the great rebirth debate

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:05 am

Chris wrote:And, besides which, if you look at the Board Stats, it's clearly where most people come when on Dhamma Wheel.

The Dhammic Free-for-all and associated sub-forums beats all the other forums and sub-forums here hands down in numbers of Topics and Posts. Can't see the Views - but I'm assuming it wins the Logie in that area as well.

Good thing? Not a good thing? :shrug:

metta
Chris


On the Grey Forum (that most of us know very well), for example, it is almost always the contentious threads that get the high count. Just the nature of the beast. As a hard as it is to sometimes not to respond, it might be best not to feed the bear, but we on Dhamma Wheel are not going to enforce orthodoxy as some other have tried to.

The best thing to do, if one must respond to such arguments presented here, is to present a clear, reasoned and textually supported argument. There is value in that no matter else goes on in a thread such as this.
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.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ben » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:19 am

Yes, you are right Tilt.
If we are all involved in useless and speculative discussion, there may be merit in Nathan's call to place it in a Dhamma-free forum. But as it is, non-normative views of the Dhamma are regularly challenged and refuted by our members. While the original poster may not be convinced or freed from the error of view, the discussion will no doubt assist those new to the Dhamma as to what is representative of theravada point of view and what is not.

I think it is far healthier to discuss rebirth, kamma or any other aspect of the teachings rather than to quarantine some subjects from discussion. And this is the right sub-forum to do it.
Kind regards

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saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Individual » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:23 am

DarkDream wrote:As I stated in my introduction, I am quite critical about the literal notion of rebirth.

I have written three posts in my blog that I believe provide convincing arguments which show the improbability of the mechanism of literal rebirth:

They can be found here (in three parts):

http://dreamwhitehorses.blogspot.com/2008/11/buddhist-rebirth-refuted-part-1.html
http://dreamwhitehorses.blogspot.com/2008/11/buddhist-rebirth-refuted-part-2.html
http://dreamwhitehorses.blogspot.com/2008/11/buddhist-rebirth-refuted-part-iii.html

The main arguments (summarized) I make against the belief is the following:

1) Consciousness can not exist without a body.
2) Instaneous transfer of karmic energies cannot be guarantee a suitable being-to-be.
3) Difficulty in explaining population explosions.
4) Problem with infinite regress with the gandhabba.
5) Dubious scientific evidence.
6) Questionable value for salvation.

Any constructive comments would be appreciated.

--DarkDream

1) Rebirth is the re-arising of a conditioned consciousness, not the continuation of consciousness without a body.
2) Such instantaneous transfer is visible here and now.
3) The growth of the number of beings doesn't imply their non-rebirth. There is continuation of causality, but not identity, so in the future "this" will be reborn, but there aren't fixed quantities of eternal beings that are reborn. You can't take bacteria in a petri dish, it multiplies... You can take worms, cut them in half... You can take a human brain, too, and divide it, even combine it with the right technology, but all of this are merely different mechanisms by which rebirth occurs.
4) A problem of language, I think. All statements in language are ultimately an infinite regression of definitions.
5) Those who appeal to scientific evidence are generally eternalists, subtly arguing for reincarnation. Rebirth is an obvious fact of reality, while the notion that individual thoughts, memories, consciousness, etc., is preserved between lives is a myth, and such studies which try to demonstrate this (i.e. Ian Stevenson) is indeed scientific.
6) Refuting suicidal or homicidal thoughts from annihilationistic wrong view, as well as supporting faith and quelling doubts about death.

This is rebirth, but with regard to beings:
Image

If there was no arising to begin with, then how did you get here to begin with? Do you believe this current arising was spontaneous, a single event which will never happen again?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:33 am

What propels these threads forward is the failure to distinguish between valid questions and invalid declarations. Frequently these are incoherently presented in the form of ignorant declarations which may contain acceptable questions. The distinction between a question and a declaration should be clear to the OP and those who post, ongoing. Points of disagreement should be approached one at a time. The morass of misperceptions and misconceptions as a whole that are always presented as some counterfeit of Right View are not something we can dispense with for someone else. Point by point these contentions can be clearly and expediently dispensed with. I am entirely sympathetic to individual difficulties and entirely unsympathetic to widespread and persistent systemic confusion.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:41 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:Although I think it is clear that the OP has not refuted rebirth, Then the thread title should conclude with a question mark. Buddhist Rebirth Refuted? I have no problem with his posting this thread here. If it makes people upset then they might want to think about why. When a post like this is calmly and kindly refuted then, "Buddhist Rebirth Refuted Refuted" or "Buddhist Rebirth Refuted, refuted in a kind and gentle way"then all those who might have had similar thoughts benefit from reading it. No one benefits from an antagonistic response to ignorance.

Metta

Gabriel
Doesn't it so often seem this way to the child when they are firmly admonished and corrected? My father is angry, my mother is angry. My parents no longer love me. There is no need to be angry or agitated by ignorance and confusion or because of having it pointed out for what it is. It is entirely tolerable for it to arise so long as it is not given as or taken to be anything other than ignorance and confusion, particularly by those who know better. This is why we have so many adults in the world who in many ways remain ignorant children. These then in turn bring up more children who are even more ignorant and foolish.

