the great rebirth debate

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: No rebirth

Postby farmer » Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:27 pm

Thanissaro Bikkhu teaches that belief in rebirth is essential to get the full benefit of the practice. He has recently released a short book on the subject, The Truth of Rebirth: And Why It Matters for Buddhist Practice, which you can find at the top of this page:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html#big_books
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Re: No rebirth

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:51 pm

farmer wrote:Thanissaro Bikkhu teaches that belief in rebirth is essential to get the full benefit of the practice. He has recently released a short book on the subject, The Truth of Rebirth: And Why It Matters for Buddhist Practice, which you can find at the top of this page:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html#big_books


In the sutta "to the Kalamas" the Buddha tries to convince unconverted lay people to keep the 5 precepts and cultivate the brahma viharas by telling them the benefits they will get even if they don't believe in rebirth. Thanisarro Bhikku is probably right. Rebirth is all over and very interwoven in the suttas......it is much more than just a nod to the culture of the time. However, from what little of the suttas I read I can't recall the Buddha being on record as saying "you have to believe in rebirth". Emphasis is placed on what people do, not what they believe.

As much as rebirth is mentioned in and interwoven in the Pali Canon, Buddhism still works without it, in my nonexpert opinion. All of the main meditation techniques still work. Dependent Origination still gives value( contact leads to craving, craving leads to dissatisfaction ). The truths behind the 3 marks of existence, seeing them in meditation and their connections to the 4 noble truths and most of the 8 fold path retain power to make people happy and bring them much "spiritual" fulfillment.

Buddhism has a LOT to offer sans rebirth, devas, multiple plains of existence, etc etc

Buddhism had concepts added to it and removed from it as it spread beyond India to other cultures. I would bet Buddhism was even altered in the several hundred years after the Buddha's death before his teachings were written down.

The west isn't doing anything different that Asian countries did many centuries ago as they tailored Buddhism to fit their culture. Some good changes were made. I think the West, like Asia has some good changes to make ( and like Asia, some bad ones ). One of them would be in jettisoning rebirth, devas, multiple plains of existence, antiquate rules for monks/nuns, etc
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: No rebirth

Postby Fede » Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:55 pm

'Zactly. :thumbsup:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:07 pm

Jhana4 wrote:Why ask it as a question?
Nobody knows what happens after death. Period.
If anything the question should have been worded

"Is it possible that there is rebirth?"
But what if someone does know? Are they deluded? The Buddha claimed to know.



[Moderator note: This will an independent existence for a awhile, then be merged with the "Great rebirth debate thread."]
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:11 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:Why ask it as a question?
Nobody knows what happens after death. Period.
If anything the question should have been worded

"Is it possible that there is rebirth?"
But what if someone does know? Are they deluded? The Buddha claimed to know.



If someone claims that they know rebirth is a fact they are free to present their evidence. Other people are free to decide if they think that person's evidence proves that claim or not.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:19 pm

Jhana4 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:Why ask it as a question?
Nobody knows what happens after death. Period.
If anything the question should have been worded

"Is it possible that there is rebirth?"
But what if someone does know? Are they deluded? The Buddha claimed to know.



If someone claims that they know rebirth is a fact they are free to present their evidence. Other people are free to decide if they think that person's evidence proves that claim or not.
What about the Buddha?. Rebirth was very much part of how he described his awakening.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:25 pm

I like how the Suttas aren't guaranteed to be the direct words of the Buddha, except when they are...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: No rebirth

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:27 pm

tiltbillings wrote:What about the Buddha?. Rebirth was very much part of how he described his awakening.


What about him?

That is the claim of what he said. That claim to us by traveling word of mouth while he was alive, word of mouth for several centuries after his death and then through writings taken care of by thousands of people over thousands of years, who could have intentionally ( or unintentionally ) altered the message.

