Questions regardin God and Nirvana

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Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:04 pm

I am not sure how to expose my question, since the concepts of God, and even Nirvana, are not completly well defined.

I also would like to say that i am not a guy trying to explain Christian ideas by using Buddhist ideas.

When sometimes i speak about Buddhism and Nirvana, many people will try to join the concepts of God and Nirvana. In here, God is not an individual entity but like an open empty space of light and love. When someone dies will join with such inteligent and omniscient entity that is not able to change human actions. Some people describe God like that - more or less - like that open space or light.

Nirvana is somewhat similar to some of these ideas: there is no suffering, there is inteligence and omniscience, but there is no interference with beings.

With these toughts in mind, my questions are (the main question is the 1st, the others are not tottaly related to that one but are important too):
1) Can we say that such description of God is the same as Nirvana?

2) In Near Death Experiences some people will see lots of light. Many people see that light. Is that what, God?

3) When someone is/reach Nirvana, does he became one with the others that already reached it? I think that this is a tricky question since we are using the concept of "I". Another way to expose the question: imagine that every human being is a glass of water. Nirvana is an ocean. People reaching Nirvana is like dropping the water of that specific glass in the ocean. Nirvana would be something like "all becoming one". Is that so?

Thank you very much and sorry if i not explained myself very well, but its hard to expose a difficult question while not using your mother tongue.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wesley1982 » Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:24 pm

Maybe Nirvana varies from region to region, culture to culture...
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby steveb1 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:42 am

A case can, and has been, made by scholar of religions Huston Smith, that the mystical experience of God in the West is very similar to descriptions of Nirvana. The God of the mystics is not necessarily a Creator. The God of the mystics is described as the Ultimate, No-Thing-Ness; and non-existence is one of its properties. It is unborn and unconditioned. Perhaps some Western mystics have experienced an aspect of Nirvana and called it "God". Note too that it is not a personal human-like being who has only-begotten sons, intervenes in the material universe, or inspires the writing of scripture. In the West, this is the God of apophatic theology (or via negativa), which attempts to get to the divine core by assertions of negatives, i.e., of what God is not, rather than what God is (cataphatic theology).
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby duckfiasco » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:43 am

I've read that Nirvana is more like a ripple realizing it's made of water. From that perspective, ideas of returning to some state or reality are just as inaccurate as being separate from one.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby seeker242 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:07 pm

Nosta wrote:
With these toughts in mind, my questions are (the main question is the 1st, the others are not tottaly related to that one but are important too):
1) Can we say that such description of God is the same as Nirvana?


I would say not really since nirvana is not considered to be any kind of "entity". It is sometime referred to as an "entity" when speaking of it, but that is just because doing so is grammatically convenient.

3) When someone is/reach Nirvana, does he became one with the others that already reached it? I think that this is a tricky question since we are using the concept of "I". Another way to expose the question: imagine that every human being is a glass of water. Nirvana is an ocean. People reaching Nirvana is like dropping the water of that specific glass in the ocean. Nirvana would be something like "all becoming one". Is that so?


A dharma talk by Chan Master Sheng Yen speaks to this well I think. Below are some excerpts. The "becoming one with god", would be stage 2, but not the final stage of true freedom. The whole talk can be found here. You could replace the word "Chan" with "practicing" or "truth" or "enlightenment" or whatever word you want to call it. Meaning that it's not limited to just a chan or zen tradition of practice. http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/li ... t-is-chan/

The Three Stages of Chan Meditation
What Is Chan?

By: Chan Master Sheng Yen
At present [1977], the methods of meditation that I am teaching in the United States are divided into three stages.

Stage 1: To Balance the Development of Body and Mind in order to Attain Mental and Physical Health

Thus, one who practises Chan and has obtained good results will definitely have a strong body capable of enduring hardship. For the mind we emphasise the elimination of impatience, suspicion, anxiety, fear and frustration, so as to establish a state of self-confidence, determination, optimism, peace and stability. A good student, after five or ten lessons here, will reach the first stage and be able to obtain results in the above two areas.


Stage 2: From the Sense of the Small 'I'

In the second stage you begin to enter the stage of meditation. When you practise the method of cultivation taught by your teacher, you will enlarge the sphere of the outlook of the small 'I' until it coincides with time and space. The small 'I' merges into the entire universe, forming a unity. When you look inward, the depth is limitless; when you look outward, the breadth is limitless. Since you have joined and become one with universe, the world of your own body and mind no longer exists. What exists is the universe, which is infinite in depth and breadth. You yourself are not only a part of the universe, but also the totality of it.

