Questions regardin God and Nirvana

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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 3:02 pm

duckfiasco wrote: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.

Yes that's it.
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.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:07 pm

Astus wrote:
jeeprs wrote:No. It sounds like nihilism.


It is the end of suffering, not the end of everything.

The risk one takes if approaching nirvana only through an apophatic discourse is that some people may take it as being a state of apathy of sorts.
"So, it's the end of suffering. If emotions are pain, it's the end of emotions? Then what? We just stay in a sort of greyish apathy forever? It's not the end of everything, but surely seems the end of everything meaningful."
I've heard similar questions and I believe you also heard them, right here in this board.

Although it's impossible to define nirvana conceptually, to avoid misunderstandings one may also put some emphasis in the qualities of Buddhanature, for instance. Omniscience, universal non directional compassion, equanimity, infinite wisdom and so on are good examples of qualities of Buddhahood.
It helps people making a difference between nirvana and nihilism. On the other hand, it's also important to avoid the extreme of eternalism by considering Buddhanature a soul or a Brahma of sorts.

A plague that afflicts many Buddhists is assuming nirvana is somehow similar to an apathy state and then trying to replicate such lack of emotions while not having realization of any kind. It's a twisted interpretation, but not as rare as it may seem. As misguided as this may be, it can happen and it's a shame. Some pharmacological drugs have similar effects (emotions lose some of their power and one becomes more disengaged with life in general) and by any means they aren't similar to nirvana.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wesley1982 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:12 pm

Nosta wrote: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".


Do you have a problem with what's in the Christian Bible?...
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Challenge23 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:34 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Although it's impossible to define nirvana conceptually,



That is exactly what makes me extremely nervous when we talk about nirvana. Either the inability for an individual to conceptually understand something or the inability for something to be understood conceptually is one of the primary tactics that is used in spiritual deception, if not the primary tool. For example, "Us having sex will help you spiritually, but how that happens is beyond your ability to understand conceptually," or "if you give me all of your money then that will allow you to attain nirvana but you won't be able to understand that conceptually." Knock out conceptual/logical analysis and a person can be persuaded of the wisdom of almost anything. This is not to say that I believe that anyone here at Dharma Wheel is being deceptive. It is to say that every time I see something like that said it sets off big time alarm bells and I just realized why.

Anyhow, sorry to ramble.

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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:37 pm

That's why Buddhadharma is compared to a raft, abandoned once you reach the other shore or to the finger pointing at the moon and not the moon itself. Buddhadharma is conventional, relative. It's goal is leading the practitioner to Sadharma, beyond concepts and duality.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Tenso » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:51 pm

"Nirvāna is the highest happiness." [Dp 204]
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby steveb1 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:11 pm

wesley 1982 wrote:

"Do you have a problem with what's in the Christian Bible?..."

1. Yes, happy to expand on that if you like.

2. I was associating some of Nirvana's descriptions with some of Western mystical descriptions of union or immersion with God, in which biblical theology figures very little or not at all. Then I explained why. The God of "revelation" and scripture is at best only peripherally related to Western mystical testimony about loss of self "in God" and Buddhist testimony about loss of self "in Nirvana.
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Re: Questions regarding God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:40 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Astus wrote:
jeeprs wrote:No. It sounds like nihilism.


It is the end of suffering, not the end of everything.

The risk one takes if approaching nirvana only through an apophatic discourse is that some people may take it as being a state of apathy of sorts.
"So, it's the end of suffering. If emotions are pain, it's the end of emotions? Then what? We just stay in a sort of greyish apathy forever? It's not the end of everything, but surely seems the end of everything meaningful."
I've heard similar questions and I believe you also heard them, right here in this board.

Although it's impossible to define nirvana conceptually, to avoid misunderstandings one may also put some emphasis in the qualities of Buddhanature, for instance. Omniscience, universal non directional compassion, equanimity, infinite wisdom and so on are good examples of qualities of Buddhahood.
It helps people making a difference between nirvana and nihilism. On the other hand, it's also important to avoid the extreme of eternalism by considering Buddhanature a soul or a Brahma of sorts.

A plague that afflicts many Buddhists is assuming nirvana is somehow similar to an apathy state and then trying to replicate such lack of emotions while not having realization of any kind. It's a twisted interpretation, but not as rare as it may seem. As misguided as this may be, it can happen and it's a shame. Some pharmacological drugs have similar effects (emotions lose some of their power and one becomes more disengaged with life in general) and by any means they aren't similar to nirvana.


I agree with a lot of that. I don't much care for the idea that 'Buddhism teaches there is no soul'. Apart from anything else, 'soul' is a word from the Western tradition, it is not really even a translation of 'atman' or 'atta' (which is simply 'self'. The early texts don't make any distinction between self, soul and ego.) But the word 'soul-less' always connotes behaviorism and materialism - and those philosophies that completely deny the inner life or any higher values. A soul-less person is like B F Skinner, or the head of the CCP. 'Soul' is 'the spiritually deeper part of the being', their underlying aspirations, and so on. This doesn't mean 'something eternal and changeless', either.

There's a certain binary logic in Early Indian thought which juxtaposes 'exists' and 'not-exists' as absolute values - something is either real (self-existent), or it's simply illusory (non-existent). As you're no doubt aware, the Buddha said that the self nor the world 'neither exist, nor do not exist' - everything that exists is conditionally dependent, and so on. But I don't think this should be read as 'the self does not exist'. The self exists in the same way that anything else does, but that doesn't mean it is simply non-existent. Saying 'nothing is self' is not the same as saying 'the self does not exist'. It leads to a lot of double-talk, IMO.

