the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri May 17, 2013 2:56 pm

I want to believe in rebirth. How can one argue for it?

Maybe if idealism was true, then kamma and rebirth would be less problematic. For example: new life is continuation of one long dream. Good kamma creates good dream while negative kamma creates nightmare, and if one doesn't intend - then eventually the dream will end. Just like the dream can be somewhat uncontrollable (these are results of previous done kamma), with illusion of objects and beings, maybe so is the world. But, how can we prove this?


Another idea is to posit some sort of new type of dualism where there are two distinct phenomenon:
a) awareness
and
b) phenomena which includes body, brain and mental states.

It means that there is passive awareness (a) observing mental and physical states (b). The difficulty is in what can awareness control and how? Is it eternal slave to (b) and can never separate from it? How would the path be possible then?

Some thoughts.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri May 17, 2013 3:04 pm

Alex123 wrote:I want to believe in rebirth.


Have a look at the natural world. See how trees and plants lose their leaves each winter, see how they are "reborn" in the spring.

Spend more time looking and less time thinking... ;)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Fri May 17, 2013 3:09 pm

Alex123 wrote:Prove that there is some sort of (consciousness, subconsciousness, ālayavijñāna, etc) that survives death.

the experience of a colour, a sound, etc, is nonphysical. you cannot break them with a hammer or physically obstruct them with a particle. you cannot shift awareness 10mm to the west by making it occupy a different space.

since the mind is a primary factor of existence just as energy is, it is contradictory to say that something exists yet a mind does not, just as it is contradictory to say that something exists and yet energy does not exist. at the final moment of death, the final moment acts as a material cause for the next moment mind. since mind is a functioning nonphysical thing, its activity is dictated primarily by mental factors such as kammas which move the mind, as well as former moments of mind which act as the material cause for another moment of mind, the same way clay acts as a material cause for a clay pot.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Fri May 17, 2013 4:19 pm

Alex123 wrote:I want to believe in rebirth. How can one argue for it?

First, ask yourself if arguments have it in them to instill belief in you.
In my experience, arguments have a very weak power.


If you're familiar with Kohlberg's theory of the stages of moral reasoning, you've probably heard that a person who is on one stage of moral reasoning will not move to a higher one simply by reflecting on arguments from that higher stage; in fact, the person may even reject them as inferior.
I don't know so much about research done in other areas of congition, but it may be worth rethinking what power an argument can have at all.


Another thing you might do is give a studious look to William James' Will to believe (I've already linked ot it earlier).
Especially consider his criteria for what makes a genuine choice:

Next, let us call the decision between two hypotheses an option. Options may be of several kinds. They may be:

1. living or dead;
2. forced or avoidable;
3. momentous or trivial;
and for our purpose we may call an option a genuine option when it of the forced, living, and momentous kind.

1. A living option is one in which both hypotheses are live ones. If I say to you: "Be a theosophist or be a Mohammedan," it is probably a dead option, because for you neither hypothesis is likely to be alive. But if I say: " Be an agnostic or be Christian," it is otherwise: trained as you are, each hypothesis makes some appeal, however small, to your belief.

2. Next, if I say to you: " Choose between going out with your umbrella or without it," I do not offer you a genuine option, for it is not forced. You can easily avoid it by not going out at all. Similarly, if I say, " Either love me or hate me," " Either call my theory true or call it false," your option is avoidable. You may remain indifferent to me, neither loving nor hating, and you may decline to offer any judgment as to my theory. But if I say, " Either accept this truth or go without it," I put on you a forced option, for there is no standing place outside of the alternative. Every dilemma based on a complete logical disjunction, with no possibility of not choosing, is an option of this forced kind.

3. Finally, if I were Dr. Nansen and proposed to you to join my North Pole expedition, your option would be momentous; for this would probably be your only similar opportunity, and your choice now would either exclude you from the North Pole sort of immortality altogether or put at least the chance of it into your hands. He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed. Per contra, the option is trivial when the opportunity is not unique, when the stake is insignificant, or when the decision is reversible if it later prove unwise. Such trivial options abound in the scientific life. A chemist finds an hypothesis live enongh to spend a year in its verification: he believes in it to that extent. But if his experiments prove inconclusive either way, he is quit for his loss of time, no vital harm being done.

It will facilitate our discussion if we keep all these distinctions well in mind.


I think James offers a very useful heuristics here for figuring out what or how to believe.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sat May 18, 2013 10:17 am

Alex123 wrote:I want to believe in rebirth. How can one argue for it?


