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parinirvana?
Answer
1/28/10 9:32 PM
I am more interested in practical dharma, but this weird feeling is sort of haunting me and I was hoping someone could resolve this.

I'm confused about what exactly the motivations are for the very end of the dharma path. I have yet to attain to stream-entry, but it seems like an attainment of a fruition is an experience-less experience (like blacking out drinking?) with a wave of intense bliss and gratitude that follows it. Along with the obvious benefits that come from being more enlightened.

Or is there actually some sort of experience (of course I know it would be neither experience nor non-experience since both are concepts) taking place in nirvana, but the brain just has no way of making memories out of what was experienced? So it can't be recalled?

What are the advantages of parinirvana upon the death of an arhat over, say, living a deluded, but beautiful existence, in a god-realm? Which this 21st century human existence sort of is compared to all the other poor creatures on this planet.

Yes, I understand that there is nobody experiencing all of this in the first place, that the idea of a "reference-point" is incorrect, and the Truth is a referenceless emptiness. However, isn't a deluded dream-like existence in a realm with minimal suffering somewhat more interesting than a sort of blinking-out in eternal peace?

Someone stop me before I become an arhat and die! Of course if I get that far, I probably wouldn't regret it. But from my perspective "back here" it is impacting my practice and making me ambivalent in my motivations...though my drive to practice is still very strong. So someone help me out here.

My feeling is that nature is going to do what it's going to do and "I" don't really have much of a choice in this matter anyways....I'm blaming this absurd anxiety in this issue on my primitive fear-based self-centric animalistic survival instincts.

RE: parinirvana?
Answer
1/29/10 1:17 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Of course, according to Buddhist scripture all those realms are also prone to decay and existence would eventually fall back into a realm of suffering where "I" would be forced to confront the same issues again. And I would also have no recollection of ever having lived in those beautiful realms...and maybe "I" already have....

So maybe I should just shut up and start investigating the three characteristics of all these thoughts instead of thinking about them...

Maybe I'll do that.

RE: parinirvana?
Answer
1/29/10 1:59 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
As the Zen master said when asked about what happens to Zen masters when they die, "I don't know. I may be a Zen master, but I am not a dead one."

In that same vein, I may be an arahat, but I am not a dead one, and all I can speak of with any authority is what is happening now and what I know, so here's my take on it:

If you have to do this, you should, as it helps with that.
It rights some perspective problem at the core of perception itself and that feels better and helps a lot with many things.
Everyone I know who has done this, after some period of stabilization and disappointment, has told me they think it was worth it, and most rank it among their most important accomplishments.

Bliss is great, obviously. However, I personally have a very hard time getting myself to really stay with it for too long, as it rapidly satisfies the desire for it, and then the desire fades, and then the attention to the bliss fades, which, being the condition upon which the bliss depends, causes the bliss to fade rapidly, meaning: I think that bliss for thousands of years would be strangely dull and quite rapidly so, but that is just me.

Oh, and I should mention the Bodhisattva Paradox. This one is always a source of fun and discussion, particularly between Theravada and Mahayana types. As we balance emptiness and compassion, to verge into Mahayana terminology, we find that, while empty, the system wants things to be well, and the more individuals realize they are part of the system, the more there is a natural welling up of the compassionate wish to make the system better, meaning to help the beings that makeup the living part of that system. Given that, emptiness itself generates compassion, and curiously the more awareness there is of emptiness, the more compassion functions better, and thus, this generates intentions to make things good, to help, and these resonate through time and space out into the rest of the system.

This is not eternal life, really, nor it is it anything other than what it is, but the effect remains, and is the compassionate side of the parinibbana coin and should be considered when entertaining notions about what all this leads to and what is good and the best outcome of insight.

RE: parinirvana?
Answer
1/29/10 5:29 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Thomas Allen Vitale:
I am more interested in practical dharma, but this weird feeling is sort of haunting me and I was hoping someone could resolve this.

I'm confused about what exactly the motivations are for the very end of the dharma path. ..isn't a deluded dream-like existence in a realm with minimal suffering somewhat more interesting than a sort of blinking-out in eternal peace?


Yeah, I've got the same weird feeling. However, I don't even believe in god-realms or any of that. There is a problem with following the Dharma if two factors come together:

1.) Believing Nirvana really means the extinction of everything, no trace of being continuing.
2.) Not believing in reincarnation or any sort of life beyond this one.

