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Buddha's Whereabouts

I was asked by more than one person about the location of Buddha after his parinirvana, his location after the death of his physical body. This is technical and ;it applies as well to the location of any other type of spiritualist who is believed to have reached a certain location or no location hereafter.

In plain and simple language, the question is:

Where is the Buddha?

Did his existence dissolve into nothing?

Was it transferred into a habitat where everyone who achieved that place, all become as nothing?

Is he somewhere where there is absolutely no personal existence, no possibility of reversals or approvals of any type of desire?

Here is an answer given by Mahakassapa, a senior disciple of Buddha who explained it to Saraputta, another leading disciple during the time of Buddha. This is from the book. Great Disciples of the Buddha. I included a pdf which is available online below.

 

On another occasion Sāriputta asked Mahākassapa whether the Tathāgata, the Perfect One, exists after death, or does not exist, or (in some sense) both exists and does not exist, or neither exists nor does not exist. In each case Mahākassapa replied: “

 

  • This was not declared by the Blessed One. And why not? Because it is of no benefit and does not belong to the fundamentals of the holy life, because it does not lead to disenchantment, nor to dispassion, cessation, inner peace, direct knowledge, enlightenment, and Nibbāna.”
  • “But what, friend, did the Blessed One declare?” “This is suffering—so, friend, has the Blessed One declared. This is the origin of suffering…the cessation of suffering…the way to the cessation of suffering—so, friend, has the Blessed One declared. And why? Because it conduces to benefit and belongs to the fundamentals of the holy life, because it leads to turning away (from worldliness), to dispassion, cessation, inner peace, direct knowledge, enlightenment, and Nibbāna.” (SN 16:12) Relations with Fellow Monks 

 

We have no explanation why Sāriputta posed these questions, which for an arahant should have been fully clear. It is, however, not impossible that this conversation took place immediately after Kassapa’s ordination and before his attainment of arahantship, and that Sāriputta wanted to test his understanding; or perhaps the questions were asked for the sake of other monks who may have been present. (pages 122-123 of pdf below)

 

It may help if I explain the term parinirvana (parinibbana). In Hinduism, a similar term is mahasamadhi which has two primary meanings.

  • the condition assumed by a departed soul who was liberated either before death or at the time of death
  • the tomb of a reputed spiritual teacher

The problem with these technical terms used in the various spiritual societies in India, is that each sect issues its own definition or issues a vague meaning which is difficult to decipher.

In Buddha’s case, if we take what is presented in the original texts (canons), it would mean that he attained nirvana early in his life and attracted disciples. Then he lived for many years where eventually his body succumbed to death. At death he was supposed to attain parinirvana or the total shift from any situation where there is suffering at any stage.

It is obviously from Mahakassapa, that the question regarding Buddha’s location after death was taboo, not to be inquired. Why? Because it was not relevant to their path as render to them by Buddha.

The problem with Buddha is that he did not declare a location, habitat, or dimension in which there would be no suffering of any type. He only branded every place local and remote as rendering various degrees of trauma to anyone. Thus, the idea of his going to some other place is whited out. In their cosmology there is the earth. There are hellish regions. There are heavenly worlds. And there is the attainment of nirvana where a transiting being shifts out of existence in such a way as not to ever be in existence with sensitivity to any earth, hell or heaven.

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