Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

General forum on Mahayana.

Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Mon May 21, 2012 11:57 pm

I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby tomamundsen » Tue May 22, 2012 2:21 am

Son wrote:However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara.

Well, this is more of a Theravada perspective.

Son wrote:Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana.

And now we're talking about Vajrayana.

Son wrote:So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Because you're conflating views between different sects of Buddhism. If you pick one tradition and study it, you won't come across these "inconsistencies." (They're not actually inconsistencies if you view them from the more profound level.)
User avatar
tomamundsen
 
Posts: 539
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Tue May 22, 2012 4:05 am

tomamundsen wrote:
Son wrote:However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara.

Well, this is more of a Theravada perspective.

Son wrote:Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana.

And now we're talking about Vajrayana.

Son wrote:So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Because you're conflating views between different sects of Buddhism. If you pick one tradition and study it, you won't come across these "inconsistencies." (They're not actually inconsistencies if you view them from the more profound level.)


Yep. I've heard this response from several different Buddhists. Thing is, when it comes down to it, those answers are just avoiding the ultimate issue. The Buddha didn't teach Theravada--and he didn't teach Vajrayana. Mahayana, Theravada, Zen, Pure Land, Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Thai Forest, Vajrayana--the Buddha didn't teach any traditions. The Buddha taught the one true Dharma, and from that Dharma came all of these human interpretations and adaptations. They are all worth something.

But it is not acceptable to say, "well, for the Vajrayanists you can attain Enlightenment and remain in samsara," and turn around and say, "well, if you pick some other tradition you can believe that Enlightenment is the end of samsara absolutely." These are cop-out answers, in the end.

I care about what the original, true, Dharmic truth on this matter is, and "picking" a tradition is not what the Buddha described as the way to Enlightenment. Understanding is what's important. Truth.

One of the thoughts that had always stuck with me is, if attaining Enlightenment means you stay in samsara to help all other beings attain Enlightenment, eternally--what was really the point of Enlightenment then? If all the beings you save stay in samsara, eternally helping other beings, then the number of beings you've saved including yourself amounts to pretty much nothing. On top of that, it is said extensively by the Master himself that he entered parinirvana. So, this has always been a question for myself...
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Dave The Seeker » Tue May 22, 2012 11:56 am

Son wrote:One of the thoughts that had always stuck with me is, if attaining Enlightenment means you stay in samsara to help all other beings attain Enlightenment, eternally--what was really the point of Enlightenment then?


The point of Enlightenment in my understanding, is to realize the Truth and to help all sentient beings realize the Truth as well.

If all the beings you save stay in samsara, eternally helping other beings, then the number of beings you've saved including yourself amounts to pretty much nothing. On top of that, it is said extensively by the Master himself that he entered parinirvana. So, this has always been a question for myself...


It amounts to nothing? It seems to me it amounts to numberless beings actually helping others to realize the Truth and reaching Nirvana. All done in a peaceful compassionate way.
Is it even possible to imagine an existence in a totally compassionate world? It sure would be nice to experience though.

Kindest wishes, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
User avatar
Dave The Seeker
 
Posts: 409
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:02 pm
Location: Reading MI USA

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Tue May 22, 2012 9:36 pm

But how are you helping them to achieve nirvana if they give it up beforehand to help other beings in almost achieving nirvana? If the purpose is to help other beings achieve nirvana, then that purpose is never met because no one ever does, if they all remain.

I'm not at all saying that we shouldn't dedicate ourselves to helping other beings, and even postpone our own nirvana to further help beings as much as we can. But for neither ourselves nor none of those we help to enter nirvana does defeat the entire purpose of it all. The Great Buddha did not cultivate his bodhisattvahood for hundreds of thousands of eons and eternities so that he could teach all beings on Earth to avoid achieving nirvana. It was the entire root of his teaching, to ultimately release yourself from samsara once and for all.

That said, I understand and support the idea of postponing your own nirvana to help others. But having studied the majority of the two thousand four hundred year Buddhist tradition, I still haven't seen, read, or heard anything to ultimately support the idea that we really should permanently give up nirvana so that other beings may help other beings permanently give up nirvana for the same reason. After all, after spending all that time purifying his Buddha Field and preparing to turn the great wheel here for the fourth time on our planet, the Buddha himself achieved nirvana. And, he couldn't teach the Dharma until he had himself become so Enlightened--thus achieving nirvana. So there it is, the highest and greatest of achievements ends with nirvana anyway.

Vowing to abstain from nirvana in order to help all sentient beings is noble, it's what the Buddha himself did and what all bodhisattvas do. But those bodhisattvas eventually do achieve nirvana once their long quest is complete. And, mostly due to the lack of real explanation, it seems to me that the idea of never entering nirvana sort of insults the teaching, since that is essentially and primarily its goal and purpose.

But honestly, I just want to hear some in-depth thought on it, or some referencing or something. It's an honest question. You know, and why call someone Enlightened-Buddha, if they're not really but just postponing it? If anything you'd be very very nearly Enlightened.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby kirtu » Tue May 22, 2012 10:23 pm

Son wrote:How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again?


