Of Nirvana & Samsara

Q: I have always thought that the Buddha’s Parinirvana was the end and that he would not be subjected to rebirth upon achieving it. I was surprising that you mentioned that the Buddha still exists. And that he and all other Buddhas are still working hard to guide beings to Nirvana

A: Yes, you can see this recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. (See the main article at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/enewsletter/42.php) It is impossible that the Buddha spent so many lifetimes cultivating for eons just for the sake of teaching for 45 years, since he has infinite compassion and wants to help all beings. Also, if there are no Buddhas around, who do we take refuge in (in the Triple Gem)? There would be no enlightened answers to our prayers too.

Q: However, I thought there was going to be an end to Samsara?

A: When one attains Nirvana, it is the end of Samsara for oneself in the sense that one is no longer subject to samsaric suffering. As such, when the Buddhas continue their work out of compassion to help various beings, they don’t suffer, but do it with perfect ease.

10 thoughts on “Of Nirvana & Samsara

  1. I used to believe that after his parinibbana, the Buddha is still around. But having studied the suttas more, I now think otherwise.

    This is because the cause or condition for him to take rebirth in samsara again no longer exist.

    There is no such thing as FREE will. Will is always conditioned, and non-self. Since will is conditioned, its never free, since its non-self, we are never in full control of it, even for Buddhas – e.g. a Buddha can never do evil deeds or have defile thoughts because the conditions for evil and defilement to arise have been cut off.

    Likewise, a Buddha, upon parinibbana, had no choice but not get reborn in samsara.

    with metta

  2. But in many ways, the Buddha is still around. The Buddha dedicated 45 yrs of his life to ensure the Dhamma had been properly taught, that there are good enlighten disciples who could pass on his message to future generations. til today.

    He who sees the Dhamma, sees the Buddha. So in this way, the Buddha never left us.

  3. You can see the Mahaparinibbana Sutta where the Buddha says he is always around. If the Buddha is not around forever, how do Buddhists take refuge in him? Might as well just take refuge in Double Gem.

    Also, in the Theravada teachings, the Buddha taught to be mindful of him as the first option when in fear.

    See Dhajagga Sutta: ‘But I say thus unto you, bhikkhu: If in you when you have gone into forests, to the roots of trees, to empty places, fear, panic, and creeping of the flesh should arise, do you in that hour only call me to mind and think: This Exalted One, is able supremely enlightened, proficient in knowledge and in conduct, the blessed One, understands the world, peerless tamer and driver of the hearts of men, the Master of gods and men, the Buddha, the Exalted One. For if you so call me to bhikkhus, any fear, panic, and creeping of the flesh that will have arisen will be overcome.’

    If the above still works, it’s because he is still around. And yes, the above does work – and there are many cases of the Buddha manifesting in miracles.

    There is cause for the Buddha to be reborn in Samsara – out of compassion to continue helping beings. A Buddha that expires after 45 years is incredibly limited. Even in the Pali Canon, the Buddha told Ananda that he can live for up to a kalpa – because he CAN. Good to study the suttas deeper before concluding anything.

    In the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha revealed that he has manifested for 8,000+ times the process of workign towards Buddhahood already. This HAS to be PERFECT and INFINITE compassion. If to be a Buddha is to be limited in compassion, it’s not a very useful attainment to many.

    If there is no such thing as free will, there would be no need for the Buddha to urge a single person to practise the littlest bit of Dharma. Our choices made are conditioned by many factors – but we choose the deciding factor from moment to moment. If not, all is predestined and pointless.

  4. We have will, but its not truly FREE, will is conditioned. If it is truly free, we can will ourselves to stop thinking in meditation. We can’t, we can only practice and gradually create the conditions from a peaceful mind to arise. We can’t will ourselves to have an IQ of 180. We can’t will ourselves to remember everything.

    Yes we choose the deciding factor, but even in deciding, we have preferences and our preferences are conditioned by many experiences we had in the past. e.g. an Ah Beng, when provoked will always choose to fight, a Buddha will always choose not to fight.

    I am not suggesting predestination here. Rather, I want to highlight the fact that most of the time, we are not fully in control even of our own mind. We can call it the middle way, we don’t really have free will, but its not 100% predestination neither.

    As to why being mindful of the Buddha can dispel fear. I think its more the working of our own mind and not because the Buddha came to our rescue! By recalling the qualities of the Buddha the mind gain confidence, naturally fear will dispel.

    e.g. a true Buddhist walks into a temple, see the image of the Buddha may feel inspired, at peace and happy, a fundamentalist christian seeing the same image may feel fear thinking its the manifestation of satan!

    Yes, the Buddha said he could live 1 Kalpa, but when Ananda failed to request the Buddha to do so, the Buddha let go of the will to live, such that when Ananda asked him again.. the Buddha simply said that its too late.

