TWO STAGES OF NIBBANA
U KHIN MOUNG
Vol. VIII; No. 2, 1961
What is that Nibbana, which was actually discovered or rather re-discovered by Gotama Buddha? At the outset I would mention that the Buddhist Nibbana, which can give real peace and happiness to anybody, who realises it without the distinction of caste, creed or colour, and which is not at all like the heavens of other religions is not a mere implicit theory deduced by logical thinking. It is an obvious fact that can be found explicitly by anybody in the same way as any student of, say, chemistry can realise personally the properties of chemicals and the natural laws governing their behaviours by practical work, of course, after learning the theory. Theory, practical work and realisation constitute the logical course for the students of the Buddhist Super-Science just like the ordinary science courses. We shall thus find that the real nibbana can never be realised by pure reasoning, dialectical thinking and speculative imagination - the creators of unverifiable metaphysical conceptions, which are undoubtedly the obstacles in our way to the realisation of Nibbana.
After all nibbana is just a name, or term or word or sounding to indicate a certain findable fact. If, therefore, we try to make only an entymological study of it, like what some scholars are doing now, we shall never find the fact, as it really is, no matter how we hair-split the meaning of the word in the linguistic philosophical sense. Hence the difference between the shadow and the substance.
Considering, however, the rapid advance of the scientific knowledge, which has, to a great extent, dispelled the deep-rooted dogmatism and superstition born out of ignorance, I would say that we are rather better placed now to explain the properties of nibbana more convincingly. We know that ignorance or low power of understanding that breeds misconceptions of various kinds is our greatest enemy. Therefore, the Buddha immediately after the attainment of enlightenment wondered whether He should proclaim his highly intricate scientific discoveries simply because of the extremely low power of understanding of almost all the people of his time. We all know that when he started His mission on the request of Sahampati Brahma he really had had an up-hill task to dispel superstition and ignorance by very patiently explaining the scientific laws governing the processes of nature in the language understood by the people of his time. It shows that to study the subject in question dispassionately, we shall have to keep our minds open by forgetting, if possible for ever, the traditional beliefs, mythological concepts and other preconceived notions I should also like to mention that before we make a study of the actual properties of nibbana it is necessary to appreciate firstly the limitations of mundane knowledge and secondly the story of the scientific discoveries of Gotama Buddha.
We shall, therefore, begin by trying to get a clear idea of the present stage of mundane knowledge. Let us find out the effect of Francis Bacon's famous aphorism, i.e., knowledge is power. Knowledge really has become an ostensible power, which manifests prominently as a highly developed power of understanding relating particularly to physical nature. Our scientists have proved it and there is no need to elaborate their achievements which are well known. But with due respects to all learned persons I must mention that our knowledge about the things in general is very little. At the same time if we assess our knowledge about the properties of physical nature, we are competent to say that we know something about it. I say "something", because our leading scientists tell us that they will know more about short lived particles when their liquid hydrogen chamber now under construction is ready for use together with their latest and the largest atom smasher, which has a capacity of about 32 billion electron volts for generating proton to proton collision process. They also tell us the truth that they are exploring only matter's outermost fringes. When they get the results from the proposed experiment, they expect to find many more puzzles.
That is about the highest and the latest knowledge so far acquired by our top-most scientists about physical nature. This stage of knowledge should therefore be assessed as only "something" and nothing more.
If, however, we take a step further, we shall find that our knowledge about the working of the mental or conscious process is almost nothing. In this connection I must mention that for not understanding the science of conscious process as discovered by Gotama Buddha, we are not competent to overcome our animal emotional feelings, that give rise to all kinds of social evils. Surely hard thinking is not necessary to realise that we, the so-called human beings are the embodiments of the resultant-producing mental forces, such as, selfishness, greediness, jealousy, hatred, revengefulness, cruelty, destructiveness, and even self-destructiveness. Indeed, we have the scientists to find the working of the physical forces inside the atoms, but unfortunately we do not have universally recognised scientists, to find the working of mental forces inside us. I have never heard about the existence of the systematically organised institutions especially in the West for research to discover the higher science of mental process that can elevate the animal-man to the level of real human-man. On the other hand it is really a tragedy to find that some of our speculative thinkers, instead of enlightening the people to attain the right understanding to solve the problems of life, have propounded their dialectical theories very elaborately by using mass psychology as their instrument to gain their selfish ends. No doubt, their ideological slogans have wonderful power to infuse enthusiasm in the unthinking minds, which generally have no power of understanding to foresee the boomerang effects that will emerge by the translation of these attractive slogans into practical politics. Consequently individual as well as collective anti-social activities are increasing, I should say, by geometric ratio. Although we are proud of being a species of gregarious animal with a bit of tameness of civilization, actually we are not quite civilized enough to live together happily like our very young brothers, the tiny Little ants. We have often said that we are in a paradoxical situation of poverty in the midst of plenty. Actually we are in a situation of poverty, slavery and ignorance in the midst of plenty, liberty and enlightenment. Man hates man, man kills man and man is the only animal that is hostile to its own kind. Why are we in such a state of affairs? The only and the straight answer is because of our low standard of mundane knowledge. This glaring fact is often described by our Western thinkers by stating that the knowledge so far acquired with the help of our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, faculty of thinking and reasoning as compared with what actually exists is about in the proportion of a single drop to all the water in an ocean. These are the basic stern facts to show the limitations of our mundane knowledge.
