[Buddha-l] Not being able to imagine annihilation [confused]
vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Wed Jun 2 01:50:25 MDT 2010
> The presupposition is that there is a tathagata at all. Once that
> presupposition is challenged, then all questions about whether he
> continues to exist or stops existing are unanswerable.
> Richard Hayes
That's an unhelpful dodge -- historically, doctrinally, and philosophically
The historico-doctrinal reason the avyakata questions take the Tathagata as
their example is simple. Since the view of rebirth was virtually ubiquitous
at the time among anyone who would be exposed to such suttas, such questions
about the "continuity" post-death of individuals never involved
annihilationalism, as would be the case in a culture like ours that does not
unquestioningly embrace the idea of rebirth. So the question of what happens
after *final* death only arises in the case of a Tathagata who, by Buddhist
definition, is the one no longer subject to recycling in samsara. What
happens when he dies, thus, becomes a seemingly serious question.
Buddha doesn't deny he is a tathagata. That is not the fiction causing the
trouble. The fiction is the notion of self.
Luke is trying to figure out whether Buddhism condones continuity of some
sort after death -- and if so, then whether the avyakata questions are a
plea for ineffability rather than rejection of annhilationalism simplicitur.
Citing William James, or quasi-Daoist mergings with the universe, etc.,
don't help, except to show that many people who take Buddhism seriously on
many other matters remain uncomfortable with Buddhist ideas about death and
final deaths. They are in good company, since Buddhist doctrinal history
demonstrates that Buddhists themselves were as well, and never could quite
suppress eternalistic urges (since none of them would even consider
annhilationalism an option, there was no extended response to that -- little
did they know what 19th-20th c. Europeans and Americans would do with
Buddhist ideas of nirvana).
There is a reason that Buddhists have to be constantly reminded of how
deeply entrenched and pernicious atma-drsti really is.
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