This question has puzzled me for awhile and I feel somehow it is important for my understanding of Right Intention, so bear with me. I know it's a bit theoretical.
The path leads through a gradual training until nibbana is reached, and then after that comes parinibbana -- which is generally defined as total cessation. Nibbana can be said to have an experiential component, in that the awakened arahant is still cognitively present to experience "unalloyed bliss". At parinibbana, however, this is no longer the case. There is no cognition and no experience of awakening or anything else.
My question is this: suppose, somehow, it were possible to arrive directly at parinibbana without any of the intervening stages including the nibbana of the living arahant. Would this be a desirable goal from a Buddhist perspective?
In other words, what is the practitioner really aiming at? The total cessation of parinibbana, or the unalloyed bliss of nibbana followed in due course by parinibbana?
A couple possible answers:
-- Yes, it would be desirable to go straight to parinibbana. The living arahant has to burn up some remaining kammic fuel, but would doubtless skip this phase if it were possible. Only parinibbana brings the complete, remainderless release from samsara (even if there is no actual experience of this total release).
-- No, the goal is the "unalloyed bliss" of nibbana. Having reached that stage, however, there is no more fuel for further arising -- nor does the arahant desire continued existence.
-- Theoretically yes, practically no. Until one is farther along the path, most people would not be able to desire parinibbana as a goal because our attachment to the world is too strong. Therefore most of us have intermediate goals. When we become arahants it will all become clear.
Thanks in advance for your observations...