I accept Nirvana is beyond conception also, but I have the idea that when we 'awaken' to it, it is literally 'the experience to end all experiences', not simply putting out the lights. The Buddha 'speaks' from a place beyond existence, a transcendent realm, the Dharmadhatu. This may be something beyond conception, but it is not non-existent.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:10 am

Of course it is not putting out the lights. :thumbsup:
More than that, it's not fading them either. If few people take nirvana as putting out the lights, a lot wrongly take it as a sort of fading them (that's why I used the word grey). Nirvana is the end of all cognitive and emotional afflictions, the opposite of a fading to black. Instead of getting entangled in concepts that will never make much sense - since nirvana is beyond concepts - it's better to gain insight through practice. People can argue for aeons about what is nirvana. Unless they achieve it they'll be like blinds discussing tones of red. This is why Buddha also taught a path, I guess. Not to be a source of argument, but to be walked in order to discover this by ourselves.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:41 am

How about - 'soul is a quality not an entity'?
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:53 am

jeeprs wrote:How about - 'soul is a quality not an entity'?

"Soul is a hamhock in your cornflakes."
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jul 06, 2012 6:09 am

aha that explains it I thought the milk was off......
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:11 pm

Denchen Norbu, you said earlier in this topic that many people see Nirvana as an apathy. Sometimes, whitout any obvious reason, i will see Nirvana as that too. I will imagine that Nirvana is like a state where you are just infinite space and you wont do anything lol, you just stay there forever, just observing things and that feels boring. Thats why i prefer to not think on Nirvana that much and just think on it as the best thing that anyone could achieve.

Wesley, i really dont like the God of Bible. Not the Bible itself, just the God. I could be here saying why but that would be too much offtopic. I will say briefly that i dont like him because he is arrogant, a punisher, selfish and even dangerous (if he was real). But i am talking about a "character". There is no God for me. As someone interested in UFO phenomenon, i believe that there is strong evidence that the "god" described on Bible is just part of that phenomenon. Its my belief. Some people believe in Amitabha (like me), others on vampires, on Ala, on Shiva, on a good USA government, on a bad USA government, etc. These are my beliefs: no god, just aliens :D. Well, i am just saying what i believe, but if you want to discuss that further i would suggest opening a new topic for that, since this one is for the relationship (if any) between Nirvana and the lovely God described by some spiritual practioners.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:24 pm

You can be sure that Nirvana is not that. That is a misinterpretation of the meaning of Nirvana, sometimes related to the inclinations of those explaining it.
I've heard a few Buddhists considering the fictional character Spock from Star Trek as a good example of how a Buddhist should work with emotions.
This is so pitiful that doesn't deserve further comment.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Nosta » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:21 pm

Eheh, in fact the MrSpock example is the wrong way to describe Buddha/Nirvana :)

But i must also say that my description of Nirvana (on my last post) is not what i really think! Its just the description of the feeling that i have - sometimes - when i think about nirvana. I really dont understand why i think on such way, probably because there is a lot of mis-information out there and sometimes mind will join every bit of information and create such bad image. I know (i mean: my rational mind knows) that Nirvana is not that sad experience, its the best thing from all existence and non-existence and behind that.

When a buddhist starts to think that Nirvana is sad, the best thing to do is to have Faith that Nirvana is good and accept that such toughts are just created by a confused mind.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby conebeckham » Fri Jul 06, 2012 9:54 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
jeeprs wrote:How about - 'soul is a quality not an entity'?

"Soul is a hamhock in your cornflakes."


I thought it was a joint rolled in toilet paper.


FWIW, some of the Bible is pretty cool.....some of it, not so much. And I doze when I start reading the "begats..."

Ok, we now return you to our regularly-scheduled programming.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Tenso » Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:01 pm

Mahayana view of nirvana can't be so depressing as we receive an enjoyment body (sambhogakaya) upon Buddhahood.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby odysseus » Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:34 pm

Here you can read the questions of King Milinda to the Venerable Nagasena about Nirvana. You may not get any wiser about what it is (neither do I) but it becomes clear that Nirvana is not the same as the common notion of union with a God.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe36/s ... m#page_181
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:23 pm

actually there is a much better text in that archive about Buddhism and God. It starts here and continues on for a few chapters. It was translated by Paul Carus who seems to have his own particular understanding of the question, but it is quite interesting, from the viewpoint of comparative studies.
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Re: Questions regardin God and Nirvana

Postby odysseus » Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:30 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.


Can we use for now the common understanding of God as a supreme sentient being having power over you? Nirvana cannot be defined because it is not a result of cause and effect. If we consider this, God and Nirvana are different, you can define God but not Nirvana.
Nosta wrote: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.

In accordance with the above, if God is defined like open space and light, it is not a God but an experience. This experience is described in mystical tradition and is attainable by various methods, even by the use of psychedelics. It´s of course attainable my meditation and the Dalai Lama is known to reach this experience in meditation. Whether you will call it God is your own choice, I cannot speak from authority.
Nosta wrote: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.


Nirvana has no suffering, one has his intelligence and there supposedly is omniscience. You are not influenced by other beings but there is still interaction and the opportunity to help (influence) other beings. But it´s still not similar to the ideas you mention, it´s much more than that.
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?


No, the definition of God as the "clear light and space" is not the same as Nirvana.
Nosta wrote:2) In Near Death Experiences some people will see lots of light. Many people see that light. Is that what, God?

I don´t know if it´s God, but you can choose to think so if you want to. It´s the realisation of the fact that your body is ultimately made of non-physical energy (in accordance with quantum physics). When your body´s energy is depleted and the clear light is fading, your karma merges with cosmos and "you" take subsequent rebirth somewhere. The clear light is not the same as "final release" as in Nirvana or Parinirvana.
Nosta wrote: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?


Your identity is dissolved but you still have a body. You don´t "merge" with others but you can say you become one with others only by perfect compassion (knowing you are not separate from others).

:)
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