What actually happens is more complex than that and arises as a result of generating relative Bodhicitta - the vow to help beings whenever possible, to be of benefit to beings in any positive way possible in order to relieve their suffering and eventually led them out of suffering altogether.

In the begining beings who have this strong motivation are actually reborn due to karma, Then as they attain levels of realization (so the Path of Joining and esp. later on the Path of Seeing and the Path of Meditation) they are able to consciously take rebirth in order to help beings.

On the Path of No More Learning (Buddhahood), they emanate beings who are said to be of the same mind stream.

I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara.


Postponing nirvana is a misnomer. Bodhisattvas want to attain Buddhahood as fast as possible. This is because only with full Buddhahood does a person have the possibility to wield the necessary spiritual power to effectively help beings.

However the goal itself is not nirvana but Buddhahood. So an Arya Bodhisattva doesn't fall into the trap of being attached to samsara or the trap of being attached to nirvana.

According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana.


In the Sravakayana and perhaps in some Pure Land expressions.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4570
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby acarefreeman » Wed May 23, 2012 2:35 am

Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.

Hello,

You have raised several questions in your post, and I will answer them one by one, but not necessarily in the order which they appeared.

Question:
"Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana."

Answer:
In all Mahayana triditions, enlightenment occurs at different levels, and the enlightenment of the Buddha is called the Supreme Enlightenment, or simply Enlightenment if it causes no confusion. So, only at the level of the Supreme Enlightenment does a person gain the power to enter parinirvana which in turn is defined in the sense of being free once and for all from the samsara, or in the sense of forever ending all sufferings if in a slightly different wording.

It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above. However, one should also realize that at a certain advanced stage of bodhisattvahood, a person is able to control when and where he is to be reborn, or in other words, he has achieved certain freedom from the samsara, and because of this, it can also be claimed that the person is reborn for the purpose of saving others. Yet this claim can be easily misunderstood, since in a strict sense, it is only partially true. In fact, a person at an advanced stage of Bodhisattvahood comes into this world primarily for his own spiritual growth, and saving others is just the way of how he achieves his goal of this necessary spiritual growth. In short, Buddhist emancipation, and the road that leads to it, represents a profound, unchanging law (I bet you love law, right?) rather than something that can be manipulated at one's own will, and one just needs to properly understand this law and to make effective use of it in order to eventually achieve the Buddhahood.

Hope this has answered some of your biggest questions in your post, but obviously there are other subtleties that still need to be clarified, and I will continue in a separate post when necessary.

Best wishes,

~acarefreeman
acarefreeman
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:49 am
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Quiet Heart » Wed May 23, 2012 3:28 am

:smile:
Son....you said
How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

------------------------

You make a couple of assumptions there.
First you assume that there is a place or thing that is called "Nirvana"....where is this place or thing to be found?
Secondly you assume that an enlightened person, who has supposedly entered into this place or thing, somehow does not feel the pain and suffering other sentient beings do. Why do you assume that is the case?
Consider this....perhaps enlightenment is NOT attaining a place or thing known as Nivana/Nibbana/Enlightement...or whatever you wish to call it.
Perhaps enlightenment is simply attaining a state of understanding...a kind of widom or knowledge...in which you as a sentient being know and realise the PURPOSE of such things as suffering and pain, Samsara, and the cycle of birth-death-and rebirth.
Because you now know and understand that PURPOSE of that cycle, you are set free by that knowledge from the pain of Samsara and birth-death-rebirth.
Since you no longer feel that pain....you are therefore now free from the suffering of samsara...and the cycle of birth-death-and rebirth.
Therefore, now being freed by that knowledge.....you vouluntarily enter into that cycle again...until all other sentient beings are also freed from that pain.
Is it possible that is exactly what the Budddha did....made that choice?
I don't know the answer to that question....but it certainly something to think about, isn't it?
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
User avatar
Quiet Heart
 
Posts: 269
Joined: Thu May 19, 2011 10:57 am
Location: Bangkok Thailand

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Wed May 23, 2012 3:45 am

acarefreeman wrote:
Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.

Hello,

You have raised several questions in your post, and I will answer them one by one, but not necessarily in the order which they appeared.

Question:
"Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana."

Answer:
In all Mahayana triditions, enlightenment occurs at different levels, and the enlightenment of the Buddha is called the Supreme Enlightenment, or simply Enlightenment if it causes no confusion. So, only at the level of the Supreme Enlightenment does a person gain the power to enter parinirvana which in turn is defined in the sense of being free once and for all from the samsara, or in the sense of forever ending all sufferings if in a slightly different wording.

It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above. However, one should also realize that at a certain advanced stage of bodhisattvahood, a person is able to control when and where he is to be reborn, or in other words, he has achieved certain freedom from the samsara, and because of this, it can also be claimed that the person is reborn for the purpose of saving others. Yet this claim can be easily misunderstood, since in a strict sense, it is only partially true. In fact, a person at an advanced stage of Bodhisattvahood comes into this world primarily for his own spiritual growth, and saving others is just the way of how he achieves his goal of this necessary spiritual growth. In short, Buddhist emancipation, and the road that leads to it, represents a profound, unchanging law (I bet you love law, right?) rather than something that can be manipulated at one's own will, and one just needs to properly understand this law and to make effective use of it in order to eventually achieve the Buddhahood.