Stage 3: From the Large 'I' to No 'I'

When one reaches the height of the second stage, he realises that the concept of the 'I' does not exist. But he has only abandoned the small 'I' and has not negated the concept of basic substance or the existence of God; you may call it Truth, the one and only God, the Almighty, the Unchanging Principle, or even the Buddha of Buddhism. If you think that it is real, then you are still in the realm of the big 'I' and have not left the sphere of philosophy and religion.

When you are in the second stage, although you feel that the 'I' does not exist, the basic substance of the universe, or the Supreme Truth, still exists. Although you recognise that all the different phenomena are the extension of this basic substance or Supreme Truth, yet there still exists the opposition of basic substance versus external phenomena. Not until the distinctions of all phenomena disappear, and everything goes back to truth or Heaven, will you have absolute peace and unity. As long as the world of phenomena is still active, you cannot do away with conflict, calamity, suffering and crime. Therefore, although philosophers and religious figures perceive the peace of the original substance, they still have no way to get rid of the confusion of phenomena.

One who has entered Chan does not see basic substance and phenomena as two things standing in opposition to each other. They cannot even be illustrated as being the back and palm of a hand. This is because phenomena themselves are basic substance, and apart from phenomena there is no basic substance to be found.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:28 pm

Quote from Soyen Shakyu's 'Sermons of a Buddhist Abbott', lectures which were given at the World Parliament of Religions, in the late 19th Century:

Buddhism is not atheistic as the term is ordinarily understood. It has certainly a God, the highest reality and truth, through which and in which this universe exists. However, the followers of Buddhism usually avoid the term "God", for it savors so much of Christianity, whose spirit is not always exactly in accord with the Buddhist interpretation of religious experience ... To define more exactly the Buddhist notion of the highest being, it may be convenient to borrow the term very happily coined by a modern German scholar, 'panentheism', according to which God is ... all and one and more than the totality of existence .... As I mentioned before, Buddhists do not make use of the term God, which characteristically belongs to Christian terminology. An equivalent most commonly used is Dharmakaya ... When the Dharmakaya is most concretely conceived it becomes the Buddha, or Tathagata ...


There is also a lot of common ground that can be explored in the area of mystical theology - for example, D T Suzuki, Mysticism Christian and Buddhist, and also in the Zen writings of Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk who wrote very insightfully on Buddhism.

However Buddhists are often wary of Christians, for good reason, as many Christians are inclined to believe that they have a monopoly on the truth, which was often reflected in their missionary attitude in Buddhist countries. Many of these activities and the colonial power which supported them did not create the impression of a peaceful religion.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:38 pm

Thank you all for the answers so far.

steveb1 wrote:A case can, and has been, made by scholar of religions Huston Smith, that the mystical experience of God in the West is very similar to descriptions of Nirvana. The God of the mystics is not necessarily a Creator. The God of the mystics is described as the Ultimate, No-Thing-Ness; and non-existence is one of its properties. It is unborn and unconditioned. Perhaps some Western mystics have experienced an aspect of Nirvana and called it "God". Note too that it is not a personal human-like being who has only-begotten sons, intervenes in the material universe, or inspires the writing of scripture. In the West, this is the God of apophatic theology (or via negativa), which attempts to get to the divine core by assertions of negatives, i.e., of what God is not, rather than what God is (cataphatic theology).



Yes, thats the kind of God i am speaking here, not the Biblical one who seems to be arrogant and bad.

I often find myself asking if there is a real "common ground" to all religions: the Light, Peace, etc (whatever you call to that Mystical Experience) described by many religions or spiritual people may be the Nirvana or something near to it (Rigpa? a Pure Land?). Maybe all the religions describe the same by using different words, like "God" or "Nirvana".
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Jesse » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:57 pm

I think most religions at least try to point to the same thing, a state of compassion & love that frees you from your own ego.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby cesar » Wed Jul 04, 2012 6:51 pm

in Dharma, there is something called "The Fours Seals", which if one is in accord with, one is considered on the path. they are:

All Compounded Things are Impermanent
All Emotions are Pain
All Phenomena are Empty; They Are Without Inherent Existence
Nirvana is Beyond Extremes


here is an explanation by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche,

The Fourth Seal
Nirvana is Beyond Extremes


Now that I have explained emptiness, I feel that the fourth seal, “Nirvana is beyond extremes,” has also been covered. But briefly, this last seal is also something uniquely Buddhist. In many philosophies or religions, the final goal is something that you can hold on to and keep. The final goal is the only thing that truly exists. But nirvana is not fabricated, so it is not something to be held on to. It is referred to as “beyond extremes.”

