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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
spring 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 83 Where water, earth, fire, and air do not gain a footing: It is from here that the streams [of phenomena] turn back, Here that the round [of the defile- ments, kamma, and its result] no longer revolves. There, name-and-form ceases. —Samyutta Nikaya, 1.27 Where consciousness is signless, boundless, all-luminous, That’s where earth, water, fire, and air find no footing, There both long and short, small and great, fair and foul— There “name-and-form” [mental and physical phenomena] are wholly destroyed. With the cessation of consciousness, this is all destroyed. —Digha Nikaya, 11.85 The statement that nibbana is “all- luminous” in this passage means that it is completely cleansed of all defilements. Similar metaphors are used in such expressions as “the light of wisdom” (pañña-aloka), “the luster of wisdom” (pañña-obhasa), and “the torch of wis- dom” (paññapajjota). It is in this same sense that the Buddha said, “Bhikkhus, the mind is luminous.” The sense here is that nibbana is always luminous. The mind and wisdom that possess an innate luminosity can be soiled by defiling phe- nomena. Nibbana, however, which is the cessation of defilements or conditioned phenomena, can never be connected with defiling phenomena. Therefore there is no way that any of these phe- nomena can soil or defile nibbana, just as the sky can never be painted. As a result, it is said that “nibbana is all-luminous.” To be straightforward, the meaning of the commentary and subcommentary is only that nibbana is absolutely not con- nected to the defilements or is completely cleansed of them. So one should not misinterpret this statement to mean that nibbana is liter- ally shining like the sun, moon, or stars, and that one sees this luminosity by means of path knowledge and fruition knowledge. This kind of interpretation would negate the previous statement that nibbana is signless, would be inconsistent with its unique “signless” manifestation (animittapaccupatthana), and would contradict venerable Nagas- ena’s answer to King Milinda’s ques- tion about the nature of nibbana. In fact, this kind of literal interpretation would be in opposition to all the Pali texts and commentaries that say there is no materiality in nibbana. In any event, the cessation of potential defile- ments and aggregates is not something that is luminous and bright. If it were, the Pali texts and commentaries could easily have said that “nibbana is lumi- nous and bright.” Otherwise they would not explain it with difficult names such as “destruction of lust” (ragakkhayo), “the peaceful ending of all conditioned phenomena” (sabbasankharasamatho), “nonarising” (anuppado), and so on, which are taken to be opposites of con- ditioned phenomena. One should reflect deeply about this! That’s where earth, water, fire, and air find no footing, There both long and short, small and great, fair and foul— There “name-and-form” [mental and physical phenomena] are wholly destroyed. With the cessation of consciousness this is all destroyed. — Digha Nikaya, 11.85 These lines point out nibbana, or cessa- tion. The last line points out the cause of this cessation. “Consciousness” here refers to both the death conscious- ness (cuticitta) and the volitional mind (abhisankharaviññana) at the time of parinibbana. All presently existing con- ditioned phenomena come to an end due to the destruction of death conscious- ness at the time of parinibbana, and because there is no volitional mind that can produce results, new phenomena do not arise but cease to exist. Thus, with the cessation of these two kinds of consciousness, all conditioned phenom- ena cease. This is like the cessation of the emission of light from an oil lamp whose oil and wick have been com- pletely consumed. ➤ continued from page 40 pacificzen.org SUMMER LONG RETREAT “Meditation shows how it can be wonderful to be human, and that it can hurt. . We are linked to the smallest bacteria and to the stars. Entering the realm of koans is a light that you carry with you and that you inhabit. “ JOHN TARRANT JUNE 12-19, 2016 NORTHERN CALIFORNIA