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Today the deeper implications of the word Nibbāna are obscured by a set of disingenuous and misleading arguments based on a scholarly methodology borrowed from South Indian Brahmanism. Nevertheless, most Theravādins, dazzled by the brilliance of Ven. Buddhaghosa’s scholarship, accept his arguments as gospel.
That has led to an unfortunate situation where the sober voices of the forest practitioners are out-shouted by a politicized chorus of university-trained city temple scholastics. ‘I know, I see, that’s just how it is!’ they chant.
Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
or clung to as true by others,
Amidst those self-fettered by their views,
Being Such, I hold none as true or false.
That barb I beheld well in advance,
that arrow where generations are fastened and hung
‘I know, I see, that’s just how it is!’ —
no such clinging for the Tathāgatas.” — Kālakārāma Sutta (AN 4.24)
But actually, unenlightened, they are clinging to the straws and reeds of speculative commentaries, while the current of saṃsāra sweeps them downstream toward the inevitable precipice.
“Bhikkhus, suppose there was a mountain river sweeping downwards, flowing into the distance with a swift current. If on either bank of the river kasa grass or kusa grass were to grow, it would overhang it; if rushes, reeds, or trees were to grow, they would overhang it. If a man being carried along by the current should grasp the kasa grass, it would break off and he would thereby meet with calamity and disaster; if he should grasp the kusa grass, it would break off and he would thereby meet with calamity and disaster; if he should grasp the rushes, reeds, or trees, they would break off and he would thereby meet with calamity and disaster.
“So too, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling … regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. That form of his disintegrates and he thereby meets with calamity and disaster. He regards feeling as self … perception as self … volitional formations as self … consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness. That consciousness of his disintegrates and he thereby meets with calamity and disaster.
“What do you think, bhikkhus, is form permanent or impermanent?”
“Impermanent, venerable sir.”…
“Therefore … Seeing thus … He understands: ‘… there is no more for this state of being.’” — Nadī Sutta (SN 22.93)