I AM entirely antagonistic about stirring together worldly ignorance and confusion with the true Dhamma and presenting these as 'indistinguishably the same', as is all too frequently the case and epidemic on the internet. This is entirely different from asking questions in ignorance and confusion. If you are going to be critical you can't also be ignorant. It is as simple as that. These things must be 'clearly distinguished' immediately by those who do have the correct understandings of the doctrines and have established genuine understanding of what is Dhamma and what is not. Otherwise ignorance persists and spreads. That should not ever be our practice or be permitted to persist as a part of our practice as followers of the Buddha in any part of life or in any setting.

In places like this ignorance and truth can continually be stirred together into one indistinguishable stew of complete ignorance. The truth is then LOST. It is no different as it is in the texts and as it is in this life. How is it ever appropriate for those who are sincerely seeking simply the truth, unvarnished, and we take that to be all of us here, to present an abundance of ignorance as if it is also the same truth? How does this serve anyone, particularly those who have little or no truth of their own?

Those who do not wish to be followers, can take another path or can make their own path if they like. We have very little to offer them in Theravada and that is for good reasons. We are here to follow the Buddha in the spirit and in the letter of his teachings. He is not here to learn anything at all from us.

In Theravada we HAVE standards and we have good cause and good reasons for these standards. Even if the laity of today wishes to step more fully into the role of teaching Dhamma they had best abide by the standards for teaching Dhamma and there is no room for either knowingly or unknowingly promoting ignorance in that kind of a role. The Buddha's truth, the Dhamma, is firmly and fully established, it requires no additions, removals, revisions, or amendments in order to be entirely accurate and efficacious for it's purposes. That work takes place in us. We are in need of additions, removals, revisions and amendments these are our own purposes.

When someone who has no knowledge of the Dhamma comes to a place like this and they note that these followers of dhamma CAN NOT MAKE CLEAR the teachings of the Buddha or that this is not the Dhamma, they believe in many different things, they all go different ways, they do not all follow the same path; then they are right to conclude that these followers of any old dhamma are altogether no less ignorant and confused than they are.

When someone who has no knowledge of the Dhamma comes to a place like this and they note that these followers of Dhamma CAN ALWAYS MAKE CLEAR the teachings of the Buddha or that this is not the Dhamma, they believe in the same things, they all go the same way, they all follow the same path; then they are right to conclude that these followers of the BuddhaDhamma are altogether not as ignorant and and confused as they are.

Quite different things, quite distinctly so and it is quite important.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:55 am

nathan wrote:A thread with this title should not even exist here. Mods, change the title, remove the thread or remove Dhamma from the name and call these forums Wheel from now on.

-------------

Short of seeing, knowing, realizing and understanding, directly and precisely, there is only reasoning and faith. So any perceptions, conceptions and everything based on that has not been informed by the most important and only irrefutable kind of knowledge and understanding. Stream entry takes all of this out of the realm of theory. No model, and the three life model is only that, a rough sketch, can come close to the dynamic complexity of the real universe. Be it in the present life, over three lives or over a million lives, the connections between being past, being present and being future are ongoing and continuous. Only the arahant knows and sees things as they are and knows why the cycles of being have fully resolved within. Between the fruit of stream entry and final release it is "entirely obvious" that short of ending the cycles that cause manifest existence, it will continue regardless of the forms it takes. When one sees directly why one exists, one knows that it can not end until the cyclic forces within have been entirely brought to stillness.

Arguments about rebirth, what it is, how it works, why it works and so on take place in complete ignorance of the living evidence within oneself that does not exist at all before this is seen directly for what it is. Noble beings do not question any of this at all. So it is pretty obvious to the Noble beings and to every one else that understands the criteria for real understanding that everyone else is quite clueless about the true basis for all of this. Until it is seen, the best approach is to acknowledge one's ignorance, to admit, to oneself at least, that one is ignorant of the truth of this and to make every effort to establish that truth and no effort to make any determination of any other kind. People can go on and on about this and any number of things forever until then, in fact they do. Do yourself a favor, save yourself the shame and remorse you will feel if and when you do understand for having taken any stance on this and made any claims of any kind regarding the true understanding of dependent origination and rebirth before stream entry. Those who persist in declaring any understanding while still fully in ignorance are not doing themselves or anyone else any favors.

It may be time for us to start holding people to account for all the bs they promote. Time to say, fine, you are quite sure about all this. Now tell us how life is for you as a Noble being on the first, second, third and fourth path. We have many questions for such as you and we can benefit from your direct understanding. If you can not respond from this POV in honesty and in complete conformity to the Dhamma then you are deluding yourself, doing great harm to many others and being entirely disrespectful to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

As disciples of the Buddha, these kinds of efforts to refute His Noble gifts to all beings is the highest form of disrespect a self declared follower could possibly demonstrate. I am going to continue to say so and maybe it is time to start kicking butt and taking names as well. Such people should not be recognized as followers of the BuddhaDhamma, whoever they may be in this world.