Hope this has answered some of your biggest questions in your post, but obviously there are other subtleties that still need to be clarified, and I will continue in a separate post when necessary.

Best wishes,

~acarefreeman



Thanks.
Well, yes, it is widely said that there are different levels of Enlightenment. Especially in Zen when we find the concept of satori, this is obviously not the nirvana spoken of by the Buddha. Satoris are sudden, and what's more several of them can occur. But the Buddha taught to his disciples that if they attained nirvana they would be eternally liberated from their suffering. He didn't say, "you'll re-enter into samsara," he said the exact opposite. It's in his clear teachings that both sammasambuddhas, savakabuddhas (disciples or students of the Dharma), and pratyekabuddhas (who attain nirvana with no teaching) all escape samsara. Why and how does the idea that only Fully Enlightened Buddhas attain nirvana. And on top of that, there is no way that "different kinds" of nirvana exist. Nirvana is nirvana.

"It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above."

The first half is unanimously true in all contexts, but I've never read any suggestion for the second half. The Buddha definitely explained that anyone achieving nirvana is permanently released from samsara. Because of the nature of nirvana, if a being remains in any way attached to or bound up with any level of suffering or existence in samsara, they haven't achieved nirvana. And someone actually stated the idea of "being attached to nirvana..." I'm not trying to sound dry, but nirvana as the Master used the term, cannot be attached to, since nirvana is devoid of attachment. It seems like somewhere down the line, words for enlightenment began to jumble up what nirvana meant, and of course ultimately leading to Zen re-purifying the meaning of nirvana by placing it in an unfathomably far away kingdom of nowhereness, thus proving "enlightenment" to be relative after all, and a mere convention for profound realization. Which brings me to my point: the Master chose to use the word Enlightenment to refer to the one and only realization which delivers one unto nirvana.

This brings me back to the multiple satori statement and similar phenomena. Regardless of what "enlightenments" they're achieving, it cannot be nirvana because nirvana is the final end of suffering. Yes, according to the Master, nirvana is the absolute end of samsara, and all of these teachings are clear and truthful. There's no splitting hairs with that. It applies to any being with any level of enlightenment regardless of any qualities. Either you're in samsara, or you've achieved what is called "nirvana." That said, it could be acceptable to bring up being "attached to nirvana," under the circumstance that they're attached to it before they've actually achieved it. But you cannot be attached once having nirvana, because you can't have nirvana unless you have no attachment. Originally, the term bodhi was commonly used to refer to the disciples who had achieved nirvana, but it seems to have fractured prismatically into a multitude of convenient uses throughout the cultures of Buddhism.

What I had begun to think more and more throughout practice and study, is that different traditions had started to use the word for Enlightenment as meaning smaller or larger realizations, and sort of transcending the essential meaning of nirvana altogether. This sort of estranges "enlightenment" from nirvana, in a way that the earliest Buddhists didn't seem to do. However, I never thought it to be wrong--it's okay because enlightenment is just a word. Notwithstanding, here I am continuing to opening the same can of worms.

Basically, what I always get down to--in my theory, here--is that most Buddhists, like most non-Buddhists, use the term enlightenment to refer to some various general "realizations" and "illuminations," which can usually carry on a very bodhisattvic truth. However nirvana, as it cannot possibly be differentiated between any being, Supreme Buddha or disciple Buddha, and it cannot be ended, is something in itself which the Buddha and his disciples achieved after he was Fully Enlightened and turned the great Wheel.

Again, thank you, you've been more helpful than most of the people I've spoken with in the past. They mostly didn't think much into the deep meanings of the Dharma. Which is fine for most people, but serious inquiry into the deep nuance of the Dharma isn't important. And there isn't a reason for someone not born into a Buddhist sect, to not study them as a living unity. After all, the different rays of Truth all emanate from the same Buddha, and he was only one person, one human being. Therefore if anyone plans on attaining Supreme Buddhahood, they're eventually going to have to understand this fundamental unity and move past conventions for enlightenments.
Again thanks for the insight you're giving.

namaste.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Wed May 23, 2012 4:02 am

Quiet Heart wrote::smile:
Son....you said
How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

------------------------

You make a couple of assumptions there.
First you assume that there is a place or thing that is called "Nirvana"....where is this place or thing to be found?
Secondly you assume that an enlightened person, who has supposedly entered into this place or thing, somehow does not feel the pain and suffering other sentient beings do. Why do you assume that is the case?
Consider this....perhaps enlightenment is NOT attaining a place or thing known as Nivana/Nibbana/Enlightement...or whatever you wish to call it.
Perhaps enlightenment is simply attaining a state of understanding...a kind of widom or knowledge...in which you as a sentient being know and realise the PURPOSE of such things as suffering and pain, Samsara, and the cycle of birth-death-and rebirth.
Because you now know and understand that PURPOSE of that cycle, you are set free by that knowledge from the pain of Samsara and birth-death-rebirth.
Since you no longer feel that pain....you are therefore now free from the suffering of samsara...and the cycle of birth-death-and rebirth.
Therefore, now being freed by that knowledge.....you vouluntarily enter into that cycle again...until all other sentient beings are also freed from that pain.
Is it possible that is exactly what the Budddha did....made that choice?
I don't know the answer to that question....but it certainly something to think about, isn't it?
:smile:


Thank you... Yes, it is something to think about. And I've been thinking about it for a long time. I didn't assume that nirvana was a place or a thing, I was speaking conventionally, because I have to because I'm using human language... Secondly I didn't assume that a being achieved of nirvana doesn't experience pain, as it is told clearly that disciples who achieved nirvana did experience pain. Furthermore, you explain nirvana pretty well. However when you get to the part about voluntarily entering samsara again, I don't see how that's possible. If you have no suffering and no attachment, then you have no desire or craving to remain in samsara, you have no drive, you have no karmic background, you have no attachment to the beings in samsara. You help while you still live in samsara because that's the natural thing to do. Beings who have achieved nirvana can easily just sit in a cave for the next 20 years without speaking to anyone, and just pray, or listen to birds. Any sort of "choosing" this or that, once having nirvana, couldn't be limited to samsara. That's the whole point of nirvana, it transcends anything and everything samsaric.

On the other hand, if you were so dedicated to helping all other sentient beings eternally achieve nirvana, you would have not entered that finality yourself--which is what bodhisattvas do. As it is taught, the bodhisattvas spend several eternities preparing for Supreme Buddhahood where they will accomplish that very goal. And after accomplishing that goal, after they have established that very helpful Truth for other beings, it is only reasonable to choose nirvana. Moreover, in order to teach the Dharma, the Thus Come Ones would have to achieve nirvana themselves anyway. Otherwise, they wouldn't be able to be Supremely Enlightened. They have to experience the pure nirvana, to teach it.

I think that's the beginning of parts to the answer to the question of what happened to the Master. And I can see that certain kinds of "enlightenments" are attained and those humans can continue reincarnated so to speak--but they're not choosing rebirth over nirvana. They haven't achieved nirvana yet, otherwise there would be no need to return. In a world where the Dharma is living and they have heard it and achieved nirvana, there's no need for them, the Dharma is already known. And they have the rest of their lives to help others and establish more guidance in the world. Contrarily, on a world where there is no Teaching, the pratyekabuddhas are not capable of teaching the Dharma, as the Buddha explained, and so this further supports the idea.

Ultimately, this leads me to have a slight begrudging against some of the more extreme overglorifications of some Buddhist ways, in spite of my deep respect and adoration for them. But still nonetheless, I do appreciate the discussion and insight, because of the limitations sectarianism has put on the world, even though it happens naturally in "impure" Buddha Fields such as this one.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby muni » Wed May 23, 2012 11:46 am

Samsara is ideation, dream, sleep. Nirvana is an idea, an aim "one must reach". An awakened one is not caught in ideation.

Only awakened ones can awaken beings. One in samsara cannot help beings out of samsara. Awakened ones can appear very ordinary to sentient beings' eyes.

:namaste:
muni
 
Posts: 2974
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Anders » Wed May 23, 2012 11:56 am

Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


A teacher of mine described to me once how it was for her. Basically, a total exit from Samsara, no-thing at all, just Nirvana/Dharmakaya, then a kind of turning from within to look at it - she described it as being like a collection of bubbles with beings in there and seeing how they all imagine they are compelled to remain. She said since it was love that triggered the letting go necessary for this 'exit', the same love spurred her to re-enter the bubbles. 'choose the big one, most do, or the small one. It makes little difference'. Basically, she said, it just takes desire to go back. That desire is also the only difference between the Nirvana of cessation and the Nirvana of remaining in Samsara.

I suppose if you think of desire as something utterly cut off by awakening, then this description makes makes little sense. I think of liberation as being liberated from the neurotic compulsion for it, moreso than cutting it out. The potential for raising desire exists, it is just the latent compulsion to cling to it, or have to raise it, that gets freed (which can mean a life of no desire - or it can mean choosing desire out of compassion). The notion of enlightenment as spiritual lobotomy doesn't really make sense to me anymore.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 767
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Andrew108 » Wed May 23, 2012 1:47 pm

Great post agin Anders. I always enjoy reading your posts.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Aemilius » Wed May 23, 2012 4:04 pm

Anders Honore wrote:
Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


A teacher of mine described to me once how it was for her. Basically, a total exit from Samsara, no-thing at all, just Nirvana/Dharmakaya, then a kind of turning from within to look at it - she described it as being like a collection of bubbles with beings in there and seeing how they all imagine they are compelled to remain. She said since it was love that triggered the letting go necessary for this 'exit', the same love spurred her to re-enter the bubbles. 'choose the big one, most do, or the small one. It makes little difference'. Basically, she said, it just takes desire to go back. That desire is also the only difference between the Nirvana of cessation and the Nirvana of remaining in Samsara.

