Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Friday, May 17, 2024, 18:55 (27 days ago) @ xeno6696

Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

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.

dhw: 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.

Matt: Au contraire! The extent to which any of us is capable of having a wholesome and uplifting love for someone is precisely the same sliding scale that removes "us" from the equation. The more you care for someone or some thing, the less "you" is in that, and the more the object is within it. You admit there's a balance, a sliding scale if you will. I picture at one end, Agape, and at the other end, desiring the object's destruction. (There's an interesting conversation to be had in that perhaps indifference is worse than a spiteful hate, but maybe later.)>

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.

dhw: 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?

Matt: So I tried to answer part of that puzzle by pointing out that in Buddhism, there's a level of the universe that lacks physical components--totally mind-made. There's no body like what you have on earth. We get into areas where I've not explored deeply because alot of it appears hogwash to someone who's predilection leans heavily materialist. But it's clear that at least traditionally, the higher levels of meditation unlock deeper knowledge about reality--it starts with understanding your own stream of death and rebirth, but eventually you can do the same thing for other people. The less of "us" there is, the more of the universe we can see. It reads like gaining omniscience. Again, my read is that whatever we are after shedding, when we dissolve into the universe we're joining something far greater than ourselves. We join the great cosmic "we." ;-)

As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

And that's an interesting materialist interpretation for me--Siddharta Gotama was a prince who grew up with a total lack of want. If you get bored of all pleasures, and then engage in all the most terrible ascetic practices (Gotama at one point was trying to live off of a cup of milk a day or less) you'll reach a point where you've experienced all that life has to offer. So what's left? Mental pleasures, and the jhanas represent both the highest form of pleasure one can have, along with the knowledge that even that is fleeting and prone to disappear, so you follow consciousness until its end, and you realize it doesn't end, there's a universe beyond even your own consciousness. This is a very uncharitable view of Buddhism, but I find value in cynical takes.

From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead. This is like the Buddhist version of the trinity, where it doesn't make much sense, but we also know that prior to the big bang, nothing makes much sense there either, so at least as far as the limits of human knowledge, it always ends in mystery.

Do we return to a junction of our consciousness with a universal consciousness?

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