Nibbana tangent part 1 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Monday, May 27, 2024, 16:56 (58 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end. [See below re the bolded sentence]

MATT: […] The "bottom of consciousness" is Nibbana.

dhw: My comment above dealt almost entirely with concepts of the self. My only comment on “Nibbana” was in response to your telling us that according to the Buddha, if you get to Nibbana, there is no eternal self, and so the sense of self is discontinuous.

MATT: Once you reach Nibbana, my interpretation is that conditioned existence stops for that person. […] the hardest and last thing to go is that final thread connecting the mind to what I've been calling "I AM."

dhw: “Conditioned existence” presumably means there can be no more experiences. The final thread is clearly consciousness of the self, which ties in with the concept that has caused us so much trouble: “all concept of self must disappear”. My one and only point is that if there is no concept of self, and there is no eternal self, then Nibbana means death.

MATT: Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced...

dhw: The discussion about Nibbana is not meant in any way to denigrate the personal, therapeutic effects of meditation. I’m concerned here ONLY with the meaning of Nibbana, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal for those who want to get there.

MATT: I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

dhw: So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.

I think Matt does not take the concept to death but to a point in meditation where self-recognition totally disappears temporarily.

The self

dhw: At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

MATT: To understand me better, go back to where I brought up Phineas Gage. I believe you take for granted the idea that your love for cricket will always be there.

dhw: Of course I don’t. I keep agreeing that the self is NOT continuous. Please look at the bold at the start of this post. And last week I wrote: “I have already agreed that the self is NOT continuous. (My example was the newly enlightened bigot.) But the fact that it can change does not make it an illusion.”

MATT: If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet.

dhw: I never said or thought it did. My point is that we are not conscious all the time of everything that is there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! (Contd. in Part Two)

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