When you read Buddhist articles sooner or later, you will come across these 4 options:
- Not exist
- Both exist and not exist
- Neither exist nor not exist
What you’ll also find is people trying to use these 4 options out of context. So they’ll say that the Buddha never answered these questions – do you exist, not exist, both or neither.
But how these 4 options were originally used was as the undeclared answers to what happens to a Buddha after death? Does he exist, not exist, both or neither – the Buddha didn’t answer those 4 questions.
- As Dr Tony Page notes, the word “exist” is bhava. Which is better translated as “to become” or “becoming”.
- Vibhava is “annihilation”.
Becoming implies birth. And with birth comes change and death. And anything that undergoes birth and death is classified as a sankhara.
So if we replace existence with becoming, we get the question, “What happens to a Buddha after death? Does he:
- Get annihilated
- Both become and get annihilated
- Neither become nor get annihilated
Now it gives you a totally different perspective to these 4 options doesn’t it?
A Buddha’s Dharma body is not born and does not die – so how could questions involving sankharas apply? How could questions involving birth and death apply to the Deathless?
Dr Tony Page elaborates:
“Samsaric existence/samsaric bhava is a constant process of becoming and changing but never truly being. Only a Buddha IS.
- The Sutras are only saying that we need to transcend the ever-changing, unstable forms of existence that constitute samsara.
- Once we have left samsaric ‘bhava’ (becoming) behind, we are Buddha – who never changes and never dies.“