Nathan, can I point you to the rule for this part of the forum:

3. The "Free-for-all" forum may not be suitable for everyone

The purpose of this sub-forum is to openly permit important and challenging discussion on the Dhamma. By establishing a particular forum as a Free-For-All, albeit one where members must still be nice to each other, we aim to keep other areas of the site free from vociferous debate. We have attempted to establish an appropriate time and place for everything, with well established boundaries that will be enforced. Therefore, if you deem that vociferous debate is not conducive to your practice, you have the opportunity to fine tune your experience at Dhamma Wheel by sticking to forums better aligned with your practice that will be protected from such intense debate.


If you don't like my post, I am sorry, you can stick to other forums. From what I understand, it seems clear that this is the correct subforum to post such a view.

My intent of such a post is not to demean or try to put down Buddhism in any form. If people care to read what I say in the links above, in the third one I even admit I can't refute rebirth. I agree I should have put a question mark after it as "Rebirth Refuted?"

I think it is important for all of us to go ahead and reassess teachings and consider for ourselves whether it is really useful and makes sense. I try to give, what I believe, arguments that put into question a strict literal interpretation of rebirth.

To me ignorance is to live your life without really examining things and simply believing them on faith or what one has been brought up with.

I am going to continue to say so and maybe it is time to start kicking butt and taking names as well.


This to me is a very scary statement. I hope you don't intend to try to track me down and "kick my butt." Let me ask right now, are you threating my well-being? If so, then we have a major issue. It is interesting that someone who supposidly is a real follower of the Buddha should resort to such harmful expressions.

Another question, who are you to take names and start "kicking butt"?

From my experience in life, the people who have caused the worst destruction and human misery are those who are so fundamentalist in there beliefs that they are unwilling to question and reassess what they believe and in turn refuse to accept others opinions and automatically brand them "heretics" and unbelievers.

I have tried to argue a particular point, and if people disagree then great. But please read what I have said and point out the failures in my arguments.

Thanks.

--DarkDream
Last edited by DarkDream on Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:09 am

clw_uk wrote:DarkDream

I dont believe fully in rebirth but do have some confidence in it, i do however like to keep some healthy skepticism so can appreciate some of your points since some are points i have asked myself

1) Consciousness can not exist without a body.
Correct, the buddha states so himself

2) Instaneous transfer of karmic energies cannot be guarantee a suitable being-to-be.
Why do you think this is? it happens everymoment of this life, kamma leads to a new birth of being in this moment

3) Difficulty in explaining population explosions.
This i feel has already been answered (one reason i have hears is because of widespread destruction of nature so many more animals are dying are more chances of human birth with more humans reproducing, also factor in other possibilites of other life in the universe given the huge scale of planets in the known universe and the traditional realms of devas, hell-beings etc)

4) Problem with infinite regress with the gandhabba.
I to have some problem with this word, however one point was made to me, the fact that buddha made reference of different concepts of the time, in this case it refered to a heavenly being, so he could have used it as a teaching method to explain a new being about to be born

5) Dubious scientific evidence.
This is of course correct, however a lack of evidence doesnt mean its impossible just currently un-testable, the deathless is untestable but still a reality

6) Questionable value for salvation.
Could you elaborate?


Thanks for your response. This was just summary of the posts I did, so naturally there is a lot wanting. Let me try to answer your points.

As for (2) you say, "Why do you think this is? it happens everymoment of this life, kamma leads to a new birth of being in this moment." I couldn't agree more. To me this is the essential point. I do believe in the notion of kamma and rebirth in this life where it happens all the time. What I was referring to is the notion of when we physically die, our kammic energies need to go some where. From what I understand from the Therevada perspective it happens instantaneously which I try to point out issues with.

(3) Yes, I talk about beings coming from other realms and so on to account for population explosions. I do, however, point out some issues with that. You would have to read what I wrote, but my first response in this subforum sums it up.

(4) As for the gandhabba, it has been seen by some to be the relinking consciousness. I just point out the difficulties with that.

(5) Agree.

(6) I said questionable value for salvation, because even if you could remember your past lives, what use would it be? When the Buddha became enlightened he did experience three knowledges. It was only the third one which he became enlightened. As mentioned in the suttas, remembering your past lives was acheived by many other religious teachers but they were not enlightened.



clw_uk wrote:may i ask you some answers in turn however?

If the Buddha did not teach rebirth at all how do you account for the widespread use of it in so many parts of the canon?

If there is no dukkha after physical death, you do you think the buddha didnt teach that death was the end of dukkha and instead places so much importance of craving, if this ends at physical death why did he instruct followers who were about to die how to end some if not all craving?


Since i do not think the buddha would lie, why do you think he taught rebirth if he didnt know or care if it happens, there were already people at that time ready to accept non-rebirth (i.e. the followers of the materialist philosophy etc) and the buddha would not add other concepts or teachings that were not part of the Dhamma. He would only change the amount he revealed to each individual need so some would could only accept kamma, others the more advanced teachings on the four noble truths, dependent origination etc


I can understand the arguments that the buddhas teachings refer to rebirth as the birth and death of self identifcation in moments (this is one of my core understandings of his teachings) but there are many suttas where the buddha does say "so and so was reborn here". How do you account for this?