What's the point in arguing ? We all go round and round in circles in these threads, sometimes giving dodgy ''evidence'', sometimes plunging into this or that form of intellectual proliferation, and nobody seems much wiser on the subject.

I recall Ajahn Sumedho saying in a talk at Amaravati Monastery: "What's reality ? Any opinion about reality is not reality, its an opinion"

So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.

The Buddha said :

the Dhamma is visible in the here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.047.than.html




:)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Ben » Sat May 18, 2013 10:47 am

Aloka wrote:
Alex123 wrote:I want to believe in rebirth. How can one argue for it?


What's the point in arguing ? We all go round and round in circles in these threads, sometimes giving dodgy ''evidence'', sometimes plunging into this or that form of intellectual proliferation, and nobody seems much wiser on the subject.

I recall Ajahn Sumedho saying in a talk at Amaravati Monastery: "What's reality ? Any opinion about reality is not reality, its an opinion"

So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.

The Buddha said :

the Dhamma is visible in the here-&-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.047.than.html




:)


Thank you, Aloka, for one of the most sensible and pertinent posts on this thread.
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saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby kirk5a » Sat May 18, 2013 1:11 pm

Aloka wrote:So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.

So then, what does your post have to do with that, exactly? "What is the point" - as you ask us.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat May 18, 2013 2:27 pm

Aloka wrote:So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.


Practising Dhamma in the here and now is good - of course. But clearly some people have difficulty with the teachings on rebirth and how they relate to practice - are you saying it isn't valid to discuss these issues?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sat May 18, 2013 2:52 pm

porpoise wrote:
Aloka wrote:So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.


Practising Dhamma in the here and now is good - of course. But clearly some people have difficulty with the teachings on rebirth and how they relate to practice - are you saying it isn't valid to discuss these issues?


No, other people must do as they please -I was speaking about my own experience of finding its better not to get distracted by rebirth issues. [assuming that I'm allowed to do that in this predominantly men's world, of course! :D ]
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby kirk5a » Sat May 18, 2013 3:42 pm

Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote:
Aloka wrote:So for me its better to just relax, meditate, and focus on practising Dhamma in the here and now.


Practising Dhamma in the here and now is good - of course. But clearly some people have difficulty with the teachings on rebirth and how they relate to practice - are you saying it isn't valid to discuss these issues?


No, other people must do as they please -I was speaking about my own experience of finding its better not to get distracted by rebirth issues. [assuming that I'm allowed to do that in this predominantly men's world, of course! :D ]

You appear to be voicing opinions about the rest of us talking about the subject. Rather disparaging ones. That it is "arguing" "pointless" "circular" dodgy" "intellectual proliferation" and non-productive of wisdom.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sat May 18, 2013 5:12 pm

kirk5a wrote: You appear to be voicing opinions about the rest of us talking about the subject. Rather disparaging ones. That it is "arguing" "pointless" "circular" dodgy" "intellectual proliferation" and non-productive of wisdom.


I was responding with my personal experience to Alex saying " How can one argue for it?" Now, somehow that's got blown out of all proportion into me making disparaging comments about "the rest of us talking about the subject" !

I really don't have time for this at the moment Kirk5a, I have an evening meal to cook.
Have a lovely peaceful, happy day ..and enjoy your discussions

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Sun May 19, 2013 2:30 am

kirk5a wrote:You appear to be voicing opinions about the rest of us talking about the subject. Rather disparaging ones. That it is "arguing" "pointless" "circular" dodgy" "intellectual proliferation" and non-productive of wisdom.

Seems like Aloka was expressing some valid opinions about what happens on this thread. Can you paraphrase what Aloka said in terms you find less objectionable and which still convey the intended meaning?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Sun May 19, 2013 7:02 am

chownah wrote:
kirk5a wrote:You appear to be voicing opinions about the rest of us talking about the subject. Rather disparaging ones. That it is "arguing" "pointless" "circular" dodgy" "intellectual proliferation" and non-productive of wisdom.

Seems like Aloka was expressing some valid opinions about what happens on this thread.

