Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

"The Deathless" (Pali: Amata) in Buddhism

EvenThirdEvenThird NYC Veteran
edited November 2013 in Philosophy
Hi all,

How do you understand it? Do you have any relevant experiences to share?
-----
At Savatthi. "Monks, remain with your minds well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness. Don't let the deathless be lost to you.

"In which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.

"Monks, remain with your minds well-established in these four establishings of mindfulness. Don't let the deathless be lost to you."
SN 47
"...But what is the noble liberation?"

"There is the case, Ananda, where a disciple of the noble ones considers this: 'Sensuality here & now; sensuality in lives to come; sensual perceptions here & now; sensual perceptions in lives to come; forms here & now; forms in lives to come; form-perceptions here & now; form-perceptions in lives to come; perceptions of the imperturbable; perceptions of the dimension of nothingness; perceptions of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception: that is an identity, to the extent that there is an identity. This is deathless: the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging/sustenance.'"
MN 106
"Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already."
DHP II (21-32)

OR
"Attention is the path to the deathless. Inattention is the path to death. Those who are attentive never die, those who are inattentive are as if already dead."
(from Gil Fronsdal's dharma talk on the subject, don't know who's translation it is)
-
From the same talk, he presented the idea that the heedfulness/attention/mindfulness is something we all have, and in the nature of attention is the deathless. It is not something external. Our buddha nature is deathlessness.

Comments

  • Our buddha nature is deathlessness
    Exactly so. The unborn, the face before you were born, the 'death of the ego' etc. Many names.

    When people talk about 'finding themselves', they are in for a touch of dharma surprise. Self is dependent on arising factors - 'dependent origination'. The unborn does not have an arising or dependence.

    In one sense it is the cessation of the struggle for emancipation, liberation, the deathless, that allows its 'nature' or 'eternal presence' to become apparent.

    The pool is muddy, with us threshing about for 'peace of mind'. Let it settle and the pool is clear. That is why we practice stillness of being aka meditation.
    EvenThirdJeffreycvalue
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    my theoretical understanding says - other words for deathless are: nirvana, the unconditioned, primordial awareness or ordinary awareness, primordial mind, buddha-nature etc. the words from other religions having similar meaning - spirit or soul, atman, dao etc. the word is not important as a word is just a word or a label, which is empty in itself - but what is important is the experience of it. it is always available in here and now, as it is bare awareness, which fully accepts everything without judging and which always is.
    EvenThird
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited November 2013
    how do I understand it? I don't... yet, and it seems any attempt to try is bound to come no where close to the truth ;)

    all I know is to practice, I'll get there one of these aeons.
    EvenThird
  • EvenThirdEvenThird NYC Veteran
    ^^^
    I'm in the same boat. Any understanding I might currently have seems to be purely conceptual. Although I admit to having learned a thing or two thanks to people's responses. Even so, practice is the only way I see for my own understanding.
  • The Deathless is the Unborn

    "For Buddhism, the dualism between life and death is only one instance of a more general problem, dualistic thinking. Why is dualistic thinking a problem? We differentiate between good and evil, success and failure, life and death, and so forth because we want to keep the one and reject the other. But we cannot have one without the other because they are interdependent: affirming one half also maintains the other. Living a "pure" life thus requires a preoccupation with impurity, and our hope for success will be proportional to our fear of failure. We discriminate between life and death in order to affirm one and deny the other, and, as we have seen, our tragedy lies in the paradox that these two opposites are so interdependent: there is no life without death and--what we are more likely to overlook--there is no death without life. This means our problem is not death but life-and-death."

    "Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes before and after and is independent of before and after. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

    This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death.

    Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring."

    Zen Master Dogen - Genjo Koan
    I think that the discovery that we do not die is the most valuable and important discovery made in the history of the human race. Is there any other discovery that can match it? Even to call it the most valuable and important world heritage is insufficient. However, unfortunately, most of the great number of people living in the world do not know of this great discovery. Whenever the New Year comes people think they have grown a year older and a year closer to death. But this is a big mistake. Where is that which has grown a year older, where is that which has made another step toward death? Shakyamuni pursued this question relentlessly. And he realized that this thing called the “self” had neither shadow nor form nor color nor smell nor weight nor anything at all. He realized that this “self” was no more than an image that human beings had arbitrarily produced in their heads. If “self” and “person” are no more than concepts, then “the death of a person” is no more than a concept formed from the workings of the mind. One speaks of “dying” but the “one” dying does not exist. To put it clearly, from the start “death” itself does not exist.

    And, to push the argument even further, what has just been said about “death” applies in just the same way to “life.” If death does not exist, then one cannot say that life exists. In the statement above I made about Shakyamuni’s discovery let me replace the word “death” with “life”. “To put it very simply we can say that Shakyamuni’s discovery was that ‘we are not born’.”