As for the first question, I need to point out that the common English translation of the word rebirth is "punarbhava" which is wrong in my opinion. The correct translation is "rebecoming." This is really fundamental. I think the Buddha purposely made this choice of word becauase "rebecoming" denotes a process and and not a thing. I think this unfortuantely has been obscured and misunderstood unfairly giving the impression in many cases that the Buddha was teaching a literal notion of rebirth.

I agree that there are suttas where the notion of rebirth can not be interpreted in any other way. I believe there are lots of reasons for it. The systemization of the Pali canon, the popularization of Buddhism, misunderstanding of the followers to takes things too literally and so on.

As for your second question, it may not be satisfactory, but the Buddha new his followers were dying and so made extra assertions to experience nibbana before they died. He did not teach nibbana was obtained when one dies, as death is a notion connected with a personality that passes on. Nibbana has no experience of a person -- it is thus beyond death.

As for your third question, I don't think the Buddha lied as well. He was a master of skill-in-means and would often take the view of the person who was talking to. So when someone would ask him, "How to I obtain union with Brahma", the Buddha would tell him by pervading the world with loving-kindness. This was not to be taken literally. The Buddha was simply using the vocabulary and the view point of the interlocator to help the person out. Some notions were so entrenched in people that he did not teach them what was ultimately true as that would have been counter productive and have led to confusion. So he did not lie, but skillfully may have led them towards a certain direction without explicitly telling them that they were wrong.

The Buddha did not say that someone was annihilated after death because this would be wrong because there was no self or person to be annihilated. He may have even thought in some sense that some inkling of the process of an individual continues in some form after death, but as for the exact mechanism and and the specifics of behind it, he never really specified. Some may argue he did, but like I said above, I think the suttas are misunderstood or were composed later.

I personally believe that our actions continue on past our death to influence future evernts. What gets reborn is the those actions that lead to a better or worse world for others.

As for the last question, yes the suttas indicate that the Buddha said this person was born here and there. I don't really have some convincing answers for that one. I think all the different rebirths were originally just questions on the level of spiritual attainment I person reached. Later through the lense of the compiles who no doubt believed in rebirth, changed the suttas. But I don't have really evidence to back this claim up. I am just speculating at this point.

You've raised some good questions. I definitely don't think I have all the answers, but that is my working propositions right now. After re-examining things I may change my mind. That is the reason I joined this forum to bounce these ideas off of people in hopes of learning and achieving a greater understanding of the dhamma.

Thanks,

--DarkDream
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:16 am

To all,

the people who have caused the worst destruction and human misery are those who are so fundamentalist in there beliefs that they are unwilling to question and reassess what they believe and in turn refuse to accept others opinions and automatically brand them "heretics" and unbelievers.


We need to tread lightly here. Holding a particular belief does not make one a fundamentalist; disagreeing with onther's opinion, poorly stated or well stated, does not make one a fundamentalist.


On both sides, of the argument there needs to be careful, reasoned arguments grounded in the Buddha's teachings.
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.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:19 am

Hi DarkDream,

I've looked at your blog entries, and I have to say, I think you're completely missing the point. I was pleased to see that at the end of the third blog entry, you had this:
Sabbasava Sutta wrote:This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'
You'll notice that each of these questions regards some entity known as "I." It's as if "I" is a fixation, a focal point for inquiry. The point of the sutta being, as I understand it: When we attend to suffering, its causes and its cessation, we won't get far if we keep on getting distracted by theories about "I." Yet that's precisely what your blog entries do. And it's what this thread does. To me, this particular discussion seems to be an extended example of "attending inappropriately," which the Buddha advised against.

In your first blog entry, you wrote:
DarkDream wrote:To summarize, I am attacking the notion of literal rebirth for it can be a great source of clinging and attachment that can lead one to be preoccupied with some distance future instead of motivating oneself to be free from suffering right now in this present life.
For whom do you believe it can be a great source of clinging? For yourself? For others? Honestly, I don't think this is the reason you are attacking the notion of literal rebirth. It's hard for me to imagine anyone saying, "Looks like I'm headed for rebirth, so I might as well just suffer in this lifetime and not exert any effort, because the whole idea of rebirth really kills my motivation."

I know I'm not going to convince you of anything, and neither is anyone else here. But since I can see you are serious about self-inquiry, I invite you to carefully examine whether you might have the completely wrong perspective on this whole concept of "I" and "rebirth."

Metta
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:26 am

A moderator note. The thread name has been slightly changed to more accurately reflect the content.
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.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:32 am

DarkDream wrote:
To summarize, I am attacking the notion of literal rebirth for it can be a great source of clinging and attachment that can lead one to be preoccupied with some distance future instead of motivating oneself to be free from suffering right now in this present life.

For whom do you believe it can be a great source of clinging? For yourself? For others? Honestly, I don't think this is the reason you are attacking the notion of literal rebirth. It's hard for me to imagine anyone saying, "Looks like I'm headed for rebirth, so I might as well just suffer in this lifetime and not exert any effort, because the whole idea of rebirth really kills my motivation."


