Nibbana tangent part 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 18:18 (56 days ago) @ dhw

Contd. from PART ONE

dhw: I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self. (See next exchange for more detail.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

dhw: This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

dhw: We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

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