|Great Marley's ghost! You survived death!|
Buddhist "immortality"? The Deathless
"Truly, it will be not long before this body lies in the earth, bereft of consciousness, like a useless log, which is thrown away."
Such unreflecting, uninstructed people often shut their minds deliberately to the fact that death is waiting for us. They reject the possibility of a future life (rebirth), and occupying themselves only with things of this life, they immerse themselves in the ephemeral joys of the five strands of sense desire.
To make such people think seriously on what is perhaps the most decisive event of life they have to reckon with -- an event [the "impossible possibility"] that will determine their future lives in no uncertain way -- the Buddha said, "Every householder and everyone who has gone forth [as a monastic], should constantly reflect, 'I am subject to death.'"
The uninstructed worldly-minded person sees others dying all around but through intoxication with the pride of life acts as if we were immortal.
We see the victims of disease all around but due to intoxication with the pride of health we act as if we were immune from disease. Enjoying the first flush of life's springtime, we see many an old person in the last stages of decrepitude but owing to pride of youth, through becoming intoxicated with it, we act as if we might never grow old.
And we see many people losing their wealth and becoming paupers suddenly, but through being intoxicated with the pride of power or position, we pity them not, do not sympathize with them, and do not think that we too might be overtaken by similar misfortune.
Thus intoxicated by these, and many other intoxicants, we behaves like a people beside ourselves, heedless of right and wrong, heedless of this world and the worlds beyond, enjoying fleeting pleasures, like a crab in a cooking pot before the water heats up.
Even in our dreams we do not suspect that harm might befall us, but when we actually do, we lose control of ourselves, weep, and bewail our lot.
Reflection on death if rightly practiced by a person open our eyes to the individual essence of every form of being, its true nature, and remove the poison of pride, which makes us heedless of others' welfare.
We see them according to the words of the Buddha, "Uncertain is life, certain is death; it is necessary that I should die; at the close of my life, there is death. Life is indeed unsure, but death is sure, death is sure."
One who thinks often of death becomes ardent in the fulfillment of duties. Therefore it is said, "The meditator who is given to the practice of [mindfully] contemplating death becomes diligent."
Visnusarman says, "In the wise [person] who thinks again and again of death, the terrible penalty, all activity, becomes lax like leather bindings soaked with rain."
Thus, in those who seek immortality, all kinds of endeavor, exertion, to acquire worldly power and possessions become slack, through the perception of death, but they do all that has to be done for attaining the Deathless State [nirvana].
In the teachings of the Buddha the contemplation on death is intended to turn the mind/heart away from the accumulation of mundane power and treasure and to increase the energy of the aspirant for highest freedom.
Even at the moment of death, one has to do one's duty well. Reflection on death quickens the heart/mind and makes it develop unremitting ardor for the extinction of ill. Such reflection can never make one negligent of actions leading to freedom from craving.
Who thinks often of death thinks thus: "Now is the time to endeavor to realize the goal. Who knows that Death will not come till tomorrow? What covenant have I with Death and its hosts to keep them at bay?"
What did the Buddha teach about consciousness, often thought to be the one thing that will survive death to be immortal by incessant death-and-rebirth?
The Buddha taught: "If, in any manner, meditators, an illusionist (stage magician) or apprentice were to produce an illusion, at a junction of four great roads and an intelligent person were to see it, reflect on it, and thoroughly examine it, then, to that person who sees, reflects on, and thoroughly examines it, worthless would that illusion appear, empty, and without essence!
"Indeed, meditators, how can there be essence in an illusion?
"In the same way, meditators, a meditator sees, reflects on, and thoroughly examines consciousness of any kind -- past, future, or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or high, far or near. To the meditator who sees, reflects on, and thoroughly examines it, worthless would consciousness appear, empty [impersonal], and without essence.
"Indeed, meditators, how can there be essence in consciousness [which is only an impersonal process not a thing]?
"The instructed noble disciple who sees thus, turns away from form, and also from sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness [these are the skandhas, the Five Groups of Clinging]. Turning away one lets go, detaches oneself.
"With detachment one becomes free. When freed one knows, 'I am freed,' and understands, 'Rebirth has been exhausted, the excellent life has been lived, what ought to be done has been done, and there will be nothing more to come of this [no more karma will cause rebirth].'"