DD needs to look at the opening chapters of Gampopa's JEWEL ORNAMENT OF LIBERATION. Rebirth is seen very much as a motivator for practice here and now. When looked at in context of the Buddha's teachings rebirth is very much just that, not some vague notion about the future.
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: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ben » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:44 am

Hi Darkdream
Jechbi wrote:I invite you to carefully examine whether you might have the completely wrong perspective on this whole concept of "I" and "rebirth."



This is excellent advice and it corresponds closely to what I wanted to write in a post on this thread earlier - unfortunately I was constrained by events here.
Metta

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:21 am

Jechbi wrote:Hi DarkDream,

I've looked at your blog entries, and I have to say, I think you're completely missing the point. I was pleased to see that at the end of the third blog entry, you had this:
Sabbasava Sutta wrote:This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'
You'll notice that each of these questions regards some entity known as "I." It's as if "I" is a fixation, a focal point for inquiry. The point of the sutta being, as I understand it: When we attend to suffering, its causes and its cessation, we won't get far if we keep on getting distracted by theories about "I." Yet that's precisely what your blog entries do. And it's what this thread does. To me, this particular discussion seems to be an extended example of "attending inappropriately," which the Buddha advised against.

In your first blog entry, you wrote:
DarkDream wrote:To summarize, I am attacking the notion of literal rebirth for it can be a great source of clinging and attachment that can lead one to be preoccupied with some distance future instead of motivating oneself to be free from suffering right now in this present life.
For whom do you believe it can be a great source of clinging? For yourself? For others? Honestly, I don't think this is the reason you are attacking the notion of literal rebirth. It's hard for me to imagine anyone saying, "Looks like I'm headed for rebirth, so I might as well just suffer in this lifetime and not exert any effort, because the whole idea of rebirth really kills my motivation."

I know I'm not going to convince you of anything, and neither is anyone else here. But since I can see you are serious about self-inquiry, I invite you to carefully examine whether you might have the completely wrong perspective on this whole concept of "I" and "rebirth."

Metta
:smile:


Hi Jechbi,

Thanks for taking the time and reading my blog entries.

I think I agree with you, up to a point, where the whole entire enterprise of the blogs was something the Buddha would have probably advised against. But if we accept this then how can we explain all the Jataka tales, the proliferation of former and future Buddhas, lay people in many countries even today making offerings and transferring merit all for a possible future rebirth. My point is, in my opinion, Buddhism as a religion has been "attending inappropriately" to this issue from a very early time. To a certain extent, the history of Buddhism has been one long exercise in this direction.

What I believe is unfortunate about this is that if rebirth is taught on the moment to moment level from the psychological perspective then you are encouraging one to really begin to seek the truth and start to understand what the Buddha was talking about.

People do not want to die period. Like a quote I heard, "Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." Everyone wants to at some fundamental level continue on -- even after death. But by talking about literal rebirth, which is a belief, you may offer someone some consolation at the expense of strengthening the sense of me and the attachment that "I" will continue. "I" will not die, but will live on.

This really defeats the whole point of Buddhism. The way of salvation ultimately is the realization of there being no self -- the experience of nibbana where there is no quesiton of "I" or me, or hell or heaven or anything conceptual for that matter. It is the ultimately letting go of everything. This is true death.

--DarkDream
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:14 am

Please keep discussion focused on the ideas presented related to the topic of the thread.

From the Appropriate conduct within the Dhammic free-for-all forum:

Use the Report Post function and we will attend to your report as quickly as practicable, given our available staff. Please do not publicly quote and object to the content of a post, because this then embeds it within the flow of conversation and it becomes difficult for moderators to extract the offending material without disrupting the thread. Public complaints, regardless of how legitimate, tend to take threads off-topic and have a tendency to become a sideshow unto themselves.

Also, please keep in mind that this particular subject is going to engender strong feeling on each side. Given that before posting please be mindful of what it that you are saying.

Of these the worse is he who to one angry
Replies with wrath.
Do not reply with wrath to one who's angry
And win a battle hard to win!
You course then for the weal of both,
Yourself and of the other one.
You understand the other's angry mood,
Remaining mindful and at peace.
-- S i 162
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.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:58 am

Hi DD,
Jechbi expressed very well what I would have said about the Sutta - creating an "I" anywhere, especially in the present moment, is the problem.
DarkDream wrote: But by talking about literal rebirth, which is a belief, you may offer someone some consolation at the expense of strengthening the sense of me and the attachment that "I" will continue. "I" will not die, but will live on.

This is a straw-man argument: "Some people may misinterpret this aspect of the teachings, therefore we should discard it."

I could equally well say: "Some people may misinterpret the not-self teaching as meaning that nothing really matters, since 'I' don't really exist, so we should discard that teaching."

Either extreme, Eternalism or Nihilism, are wrong view according to the Buddha.

Metta
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:45 pm

DarkDream wrote:
nathan wrote:Nathan, can I point you to the rule for this part of the forum:

3. The "Free-for-all" forum may not be suitable for everyone

The purpose of this sub-forum is to openly permit important and challenging discussion on the Dhamma. By establishing a particular forum as a Free-For-All, albeit one where members must still be nice to each other, we aim to keep other areas of the site free from vociferous debate. We have attempted to establish an appropriate time and place for everything, with well established boundaries that will be enforced. Therefore, if you deem that vociferous debate is not conducive to your practice, you have the opportunity to fine tune your experience at Dhamma Wheel by sticking to forums better aligned with your practice that will be protected from such intense debate.