  5. There is enough wiggle room in conditioned will to be free enough to practise the Dharma, to advance spiritually, and that is what matters. With enough will, we can eventually will ourselves to meditate well, to be wise, to recall past lives…

    We need to be careful with how we use words. If someone when provoked ‘will always choose to fight’, as you suggested, this person can never control himself and is spiritually hopeless, but this is not true. Preferences can be changed – by will. There are people who transform overnight when the conditions are right, and most of all, when they exert their will. Think the recent case of the young man sentenced to hang for drug trafficking. He is now being mindful of Amituofo. Do consider signing petition to save his life at http://theonlinecitizen.com/2010/07/save-vui-kong-campaign-kicks-off-in-sabah

    It is obvious you have never tried being mindful of the Buddha to dispel fear before, which is why you cling to the idea that the Buddha is gone for good and that the dispelling of fear always has nothing to do with the actual Buddha’s blessings. It is incredibly humbling when you experience the blessings of the Buddha in person. It is so unique that you WILL know it is not your mind at work. Saccakiriya – calling upon the Buddha using the power of truth. You should try it sometimes – to ask the Buddha to verify your Dharma practice. But it takes faith and humility for this to be possible too.

    A non-Buddhist might feel fear when seeing a Buddha image only because he has wrong understanding of what the image represents. The Buddha image is not the Buddha per se too. I have never heard of anyone, perhaps only the very evil, who fear the Buddha in person.

    As mentioned, the Buddha’s compassion is infinite. In the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha simply ceased his form as the Buddha at 80 in our world, but continues his good work in other forms and worlds. The idea that the Buddha relinquished life simply because no one asked him to prolong it smacks of little compassion on his part. His passing was simply a reflection of the collective karma of people at that time, to no longer deserve the Buddha’s physical presence in the flesh, as the Buddha.

  6. From the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

    “Now there are eight kinds of assemblies, Ananda, that is to say, assemblies of nobles, brahmans, householders, ascetics, of the Four Great Kings, of the Thirty-three gods, of Maras, and of Brahmas. “And I [the Buddha] recall, Ananda, how I have attended each of these eight kinds of assemblies, amounting to hundreds. And before seating myself and starting the conversation or the discussion, I made my appearance resemble theirs, my voice resemble theirs. And so I taught them the Dhamma, and roused, edified, and gladdened them. Yet while I was speaking to them thus, they did not know me, and they would enquire of one another, asking: ‘Who is he that speaks to us? Is it a man or a god?’ “Then having taught them the Dhamma, and roused, edified, and gladdened them, I would straightaway vanish. And when I had vanished, too, they did not know me, and they would enquire of one another, asking: ‘Who is he that has vanished? Is it a man or a god?’

    Notes: If the Buddha used to do this out of compassion, who are we to say he does not continue doing so, also out of limitless compassion. Please don’t promote the idea that Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha who is gone for good – because this does little good. This seriously handicaps the practice of refuge.

  7. when discussing, its better to take out words that are passing judgment or potentially can be interpreted that way e.g. “Good to study the suttas deeper before concluding anything.” or “which is why you cling to the idea that the Buddha is gone for good”. – its not helpful

    Yes, of cause there is enough wiggle room and free enough to practice the Dhamma. My only contention is that Will is FREE (Actually I thought you know me long enough to never suggest that everything is predestined, which is why I did nt specifically say that I don’t believe in that).

    I am not suggesting that Mr Ah Beng in my example above is spiritually doomed. Rather that his mind has been conditioned in such a way that he will almost definitely react in a certain way.

    Of cause when Ah Beng is more calm, when he grow older, with he meet a good teacher or some positive experience.. he may change and he can change.

  8. No one suggested in the first place that free will is totally unconditioned or totally free.

    It is true that it is good to study suttas deeper before concluding anything. This applies to everyone, including myself, who have not studied all suttas deeply enough yet.

    Please feel free to prove all experiences of Buddhists who have experienced the Buddha’s blessings in person to be deluded in this aspect. To promote the idea that their experiences are false is not helpful – especially since their experiences are genuine enough to themselves to make them more diligent in Dharma practice.

  9. I am not keen to disprove anything. I can only support and express what I believe.

    I never had any issue with taking refuge in a Buddha that is no longer around. 2500 yrs of Buddhists who follow the teachings in the Nikaya don’t have an issue, Aj Chah, Aj Brahm did not have an issue..

    Its not the person and what he can do for me now, its what he did for us and what he represents. That is the Buddha that I took refuge in. Similar ideas I try to cultivate in myself. – It is the teachings and our practice that is the most important.

    Anyway, reminded me again why I really don’t like commenting n posting here. This is my last post on this subject.

  10. For many Buddhists, the experience of the/a Buddha’s blessings in person is the realest and purest experience ever. I don’t know the masters you named have experienced the Buddha in person or not. Many other masters have experienced more than one Buddha’s blessings in person.

    It’s not just what the Buddha had done for us, but what he can continue to do that is perfect unending compassion for all beings. The fuller inspiration is not just what he had done but what he continues to do – that inspires us to become like him via diligent practice. (I wouldn’t want to become a Buddha in any lifetime who retires after only 45 years of teaching. I would want to work on tirelessly for all beings.)

    Some Buddhists have faith in the Buddha, though any Buddhist is also welcome to have faith in ‘no-more-Buddha’. Whatever works! I take actual refuge in all Buddhas as the first aspect of the Triple Gem. Namo Buddhaya.

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