Assuming that message is genuine, I still don't see that makes much of a difference. The value of Buddhism is in learning to be free of dukkha by seeing the 3 marks of existence/the four noble truths via direct experience. The story is that the Buddha's personal liberation came in part as a result of seeing the 3 marks of existence/4 noble truths play out in memories of his past lives. Other people can see those things play out in their present( or only ) life. I can't point where but there are accounts of students of the Buddha achieving liberation, with no mention of them remembering past lives or not.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:27 pm

daverupa wrote:I like how the Suttas aren't guaranteed to be the direct words of the Buddha, except when they are...
That is one way to dodge the question.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby cooran » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:53 pm

Hello Jhana4, all,

Sigh ....

Overview of Tipitaka Scriptures - Narada Maha Thera

"This doctrine is profound, hard to see, difficult to understand, calm, sublime, not within the sphere of logic, subtle, to be understood by the wise." Majjhima Nikaya
The Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Teaching, which He expounded during His long and successful ministry and which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity. Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His disciples preserved them, by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.

Three months after the Death of the Buddha, in the eighth year of King Ajatasattu's reign, 500 pre-eminent Arahants concerned with preserving the purity of the Doctrine held a Convocation at Rajagaha to rehearse it. The Venerable Ananda Thera, the Buddha's beloved attendant who had the special privilege and honour of
hearing the discourses from the Buddha Himself, and the Venerable Upali Thera were chosen to answer questions about the Dhamma (Doctrine) and the Vinaya (Discipline) respectively.

This First Council compiled and arranged in its present form the Pali Tipitaka, which represents the entire body of the Buddha's Teaching.

Two other Councils of Arahants were held 100 and 236 years later respectively, again to rehearse the Word of the Buddha because attempts were being made to pollute the pure Teaching.

About 83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Simhala King Vatta Gamani Abhaya, a Council of Arahants was held, and the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, committed to writing at Aluvihara in Ceylon.

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of those noble and foresighted Arahants, there is no room either now or in the future for higher critics or progressive scholars to adulterate the pure Teaching.

The voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible.

The word Tipitaka means three Baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
{.continues at this link ..........................}
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/tipitaka.html

From a previous post of mine:
In the Buddha's day, writing was just for things like government and commerce. and there was widespread illiteracy. For really important things, where it was critical that no alteration occur ( as can happen so very easily, deliberately or accidentally when writing is used) - the Oral Tradition was used. The Buddha instituted in his lifetime the Chanting Together by large groups of specially designated Bhikkhus - the Bhanakas (Hearers). The Bhanakas had portions of the Teachings allocated to each group, and so there were The Digha Bhanakas, The Majjhima Bhanakas etc.

It was only hundreds of years later in Sri Lanka, in a time of famine and warfare, with many bhikkhus dying, and with Buddhism all but wiped out in India, that the MahaSangha decided the Buddhist Canon and its commentaries needed to be written down.
They were engraved on Ola Leaves. Many of us have been to Sri Lanka and have had the inestimable good fortune to have seen demonstrations of this being done at the ancient rock temple of Aluvihara Temple (where the Tipitaka was originally written down) in the Matale district 26 km from Kandy.

The Suttas are rather like the memory prompts - the dot points of the most important information to be transmitted - similar to those a public speaker carries on a little card in his hand. Anything that is repeated is to be seen as something important which was highlighted by the repetition.

As I understand it, the Pali Suttas are teaching vehicles whose meanings are densely packed layer on layer. They are not to be read as an ordinary page of print, but require 'unpacking' by someone learned in the Dhamma. This condensed form was necessary in order that the Teachings would not be lost in the years before they were finally put into writing. It allowed them to be memorised by the large groups of bhikkhus (bhanakas) assigned to each portion of the Tipitaka. They are not verbatim reports of chats and conversations. This memorisation is said to have commenced before the parinibbana of the Buddha.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata -- deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness -- are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves." (Ari sutta).
Venerable Mahá Kassapa, the elected head of the First Council. Cúlavagga Xl,1,1 (ii,284) reiterated:
"Come, friends: let us recite the Teaching and the Discipline before what is not the Teaching shines forth and the Teaching is put aside, before what is not the Discipline shines forth and the Discipline is put aside, before those who speak what is not the Teaching become strong and those who speak what is the Teaching become weak, before those who speak what is not the Discipline become strong and those who speak what is the Discipline become weak."

