstivāda:
如是我聞:
Like this I heard:

一時,佛住舍衛國祇樹給孤獨園。
One time, the Buddha dwelt at Śrāvastī at Anāthapiṇḍada’s park at Jetavana.

時,有生聞婆羅門往詣佛所,面相問訊已,退坐一面,白佛言:「瞿曇!所謂一切有,云何一切有?」
At that time, there dwelt śrāvakāḥ brāhmaṇāḥ proceeding in the accomplishments of the Buddha, their facial features greeted (the Buddha), afterwards withdrawing to sit to the side, they beseeched the Buddha, asking: "Gautama! It is so said that all exists [i.e. sarvāsti in the original], how so does all exist?"

佛告生聞婆羅門:「我今問汝,隨意答我。婆羅門!於意云何?眼是有不?」
The Buddha replied to the dwelling śrāvakāḥ brāhmaṇāḥ: "I presently ask of you, as you wish for my response. Brāhmaṇāḥ! In thought, how is this? With the eye is this not the case?

答言:「是有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "It is, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「色是有不?」
"With appearance is this not the case?"

答言:「是有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "It is, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「婆羅門!有色、有眼識、有眼觸、有眼觸因緣生受,若苦、若樂、不苦不樂不?」
"Brāhmaṇāḥ! There exists appearance, there exists cakṣurvijñāna, there exists the eye's sparśa, there exists the eye's sparśa's causal predestination's development of feelings, if bleak, if joyous, if not bleak, if not joyous?"

答言:「有,沙門瞿曇!」
The many replied: "There exists these things, Śramaṇa Gautama!"

「耳、鼻、舌、身、意亦如是說」。
And that is all, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, and thoughts also too are thus.

如是廣說,乃至「非其境界故。」
[this part is giving me troubles translating, its something about sense objects]

佛說此經已,生聞婆羅門聞佛所說,歡喜隨喜,從坐起去。
Buddhavacana this sūtra was thereafter, the dwelling myriad brāhmaṇāḥ heard the Buddha teach it, joyously with anumodana, from their seats they rose to go forth.
(SA 320, this is also generally identified as possible sectarian literature in EBT studies, on account of the name of a Buddhist school showing up in their own Buddhavacana)

At some point it all seems to break down into a semantic game, specifically with the notions of "existence" and "non-existence".
How do you mean?
Coëmgenu wrote:There are certainly similarities that you are picking up on. For instance, in Tiāntāi the Buddha is referred to as the "root sign" or "seed sign" (本相/實相, běn/shí xiàng, *ādilakṣaṇa) which all signification is fundamentally of. This is very similar to some theisms in some ways (it is also similar, in its way, to Platonic treatment of forms), but to draw too many other parallels is complicated by the shared Buddhist metaphysic which Tiāntāi has inherited from its predecessors.
For sure, but I think the difference is (supposedly) what that "root sign" is right? Supposedly those naughty eternalists posit an existent entity as that root sign (although if you read carefully, this characterization becomes problematic. (Consider the way Meister Eckhart is happy to describe Gottheit as nothing). Whereas I think for Nagarjuna the ultimate nature, or root sign, is that there is no ultimate nature, freedom from extremes, etc. I believe this is what the second quote in my signature is addressing.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by Zom »

Is he part of the Thai Forest tradition ? If he is, there is nothing to be surprised about. Belief in a self and in consciousness in nibbana is very popular in that tradition. Why ? Because, as Buddha would say, "he has not fully understood it, I say".
Unfortunately.

Yes, the Big Flaw of thai forest tradition.
See MN38 where the Blessed One strongly admonishes a Monk who holds the view that consciousness is the same moving from one life to another.
As far as I know, they don't care much about what is written in the texts.
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by cappuccino »

The Blessed One would never say that on the dissolution of the body the saint who has lost all depravity is annihilated,
perishes, and does not exist after death.