    Life and death are concepts; life and death have no substance. Nevertheless, most people find this hard to believe. Yet, life and death really do not exist. To express the essence of life and death, one can say being happy is life and being sad is death. Being in pain is life and being content is death. Walking is life and running is death. The rain falling is life and good weather is death. Mountains are life and rivers are death.

    Yamada Ryoun- abbot of Sanbo-Kyodan

    'Open are the doors to the
    Deathless
    to those with ears.
    Let them show their conviction.
    Perceiving trouble, O Brahma,
    I did not tell people
    the refined,
    sublime Dhamma.'

    Ariyapariyesana Sutta MN26
    misecmisc1anataman
  • Many people misunderstand "Deathless" to be the Atman/True Self, etc. In actuality the realization of True Self is far from Nirvana! (See: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html) At that stage there is still no understanding of no-self (NOT no-ego) and emptiness.

    I wrote elsewhere:

    Amata is not immortality, which implies the presence of an eternal Self or Soul. There is no such Self or Soul to be immortal be it in samsara [experience afflicted by passions, aggression and delusion] or in nirvana [nirvana = the cessation of all afflictions]. Amata means death-free. What is the meaning of death-free in Buddha’s context?

    Buddha: "And what, monks, is the death-free (amata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the death-free."

    As a moderator of the dhammawheel forum tiltbillings puts it: There is no "deathless." That is a bad translation leading to an objectification/reification of the idea of awakening. With awakening, there is no more rebirth, one is free from death. (31 words.)

    Jnana/Geoff says it very well: “Firstly, while the translation of asaṃskṛta as “the unconditioned” is fairly common, it’s a rather poor translation that all too easily leads to reification. The term asaṃskṛta refers to a negation of conditioned factors, and the meaning is better conveyed by “not-conditioned.” Secondly, for Sautrāntika commentators, and many mahāyānika commentators as well, an analytical cessation (pratisaṃkhyānirodha) is a non-implicative negation (prasajyapratiṣedha), i.e. a negation that doesn’t imply the presence of some other entity, and therefore nirvāṇa simply refers to a cessation that terminates the defilements and fetters that are abandoned by the correct practice of the noble path. It doesn’t refer to an entity or state that is substantially existent (dravyasat).”

    (The same applies to “Deathless” – there is no “Deathless” but “death-free” that is the absence of afflictions that lead to samsaric rebirth and death)

    Geoff also wrote, “One has to be careful with such descriptions which may seem to be pointing to some sort of truly existent "unconditioned ground." Nibbāna is the extinguishment of the mental outflows (āsavā). The liberated mind is measureless (appamāṇa). This is not a "state of oneness with all of existence." It's an absence of identification (anattatā). It's non-indicative (anidassana), unestablished (appatiṭṭha), and not-dependent (anissita). None of these adjectives entail any sort of metaphysical "ground of being" or "unconditioned absolute." They are all negations. An arahant has simply "gone out."”

    And as Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm Smith said, “When you have eradicated all afflictions which cause rebirth, this is all the deathlessness you need. No more birth, BAM! no more death.”

    And it is not just Loppon Namdrol who is saying this, it is very obvious in the Suttas that when the Buddha talked about not-born he is not referring to a metaphysical deathless Self but rather, is referring to the absence of afflictions (primarily the conceit that ‘I Am’), and that in the absence of karmic conditions for rebirth, there is no birth and therefore no ageing, sickness and death.

    31. “Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceivings, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace. And the sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and is not agitated. For there is nothing present in him by which he might be born. Not being born, how could he age? Not ageing, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be shaken? Not being shaken, why should he be agitated? ~ Dhātuvibhanga Sutta

    Lastly, before Mr. Richard makes a mess of misinterpreting Nirvana, I will like to quote from the scriptures:

    SN 43 Asaṅkhata Saṃyutta (1-44 combined & abridged):

    And what, monks, is the not-fabricated (asaṅkhata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the not-fabricated.

    And what, monks, is the not-inclined (anata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the not-inclined.

    And what, monks, is the outflowless (anāsava)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the outflowless.

    And what, monks, is the truth (sacca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the truth.

    And what, monks, is the farther shore (pāra)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the farther shore.

    And what, monks, is the subtle (nipuṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the subtle.

    And what, monks, is the very hard to see (sududdasa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the very hard to see.

    And what, monks, is the unaging (ajajjara)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unaging.

    And what, monks, is the stable (dhuva)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the stable.

    And what, monks, is the undisintegrating (apalokita)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the undisintegrating.

    And what, monks, is the non-indicative (anidassana)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the non-indicative.

    And what, monks, is the unproliferated (nippapañca)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unproliferated.

    And what, monks, is the peaceful (santa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the peaceful.

    And what, monks, is the death-free (amata)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the death-free.

    And what, monks, is the sublime (paṇīta)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the sublime.

    And what, monks, is the auspicious (siva)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the auspicious.