If you don't like my post, I am sorry, you can stick to other forums. From what I understand, it seems clear that this is the correct subforum to post such a view.

My intent of such a post is not to demean or try to put down Buddhism in any form. If people care to read what I say in the links above, in the third one I even admit I can't refute rebirth. I agree I should have put a question mark after it as "Rebirth Refuted?"


I apologize in return for throwing off your topic with tangential discussions and to the mods for my own indiscretions in this thread. Now that I have addressed the title. I will try to make up for all my 'misdeeds' by reading your blog and by mindfully and thoughtfully approaching your subjects and concerns.

I presented the hard line because we are not enforcing any orthodoxy here. I have assumed the same latitude that is extended to controversy is available to orthodoxy as well. If I am wrong, perhaps it is time for me to give up on internet forums entirely simply because I will never understand the ground rules correctly. I tried to present the concerns in the context of the teachings and these are mainly that there be a consideration of the needs of all those who would like to visit and spend time in this forum. What has long been typical with online buddhism forums is that the predominance of contentious and disputatious dialog has a long term impact on the makeup of the user community. When various conditions predominate, this is only natural. So it is important to bear in mind the many kinds of temperaments that different people have and that most people are uncomfortable with other kinds of temperaments in one way or another.

It would be better to have more balance between young and old, male and female, passive and assertive. Otherwise, the other kinds typically just move on and we see one debate arena after another and little else. It is the more assertive who need to exercise self-restraint and so the added burden falls to those of us who can readily express those qualities to be extra cautious and not the other way around. I have actually had to learn how to express myself more forcefully just to interact in more assertive ways as opposed to the other way around. That is why I suck at it and I am probably not the only one with the opposite problems to those which might be assumed from the postings.

It is always interesting to me that it is the ones who simply wish to maintain the doctrines whole and intact who are first made out to be full of negativity as if we could have no other motivations for our responses and our rhetoric. Since this almost always happens when a challenge to the Dhamma is being refuted one tends to slowly but increasingly relax their concern about it because one is going to be continually accused of having negative feelings anyways. Call it bulls--t fatigue.


I think it is important for all of us to go ahead and reassess teachings and consider for ourselves whether it is really useful and makes sense. I try to give, what I believe, arguments that put into question a strict literal interpretation of rebirth.

To me ignorance is to live your life without really examining things and simply believing them on faith or what one has been brought up with.

I don't have any feelings about rebirth to hurt so don't worry about it and I don't have any views about rebirth to defend. I consider the whole set of issues that arise about rebirth to be bogus. Rebirth is not the focus of any practice unless you are doing some very advanced Mahayana yoga in preparation for your own saintly death. Otherwise there is no need whatsoever to focus on the subject because it will not take you anywhere. If that is what you are saying then that is all you need to say.

To say that the subject of rebirth or rebirth itself is invalid is, as I said, bs. I will do my best to explain why if necessary but I really think you should go read about a thousand threads just like this already existing elsewhere where this has been exhaustively done. It is having to do it again, from scratch, every time anyone feels like it that makes it an onerous, pointless and endless labor. It really is difficult to see how one who has a sincere desire to learn the truth can at the same time see this subject as some kind of impediment to that process. It is completely irrelevant I assure you. Once you learn what you do need to know there is no question about it either and it is still quite irrelevant. So it is appropriate to consider it a complete waste of time.

The Buddha says there is rebirth. So what? If you don't know, you don't know, period. What you believe won't change that ignorance into knowledge. Faith in the Buddha will likely result in knowledge but so will setting the rebirth question aside entirely so long as you do the work that you do need to do to know what you do need to know. Probably a dozen arahants in the house couldn't settle the rebirth issue either but they would all tell us to forget about it because nothing can be learned from focusing on it unless you can see the arising and passing of beings with your magnificent psychic abilities. Maybe a thread on the development of magnificent psychic abilities would move the subject further along. I watched my whole house and everything I own burn completely to the ground last June. It provided a far more useful image for frequent reflection.

To reassess would imply a full assessment to begin with. I can take it then that you are fully versed in the Tipitaka and the commentaries and a Pali and abhidhamma scholar? If not, how could one even begin to assess the teachings in the first place? That, you see, is a rhetoric, in response to your rhetoric.

Simply considering the teachings is always a good idea. My position will remain that it is all useful and all makes sense. That is the fruit of all of my considerations so far. So, it is always a question of how and why one considers the teachings. What is literal is not really the issue for me. The teachings conform to themselves, entirely. There is nothing that can be beneficially removed. Discovering what is an important focus develops from considering the teachings as a whole and not to the exclusion of this or that.


I am going to continue to say so and maybe it is time to start kicking butt and taking names as well.


This to me is a very scary statement. I hope you don't intend to try to track me down and "kick my butt." Let me ask right now, are you threating my well-being? If so, then we have a major issue. It is interesting that someone who supposidly is a real follower of the Buddha should resort to such harmful expressions.

Another question, who are you to take names and start "kicking butt"?