We somehow think that we can go somewhere where we’ll have a better sofa seat, a better shower system, a better sewer system, a nirvana where you don’t even have to have a remote control, where everything is there the moment you think of it. But as I said earlier, it’s not that we are adding something new that was not there before. Nirvana is achieved when you remove everything that was artificial and obscuring.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a monk or a nun who has renounced worldly life or you are a yogi practicing profound tantric methods. If, when you try to abandon or transform attachment to your own experiences, you don’t understand these four seals, you end up regarding the contents of your mind as the manifestations of something evil, diabolical and bad. If that’s what you do, you are far from the truth. And the whole point of Buddhism is to make you understand the truth. If there were some true permanence in compounded phenomena; if there were true pleasure in the emotions, the Buddha would have been the first to recommend them, saying, “Please keep and treasure these.” But thanks to his great compassion, he didn’t, for he wanted us to have what is true, what is real.

When you have a clear understanding of these four seals as the ground of your practice, you will feel comfortable no matter what happens to you. As long as you have these four as your view, nothing can go wrong. Whoever holds these four, in their heart, or in their head, and contemplates them, is a Buddhist. There is no need for such a person even to be called a Buddhist. He or she is by definition a follower of the Buddha.

courtesy of Shambala Sun
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?o ... mitstart=0


cheers,
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby KeithBC » Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:55 pm

Nosta wrote:I am not sure how to expose my question, since the concepts of God, and even Nirvana, are not completly well defined.

I also would like to say that i am not a guy trying to explain Christian ideas by using Buddhist ideas.

When sometimes i speak about Buddhism and Nirvana, many people will try to join the concepts of God and Nirvana. In here, God is not an individual entity but like an open empty space of light and love. When someone dies will join with such inteligent and omniscient entity that is not able to change human actions. Some people describe God like that - more or less - like that open space or light.

Nirvana is somewhat similar to some of these ideas: there is no suffering, there is inteligence and omniscience, but there is no interference with beings.

With these toughts in mind, my questions are (the main question is the 1st, the others are not tottaly related to that one but are important too):
1) Can we say that such description of God is the same as Nirvana?

2) In Near Death Experiences some people will see lots of light. Many people see that light. Is that what, God?

3) When someone is/reach Nirvana, does he became one with the others that already reached it? I think that this is a tricky question since we are using the concept of "I". Another way to expose the question: imagine that every human being is a glass of water. Nirvana is an ocean. People reaching Nirvana is like dropping the water of that specific glass in the ocean. Nirvana would be something like "all becoming one". Is that so?

Thank you very much and sorry if i not explained myself very well, but its hard to expose a difficult question while not using your mother tongue.

Questions like this always get problematic in the definitions. If you contort the normal definitions until the definitions of two entities resemble each other, are the entities the same? No, the contorted definitions are.

The word "god" in this discussion is irrelevant and distracting. You are asking if nirvana is "like an open empty space of light and love". That is an incomplete description, but most Buddhists would not consider it wrong.

People who have had NDEs say they experienced light. That's what they expereienced: light.

I think that, when someone attains nirvana, they don't "become" anything. They realize that they are, and always have been, one with everyone. Not just those who have already attained nirvana but also those who have not. In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha says that, when he attained enlightenment, he attained nothing at all. In other words, he didn't become something other than what he already was; he just realized what he had always been.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:57 pm

Nirvana means extinction. It is the extinction of the cause of suffering, it is the end of attachment. As an example, A is in love with B, then eventually A becomes bored with B, then A feels that B is getting rather annoying, and finally A happily leaves B. Simple story. When A finally gives up on B, that is the nirvana, the total extinction of A's infatuation with B. All beings are very much attached to the sensual impressions, their emotions and their ideas. But when one learns that it is this grasping of phenomena that is causing all the trouble, one gradually becomes disinterested in them, and turns away from them. And that is nirvana, when one has left behind all attachment for good. The bonfire of passion is now a pile of cold ash. The love story is over. Does this sound like a mystical experience? Or a divine presence?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:39 pm

Astus wrote:Nirvana means extinction. It is the extinction of the cause of suffering, it is the end of attachment. As an example, A is in love with B, then eventually A becomes bored with B, then A feels that B is getting rather annoying, and finally A happily leaves B. Simple story. When A finally gives up on B, that is the nirvana, the total extinction of A's infatuation with B. All beings are very much attached to the sensual impressions, their emotions and their ideas. But when one learns that it is this grasping of phenomena that is causing all the trouble, one gradually becomes disinterested in them, and turns away from them. And that is nirvana, when one has left behind all attachment for good. The bonfire of passion is now a pile of cold ash. The love story is over. Does this sound like a mystical experience? Or a divine presence?


