It is often stated particularly by Theravada Buddhism that Nibbana/Nirvana is unconditioned. In fact extensive metaphysical speculations have even been written about by esteemed monks.
Where is this actually stated in the canonical scripture? This doctrine seems particularly important and should have extensive discourse by the Buddha.
In fact, it would appears that this doctrine is in contradiction with the doctrine of dependent origination. And it would not be clear how the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path arrived at an "Unconditioned Nibana".
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
It was said that Venerable Sariputta upon hearing the dependent generation stanzas out of his profound wisdom immediately became a stream winner, knowing the way to end suffering.
I believe the reasoning is as follows:
- Things that arise due to causes and conditions cease with the end of those causes and conditions.
- Suffering arise due to causes and conditions
- Suffering therefore can be extinguish with the right causes and conditions.
- The right causes and conditions are the Practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to Ethics, Concentration and Wisdom, removing the causes for suffering.
But this mean that even the cessation of suffering Nibana itself is conditional!
I did some research on Sutta Central and found the following
“Bhikkhus, I will teach you the unconditioned and the path leading to the unconditioned. Listen to that….
“And what, bhikkhus, is the unconditioned? The destruction of lust, the destruction of hatred, the destruction of delusion: this is called the unconditioned.
“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Serenity: this is called the path leading to the unconditioned….
“Thus, bhikkhus, I have taught you the unconditioned and the path leading to the unconditioned…. This is our instruction to you.”
“Thus, bhikkhus, I have taught you the unconditioned and the path leading to the unconditioned. Whatever should be done, bhikkhus, by a compassionate teacher out of compassion for his disciples, desiring their welfare, that I have done for you. These are the feet of trees, bhikkhus, these are empty huts. Meditate, bhikkhus, do not be negligent, lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you.”
However, there is no correspondent parallel text in the Chinese Agama, and the content is lacking substance having no message apart from Buddhist practice leading to Unconditionality, and hence can be suspected to be a Theravadin innovation and a latter doctrinal addition.
Thus I heard: At one time the Gracious One was dwelling near Sāvatthī, in Jeta’s Wood, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then at that time the Gracious One was instructing, rousing, enthusing, and cheering the monks with a Dhamma talk connected with Emancipation. Those monks, after making it their goal, applying their minds, considering it with all their mind, were listening to Dhamma with an attentive ear.
Then the Gracious One, having understood the significance of it, on that occasion uttered this exalted utterance:
“There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned. If, monks there were not that unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, you could not know an escape here from the born, become, made, and conditioned. But because there is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, therefore you do know an escape from the born, become, made, and conditioned.”
This sounds like an illogical tautology - circular reasoning supporting the unconditional Nibbana doctrine.
The fact that this would be said by someone as enlightened as the Buddha is extremely slim.
The main reason I can imagine this being used is the use of Nirvana (Cessation/Blown Out) as a negation, i.e. Nothing is Unconditioned, therefore Nirvana is Unconditioned.
I would appreciate it if anyone can provide canonical sources that explain the importance of unconditionality with respect to Nibbana and Nirvana. Particularly why is it even important and consistent with the rest of Buddhist teachings? Please feel free to point out where you think my own views might be mistaken.