From my experience in life, the people who have caused the worst destruction and human misery are those who are so fundamentalist in there beliefs that they are unwilling to question and reassess what they believe and in turn refuse to accept others opinions and automatically brand them "heretics" and unbelievers.

I have tried to argue a particular point, and if people disagree then great. But please read what I have said and point out the failures in my arguments.

Thanks.
--DarkDream

I apologize both for the comment and offer a much more heartfelt apology for scaring you or causing you to have bad feelings or to experience any suffering of any kind. I really should have either omitted the comment or else found a more gentle figure of speech. Why would I track you down? Why would I wish you harm? Have you never heard this expression? Well, now you have.

I would like you to well understand that I have never accepted a single thing in the Dhamma on the basis of blind faith. I have taken the hardest road with everything in life and no less so with this. So all those who see me as a faith follower of anything can set that misperception aside entirely. I say it is entirely accurate and true because I have made sure of it. I have done it with reasoning and analysis as you perhaps are now and I have done it with my entire being in this life and in this world. So my faith is not at all a blind and unconsidered faith and my declarations are not without a sound basis in both the teachings and in the real world. I make mistakes about the texts aplenty because I am not a studious scholar of them and so I am always happy to be corrected in those regards. It would be great to have more of that and less of this kind of fruitless discussion. I do not see how taking such a tangential approach to the doctrine clarifies what is important to focus on in the doctrine and practice. It appears to only further obscure what is important and in the minds of more and more people. That is what causes me distress and lost sleep, it has nothing to do with you personally.

Furthermore I do not think I can do anyone else's thinking and reflecting for them. I do know, at length, how far the blind alleys go, and so I have a great sympathy for those who likewise feel compelled to explore them all to their absolute ends. I am happy to tell everyone that it is a complete waste of time and if you are compelled to see for yourself then have a nice trip. As for causing misery and destruction, I think it is probably unlikely regardless of how poorly I communicate that I can be the cause of much misery and destruction in, for instance, your life. But if you find this is at all so please let me know and what I can do to not cause any misery and destruction in yours or anyone else's life.

So, I will read your stuff and see if you are a heretic or not. I think you have to be first entirely within the orthodoxy and making heterodox declarations to be a heretic and so I doubt you qualify. I don't really care, as I've said, what people believe, because this almost always involves ignorance of some kind and I haven't ever had any use for believing anything. For some odd reason an idea has no power to motivate me if it is not somehow known to be entirely valid and can be increasingly well understood in practical terms. Beliefs seem like smoke and mirrors to me, completely illusory. They seem very useful for some people's purposes but I have found no cause to be jealous. I am concerned mostly with what I know or don't know. I know some things and I'm ignorant about others. I am happy to watch that change because what is undeniably or irrefutably known typically expands on that basis and what is only provisionally known will either change eventually into real knowledge, prove to be inconsequential or be abandoned as a form of ignorance. I'm going to give your presentations a few days careful consideration before I reply. In the meantime I wish you well.

But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:51 pm

Hi DarkDream

Reguarding the notion of rebirth instilling a sense of eternalism, this is something i have brought up and discussed with the others here so you may be interested in this thread viewtopic.php?f=16&t=663&start=520 it goes off topic after a while but the first few pages deal with this



As for (2) you say, "Why do you think this is? it happens everymoment of this life, kamma leads to a new birth of being in this moment." I couldn't agree more. To me this is the essential point. I do believe in the notion of kamma and rebirth in this life where it happens all the time. What I was referring to is the notion of when we physically die, our kammic energies need to go some where. From what I understand from the Therevada perspective it happens instantaneously which I try to point out issues with.


As far as my understandings go at the moment, kamma can be instant in this life as well so no reason why it cant after physical death. One interesting point about kamma that the buddha made

Therein, headman, when those ascetics and brahmins who hold such a doctrine and view as this say:
"Anyone at all who destroys life experiences pain and grief here and now" do they speak truthfully or falsely?
Headman - "Fasely Venerable Sir
Buddha - "Are those who prattle empty falsehood virtuous or immoral?"
Headman - "Immoral, venerable sir"
Buddha - "Are those who are immoral and of bad character practising wrongly or rightly?"
Headman - "Practising wrongly Venerable Sir
Buddha - "Do those who practice wrongly hold wrong view or right view?"
Headman - "Wrong view, venerable sir"
Buddha - "Is it proper to place confidence in those who hold wrong view?"
Headman - "no, veneravle sir"


The Buddha here is stating that it is false to say that all kamma plays out in this life, so theres no reason to assume that it doesnt play some role after physical death


This is because in a finite universe of beings where there is always a suitable being ready to be born in to, the total amount of beings at any point in time can never change! This is because when a being dies a new one, in a sense, takes its place.

Now if you take into account enlightened beings that get off the wheel of samsara, the number of being in the universe can change but only decrease and never increase.


Taken from your website, the buddha never states there are a finite number of beings in the universe


(4) As for the gandhabba, it has been seen by some to be the relinking consciousness. I just point out the difficulties with that.