After getting an idea of the limitations of mundane knowledge we should know some thing about the faculty of the energised or developed mental force or energy, which is the key to open the door to find an entirely new field of human knowledge, which should be searched for by the modern scientists and philosophers alike. Mental energy like physical energy has two properties, i.e., kinetic and potential. The Western psychologists engaged in the study of different aspects of mental phenomena are now concentrating on the research relating more or less to the kinetic mental energy only. So far I have not heard about their discovery of the new field of knowledge in the light of the energised potential mental energy. I would, therefore, like to mention that, if properly developed or energised, the potential mental energy will be transformed into powerful kinetic or active mental energy, which emanates energised thought-radiations of differing frequencies in the mental field according to the stages of developed potential mental energy in just the same way as the transformation of mass into physical energy in the ratio of E=MC2 (186,324 X 186,324=3,476,632,976.) It shows that a very little mass could become a vast amount of physical energy, which we are using as atomic or nuclear energy. Similarly the energised potential mental energy will become powerful mental radiations with much higher speed than the physical energy. The behaviour of the developed potential mental energy is also like the behaviour of electronic radiations, which we now use in radio communication even in the outer space. We know that the electronic radiations travel with the speed of light. i.e., 186324 miles per second. Energised mental radiations also travel like electronic radiations but they travel with the speed of thought. When we think about a distant galaxy, which is at a distance of several thousands of light years away from us, our thoughts reach there almost instantaneously. It shows the immeasurable speed of thought radiations as compared with the speed of physical radiations. Furthermore the developed potential mental energy has no time barrier. It can go back to the past and it can also go to the future like the time machine imagined by H.G. Wells. But we must not forget that our normal or ordinary thought waves or radiations have no power to communicate our sense impressions like the energised thought waves. To make it more clear the normal thought radiations may be compared with the High Frequency carrier waves of the transmitted radiations, while the developed potential mental energy may be compared with the modulated waves which are the combination of low frequency sound or picture waves and the high frequency carrier waves. If, therefore, we are able to develop our potential mental energies by a suitable method to attain a certain frequency, we shall, without any doubt, be able to find the entire universe and its past, present and future inhabitants just as we can now see and hear the happenings in distant places with the help of our electronic devices, which are only physical contrivances.
We can now say that we have a dim glimpse of the possibilities of the human power and knowledge. But we shall get a clear idea of these possibilities when we begin to study the story of the unique discoveries of Gotama Buddha. Here is the story. Life, as is well known, is nothing else but a bundle of problems. Prince Siddhattha, the embryo-Buddha, who did not believe in the contemplative knowledge and the deities worshipped by the speculative philosophers of his time, very seriously took up the problem of life as a scientific problem to be solved by himself as a realist without in any way depending upon any outside help. He detested the metaphysical ideas, such as, the reality, the absolute, the whole, and so on although he had to learn about them by tradition when he was young. He was interested only in the hard facts faced by each and every living being at all time everywhere, i.e., old age, sickness and death, which nobody can escape, no matter what station of life he may be in. During the first watch of one particular night while he was deeply engrossed in his earnest search for the hidden facts by energsing his potential mental energy, he suddenly discovered one stage of supernormal knowledge of certain frequency of energised mental radiations and with the help of this particular super-knowledge or power he could see his past lives in succession vividly just as anybody could see his or her past lives in different stages of growth from childhood to grown-up.* In this very moment he had become an exceptionally old man full of wisdom and millions and millions years of age, and experience of various kinds. He found that he had gone through the mill more than enough as it were. He had tasted the pleasures of all kinds of luxurious life. He had also burned his fingers innumerable times. He knew all about worldly life. He practically began his hard schooling when he was a hermit by the name of Sumedha at the time of Dipankara Buddha. What is more he found that he had undergone a very strenuous training technically known as "The Ten Paramis**. The most important discovery he had made is the process of life or rebirth. He then knew that the process of rebirth is a fact. But He did not as yet realise the working of the process of rebirth. Although, at that time, he was about 35 years old according to our conventional standard of measuring the so-called time or age, he was actually a grand old man, who could tell us the story of his various lives and experience. Therefore, when he became Buddha, he once told his disciples in the Sinsapa grove that his knowledge when compared with what he had said and taught was about the proportion of all the Sinsapa leaves in the grove to the little leaves in his hand. At this juncture I should like to mention that if we can appreciate the above mentioned discoveries as true facts, we certainly shall have no difficulty in understanding his other discoveries.