I suppose if you think of desire as something utterly cut off by awakening, then this description makes makes little sense. I think of liberation as being liberated from the neurotic compulsion for it, moreso than cutting it out. The potential for raising desire exists, it is just the latent compulsion to cling to it, or have to raise it, that gets freed (which can mean a life of no desire - or it can mean choosing desire out of compassion). The notion of enlightenment as spiritual lobotomy doesn't really make sense to me anymore.


Madhyamaka generally takes the view that samsara doesn't exist at all, and nirvana is the realization of its nonexistence. So what would you then re-enter?
svaha
User avatar
Aemilius
 
Posts: 1540
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Aemilius » Wed May 23, 2012 4:52 pm

Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


This topic touches the mechanisms of the bodhisattva career: Like the Diamond Sutra indicates, the Bodhisattva had lived as an ascetic Ksanti for 500 lifetimes, and he had attained selflessness, still he was reborn again. In many Mahayana sutras bodhisattvas study under many thousands of Buddhas and they practice their doctrines faithfully ( which implies that they attain enlightenment). It seems to be the case that the consciousness loses its enlightenment when entering the womb. And therefore he has to start training again in each life. This is true also of the last life of Shakyamuni as Siddhartha Gautama.
There is a sutra in the Ratnakuta collection of sutras called Ananda's Sutra on How Consciousness Enters the Womb,
( doesn't exist in english translation), but it indicates that the topic exists in the Mahayana schools of buddhism. How consciousness enters the womb is dealt in detail in many tantras.
It is a practical matter in the Mahayana, but somewhat esoteric, because it implies that the person actually loses the enlightenment in the swoon of entering the womb, and that he must then attain it anew.
It exists in Zen, Dogen answers in his writings the question: does a Zen master lose his enlightenment? It is hinted at in the saying: "entering the fire for the sake of others".
The force of wisdom, or the power of wisdom, increases gradually untill it can maintain itself through birth, (and through death), during the course of a bodhisattva's career. Same with the other Paramitas.
The great buddhist agenda is that enlightenment is a permanent attainment. This discussion certainly exists in the buddhist tradition, but not very much in the open, because it contradicts this great public teaching of the permanency of enlightenment.
The point is evolutionary: You become a different kind of being. Its manifestation is slow and gradual, like in evolution generally.
svaha
User avatar
Aemilius
 
Posts: 1540
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby acarefreeman » Wed May 23, 2012 4:55 pm

Son wrote:
acarefreeman wrote:
Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.

Hello,

You have raised several questions in your post, and I will answer them one by one, but not necessarily in the order which they appeared.

Question:
"Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana."

Answer:
In all Mahayana triditions, enlightenment occurs at different levels, and the enlightenment of the Buddha is called the Supreme Enlightenment, or simply Enlightenment if it causes no confusion. So, only at the level of the Supreme Enlightenment does a person gain the power to enter parinirvana which in turn is defined in the sense of being free once and for all from the samsara, or in the sense of forever ending all sufferings if in a slightly different wording.

It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above. However, one should also realize that at a certain advanced stage of bodhisattvahood, a person is able to control when and where he is to be reborn, or in other words, he has achieved certain freedom from the samsara, and because of this, it can also be claimed that the person is reborn for the purpose of saving others. Yet this claim can be easily misunderstood, since in a strict sense, it is only partially true. In fact, a person at an advanced stage of Bodhisattvahood comes into this world primarily for his own spiritual growth, and saving others is just the way of how he achieves his goal of this necessary spiritual growth. In short, Buddhist emancipation, and the road that leads to it, represents a profound, unchanging law (I bet you love law, right?) rather than something that can be manipulated at one's own will, and one just needs to properly understand this law and to make effective use of it in order to eventually achieve the Buddhahood.

Hope this has answered some of your biggest questions in your post, but obviously there are other subtleties that still need to be clarified, and I will continue in a separate post when necessary.

Best wishes,

~acarefreeman



Thanks.
Well, yes, it is widely said that there are different levels of Enlightenment. Especially in Zen when we find the concept of satori, this is obviously not the nirvana spoken of by the Buddha. Satoris are sudden, and what's more several of them can occur. But the Buddha taught to his disciples that if they attained nirvana they would be eternally liberated from their suffering. He didn't say, "you'll re-enter into samsara," he said the exact opposite. It's in his clear teachings that both sammasambuddhas, savakabuddhas (disciples or students of the Dharma), and pratyekabuddhas (who attain nirvana with no teaching) all escape samsara. Why and how does the idea that only Fully Enlightened Buddhas attain nirvana. And on top of that, there is no way that "different kinds" of nirvana exist. Nirvana is nirvana.

"It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above."