"rebirth" "issues". hilarious.

hes not talking about this thread, hes talking about discussing rebirth in general. and hes wrong because in buddhism inference is a type of valid cognizer.

there are two antidotes to faulty ideas and doubt:
1) a reasoning that is capable of constructing an incontrovertible inference 2) a direct perception which brings about a cessation of false superimpositions ie. false concepts
unless youre going to reach the 4th jhana any time soon (noone is), a buddhist has to rely utterly on good study and lesser direct perceptions of the mind to build their own personal case for rebirth.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sun May 19, 2013 7:36 am

5heaps wrote: hes not talking about this thread


If that's a reference to me, 5heaps, I'm a "she" not a "he", thanks.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Zakattack » Mon May 20, 2013 11:33 am

5heaps wrote:this nonsense about the mind being conditioned by the brain etc is completely meaningless.

brain injury can result in loss of mental faculties, including consciousness. physical medicine can render the mind unconsciousness

5heaps wrote:...does not establish that the brain produced the mind.

brain injury can result in loss of mental faculties, including consciousness. physical medicine can render the mind unconsciousness

5heaps wrote:the experience of a colour, a sound, etc, is nonphysical. you cannot break them with a hammer or physically obstruct them with a particle..

colour can be bleached using bleach. sounds can be broken with silencing the source, such as destroying the brain of a frog or removing its physical vocal chords

5heaps wrote:since the mind is a primary factor of existence just as energy is

there is great energy in the sun. energy is the primary factor of the sun's existence, just as energy is a primary factor in a nuclear explosion or mechanical engine combustion. mind is not a primary factor in the existence of these things

5heaps wrote:it is contradictory to say that something exists yet a mind does not

many things have existed before being 'discovered by mind'. America did not exist to Europeans before Columbus discovered it by mind. in psychology, there is a basic experiment performed on children of a certain age about the perception of 'object permanence'. here, an object is shown to a child. then the object is hidden by a cloth. at a certain age, the child does not understand the object exists under the cloth when the object is not in its field of consciousness. at a later age, the child will regard the object to continue to exist despite being out of its consciousness & the child will lift the cloth to uncover the object. (enlightenment is like this, when the cloth of the five hindrance is lifted, to perceived the inherently existent true nature of things)

5heaps wrote:just as it is contradictory to say that something exists and yet energy does not exist.

where in the scriptures does Buddha equate mind with energy? when the living cessation of mind is described, the scriptures say:

In the case of the one who is dead, who has completed his time, his bodily fabrications [breathing in & out] have ceased & subsided, his verbal fabrications ... his mental fabrications have ceased & subsided, his vitality is exhausted, his heat subsided, & his faculties are scattered.

But in the case of a monk who has attained the cessation of perception & feeling, his bodily fabrications have ceased & subsided, his verbal fabrications ... his mental fabrications have ceased & subsided, his vitality is not exhausted, his heat has not subsided, & his [sense organ] faculties are exceptionally clear. This is the difference between one who is dead, who has completed his time, and a monk who has attained the cessation of perception & feeling.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


5heaps wrote:since mind is a functioning nonphysical thing, its activity is dictated primarily by mental factors such as kammas which move the mind, as well as former moments of mind which act as the material cause for another moment of mind, the same way clay acts as a material cause for a clay pot.

when the physical body of a human being is old & decaying, is there evidence the former mental tendencies (kammas) remain? for example, does an old man, with frail physical body, on his death bed, have a mind that still has the same sexual drive of his youth? does a small child, before the physical & hormonal changes of puberty, have the sexual drives as a teenager (and the associated emotions of vanity, frustration, anger, etc)?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon May 20, 2013 1:10 pm

Zakattack wrote:brain injury can result in loss of mental faculties, including consciousness. physical medicine can render the mind unconsciousness


The scientific view broadly seems to be that consciousness arises in dependence on form ( specifically the brain ), this point has been made repeatedly.

But this isn't what's described in the suttas, specifically in the teachings on dependent origination, where 2 options are given:
1. Form arising in dependence on consciousness;
2. Form and consciousness being mutually dependent.

So it appears that science and Buddhist teachings disagree on this point.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Mon May 20, 2013 4:24 pm

porpoise wrote:The scientific view broadly seems to be that consciousness arises in dependence on form ( specifically the brain ), this point has been made repeatedly.


To be more precise, I understand that it is mental states that arise dependent on form. The current difficulty in science is the problem of qualia. I believe that an interesting thing to consider is not the flawed Cartesian dualism of
"mind (nāma) vs matter (rūpa)"
but
Qualia (viññāṇa) vs mental & physical states (nāmarūpa).

porpoise wrote:But this isn't what's described in the suttas, specifically in the teachings on dependent origination, where 2 options are given:
1. Form arising in dependence on consciousness;


In Dependent Origination it is nāmarūpa. Form (rūpa) goes with mental states (nāma).

porpoise wrote:2. Form and consciousness being mutually dependent.