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: No rebirth

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:31 pm

tiltbillings wrote:That is one way to dodge the question.


Mischaracterization, but thanks for playing.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:35 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:That is one way to dodge the question.


Mischaracterization, but thanks for playing.
It looks like dodging the question, it functions like dodging the question. As D. Adams said: If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:45 pm

:anjali:

As you like, tilt.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:51 pm

daverupa wrote::anjali:

As you like, tilt.
It is not what I like. You seem to want to pick and choose what suttas carry weight, and the ones to be dismissed are those that do not agree with your take on things, and when asked about it, you won't talk about your it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:31 pm

daverupa wrote:I like how the Suttas aren't guaranteed to be the direct words of the Buddha, except when they are...
Just to pick up on this, that is not a position I have taken.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby Nyana » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:32 pm

Jhana4 wrote:I think the West, like Asia has some good changes to make ( and like Asia, some bad ones ). One of them would be in jettisoning rebirth, devas, multiple plains of existence, antiquate rules for monks/nuns, etc

Without these aspects it isn't the Buddha's dhammavinaya anymore. At best it's some sort of cognitive therapy rooted in a view of scientific materialism. And some of the most salient features of the dhammavinaya, such as the goal to be realized, and the ten fetters to be eliminated, become rather pointless in such a context.
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Re: No rebirth

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:I like how the Suttas aren't guaranteed to be the direct words of the Buddha, except when they are...
Just to pick up on this, that is not a position I have taken.


You weren't even quoted, tilt. It applies on both sides of this particular fence.

Amazing.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: No rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:44 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:I like how the Suttas aren't guaranteed to be the direct words of the Buddha, except when they are...
Just to pick up on this, that is not a position I have taken.


You weren't even quoted, tilt. It applies on both sides of this particular fence.

Amazing.
Thank you for clarifying your point, which probably should been done with your original post in question.

Now, since that is established, how about addressing the question: So, what about the Buddha's claims of knowing the truth of rebirth?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: No rebirth

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:09 pm

tiltbillings wrote:So, what about the Buddha's claims of knowing the truth of rebirth?


There's a whole thread about this elsewhere, within which I've posted. You can look there for my particular response.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: No rebirth

Postby farmer » Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:32 pm

.... jettisoning rebirth, devas, multiple plains of existence, antiquate rules for monks/nuns, etc


I'm not comfortable with everything I find in the Suttas, but I think we have to be very careful about picking and choosing. It is tempting to write rebirth off as an inessential part of the teaching, but that is not how the Buddha taught it. He taught that views are the foundation of the path, and that a belief in "this world and the next" is one of the key features of right view. Isn't it worth at least asking ourselves why he would teach that before discarding the teaching?

Our ordinary approach to views is to evaluate their correctness as an accurate description of the world. My impression is that the Buddha was much more concerned with the effects of views. We can't know whether we will be reborn, but it is easy to see that our views on the subject might affect how we practice. For example, imagine you have a week to live, and have to choose how to divide that time between practice and worldly pursuits. Would your beliefs about rebirth affect your choice?

I came to Buddhism with an annihilationist view, but I've been trying to entertain the possibility that my actions in the here and now may bear fruit beyond my lifetime. It isn't such a stretch, since there isn't any evidence to rule this sort of thing out. This is a watery version of "this world and the next," but it is enough to make a difference in my practice. In particular, I find myself much less anxious about what I will get out of the practice in this lifetime, and better able to maintain a steady, patient effort.
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