In that case, one is tempted to just say "Well, if Nirvana is extinction, I'll just get that when I die anyhow, so I'm going to just enjoy life and forget all this Enlightenment stuff."

However, the reason why I continue to meditate and study Buddhism/Yoga, etc. is that:

1.) I'm not entirely sold on the doctrine of Nirvana as pure cessation. It doesn't sound like even Daniel knows entirely what even "regular" living Nirvana really is - and he's "there" 24/7 - much less what Parinirvana might be about. The idea of Nirvana as total extinction - "A cosmic suicide club" as Bill Hamilton put it - does not seem to be shared by most schools of Buddhism. I am not even sure it is shared by even the strictest of the Therevadins as some seem to think though they often seem ambiguous on this issue.

2.) While I will still say my default world-view is materialist/skeptic, I am intrigued enough by the experiences that people have undergone through meditation to continue with my own practice. Although I have been told this is an impure motivation - akin to the Sutra story where Buddha basically convinces a wavering disciple to stay for the hot babes (I'm not lying! Check out http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.3.02.than.html), well I guess it's better than no motivation emoticon

Help any?

RE: parinirvana?
Answer
1/30/10 12:57 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Thomas Allen Vitale:
Of course, according to Buddhist scripture all those realms are also prone to decay and existence would eventually fall back into a realm of suffering where "I" would be forced to confront the same issues again. And I would also have no recollection of ever having lived in those beautiful realms...and maybe "I" already have....

So maybe I should just shut up and start investigating the three characteristics of all these thoughts instead of thinking about them...

Maybe I'll do that.


Here's a simple take on the mahayana perspective as far as I understand it - the god realms, delightful as they are said to be, are the result of karma - you earn it, you enjoy it, you use it up - and then what? As you said, back into the cycle you go. And since you've used up all the god-realm-pleasure karma, the only way to go is 'down' into some kind of suffering. It is said in some vajrayana texts that the god-beings know they are going to die for a period before it happens, and they fully understand what is coming - and this too is intense suffering.

As for what really happens - who knows? But personally I find that everything I've learned in Buddhism has made my life better - both in my own experience, and in how I affect others. I'm not really sure what will happen when I die - except that I'm pretty sure that the practice I've learned will ease the process from this side at the very least. If there is any future account that I can build up, it would be that of understanding and awareness - and full enlightenment would be the maximum 'balance.' I think if you get far enough along on the path, you retain that understanding. So - If 'I' do return, having spent any amount of time in now-forgotten bliss would be worth far less than having ongoing understanding and awareness.

Susan

RE: parinirvana?
Answer
1/30/10 4:21 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
What are the advantages of parinirvana upon the death of an arhat over, say, living a deluded, but beautiful existence, in a god-realm? Which this 21st century human existence sort of is compared to all the other poor creatures on this planet

First of all, I don't see that people are all that happy. I see lots of people desperately chasing happiness – but not many that have found it – not something stable (and here I am thinking more in terms of minutes – nothing too grand). As far as parinirvana goes, I'm with Daniel – not dead yet either so can't speak to that (couldn't probably do it if I was either I guess). God Realms – particularly if there are dove-footed devas around doesn't sound all that bad to me. The competition is steep. Don't know how old you are but you need to get it in gear – lots of stuff like generosity, hero stuff, selfless toil, etc. You are up against the likes of Mother Theresa, etc. And then there is the time factor: one eon you are a god, the next a worm. No consistency to speak of.

the Truth is a referenceless emptiness. However, isn't a deluded dream-like existence in a realm with minimal suffering somewhat more interesting than a sort of blinking-out in eternal peace

I don't see that Buddha ever taught these things. You might check out an ebook called The Island to see what the teachings are.

Someone stop me before I become an arhat and die! Of course if I get that far, I probably wouldn't regret it. But from my perspective "back here" it is impacting my practice and making me ambivalent in my motivations...though my drive to practice is still very strong. So someone help me out here.

In a sense this entire process is about working through our fear. If you want to work with fear you need to engage with it. It can be challenging. So one thing you can do is look into what is going on when these thoughts come up. What is going on in the body, what is going on in the mind. Start observing your actions as you go through the day as carefully as you can. Most people will spend their entire life glancing off of one fear after another – largely oblivious to the fact that this is what they are doing. There is no freedom to be found there. If you want to see your prison - you have look real carefully.

-Chuck