Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 13:25 (25 days ago) @ xeno6696

I greatly appreciate the manner in which you’re educating us into the many different facets of Buddhism. This is “enlightening” in itself, but I’m not altogether sure what facets you actually believe in, and there are definitely facets that I find both confusing and in some ways disturbing. I’ve summarized these as follows:

1) I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t.
2) A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

It’s the latter that is clearly causing most of the difficulty, and you’ve tried to explain it here:

MATT: […] take my changing views on talking about NDE/OBE. Until a few years ago, while I would indulge you and Dr. Turell in some of those conversations, by and large I was dismissive. A huge part of that was because I had a strong 'identity view' as they say in Buddhism. This is one example of an attachment. I had the view, "I am a strict empiricist." This is a problem. Because now, I've engaged myself so strongly with a particular view about my self, I've created a distortion that at minimum makes me less compassionate about the lived experiences of others. There's a feeling involved with this, quite subtle, but it's the imposition of the ego between myself and reality.
If your sense of I is too strong, your attachment to this self (I instead of I) will miss the possibility of learning your "true" self, which would rightly be not just *you* in the sense of this life, but the totality of *you*. More accurately, my 'self' isn't just Matt in this life, it's Matt and all the previous lives rolled into one continuity.

Although we have consensus on many “realities”, they’re all subjective experiences that run through the filter of bolded I, I or the ego. And as far as these are (or this is) concerned, I see no possibility of the self ever being knowable as a totality. The example you’ve chosen is not even a trait of personality but as you say, a simple change of view: your opinion re NDEs changed because you learned something new. I would distinguish between opinions about particular subjects and the general characteristics which make up the “I” that forms those opinions. However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you. Which is impossible. I thought you remained at best open-minded about rebirth, but that only complicates matters. Have your previous lives created the characteristics you were born with? Your present “you” certainly can’t learn anything from your previous experiences if you don’t even know what they were. Whatever they were, you can still only work on those you have now.

MATT: What's at the center of the onion? The end.

I don’t dislike the onion image, as it corresponds to the above concept: you have endless layers of potential “I”, but only new experiences will peel them. However, for me it fails because we can never know the centre. If you think you’ll go on peeling (= having new experiences) for the rest of eternity, so be it. If you think you WILL reach the centre, then there’s nothing more to experience. And that is supposed to lead to the perfect peace when “all concept of self disappears”. No bolded “I”, “I” or “ego”? Might as well not exist. Hence the end = death.

Perhaps I should add that I do not wish to die! This is because in spite of the horrors all around us, “I” have found life richly rewarding, because “I” have consciously enjoyed fulfilling “my” desires, including the wonderful children that are the direct result of some of those desires! Another inclusion is the desire never to hurt but always to help others. Theoretically I would welcome a rebirth, in the hope that I would continue to do the same. I totally understand and applaud any philosophy that will help others to achieve this balance (which I think is the position you are in). I only object to the negative views of life and the self that make rebirth sound like a punishment for having a self rather than an opportunity to develop and enrich it!

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