During the second watch of that night he discovered another stage of super-normal knowledge or power in another band of thought wave frequency.*** At this level he discovered all living beings throughout the universe and he knew all about them especially the continuity of the process of life in different planes of existence according to their good and bad deeds (Yathakammupaga). He found that some form of higher celestial beings, who thought that they were the immortal gods on account of their long spans of life also died at the end of their life-span. He thus realised the immense field of life-process and he considered it as an acute problem, which he would try and solve by all means. It was really a stupendous self-imposed task, that certainly would not appeal to ordinary minds. He was not satisfied with the two stages of super-normal knowledge he had acquired, and he kept on searching for the knowledge that would help him to solve all the problems of life.
At last his highly developed potential mental energy of the highest frequency helped him to attain the supramundane knowledge during the last watch of the same night. He then discovered Asavakkhaya-nana. **** This is the highest Supramundane Knowledge to overcome all Asavas and also to attain Nibbana.
The most important laws are technically known as (1) Paticcasamuppada usually rendered as Dependent Origination and (2) Patthana rendered as law of relations or causal relativity. Incidentally he discovered that the so-called human and other living beings are only a process of rapidly arising and vanishing of quanta of thought moments and quanta of physical particles. He also discovered that the resultant-producing mental forces, such as the feeling of like, dislike, craving, attachment, anger, hatred, greediness, etc.. are the motive powers that energise the dynamic process of rebirth, i.e., successive births and deaths with the intervening old age and sickness. When he realised the working of the chain reaction generated by the various resultant-reducing mental forces, he also discovered the principal resultant-producing mental force, that energises the process of rebirth, i.e., the feeling of craving for the satisfaction of worldly desires born out of sensuous appetites. This is technically known as "Tanha". As soon as he knew about it, he had completely over come it, and he found that he was the happiest
man in the world the moment he had freed himself from the bondage of Tanha. By becoming the Master of the working of the psycho-physical process, i.e., the Paticcasamuppada, he realised that his life process will cease to function at the time of his death. This is how Gotama Buddha realised the two stages of nibbana while he was alive, i.e., (1) while alive the cessation of the arising of resultant-producing mental forces, of which Tanha is the principle agent, (2) the subsequent cessation of the dynamic life process at the time of death without leaving any residuum in the form of everlasting pure mind or universal self or higher self or atman or holy spirit or brahma or other metaphysical imagaries.
It is now clear to us that as long as the process of rebirth is kept alive or energised by the resultant-producing mental forces, the living beings will appear with all the salient characteristics of birth, old age, sickness and death in succession like the moving pictures on the cinema screens performing emotional dramas and tragedies of various kinds that can generate laughters and tears. But it goes without saying that these characteristics are sure to disappear with the cessation of the process of life just like the disappearance of the motion pictures as soon as the cinematography machine stops working. These two factors are related. One gives rise to the other as chain reaction. Who can find the pictures that once appeared alive on the cinema screen? Where have they gone to? Have they joined the everlasting universal mind or spirit or soul to become one and the whole in some corner of the universe? Therefore those, whose power of understanding is blockaded by the static concepts, such as, eternalism, everlasting, oneness, wholeness, reality, etc. will never understand specially the second stage of nibbana.
The first stage of nibbana is technically known as "KILESA NIBBANA" or SAUPADI-SESA NIBBANA". It may briefly be defined as the cessation of the resultant-producing mental forces emanating mainly from the worldly feelings of like and dislike. The second stage of nibbana is technically known as "KHANDHA NIBBANA" or " ANU-PADI-SESA NIBBANA". It may be defined as the complete cessation of all the resultant-producing mental forces including the process of rebirth.
* Pubbenivasa-abhinnana: By the insight known as remembrance of previous circumstances the past history of one's self, or of another can be read. This is called Knowledge of past existences.
* * Paramitas or Parami: Perfections. There are ten kinds of Perfections. The are: 1. Almsgiving, 2. Morality, 3. Renunciation, 4 Wisdom, 5. Energy, 6. Patience, 7. Truthfulness, 8. Determination, 9. Loving-kindness, 10. Equanimity.
* ** Dibba-cakku-abhinnana Celestial eye.
**** This is the same as the Fruition of Holiness.
This is the Knowledge which eradicates all asavas (mental impurities) whatsoever.
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