Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Friday, May 17, 2024, 13:58 (27 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

MATT: I can tell you that my progression through earlier states of meditation before the first demonstrates a definite progression towards a peaceful and sublime state that sticks with me when its over. That state heightens my ability for love and makes me more easily express compassion and forgiveness.

Thank you. This makes sense to me. It’s a rather beautiful form of therapy, whereas I had jumped the gun and taken “seclusion” to mean you should go and be a monk, which you will have gathered is not my idea of living a life of love and empathy with others.

MATT: My main goal in sharing that sequence was to demonstrate how each step in the continuum pushes into finer and finer views of consciousness, where you walk right on past all the normal daily states of consciousness to a place where you're still aware but all concept of self disappears, which is a far better idea of what nibbana means than the rest. (dhw’s bold)

Without a concept of self, I am nothing, and Nibbana is also nothing. If I don’t know this is me, how do I feel love or compassion for others, the joy of music “I” like, the excitement of seeing “my” children and grandchildren?

MATT: As for the begging question, there's several things at play, first off, you have to have a subdued sense of self in order to do it.

Yes indeed, and that is a concept of self. Instead of “I’m important,” you have “I’m humble.”

MATT: I have a harder time understanding why you think this monastic practice wouldn't teach you to have more love and compassion?

This is a huge leap from “all concept of self” disappearing. Of course you will understand other people’s suffering if you’ve suffered too. And if your monks go out into the community comforting the poor, offering them food, shelter, understanding, then I’m all for it. But that’s not the same as losing all concept of self. How will you do it if you don’t even know that you WANT to do it? The lesson you’re teaching us is to open your own self up to an understanding of other people’s selves, and not to fret if there are things your self can’t have. You have confirmed this later:

MATT: The equanimity we want is the equanimity that leads us not to desire for things that feed our ego, and/or are out of our control anyway.

Agreed. That is not loss of self but a change in the attitudes of self. Ditto with your definition of “attachment”.

MATT: it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego.

Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

dhw: "My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine."

MATT: Right... but at the same time every civilization that has ever existed has created social institutions to deal with me/mine precisely because if you don't muzzle it, that is what causes terrible problems.

Not to deal with me/mine, but to ensure that me/mine does not cause suffering to other me/mines!

dhw: I agree that everything is fleeting, and my own philosophy is make the most of what is fleetingly available to you, enjoy it as much as you can, and help others to enjoy it too. What bugs me is still the notion that Nirvana – the Buddhist ideal – is actually death. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

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