I have heard that the Buddha, upon the breaking up of his body, having fully extinguished the flame of desire for existence, is now “nowhere”. This disturbed me. I found it unpaletable that a being, such as Buddha Gotama, should reach the unsurpassable goal of enlightment only to pass away and not be found “anywhere”. What is the purpose in that?
So I sent an email to His Holiness – The Dalai Lama – asking this question:
It is hard to imagine “extinguishing of being”.
It would be wonderful if His Holiness could explain this difficult concept in layman’s terms.
This is the reply I received:
Dear Glen Graebner,
You are welcome to forward this interesting
point-extinguishing of being. There are two major
traditions in Buddhism – Pali and Sanskrit
tradition. One section of Pali tradition does say
that the self or being extinguishes at the time
of achieving liberation from Samsara like that of
extinguishing of a lamp. However, the proponents
of Sanskrit tradition asserts that the self or
being doesn’t cease away even after becoming a
Buddha. The reason the latter tradition provides
is that the nature of our mind is pure and there
is no such cause to terminate it and its flow
from one life to another. A perfect evidence or
proof of the continuous flow of self without
being extinguished after death is the people
having the memories of their past lives. I hope
you must have heard true stories about people
remembering their past lives especially among the
young children. You can also read “Old Soul”
written by “Thomas Shroder” for books on life
after death and read them in order to find
confidence in the existence of life after death
and that there is no such thing as extinguishing
of being or self after death or after the attainment of Buddha hood.
So now I am wondering if my “unpaletable” feeling is a result of having a craving for existence.
What does it mean to be found “nowhere”? Is this realizing Nibbana? Should we meditate on this concept of extinguishing of being? I am thinking that it would be beneficial. Perhaps even a way to overcome the craving for existence?
Would appreciate anyone’s incite on this.
One of the objects for samatha meditation in the visuddimagga is that of contemplating nibbana conceptually.If done correctly it can indeed be calming and beneficial, but like all meditation objects it needs good understanding to do properly.
Not to be critical but your first mistake is writing to a man like HHDL. He probably won’t even answer your question himself, because he is so busy, and instead will have some representative do it. Second, he is not detached from life, he loves life and big things, he loves birth and wants everyone to have a happy birth (a sign that he has little panna– even the Buddha knew he couldn’t save all and passed into extinction only after helping the large number of people that he could).
Until the Perfections are accumulated, and urgency stimulated by seeing the fouls of samsara such as being tortured and so on, you won’t have much impetus for cessation at all. You will only love rebirth. It is only natural.
Nevertheless, if you think about all the ills that occur in life, such as children who are reborn and starve to death, and what a horrible life that must be, and the fact that even if you are reborn in heaven it ends, only to have “you” suffer again, you might be interested to learn more and study.
The wise recognize the ills of samsara. You seem wise since you asked here.