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Nibbana: The Unborn & Unconditioned in Daily Life?


#1

In the Udana, the Buddha points to Nirvana as a transcendent reality:

There is, monks, an unborn[1] — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.
Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)

However, the vast majority of people are unlikely to attain Nirvana in this lifetime, by their self-efforts alone.

What if the unconditioned could reach out to us, rather than just the other way around?

What would prevent the reality of Nirvana from taking us just as we are, in the midst of our everyday life?


#2

Then it isn’t very charitable. Everyone would be enlightened if that were the case. As they are not, we can take it that the unconditioned can not act, so to speak, to actively reach out to us in order to liberate you, or that the unconditioned can but chooses not to do so, so perpetuating saṁsāra.


#3

What if there were a way we could place our trust in the reality of Nirvana, so that we may attain Nirvana when we die, with no self-effort involved?


#4

According to the Buddha, there is a path to Nibbana—and it is eightfold. :wink: :dharmawheel:


#5

That’s a path of self-effort, that most people are unlikely to succeed at in this lifetime. What if there were also an easy path, in which Nirvana takes us just as we are, with no self-effort involved?


#6

A famous Mahāyānika sage once commented when asked:

[Question] You say that the bhūmi of non-retrogression is extremely difficult to enter, requiring a long period of practice, and ask me if there is a path of easy practice whereby you can attain this stage quickly.

[Answer] These are words of a cowardly and contemptible man, and not those of a brave man with a strong aspiration. If, however, you insist on hearing from me about this method of practice, I will explain it to you. There are innumerable modes of entry into the Buddha’s teaching. Just as there are in the world difficult and easy paths - travelling on foot by land is full of hardship and travelling in a boat by sea is pleasant - so it is among the paths of the bodhisattvas. Some exert themselves diligently, while others quickly enter Non-retrogression by the easy practice based on faith. The vow of Amitāyurnāmatathāgata is as follows:

‘If anyone contemplates me, recites my name, and takes refuge in me, he will instantly enter the Stage of Assurance and subsequently attain the highest perfect bodhi.’

For this reason, you should always be mindful of him.

(Ven Nāgārjuna, Daśabhūmikavibhāṣa, T1521)


#7

Yes, exactly. What if the unfathomable reality of Nirvana took on a name and form, so that ordinary beings like ourselves may receive it?


#8

That would make Nirvana like God, which doesn’t sound right.


#9

Would it be a god if it weren’t a creator or judge? As a Buddhist, I don’t believe in a theistic god.


#10

Except we’re discussing Nibbana, not Amida. I can’t think of anything in the EBT which makes Nibbana sound like an active force or entity.


#11

Do you think most human beings (i.e. “ourselves” from your quote above) are cowardly and contemptible? That is who Venerable Nāgārjuna says seeks the path of samādhi generated faith-alone via the buddhānusmṛti of Amitāyurnāmatathāgata.

Perhaps he is being overly harsh towards devotees of Sukhāvatī, but those are the words.

This also likely isn’t really Ven Nāgārjuna, but rather pseudo-Nāgārjuna, one of the various authors of apocryphal scriptures in the Mahāyāna, like pseudo-Maitreya who wrote the famous Uttarekayānaratnagotraśāstra, who claims to be Maitreyanāmabodhisattva, but ‘likely’ isn’t.


#12

The first experience a practitioner has with nibbana is in the approach to stream winning. However in the division between the conditioned and unconditioned, as soon as a practitioner begins to practice the noble eightfold path their mind starts to orient towards nibbana, and it is of utmost importance that they categorize this (their practice) as the unconditioned, thereby isolating and objectifying conventional reality (the conditioned). This is what taking refuge means, and it allows a position from which conventional reality can be seen with detachment.


#13

destruction of delusion does not come about without understanding.


#14

In the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Pure Land Buddhism, Nirvana is presented in more concrete terms as the ‘Pure Land’ of utmost bliss and happiness - a realm into which we are born after we die. This is another way of referring to the attainment of Enlightenment. The Pure Land tradition also considers Amida Buddha as the 'dynamic’ and 'personal’ face of Nirvana reflecting its compassionate aspect in a form that we can relate to and embrace with trusting hearts.
Muryoko: Journal of Shin Buddhism

Based on what we know about Nirvana from the EBTs, what would prevent it from having an active phase or aspect? Why must it only be static? How can Nirvana be perfect wisdom without also being perfect compassion?


#15

From the perspective of a perfected Buddha, yes we are. It’s all the more reason for foolish beings like ourselves to be the recipient of boundless compassion.


