MCTB The Immortality Models
The Immortality Models are significantly more prevalent in Tibetan Buddhism than the other strains, thought they also appear in Pure Land Buddhism and are found elsewhere. While all strains of Buddhism on the one hand categorically deny immortality as the goal based upon the standard tenets of Buddhist logic, plenty then turn around and sell immortality like used car salesmen. So many Buddhists want to be up in the Heaven called Nirvana as empty yet separate beings who don’t exist and yet live forever as Bodhisattvas saving the world.
While there are lots of good points in the Bodhisattva Vows, this is yet another case of bait and switch where the results will be a bit more down-to-earth than most people are bargaining for. However, many Buddhists are so brainwashed into the ideal of becoming Amazing Super Beings that they readily give up the notion that they could really understand anything in this lifetime in exchange for the dream that some zillion lifetimes down the road they may get to be Spiritual Superstars. However, as their mentality can be essentially like people who have bought into some weird cult, I don’t recommend trying to convince them otherwise, as it generally just pisses them off. Just do your practice, take care of your own understanding, and then see what you can do from there.
Now, as before, there is some weird truth to the immortality models on two fronts. First, from a technical point of view, what is traditionally called the Dharmakaya, Deathless, Nirvana, Tao, Void, Buddha Nature, etc. is indestructible, timeless, etc., but this is because it is not anything specific. This has already been discussed, and simply stated, from this point of view the notion of death or impermanence simply does not apply. The flip side of this, that of the ordinary, transient world, Nirmanakaya, etc., is that causality rings on indefinitely. This is an interesting way to look at things, and a very practical, insight-oriented way.
From the point of view of time, cause and effect, things ripple out into the universe like droplets cause ripples in water. This process, that is to say the world and us, has always been empty. If we are anything, it is a pattern of rippling sensations arising from causes and effects and leading to causes and effects. Thus, we send ripples of whatever and however we are out into the causal future. If we are enlightened, that is one aspect of what ripples out into the patterns we call time, and these ripples go on without definable end. Teachings of reincarnation are getting at this point in their somewhat problematic way. Thus, we see that there is something to the Immortality Models, but they are not very helpful for doing insight practices except to help one appreciate causality. I think they are much more useful for training in morality, despite their obvious paradigmatic problems.
One great traditional analogy goes as follows: If you lit a candle, then lit another candle with that candle and then blew out the first one, what is transmitted? This is causality without a permanent entity, resonance without continuity, an artificial but useful recognition of a pattern, and nothing more.