""the four great existents (earth, water, fire, & wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form...Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness."" - MN109
"With the arising of nutriment there is the arising of materiality" - Ptsm.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Zakattack » Mon May 20, 2013 8:53 pm

porpoise wrote:The scientific view broadly seems to be that consciousness arises in dependence on form ( specifically the brain ), this point has been made repeatedly.

But this isn't what's described in the suttas, specifically in the teachings on dependent origination, where 2 options are given:
1. Form arising in dependence on consciousness;
2. Form and consciousness being mutually dependent.

So it appears that science and Buddhist teachings disagree on this point.

Fundamentalist Christianity & Science may disagree on some fundamental life matters but this disagreement does not necessarily exist between Buddhism & Science. Much of Science concerns itself with a materialistic explanation of phenomena. Where as Buddha was concerned with psychological explanation of how suffering arises & ceases. It is possible a 'Scientific', i.e., materialistic emphasis, is applied to Buddhism, which results in a materialistic interpretation.

Dependent Origination is not necessarily the appropriate explanatory principle pertaining to consciousness because Dependent Origination is primarily concerned with how the arising of ignorance generates suffering. It is a logical explanatory principle to include consciousness as the 3rd link, since:(i) the sense bases (5th link) are a natural extension of the physical body (4th link) & (ii) the formless realms include citta-sankhara & consciousness but not rupa. But, in general, this is not necessary as an explanation of reality, given consciousness could be included at the 4th link and nama-rupa at the 3rd link and nothing would change. Since consciousness & nama-rupa are mutually co-existent, in that they arise & cease together, it does not matter in which order they are referred to in Dependent Origination. For example, when the body & mind are sleeping, the mind is unconsciousness but kaya sankhara (breathing in & out) will still continue to condition the rupa (physical body). While sleeping, laboured breathing, such as when there is sickness, will still condition a laboured body. Materialistically, the 3rd link (consciousness) is not required for the 2nd link (sankhara) to condition the 4th link (rupa). However, Buddha was not concerned with such materialism. Instead, he was concerned with how ignorance conditions the mind, body & consciousness in a way that leads to suffering.

There are other explanatory principles that more appropriately pertain to consciousness, where consciousness itself is actually the topic of explanation, such as:
It's good, monks, that you understand the Dhamma taught by me in this way, for in many ways I have said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness'. Consciousness, monks, is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises.

MN 38


Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact....Dependent on ear & sounds, ear-consciousness arises...Dependent on nose & aromas, nose-consciousness arises...Dependent on tongue & flavors, tongue-consciousness arises...Dependent on body & tactile sensations, body-consciousness arises...Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact.

MN 18


"Were someone to say, 'I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from feeling, from perception, from fabrications,' that would be impossible.

SN 22.53

There are not necessarily "2 options" given in the suttas, particularly the option of: "Form arising in dependence on consciousness". There is probably only 1 option given in the suttas, namely, of: "Form and consciousness being mutually dependent".

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 9:58 am

Zakattack wrote:There are not necessarily "2 options" given in the suttas, particularly the option of: "Form arising in dependence on consciousness". There is probably only 1 option given in the suttas, namely, of: "Form and consciousness being mutually dependent".


Not true, there are clearly 2 options. And in fact if you read the suttas describing dependent origination you will find that "form arising in dependence on consciousness" is described more frequently than "form and consciousness being mutually dependent".
The option that the suttas don't describe is "consciousness arising in dependence on form". So Buddhism disagrees with science.

See here, for example in DN15:

Name-and-form
"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"
"No, lord."
"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?"
"No, lord."
"If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-and-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?"
"No, lord."
"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-and-form, i.e., consciousness."
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue May 21, 2013 10:04 am

Zakattack wrote:Fundamentalist Christianity & Science may disagree on some fundamental life matters but this disagreement does not necessarily exist between Buddhism & Science.


There is certainly less disagreement, but there are still significant differences. The challenge for skeptical Buddhists is how to cope with those differences, how to cope with all the suttas that describe "inconvenient truths" like kamma, rebirth, form arising in dependence on consciousness etc etc.

There are various coping strategies, the most logical strategy I've seen is simply to reject all this "religious" content and become a secular Buddhist.
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