    And what, monks, is the secure (khema)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the secure.

    And what, monks, is the elimination of craving (taṇhākkhaya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the elimination of craving.

    And what, monks, is the wonderful (acchariya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the wonderful.

    And what, monks, is the amazing (abbhuta)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the amazing.

    And what, monks, is the calamity-free (anītika)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the calamity-free.

    And what, monks, is the dhamma free of calamity (anītikadhamma)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the dhamma free of calamity.

    And what, monks, is extinguishment (nibbāna)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called extinguishment.

    And what, monks, is the unafflicted (abyāpajjha)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unafflicted.

    And what, monks, is dispassion (virāga)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called dispassion.

    And what, monks, is purity (suddhi)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called purity.

    And what, monks, is freedom (mutti)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called freedom.

    And what, monks, is the unadhesive (anālaya)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the unadhesive.

    And what, monks, is the island (dīpa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the island.

    And what, monks, is the cave (leṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the cave.

    And what, monks, is the shelter (tāṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the shelter.

    And what, monks, is the refuge (saraṇa)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the refuge.

    And what, monks, is the destination (parāyana)? The elimination of passion, the elimination of aggression, the elimination of delusion: this is called the destination.
  • (continued)

    ...

    As Geoff said:

    "Nibbāna is a negation. It means extinguishment.

    ....

    Firstly, nibbāna isn't a "state." Secondly, nibbāna is the cessation of passion, aggression, and delusion. For a learner it is the cessation of the fetters extinguished on each path. The waking states where "suddenly all sensations and six senses stop functioning" are (1) mundane perceptionless samādhis, and (2) cessation of apperception and feeling. Neither of these are supramundane and neither of these are synonymous with experiencing nibbāna."
    EvenThird
  • xabir said:

    (continued)

    Dead
    give
    away?

    . . . to be
    continued?
  • Continued from previous post because there is a word limit for each post.
  • xabir said:

    Continued from previous post because there is a word limit for each post.

    Praise be to Buddha and our admin team

    :p

    . . . and now back to the death of words and the wordless . . . :wave:
    robotEvenThirdfedericaHamsaka
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    xabir said:

    Many people misunderstand "Deathless" to be the Atman/True Self, etc. In actuality the realization of True Self is far from Nirvana! (See: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html) At that stage there is still no understanding of no-self (NOT no-ego) and emptiness.

    It seems to me that when Chan/Zen Masters talk about "realizing your true self", that is exactly what they are talking about. The realization of no self and emptiness. Chan Master Sheng Yen for example:
    One who has entered Chan does not see basic substance and phenomena as two things standing in opposition to each other. They cannot even be illustrated as being the back and palm of a hand. This is because phenomena themselves are basic substance, and apart from phenomena there is no basic substance to be found. The reality of basic substance exists right in the unreality of phenomena, which change ceaselessly and have no constant form. This is the Truth. When you experience that phenomena are unreal, you will then be free from the concept of self and other, right and wrong, and free from the vexations of greed, hatred, worry and pride. You will not need to search for peace and purity, and you will not need to detest evil vexations and impurity. Although you live in the world of phenomenal reality, to you, any environment is a Buddha's Pure Land.
    As a moderator of the dhammawheel forum tiltbillings puts it: There is no "deathless." That is a bad translation leading to an objectification/reification of the idea of awakening.
    I don't think that is necessarily the case. :)
    EvenThird
  • Hey Seeker242, the article you quoted from is Ven Sheng Yen's article http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/articles/whatischan.html

    In this, it listed three stages: 1) body-mind benefits, 2) from small I to Large I, 3) Large I to No I

    This means it goes beyond 'true self' of stage 2.

    Of course not many teachers, even in Buddhism (and it is non-existent outside Buddhism), is able to reach realization of Anatta.
  • xabirxabir Veteran
    edited November 2013
    I don't think that is necessarily the case.

    Any form of metaphysical essence is reification. All notions of self/Self causes bondage/samsara.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Yes, I was referring to "stage 3"
    xabir said:

    I don't think that is necessarily the case.

    Any form of metaphysical essence is reification. All notions of self/Self causes bondage/samsara.

    And what if "true essence" means "no essence"?
    EvenThird
  • Then that's fine. Most of the time it is not used that way. It all depends on context.

    Even if they say things like "true self is void" it often implies a Self that is attributeless and formless, which is no different from Hinduism's Nirguna Brahman. It is still a substantial entity.
    EvenThird
  • Given its indescribability and our linguistic limitations, perhaps it can feebly be described as freedom from all psychological and physical necessity that is neither considered a state, ground, or nature that one can subtly identify with, but rather experienced like a flame that doesn't burn.
    EvenThird
  • EvenThird said:


    How do you understand it?

    I think amata can refer to both nibbana and pari-nibbana, but clearly mindfulness is an essential practice.
    EvenThird
Sign In or Register to comment.