Yamaka Sutta
"All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." -Socrates
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by Zom »

The Blessed One would never say that on the dissolution of the body the saint who has lost all depravity is annihilated,
perishes, and does not exist after death.
Yes, because they are all there in nibbana, drinking beer and having fun 8-) :toast:
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by cappuccino »

Zom wrote:Yes, because they are all there in nibbana
paradoxically
Last edited by cappuccino on Thu Aug 24, 2017 2:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by Coëmgenu »

aflatun wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:
Oddly enough though, according to Nāgārjuna's MMK, IMO the consequences of Nāgārjuna's analysis of Nibbāna is essentially that absolutely everything is unarisen, unceasing, marked by svabhāva (although not really*), in its way, while simultaneously "definitely not" marked as svabhāvadharmāḥ, as that would be a serious Madhyamaka "heresy".
I think that's right, yes. Appearances are undeniable, what is rejected is our misunderstanding/misappropriation of them, a misunderstanding that takes appearances as existent/non existent/both/neither.
And therein lies the heart of my critique of many prominent Buddhist methodologies for framing "the real" or "existence".

However, I have opened up such a huge can of worms I am not quite sure how to proceed, I will respond shortly, with contextualization as to what I meant by posting the Sarvāstivāda scripture, shortly, either here or via PM, I apologize for my tardiness in responding to you, though.

Incidentally, though, from the above, my reconstructed ādilakṣaṇa might have actually been ādinimitta, which is even more interesting/problematic depending on your POV.
Vairocana Mahākāruṇika manifested the ākāśasamādhi that illuminates the Svābhāvika, that illuminates the root source of Buddhatva, manifested the samādhi that illuminates the Dharmakāya. To the assembled many he revealed this samādhi.

He then spoke:

"I have cultivated for endless aeons these dharmas and, with this as condition, I first abandoned the way of the worldlings and attained that gnosis which is consummate, which is highest, taking on the name of Vairocana and dwelling here in the Lotus Vault, in the Womb of the World-Systems, in the Ocean."

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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by Turmeric »

JMGinPDX wrote:Hello all -
As mentioned in a previous post, LP Sumedho visited our local center last month and I was able to shoot video and audio of the event and post it to our YouTube channel.

One statement Ven. Sumedho made in the Q&A session surprised me, and I wanted to get input from those more familiar than I am with his teachings and the Dhamma in general.

Go to 26:45 in this video:
https://youtu.be/1aRgIERpX3U

In the question, the woman asks if it's true that "consciousness is continuous but not permanent."
Luang Por responds by saying "no, I'm saying that consciousness is permanent."
There's an audible reaction from the audience (I think we had upwards of 200 people there), many of whom, like me, were a bit surprised by this statement.
He expands on his statement in the remainder of his answer, but I wanted to extract this for contemplation and discussion to see what others think and what your understanding is of what he said.
The forest tradition teaches that there is a permanent eternal thing outside of the mind and body that returns back to it's true home after you become an Arahant. It controls the mind and body, and creates thoughts and emotions. You can read more about it in Ajahn Pannavaddhos book uncommon wisdom, in the citta chapter.

Once we see through inconstancy,
the mind-source stops creating issues.
All that remains is the primal mind,
true & unchanging.
Knowing the mind-source
brings release from all worry & error. - Ajahn Mun
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by cappuccino »

Consciousness is inconstant, yet permanent.

Simple and easy to understand?
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by A fool from HK »

I have a question. How do we describe the state of light before it lands on a wall or our retina? Is it having "something" or having "nothing"? Or it is neither having "something" nor having "nothing"?
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by Sam Vara »

cappuccino wrote:Consciousness is inconstant, yet permanent.

Simple and easy to understand?
Yes and no.

(Simple, that is, but not easy to understand.)
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Re: Nirvana is a Transcendent Reality

Post by aflatun »

Coëmgenu wrote:
However, I have opened up such a huge can of worms I am not quite sure how to proceed...
Ditto! PM might be better, assuming no one cares to hear these things. On the other hand, what hangs in the balance is of course the nature of Nibbana per Nagarjuna, and that does have relevance to the thread I believe. It's up to you!

EDIT: You probably don't recall, but we did start this conversation over 6 months ago I believe... :tongue:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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cappuccino
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Re: LP Sumedho "consciousness is permanent" - thoughts?

Post by cappuccino »

If you hold something and let go, will your hand disappear?
Is your hand annihilated?
"All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." -Socrates
Good for Your Soul
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