Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:00 (26 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: 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?

The oldest known answer to the question of parinibbana, the Buddha only leaves us this:

“Monks, an educated disciple of the noble ones understands opinions, understands the origin of opinions, understands the cessation of opinions, and understands the practice which leads to the cessation of opinions. Therefore their opinions cease; they are freed from birth, decay, dying, sorrow, grief, pain, depression, and anguish; they are freed from suffering, I say. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not declare ‘A Tathāgata exists after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata does not exist after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after dying’, and does not declare ‘A Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after dying’. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones naturally does not make a declaration about the undeclared standpoints. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not tremble, quiver, waver, or become anxious regarding the undeclared standpoints.


It's a thing beyond definition. I would answer your question no however, because also by definition, a consciousness has causes and conditions, and it's clear that parinibanna means achieving an unconditioned state, which is precisely why I think the Buddha leaves us with every logical space rejected.

I have to call myself out here, I'm used to throwing around the word "consciousness" pretty liberally. Despite it having only been in our vocabulary since the 1600s, it means something different in English than the various words that get translated to it in Pali. Like how the word "samadhi" often gets translated as "concentration" but is better translated as "stillness," I think something similar is going on with consciousness. The word that gets translated as consciousness is this:

viññāṇa: Consciousness; cognizance; the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. There is also a type of consciousness that lies outside of the khandhas — called consciousness without feature (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) — which is not related to the six senses at all.

It's that last line that pulls my attention.

"Even in Theravada textbooks, Viññāṇa is translated as “consciousness” or “awareness.” But it is much more than that. Viññāna represents much more: “our hopes and desires that we want from this world.” That is a critical point — that makes the connection between mind and matter (rūpa)."

Gods are conscious in that they have hopes and desires, as well as a mind-made body if they choose. Parinibbana is some other thing. But it's not death. People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations--the point of arguing for the veridical is to give evidential weight for the non-veridical as well) then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.

I know the consciousness I experience. It is observation and analysis from my perspective. Analysis is in my speech, English. I can't imagine it being named only 400 years ago.


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