The first half is unanimously true in all contexts, but I've never read any suggestion for the second half. The Buddha definitely explained that anyone achieving nirvana is permanently released from samsara. Because of the nature of nirvana, if a being remains in any way attached to or bound up with any level of suffering or existence in samsara, they haven't achieved nirvana. And someone actually stated the idea of "being attached to nirvana..." I'm not trying to sound dry, but nirvana as the Master used the term, cannot be attached to, since nirvana is devoid of attachment. It seems like somewhere down the line, words for enlightenment began to jumble up what nirvana meant, and of course ultimately leading to Zen re-purifying the meaning of nirvana by placing it in an unfathomably far away kingdom of nowhereness, thus proving "enlightenment" to be relative after all, and a mere convention for profound realization. Which brings me to my point: the Master chose to use the word Enlightenment to refer to the one and only realization which delivers one unto nirvana.

This brings me back to the multiple satori statement and similar phenomena. Regardless of what "enlightenments" they're achieving, it cannot be nirvana because nirvana is the final end of suffering. Yes, according to the Master, nirvana is the absolute end of samsara, and all of these teachings are clear and truthful. There's no splitting hairs with that. It applies to any being with any level of enlightenment regardless of any qualities. Either you're in samsara, or you've achieved what is called "nirvana." That said, it could be acceptable to bring up being "attached to nirvana," under the circumstance that they're attached to it before they've actually achieved it. But you cannot be attached once having nirvana, because you can't have nirvana unless you have no attachment. Originally, the term bodhi was commonly used to refer to the disciples who had achieved nirvana, but it seems to have fractured prismatically into a multitude of convenient uses throughout the cultures of Buddhism.

What I had begun to think more and more throughout practice and study, is that different traditions had started to use the word for Enlightenment as meaning smaller or larger realizations, and sort of transcending the essential meaning of nirvana altogether. This sort of estranges "enlightenment" from nirvana, in a way that the earliest Buddhists didn't seem to do. However, I never thought it to be wrong--it's okay because enlightenment is just a word. Notwithstanding, here I am continuing to opening the same can of worms.

Basically, what I always get down to--in my theory, here--is that most Buddhists, like most non-Buddhists, use the term enlightenment to refer to some various general "realizations" and "illuminations," which can usually carry on a very bodhisattvic truth. However nirvana, as it cannot possibly be differentiated between any being, Supreme Buddha or disciple Buddha, and it cannot be ended, is something in itself which the Buddha and his disciples achieved after he was Fully Enlightened and turned the great Wheel.

Again, thank you, you've been more helpful than most of the people I've spoken with in the past. They mostly didn't think much into the deep meanings of the Dharma. Which is fine for most people, but serious inquiry into the deep nuance of the Dharma isn't important. And there isn't a reason for someone not born into a Buddhist sect, to not study them as a living unity. After all, the different rays of Truth all emanate from the same Buddha, and he was only one person, one human being. Therefore if anyone plans on attaining Supreme Buddhahood, they're eventually going to have to understand this fundamental unity and move past conventions for enlightenments.
Again thanks for the insight you're giving.

namaste.

Hello again,

Before we can make further exploration on this and related topics, I want to make explicit a fundamental principle regarding how the Buddha conducted his teaching during his lifetime, and that was, he tailored his teaching to fit the individual wisdom of each listener. Was the Buddha justified? Consider the following story:
A mom has three children who age 2, 5, and 13, respectively, and in separate occasions they had asked their mom the same question, "Mom, where did I originally come from?" The mom replied to the aged 2 child, "I picked you up in the wilderness"; while to the aged 5 child, "You came from Mom's stomach"'; and to the aged 13 child, "You were originally formed from Mom's egg and Dad's sperm, a process called fertilization, and after having stayed in Mom's womb for about 9 months, you were born into this world."

Now, was the mom justified in the way she answered her children? Of course yes. However, if one tries to seek unity or consistency in her answers, then one is destined to fail.

Coming back to the Buddha's teaching, one seldom realizes how people's wisdom can drastically differ, and in fact, they differ much, much more drastically among themselves than how the wisdoms of the three children in the above example do. The Buddha knew this fully well, and that's why he said, "If what you teach is not what they are ready to grasp, then it is a wrong teaching." It is then clear that it is both expedient and necessary for the Buddha to tailor his teaching to fit the wisdoms of his followers.

Now, what I can say is, within each tradition and with proper understanding of the Buddha's teaching within that tradition, it is possible to seek unity/consistency within his teaching; however, I do have to reason to believe that, if one strictly sticks to the words of the Buddha from all traditions, then the above effort is almost certain to fail.

I hope you carefully reflect what I said above, and without some kind of consensus on this respect between us, any further exploration on this and related topics will necessarily prove to be fruitless.

By the way, I have not carefully read other parts of your post yet, since I feel a strong need to address the most important issue first.

Also, when I defined parinirnava in my previous post, my mind was within one particular Mahayana tradition; otherwise, my message would cause confusion among readers in this form. I am sorry for this apparent negligence.