#16

I agree. What if there are different ways of getting there? If you could climb up a ladder by your own efforts or be pulled up by a rope, why does it matter either way if the ultimate destination is the same?


#17

"Even though this wish may occur to a monk who dwells without devoting himself to development — ‘O that my mind might be released from effluents through lack of clinging!’ — still his mind is not released from the effluents through lack of clinging. Why is that? From lack of developing, it should be said. Lack of developing what? The four frames of reference, the four right exertions, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors for Awakening, the noble eightfold path.

"Suppose a hen has eight, ten, or twelve eggs: If she doesn’t cover them rightly, warm them rightly, or incubate them rightly, then even though this wish may occur to her — ‘O that my chicks might break through the egg shells with their spiked claws or beaks and hatch out safely!’ — still it is not possible that the chicks will break through the egg shells with their spiked claws or beaks and hatch out safely. Why is that? Because the hen has not covered them rightly, warmed them rightly, or incubated them rightly. In the same way, even though this wish may occur to a monk who dwells without devoting himself to development — ‘O that my mind might be released from effluents through lack of clinging!’ — still his mind is not released from the effluents through lack of clinging. Why is that? From lack of developing, it should be said. Lack of developing what? The four frames of reference, the four right exertions, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors for Awakening, the noble eightfold path.

"Even though this wish may not occur to a monk who dwells devoting himself to development — ‘O that my mind might be released from effluents through lack of clinging!’ — still his mind is released from the effluents through lack of clinging. Why is that? From developing, it should be said. Developing what? The four frames of reference, the four right exertions, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors for Awakening, the noble eightfold path.

"Suppose a hen has eight, ten, or twelve eggs that she covers rightly, warms rightly, & incubates rightly: Even though this wish may not occur to her — ‘O that my chicks might break through the egg shells with their spiked claws or beaks and hatch out safely!’ — still it is possible that the chicks will break through the egg shells with their spiked claws or beaks and hatch out safely. Why is that? Because the hen has covered them, warmed them, & incubated them rightly. In the same way, even though this wish may not occur to a monk who dwells devoting himself to development — ‘O that my mind might be released from effluents through lack of clinging!’ — still his mind is released from the effluents through lack of clinging. Why is that? From developing, it should be said. Developing what? The four frames of reference, the four right exertions, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors for Awakening, the noble eightfold path.

"Just as when a carpenter or carpenter’s apprentice sees the marks of his fingers or thumb on the handle of his adze but does not know, ‘Today my adze handle wore down this much, or yesterday it wore down that much, or the day before yesterday it wore down this much,’ still he knows it is worn through when it is worn through. In the same way, when a monk dwells devoting himself to development, he does not know, ‘Today my effluents wore down this much, or yesterday they wore down that much, or the day before yesterday they wore down this much,’ still he knows they are worn through when they are worn through.

“Just as when an ocean-going ship, rigged with masts & stays, after six months on the water, is left on shore for the winter: Its stays, weathered by the heat & wind, moistened by the clouds of the rainy season, easily wither & rot away. In the same way, when a monk dwells devoting himself to development, his fetters easily wither & rot away.”
Nava Sutta: The Ship


#18

Rather than a literal Buddha of flesh and blood, Amida is said to be a symbolic expression of Nirvana’s salvific activity in the world.


#19

What is nirvana’s salvific activity?

Are we?

Once in a Mahāyāna sūtra, the assembly gathered for a miraculous display of the Buddha. He conjured magnificent sky flowers unfolding to reveal encircled seated Tathāgatas replete with 32 major marks and 80 minor marks. As the miraculous display shone eventually the flower’s scent grew foul and the celestial Buddhas seated disappeared, the petals withered and dispersed.

Tathāgatagarbhasūtra

The Buddha said, ‘Good sons, it is just like a person with supernatural vision who can see the bodies of tathāgatas seated in the lotus position inside the flowers, even though the petals are not yet unfurled; whereas after the wilted petals have been removed, those tathāgatas are manifested for all to see. In a similar fashion, good sons, when I regard all beings with my buddha eye, I see that hidden within the kleśas of greed, desire, anger, and stupidity there is seated augustly and unmovingly the tathāgata’s wisdom, the tathāgata’s vision, and the tathāgata’s body. Good sons, all beings, though they find themselves with all sorts of kleśas, have a tathāgatagarbha that is eternally unsullied, and that is replete with virtues no different from my own.
(T667 Mahāvaipulyatathāgatagarbhasūtra)


#20

Are you asking a serious question, based on some defensible account of reality? Or are you just trying to invent a religious fusion of Christianity and one version of Buddhism?