Further, the Buddha said that one whose turban or headdress is on fire should be one who aspires to the deathless act, to nirvana. There is no excuse for delay in working for deliverance from ill (suffering of all kinds); Death is trying to take us always.
On a certain occasion the Buddha went to a certain house set apart for sick monastics and, having sat down on a seat prepared for him, said: "Mindfully and with complete awareness should a monastic meet his/her end. This is the advice I give you."
Again and again, the devas send down rain;
Again and again, the farmers plow the fields;
Again and again, the country is enriched.
Again and again, the alms-seeker ask for alms;
Again and again, the kindly givers give;
And giving repeatedly, the givers make.
Again and again, for happy worlds above.
Again and again, the milk is drawn from cows;
Again and again, the calf goes to its dam;
Again and again, a being tires and quakes;
Again and again, the fool returns to the womb.
Again and again, comes birth and death to you;
Again and again, men bear you to the grave.
But one who sees clearly, having known the path
Which leads not to rebirth, does not arise again.
"My forbears accumulated much wealth and passed away taking nothing of their wealth with them; nor did they return to enjoy the treasure [they stored up here]. Alas! they have been destroyed; they have missed the fortune of getting the best out of a good rebirth" (Jataka I, 2).
Thus do the great beings in search of liberation from suffering look upon life, and they having made a gift of their possessions to the world go forth to endeavor for self-mastery that leads to final enlightenment.
Penetrating into the centuries, the millennia, and the aeons (kalpas) with unclouded knowledge, the Master saw by means of clear insight to the limits of the knowable and declared:
"In this sweeping on of life's stream, hard it is to find another who has not been a person's own father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. Truly, every living being might well have been associated closely with every other in this long trail of woe" (SN 11.180).
Every brand of suffering does one undergo through rebirth in diverse planes of becoming. And there is nothing in the world that arises that is fully pleasant. Everything is mixed with suffering in such a way that for the thoughtful all pleasure appears as menaced with suffering/disappointment or moving on to it because of impermanence. More
|I want to live forever, you stupid son-of-a-mother-fathers! Why should I have to die?!!|
- [How any words are enough words to lead to disenchantment? How many are enough to lead to yearning for enlightenment-and-liberation, the Deathless (immortality in a sense)? If it is not enough, there will be endless rebirth and suffering to come.]
Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit
|The Buddha reclines into final nirvana-without-remainder, final liberation (Cambodian art)|
"I can't stand a Buddhism that doesn't promise me "eternal life" like Christianity and Hinduism do!"
Then you might well like Mahayana Buddhism, the most popular form of the religion which is thoroughly saturated with Brahminical, Vedic, Hindu, and Universalist (catholic) Messianic Christian ideas. Look how nirvana, the "Deathless State" (deathless because there is no birth/rebirth and therefore no more possibility of death) has been transformed into immortality:
Stanislaw Schayer, a Polish scholar, argued in the 1930s that the Nikayas [volumes, assemblages of the Buddha's teachings] preserve elements of an archaic form of Buddhism which is close to Brahmanical beliefs (Lindtner 1997, Lindtner 1999, Akizuki 1990, p. 25-27, Ray 1999) and survived in the Mahayana tradition (Reat 1998, p. xi, Conze 1967, p. 10).
Contrary to popular opinion, the Theravada and Mahayana traditions may be "divergent, but equally reliable records of a pre-canonical Buddhism which is now lost forever" (Reat 1998, p. xi). The Mahayana tradition may have preserved a very old, "pre-canonical" and oral Buddhist tradition, which was largely, but not completely, left out of the Theravada [Pali language] canon (Conze 1967, p. 10).
Ray 1999, p. 374-377):
- The Buddha was considered as an extraordinary being, in whom ultimate reality was embodied, and who was an "incarnation" [a "soul" or spirit entering or becoming flesh] of the mythical figure of the Tathagata [or perhaps Lord Vishnu];
- The Buddha's disciples were attracted to his spiritual charisma and supernatural authority;
- Nirvana was conceived as the attainment of immortality, and the gaining of a deathless sphere from which there would be no falling back. This nirvana, as a transmundane reality or state, is incarnated in the person of the Buddha;
- Nirvana can be reached because it already dwells as the inmost "consciousness" of the human being. It is a consciousness which is not subject to birth and death.