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I thought I'd just ask here: did the Buddha die in absorption / any of the dhaynas?

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From a Mahayana viewpoint, (1) a buddha constantly abides in a union of calm abiding and special insight on emptiness and varieties (2) Sakyamuni buddha was a supreme emanation body showing the aspect of dying. (3) a Buddha is not subject to death (hence he showed the aspect of dying).

Here, in a commentary to Maitreya’s Sublime Continuum, it says:

While in meditative equipoise on emptiness with a nonconceptual mind the Buddha can also perform deeds in accordance with the needs, capacities, interests and merits of each disciple. The buddhas can teach each disciple in a specific way while remaining in meditative equipoise on emptiness. That is inconceivable for us.

  • interesting reply, thanks. i've seen, i think, the buddha called the conqueror or death, but not obvious what that means for us – sorta_buddhist Mar 3 '18 at 21:13
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    From the same (Mahayana) text: When there is birth there is death. By eliminating the mental body, that is, by eliminating all forms of birth and death, we are free from arising and that is the perfection of highest bliss. And Buddha is continuously in meditative absorption on emptiness up to the end of samsara. This can only be attained once the process of death that is the hindrance has been eliminated. – Tenzin Dorje Mar 3 '18 at 21:26
  • strange, in that i don't associate that with the mahayana. thanks! – sorta_buddhist Mar 3 '18 at 21:40
  • It does not mean that the continuum is severed when you become a buddha. From a Mahayana viewpoint, one's mental continuum is never severed, one never ceases to exist. – Tenzin Dorje Mar 3 '18 at 21:44
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    You could probably phrase it this ways, yes. We believe that the buddha was already enlightened, that he showed the aspect of being born, showed the aspect of undergoing austerities, showed the aspect of achieving enlightenment and showed the aspect of dying. Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya manifest. They are not subject to death and rebirth. – Tenzin Dorje Mar 4 '18 at 22:02
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According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And rising out of the fourth jhana, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And rising out of the attainment of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained to the cessation of perception and feeling.

And the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Venerable Anuruddha, saying: "Venerable Anuruddha, the Blessed One has passed away."

"No, friend Ananda, the Blessed One has not passed away. He has entered the state of the cessation of perception and feeling."

Then the Blessed One, rising from the cessation of perception and feeling, entered the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the fourth jhana. Rising from the fourth jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the first jhana.

Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And, rising from the fourth jhana, the Blessed One immediately passed away.

Piya Tan's commentary here states:

Samanantarā. Samyutta Commentary: Here there are 2 kinds of samanantarā: immediately after dhyana and immediately after reviewing. In the former case, one emerges from the 4th dhyana, descends into the life - continuum (bhavanga) and attains parinirvana. In the latter case, one emerges from the 4th dhyana, reviews the dhyana-factors again, then descends into the life-continuum and attains parinirvana, as in the case of the Buddha. But buddhas, pratyeka buddhas, noble disciples, and even ants and termites pass away by way of the noble truth that is suffering, with a karmically indeterminate bhavanga consciousness (SA 1:224)

Dhyana is jhana. The difference between jhana and bhavanga is explained in this answer:

Jhana is more than just the giving up of the five senses. Each of the jhanas is the result of very strong samadhi, and has specific factors that go along with it. For example, the first jhana has five factors: rapture, pleasure, initial application of mind, sustained application of mind, and oneness of mind. As one goes deeper into the second jhana, one leaves behind initial application and sustained application of mind, and so on.

Bhavanga is very different than this however. Bhavanga is like a blank slate. All it has are the mental factors that are necessary for mind to be there and nothing else. It only occurs in the space between other kinds of mindstate. None of the jhana factors are present at all, and there isn't even any meaningful degree of awareness in it.

So, according to these commentaries, the Buddha did not actually pass away in the fourth jhana. Rather he passed away in bhavanga.

  • this is what i expected / etc., thanks! – sorta_buddhist Mar 3 '18 at 21:12
  • this answer is wrong – Dhammadhatu Mar 3 '18 at 22:07
  • @user3293056 It turns out that Dhammadhatu is right, although he did not support his statement with adequate references. I have updated the answer. – ruben2020 Mar 4 '18 at 13:41
  • thanks @ruben2020 tho i've accepted another answer because it's more interesting to me – sorta_buddhist Mar 4 '18 at 21:31
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No. According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta:

Then the Blessed One addressed the monks, "Now, then, monks, I exhort you: All fabrications are subject to decay. Bring about completion by being heedful." Those were the Tathagata's last words.

Then the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Emerging from that he entered the second jhana. Emerging from that, he entered the third... the fourth jhana... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the cessation of perception & feeling.

Then Ven. Ananda said to Ven. Anuruddha, "Ven. Anuruddha,[9] the Blessed One is totally unbound."

"No, friend Ananda. The Blessed One isn't totally unbound. He has entered the cessation of perception & feeling."

Then the Blessed One, emerging from the cessation of perception & feeling, entered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the fourth jhana... the third... the second... the first jhana. Emerging from the first jhana he entered the second... the third... the fourth jhana. Emerging from the fourth jhana, he immediately was totally Unbound.

  • This distinction is important. One is supposed to not be able to do while in a jhana state. Also, emerging from a jhana means he migrated to that particular jhana realm (possibly for further cultivation/evolution) at least. – Ahmed Mar 3 '18 at 22:28
  • i mean, maybe... i would be disappointed if he did not. would be good to have a pali answer – sorta_buddhist Mar 3 '18 at 23:26
  • i provided a pali answer. to pass away in jhana is contrary to enlightenment – Dhammadhatu Mar 4 '18 at 0:02
  • no i just mean "in pali" cheers – sorta_buddhist Mar 4 '18 at 21:25

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