Misunderstanding rebirth

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Misunderstanding rebirth

Postby Nibbida » Tue Jun 16, 2009 3:56 am

Tangential to the "accepting rebirth" thread, I'd like to pose this question about peoples' understanding of rebirth (across lifetimes). My understanding is that there is no self that is reborn across lifetimes because there never was a self to begin with. What continues is not a "me" in the sense that most of us experience.

We may understand this intellectually, but it would seem that anyone who is not awakened (at least to stream entry) is still under the delusion of a sense of an "I", a separate self. So it would seem to me that anyone who is not awakened cannot fully comprehend what rebirth means in the Buddhist sense, except maybe in some abstract logical sense. Some part of our minds still believes that the sense of "me" will carry over to future lives.

Anyone care to comment or modify what I have said?

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Re: Misunderstanding rebirth

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:00 am

Greetings Nibbida,

Only that it's worth differentiating between the "view of self" which must be broken (amongst other fetters) to attain stream-entry, and "false perception of self" by way of thinking in terms of me, myself and I, which is not completely removed until the attainment of arahantship.

I think that will help clarify any subsequent discussion.

Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)

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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7

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Re: Misunderstanding rebirth

Postby Jechbi » Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:26 am

Hi Nibbida,
Nibbida wrote:My understanding is that there is no self that is reborn across lifetimes because there never was a self to begin with. What continues is not a "me" in the sense that most of us experience.

I think it's worthwhile to be open to the possibility that any one of our understandings about rebirth might be incomplete, imperfect and subject to change or deepen in the future. Whatever particular view or logic or supposition we have adopted with regard to what will occur in our future, I think it's best to recognize it as potentially distracting if we dwell too much on it or get carried away with trying to figure it all out. Particularly if it distracts us from facing up to the underlying dukkha that prompts this line of inquiry to begin with.

With that in mind, to me it makes sense to think about the process of "self" as a series of events, each conditioning the next. There's an interesting little summary here that briefly discusses how this series of conditioned events can just keep on going as this physical body ceases to function:
The mind at the time of death
When a person is about to die the bhava"nga is interrupted, vibrates for one moment and passes away. The interruption is caused by an object which presents itself to the mind-door. As a result of this a mind-door-adverting citta arises. This is followed by five javana thought moments which are weak, lack reproductive power, and serve only to determine the nature of rebirth consciousness. The javanas may or may not be followed by two registering thought moments (tadaalambana). After this comes the death consciousness (cuti citta), which is identical in constitution and object to the bhava"nga citta. The cuti citta merely serves the function of signaling the end of life. It is important to appreciate the difference between the cuti citta and the javanas that precede it. The cuti citta is the end of the bhava"nga flow of an existence and does not determine the nature of rebirth. The javanas that occur just before the cuti citta arises form a kammic process and determine the nature of the rebirth consciousness.


Rebirth Consciousness
This is called pa.tisandhi citta, literally "relinking consciousness." The pa.tisandhi citta is the act of consciousness which arises at the first moment of life, the moment of conception. It is determined by the last kammic citta of the preceding life.

This kammic factor for the arising of a being operates through the pa.tisandhi. The accumulated tendencies of past lives are carried on to the pa.tisandhi and so the process of being born, dying and being born again goes on. Each pa.tisandhi citta is a new one, not the continuation of the old one in the previous life. Thus there is no place for a soul concept in rebirth. In the course of one particular life there is only one pa.tisandhi citta. Once the function of linking two existences has been performed by the pa.tisandhi, consciousness in the newly formed embryo immediately goes into the bhava"nga state. This flows along in the new existence with infinite interruptions by various stimuli and ends as the cuti citta of that particular existence.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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