Try to imagine deathlessness, by Ajahn Sumedho

Photo: Ajahn SumedhoTry to imagine deathlessness, and all you get is some kind of immortal fantasy, a heavenly fantasy where everything is beautiful, you are young forever, and there is no disease. This is a childlike fantasy of paradise. As you trust awareness more, however, the formless, the unbounded, isn’t seen as a state of void ― a kind of unconscious annihilation ― but is where ignorant grasping is no longer your obsession.

What we are all experiencing right now is that from this emptiness, forms arise and cease. It is like a miracle! And that is just the way it is. We are not trying to seek annihilation so that all forms die and no form ever arises again. That is the desire for annihilation, extinction. We call it ‘vibhava-tanha’, the desire for annihilation, the desire to get rid of.




Categories: Ajahn Sumedho, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Theravada

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5 replies

  1. When you state, “Try to imagine deathlessness, and all you get is some kind of immortal fantasy, a heavenly fantasy where everything is beautiful, you are young forever, and there is no disease,” you’re setting up a straw man, an argument with obvious defects that are easy to counter. Not everybody who believes in an afterlife has such a beatific vision. My tradition, before I became interested in Buddhism, believed that material existence itself was an illusion and that after death, that illusion continues until we gradually understand the truth of existence (in different circles that is called “dharma”). Understanding that truth required an enormous amount of introspection and meditation–which is what made the transition to Buddhism easy for me.

    I was intrigued by your following statement, “As you trust awareness more, however, the formless, the unbounded, isn’t seen as a state of void ― a kind of unconscious annihilation ― but is where ignorant grasping is no longer your obsession.” My understanding of Buddhism so far (and I am still very much a beginner) has been that there is no possibility of any kind of continued consciousness–that, indeed, we are faced with the total annihilation of consciousness. Have I been wrong in that assumption, or am I misreading your above statement?

    Thanks

    • Hello Andrew, thanks for your comment.

      The Buddha never took up an eternalistic or nihilistic view. He didn’t take up any view whatsoever. He spoke of waking up to the reality of this moment whatever one’s experience is in the moment. The point is to see the truth of it, to become very conscious of it, to become totally aware of it. When we talk about consciousness, we are not talking about some thing that comes or goes or can be extinguished or annihilated.

      You might enjoy Nirvana for Everyone, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

  2. It intrigues me when vastly different disciplines come up with somewhat similar ideas. It is what I like to call ‘parallel shadows of a greater truth’. I think it is beautiful when that happens.

    The way it is described here, formlessness reminds me of David Bohm’s “implicate order” from physics. And also of the Tao.

    Matter and energy arise from the implicate order…universes form from 11th dimension membranes…from the formless, the empty, comes all things for a time, only to return.

    It is a miracle and it is nothing.

    Thank you to Buddhism_Now for so many wonderful dharma articles to help us all along the way.

  3. Namo Buddha,

    Thank you sir,

    I follow the path.

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