Nibbana and The Fire Sermon

Nibbana, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

This short essay sketches the use of fire imagery in early Buddhism to describe Nibbana, the goal of Buddhist practice.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/nibbana.html

Adittapariyaya Sutta: The Fire Sermon

Several months after his Awakening, the Buddha delivers this sermon to an audience of 1,000 fire-worshipping ascetics. The Buddha uses the metaphor of fire to illustrate the nature of clinging. Upon hearing the sermon, the entire audience attains full Awakening.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.028.than.html

:anjal:

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How can this be “experienced” after this life? To me, including in actual practise, it sounds like something inferred via recollection (similar to maraṇasati), which is why it seems to have been taught as a preparation for the termination of life:

Now what, bhikkhus, is the Nibbāna-element with no residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant … completely released through final knowledge. For him, here in this very life, all that is experienced, not being delighted in, will be extinguished. That, bhikkhus, is called the Nibbāna-element with no residue left. Iti 44

If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a painful feeling, he feels it detached; if he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. When he feels a feeling terminating with the body, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with the body.’ When he feels a feeling terminating with life, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with life.’ He understands: ‘On the dissolution of the body, with the ending of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.’ Bhikkhu, just as an oil-lamp burns in dependence on oil and a wick, and when the oil and wick are used up, if it does not get any more fuel, it is extinguished from lack of fuel; so too when he feels a feeling terminating with the body…a feeling terminating with life, he understands: ‘I feel a feeling terminating with life.’ He understands: ‘On the dissolution of the body, with the ending of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will become cool right here.’ MN 140

[quote=“LucasOliveira, post:1, topic:5719”]
Nibbana, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable, even in terms of existence or nonexistence, because words work only for things that have limits. All he really says about it — apart from images and metaphors — is that one can have foretastes of the experience in this lifetime, and that it’s the ultimate happiness, something truly worth knowing.[/quote]

Where do the EBTs actually say these things in relation to the 2nd level of Nibbana? Where does the Buddha say the second level of Nibbana is something subject to “knowing”, apart from being actualised in the here-&-now via inference & pondering?

:seedling:

[quote=“Deeele, post:2, topic:5719, full:true”]

[quote=“LucasOliveira, post:1, topic:5719”]
Nibbana, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The second level of unbinding, symbolized by a fire so totally out that its embers have grown cold, is what the arahant experiences after this life. All input from the senses cools away and he/she is totally freed from even the subtlest stresses and limitations of existence in space and time.
[/quote]How can this be “experienced” after this life?[/quote]It sounds like Ven Thanissaro may have been reading the literature of the “other” Buddhism:

The Tathagatas are not eternally extinguished in Nirvana like the heat of an iron ball that is quickly extinguished when cast into water. Moreover, it is thus: just as the heat of an iron ball is extinguished when thrown into water, the Tathagata is likewise; when the immeasurable mental afflictions have been extinguished, it is similar to when an iron ball is cast into water - although the heat is extinguished, the substance / nature of the iron remains. In that way, when the Tathagata has completely extinguished the fire of the mental afflictions that have been accumulated over countless aeons, the nature of the diamond Tathagata permanently endures - not transforming and not diminishing.


Buddha-nature is svabhāva in Mahāyāna Buddhism, which allows them to make statements like the ones made by Ven Thanissaro without controversy.

I am also wondering where Ven Thanissaro finds this discourse in the Pāli (or another Dharma language I suppose) explicitly, as that would be very interesting indeed, since anyone (myself frequently included) can find implications of the sort that Ven Thanissaro has also found, but explicit statements concerning this are lacking in the literature dealt with on this forum, afaik.

This is the linchpin for me:[quote=Ven Thanissaro]The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable, even in terms of existence or nonexistence, because words work only for things that have limits.[/quote]I know (or rather, think I know) what Buddhavacana Ven Thanissaro is talking about here. I think he is talking about the questions of Vacchagotta and related discourses. But if that is the case, then the Buddha doesn’t actually [quote=Ven Thanissaro]The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable[/quote]He simply doesn’t answer.

It would have been very easy, and much much more direct and helpful, if the Buddha had simply said: “There is a form of quasi-existence that is nothing like any sort of conceptualized existence that exists after parinirvana, but it is utterly impossible to conceive of this state correctly without clinging, you must achieve it for yourself.”