~acarefreeman
acarefreeman
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:49 am
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby acarefreeman » Thu May 24, 2012 12:41 am

Son wrote:Thanks.
Well, yes, it is widely said that there are different levels of Enlightenment. Especially in Zen when we find the concept of satori, this is obviously not the nirvana spoken of by the Buddha. Satoris are sudden, and what's more several of them can occur. But the Buddha taught to his disciples that if they attained nirvana they would be eternally liberated from their suffering. He didn't say, "you'll re-enter into samsara," he said the exact opposite. It's in his clear teachings that both sammasambuddhas, savakabuddhas (disciples or students of the Dharma), and pratyekabuddhas (who attain nirvana with no teaching) all escape samsara. Why and how does the idea that only Fully Enlightened Buddhas attain nirvana. And on top of that, there is no way that "different kinds" of nirvana exist. Nirvana is nirvana.

"It is then clear that the enlightenments of all other sentient beings are inferior to the Buddha's Enlightenment, and therefore they lack the power to enter the parinirvana in the sense defined above."

The first half is unanimously true in all contexts, but I've never read any suggestion for the second half. The Buddha definitely explained that anyone achieving nirvana is permanently released from samsara. Because of the nature of nirvana, if a being remains in any way attached to or bound up with any level of suffering or existence in samsara, they haven't achieved nirvana. And someone actually stated the idea of "being attached to nirvana..." I'm not trying to sound dry, but nirvana as the Master used the term, cannot be attached to, since nirvana is devoid of attachment. It seems like somewhere down the line, words for enlightenment began to jumble up what nirvana meant, and of course ultimately leading to Zen re-purifying the meaning of nirvana by placing it in an unfathomably far away kingdom of nowhereness, thus proving "enlightenment" to be relative after all, and a mere convention for profound realization. Which brings me to my point: the Master chose to use the word Enlightenment to refer to the one and only realization which delivers one unto nirvana.

This brings me back to the multiple satori statement and similar phenomena. Regardless of what "enlightenments" they're achieving, it cannot be nirvana because nirvana is the final end of suffering. Yes, according to the Master, nirvana is the absolute end of samsara, and all of these teachings are clear and truthful. There's no splitting hairs with that. It applies to any being with any level of enlightenment regardless of any qualities. Either you're in samsara, or you've achieved what is called "nirvana." That said, it could be acceptable to bring up being "attached to nirvana," under the circumstance that they're attached to it before they've actually achieved it. But you cannot be attached once having nirvana, because you can't have nirvana unless you have no attachment. Originally, the term bodhi was commonly used to refer to the disciples who had achieved nirvana, but it seems to have fractured prismatically into a multitude of convenient uses throughout the cultures of Buddhism.

What I had begun to think more and more throughout practice and study, is that different traditions had started to use the word for Enlightenment as meaning smaller or larger realizations, and sort of transcending the essential meaning of nirvana altogether. This sort of estranges "enlightenment" from nirvana, in a way that the earliest Buddhists didn't seem to do. However, I never thought it to be wrong--it's okay because enlightenment is just a word. Notwithstanding, here I am continuing to opening the same can of worms.

Basically, what I always get down to--in my theory, here--is that most Buddhists, like most non-Buddhists, use the term enlightenment to refer to some various general "realizations" and "illuminations," which can usually carry on a very bodhisattvic truth. However nirvana, as it cannot possibly be differentiated between any being, Supreme Buddha or disciple Buddha, and it cannot be ended, is something in itself which the Buddha and his disciples achieved after he was Fully Enlightened and turned the great Wheel.

Again, thank you, you've been more helpful than most of the people I've spoken with in the past. They mostly didn't think much into the deep meanings of the Dharma. Which is fine for most people, but serious inquiry into the deep nuance of the Dharma isn't important. And there isn't a reason for someone not born into a Buddhist sect, to not study them as a living unity. After all, the different rays of Truth all emanate from the same Buddha, and he was only one person, one human being. Therefore if anyone plans on attaining Supreme Buddhahood, they're eventually going to have to understand this fundamental unity and move past conventions for enlightenments.
Again thanks for the insight you're giving.

namaste.


Hello once again,

Now I have finished reading your post, and I admit that you have very insightful thoughts and observations on the issues being concerned; but what I am most impressed is your attitude toward the Dharma. Faith is important in Buddhism, but unlike many other traditions, reasoning is equally important to the Buddhists, if not more. In fact, faith and reasoning in Buddhism support and reinforce each other, a truth which is as deep as surprising to many people, even Buddhists at their advanced stage of practice. To use a metaphor, if achieving the Buddhahood is like going to a far, far away destiny through driving, then faith is the driving power of your engine, while reason is the steering wheel of your car. Do engine and steering wheel need each other? Absolutely yes, and a similar truth holds in the practice of Buddhism.

Yet I understand that achieving the above level of recognition is never an easy thing to do, and that's why I want to say "Congratulations to you".

Since you have said most of what I wanted to say, or your answers follow easily from some of the assumptions that I made in the previous post, I will not continue on this thread unless you believe it is necessary to do so.

Best wishes,

~acarefreeman
acarefreeman
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:49 am
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby LastLegend » Thu May 24, 2012 12:59 am

Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


Ultimate liberation in Mahayana is not abiding in samsara or nirvana. No this, no that. No cause, no effects. Enlightened beings don't suffer samsara like we do. However, they still subject to samsara effects-birth, old age, illnesses, and death. That is the nature of dependent origination. There is this, there is that (cause and effect).