It's a bit more than simply disinterest wouldn't you say? Detachment can be a good practice to cultivate the view (if that is the appropriate method for said individual), but it's more than ending attachment, aversion must be seen through as well. I'm not trying to be polemic or challenge what you're saying in a petty way or anything, what you're saying is right. Seems there's more to it though, in my experience at least. Disinterest may indeed be an aspect of the way the realization gradually unfolds, even more so once a genuine flash of nirvanic insight is apperceived. Nirvana does sever the allure of attachment, and true nirvana surely is the end of attachment, but the cause of suffering isn't necessarily attachment itself. The cause, is the erroneous notion that there was ever an A to be attached to B in the first place. So perhaps we're saying the same thing and I'm misreading what you wrote, but for me nirvana is a bit more than merely turning away, or leaving behind attachment, it's true extinction and total exhaustion of that which attachment is predicated on. The delusion is the entity which is born of (and sustained through the proliferation of) attachment and aversion. Being an illusion it causes suffering, because it's an aberration, a beautiful aberration, but an aberration and abstraction no doubt. The essential experience (or direct apprehension) does have the quality of the mystical... divine, but not in the sense of divine in a religious or godly sense, since that type of theological notion is certainly a projection of ignorance. In some ways though, it is the beginning of true passion and the beginning of the real love story. Beyond the dualities which produce pseudo passion and attachment/infatuation mistaken for love.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:48 pm

I think Nirvana is mystical because its behind the normal things. Its not usual to see people achieving Nirvana everyday :D, that why i think its somewhat mystical. Of course that Nirvana means removing suffering, but it not only that, it means the end of Karma, Rebirth, aggregate formation, etc, its something far from our usual experience.

Jus my humble opinion

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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:55 pm

A lot of Christian mystics describe their experiences as temporarily merging into some entity and becoming blissed out. That is not nirvana.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:08 pm

Astus wrote: The love story is over. Does this sound like a mystical experience? Or a divine presence?


No. It sounds like nihilism.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby dharmagoat » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:09 pm

Astus wrote:Nirvana means extinction. It is the extinction of the cause of suffering, it is the end of attachment. As an example, A is in love with B, then eventually A becomes bored with B, then A feels that B is getting rather annoying, and finally A happily leaves B. Simple story. When A finally gives up on B, that is the nirvana, the total extinction of A's infatuation with B.

How about: "A is in love with A, then eventually A becomes bored with A, then A feels that A is getting rather annoying, and finally A happily realises that A is a fabrication of A."

Astus wrote:The bonfire of passion is now a pile of cold ash. The love story is over.

You describe a rather bleak landscape. There is freedom and spontaneity too.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:17 am

Nosta wrote:I often find myself asking if there is a real "common ground" to all religions...


Have a look at the website for the publisher World Wisdom.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby dharmagoat » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:36 am

Nosta wrote:I often find myself asking if there is a real "common ground" to all religions.

The common ground is the human psyche. All humans experience essentially the same thing, it is only the understanding, interpretation and expression of it that differs from culture to culture.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 05, 2012 8:58 am

asunthatneversets wrote:Nirvana does sever the allure of attachment, and true nirvana surely is the end of attachment, but the cause of suffering isn't necessarily attachment itself. The cause, is the erroneous notion that there was ever an A to be attached to B in the first place. So perhaps we're saying the same thing and I'm misreading what you wrote, but for me nirvana is a bit more than merely turning away, or leaving behind attachment, it's true extinction and total exhaustion of that which attachment is predicated on.


I merely talked about the third noble truth, the ending of suffering, which is nirvana. Of course, adding to that the whole 12 links of dependent origination, and its reverse (see: SN 12.23 is absolutely fine. The final steps are:

concentration -> knowledge & vision of things as they actually are -> disenchantment -> dispassion -> release -> knowledge of ending

Now there is another thing regarding views and ignorance, that are called the four perversions/inverted views (AN 4.49). It is seeing what is impermanent as permanent, suffering as pleasure, not-self as self, impure as pure. This shows simply how confused we are and what kind of confusion is to be removed. Attachment is ultimately based on ignorance, and ignorance is not realising the four noble truths, how suffering dependently arises and disappears.

I emphasise this very basic explanation of nirvana in order to avoid difficult terminology like ending all views, insight into non-arising, realising all appearances as consciousness, etc. Isn't it clear just to say that as long as there is attachment to impermanent things one necessarily experiences the different forms of suffering? Of course, once one actually sees that things are impermanent, there is the way to be free from them. Again, I don't see it as anything mystical, but quite sensible.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:01 am

jeeprs wrote:No. It sounds like nihilism.


It is the end of suffering, not the end of everything.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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