The Buddha would have said it better, if he had said it and if it were necessarily true.

The thing about this teaching, similar to the notion of “The Buddha taught an inconceivable true self.” is that it isn’t actually that complicated a teaching, one just needs to be epistemologically humbled as to the limits of one’s knowledge, so why didn’t the Buddha simply teach it explicitly if it were the case that that was the truth behind the teaching?

@LucasOliveira, is this particular text of Ven Thanissaro’s, concerning Nibbāna, related to his The Mind Like Fire Unbound?

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[quote=“Coemgenu, post:3, topic:5719, full:true”]This is the linchpin for me:[quote=Ven Thanissaro]The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable, even in terms of existence or nonexistence, because words work only for things that have limits.[/quote]I know (or rather, think I know) what Buddhavacana Ven Thanissaro is talking about here. I think he is talking about the questions of Vacchagotta and related discourses. But if that is the case, then the Buddha doesn’t actually [quote=Ven Thanissaro]The Buddha insists that this level is indescribable[/quote]He simply doesn’t answer.
[/quote]

Than-Geoff has recently (2106) published a translation of the Sutta-Nipata, which includes, in the “Pārāyana Vagga”, “Upasīva’s Questions” (5:6), where in the last verse (1076) the Buddha does answer:

One who has reached the end has no criterion
by which anyone would say that – for him it doesn’t exist.
When all phenomena are done away with,
all means of speaking are done away with as well.

That part of the Sutta-Nipata is considered quite early, and is considered in depth also by Alexander Wynne (“The Origin of Buddhist Meditation”, 2007). Wynne paraphrases (K. R. Norman’s translation) that passage (1075-1076) as:

Upasīva asks the Buddha if this person would be annihilated (n’atthi) or would exist eternally in a pleasant condition (sassatiyā arogo). The Buddha answers that the person has gone beyond the means by which one could determine this answer, i.e. because all ‘phenomena’ (dhamma-s) have been destroyed for him, all modes of speaking have been destroyed.”

(I’m a bit perplexed at the frequent critiques of Than-Geoff’s writings in this forum, a tendency to infer questionable implications rather than give the benefit of doubt. Another case is the accusation of “eternalism”, which, not unrelated to material above, I’ve yet to see documented with text-critical analysis. Also the paper cited in the OP here dates from 1996 – more than 20 years ago, where TG’s choice of words is known to evolve over time, as also the case with B. Bodhi, V. Sujato, etc.)

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[quote=“cjmacie, post:4, topic:5719”]
I’m a bit perplexed at the frequent critiques of Than-Geoff’s writings in this forum, a tendency to infer questionable implications rather than give the benefit of doubt.
[/quote]Are you referring to me not being informed as to the questions of Upasīva? Indeed I assumed it would be a Vacchagotta quote, because that is what I am used to seeing Ven Thanissaro quoted on. You know the popular anecdote about the folk etymology of the word “assume”, I “assume”?

Or are you referring to my comparison of some of Ven Thanissaro’s interpretations to the Mahāyānamahāparinirvāṇasūtra? Because I do not consider that to be a snipe or jibe in any way, although I can understand why some might, given the tendency to assume the entirety of Mahāyāna = Evil Fake Dharma.

Furthermore this here, in case it sounded “mean”:[quote=“Coemgenu, post:3, topic:5719”]
I am also wondering where Ven Thanissaro finds this discourse in the Pāli (or another Dharma language I suppose) explicitly, as that would be very interesting indeed, since anyone (myself frequently included) can find implications of the sort that Ven Thanissaro has also found, but explicit statements concerning this are lacking in the literature dealt with on this forum, afaik.
[/quote]Is completely heartfelt, not meant sarcastically.

I think Ven Geoff is very straightforward. Ex: His recent book is about the different between Theravada Buddhism and Romanticism, which could incite many fires among “Buddhist”. Although in many books, he do not metions who and who have a wrong view, but that could cause many grudge.

I myself find trust in his personality. And seriously, how the heck can he be accused of “eternalism” ???

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Me too. Thanks for bringing this up.

Same here. I have read quite a bit of material from him and just don’t see it.

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Interesting - I have found myself thinking the same thing about non-existence. If Nibbana was just nothingness, wouldn’t the Buddha have just said so?