Total liberation of Buddha is not bounded by anything-ignorance (to cause), forms, self, nirvana, samsara. But complete emptiness.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
User avatar
LastLegend
 
Posts: 2224
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:46 pm
Location: Washington DC

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Son » Thu May 24, 2012 9:49 pm

Anders Honore wrote:
Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


A teacher of mine described to me once how it was for her. Basically, a total exit from Samsara, no-thing at all, just Nirvana/Dharmakaya, then a kind of turning from within to look at it - she described it as being like a collection of bubbles with beings in there and seeing how they all imagine they are compelled to remain. She said since it was love that triggered the letting go necessary for this 'exit', the same love spurred her to re-enter the bubbles. 'choose the big one, most do, or the small one. It makes little difference'. Basically, she said, it just takes desire to go back. That desire is also the only difference between the Nirvana of cessation and the Nirvana of remaining in Samsara.

I suppose if you think of desire as something utterly cut off by awakening, then this description makes makes little sense. I think of liberation as being liberated from the neurotic compulsion for it, moreso than cutting it out. The potential for raising desire exists, it is just the latent compulsion to cling to it, or have to raise it, that gets freed (which can mean a life of no desire - or it can mean choosing desire out of compassion). The notion of enlightenment as spiritual lobotomy doesn't really make sense to me anymore.


Well, I certainly like you.
Admittedly, the way you describe "liberation" is generally how it's thought-of in latterday Buddhist groups, and Mahayana generally. Because that is sort of liberating, very liberating to the core actually. But yes, I do think of desire as something utterly removed by--to not use the word awakening--the achievement of nirvana. That's not just my opinion, it's what the Buddha centered all his teaching around. This is according to dependent origination: since the "potential for raising desire" is housed in ignorance, than if the potential for raising desire still exists as you explained, the strange root ignorance that causes craving is still there, and nirvana is not achieved.

What you, or rather your teacher, described, describes my feelings exactly. The culmination of an increasing drive to achieving nirvana, but instead using your Enlightenment or successive enlightenments, as it were, to remain helping others for much much longer. To use an analogy--oh, my goodness me--you could picture a glass ball filled with light but covered by shadowing defilement. After the defilement is cleared away, the light shines through--hence, en-lightenment. However, nirvana would be more alike completely breaking the glass orb and releasing the light altogether. Whereas with the former the glass may be passed from one life to the next, a shattered orb only begets nirvana, and there can be no continuance of suffering.

But what's more interesting, is your other statement. What do you mean by "enlightenment was spiritual lobotomy?" Could you elaborate on that?

Thanks.
User avatar
Son
 
Posts: 231
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Re: Enlightened Beings Choosing to Reincarnate

Postby Aemilius » Sat May 26, 2012 10:23 am

LastLegend wrote:
Son wrote:I am a deep sympathizer of all Buddhist ways, regardless of their cultural background. I have studied Mahayana Buddhism, especially Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in deep personal intimacy. However, there is something I have never been able to come to terms without throughout these years of study.

How is it possible that a being, upon attaining Enlightenment and reaching nirvana, could actually "choose" to be reborn again? Because infants are obviously not Enlightened, and they obviously experience suffering and pain which indicated an absence of nirvana. I could understand a being postponing nirvana for the sake of helping others, since they are so very wise and compassion, and because of their attainments they can easily attain nirvana sometime in the future. However, according to basic Buddhist study, either you reach nirvana or you are still trapped in samsara. Why then, is it said that lamas and so forth have attained Enlightenment, while at the same time not reaching nirvana. According to the Master, Gautama, achieving Enlightenment is nirvana. So, I have never really been able to understand the reasoning for all this.

Thank you.


Ultimate liberation in Mahayana is not abiding in samsara or nirvana. No this, no that. No cause, no effects. Enlightened beings don't suffer samsara like we do. However, they still subject to samsara effects-birth, old age, illnesses, and death. That is the nature of dependent origination. There is this, there is that (cause and effect).

Total liberation of Buddha is not bounded by anything-ignorance (to cause), forms, self, nirvana, samsara. But complete emptiness.


If you read the explanations of the Ten Bhumis, they make it very clear that the bodhisattva attains all the attainments of the Sravakas on the first six, or the first seven Bhumis. They don't in that sense postpone the sravakayana nirvana, the point is that it is not really a final achievement. This is made abundantly clear in the Lotus sutra as an example. Buddha talks about the ten bhumis also in the Lankavatara sutra. Then we have the indian and other commentators who further explain the ten bhumis.

The question whether someone is not enlightened because he experiences painful feelings, and whether someone else is enlightened because he can withstand painful feelings, has been discussed in the course of buddhist history.

The chinese tortured tibetan lamas and when some of them screamed with pain, it was easy for the chinese to convince the ordinary tibetans that they were really not buddhas at all, in the maoist re-education of the tibetan people.
svaha
User avatar
Aemilius
 
Posts: 1540
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Next

Return to Mahāyāna Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Alvaro and 10 guests

>