I agree with you that there is no re-linking consciousness in the Buddhas original teachings. You have to look at why that word was used though. To the people he was teachings it denoted a heavenly being so it serves a purpose when talking about subject of death and rebirth

(6) I said questionable value for salvation, because even if you could remember your past lives, what use would it be? When the Buddha became enlightened he did experience three knowledges. It was only the third one which he became enlightened. As mentioned in the suttas, remembering your past lives was acheived by many other religious teachers but they were not enlightened.


It wouldnt be of any use really, many followers in the canon and today reach nibbana without ever remembering a past life. There cycle of death and rebirth in this life is enought to be mindful of


As for the first question, I need to point out that the common English translation of the word rebirth is "punarbhava" which is wrong in my opinion. The correct translation is "rebecoming." This is really fundamental. I think the Buddha purposely made this choice of word becauase "rebecoming" denotes a process and and not a thing. I think this unfortuantely has been obscured and misunderstood unfairly giving the impression in many cases that the Buddha was teaching a literal notion of rebirth.


Of course your right it means re-becoming, which is why its a reality in this life. There is re-becoming everymoment because of Dependent origination and kamma, there is no real evidence supported by the suttas why this wouldnt continue after physical death. The buddha did teach a literal notion of rebirth, reguardless of physical death rebirth is literal in this moment.


I agree that there are suttas where the notion of rebirth can not be interpreted in any other way. I believe there are lots of reasons for it. The systemization of the Pali canon, the popularization of Buddhism, misunderstanding of the followers to takes things too literally and so on.


There is evidence of rebirth being taught as early back as 200, maybe 100 years after the buddhas death, also the pali canon isnt the only reference to it, the chinese Agamas also contain it. It is pretty widespread for it to have been added.


As for your second question, it may not be satisfactory, but the Buddha new his followers were dying and so made extra assertions to experience nibbana before they died. He did not teach nibbana was obtained when one dies, as death is a notion connected with a personality that passes on. Nibbana has no experience of a person -- it is thus beyond death.


There are occasions where the dying person was only taught stream-entry before death, or when Venerable Sariputa taught a dying man the way to the Brahma realms instead of nibbana (for which he was rebuked by the buddha). Why would the buddha rebuke him if death was the end of conditonality and being in the brahma realm at the moment of death would have been enough for death to have been relatively painless. There are many instances where the Buddha states to many of his disciples that so and so was a stream-winner and destined to achieve nibbana, after they had died, he states this when not talking to village folk but to devote followers such as Ananda.

Your correct he didnt teach it wasnt obtained at death, there is an old phrase that i like "Nibbana is dying before death", it is obtained when craving ceases completely, this is why he didnt condone suicide. There was a case where some of his followers, after contemplating the foulness of the body killed themselves, but the buddha didnt approve of this so he must have felt that physical death wasnt the answer to dukkha



As for your third question, I don't think the Buddha lied as well. He was a master of skill-in-means and would often take the view of the person who was talking to. So when someone would ask him, "How to I obtain union with Brahma", the Buddha would tell him by pervading the world with loving-kindness. This was not to be taken literally. The Buddha was simply using the vocabulary and the view point of the interlocator to help the person out. Some notions were so entrenched in people that he did not teach them what was ultimately true as that would have been counter productive and have led to confusion. So he did not lie, but skillfully may have led them towards a certain direction without explicitly telling them that they were wrong.


You are correct in this, the Brahma realm is something that can be entered into in this life via the mind (a psychological realm if you like). The various realms can be entered into in this life, one does not have to wait for physical death, this however does not prove their non-existence after physical death.

Of course there were entrenched beliefs in people, however rebirth was not an entrenched belief at the time. Of course there are instances where the buddha states "IF there is another world" etc so as to lead one to morality that is conductive to enlightenment. However there are many cases where the buddha is addressing his own monks, even Ananda himself, and states a persons destination after death.


The Buddha did not say that someone was annihilated after death because this would be wrong because there was no self or person to be annihilated. He may have even thought in some sense that some inkling of the process of an individual continues in some form after death, but as for the exact mechanism and and the specifics of behind it, he never really specified. Some may argue he did, but like I said above, I think the suttas are misunderstood or were composed later.


For me the buddha never states how rebirth happens only that it will if craving has not ceased



I personally believe that our actions continue on past our death to influence future evernts. What gets reborn is the those actions that lead to a better or worse world for others.


This is only my understanding, but in reality there is no rebirth, only conditionality. The Buddha states what happens at death here to a householder

Householder, in the case of one who is dead and gone, the bodily formation has ceased and subsided, the verbal formation has ceased and subsided, the mental formation has ceased and subsided; his vitality is extinguished, his physical heat has been dissipated and his faculties are fully broken up


SN - Book of the Six Sense Bases - Kamabhu (2)

So the buddha states that no person or any of the aggregates goes on past physical death, but since the buddha states that kamma does not get played out all in this life, it can only be kamma that in some way conditions a new being, in the same way it conditions the new beings that arise and die in this life


A further point, there are instances where the Buddha (and the Arahants) state that the end of becoming is not physical death, but only nibbana

If, friend Yamaka, they were to ask you "friend Yamaka, when a Bhikkhu is and Arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, what happens to him with the breakup of the body after death?" being asked thus, whay would you answer?

"if they were to ask me this friend, i would answer thus; Friends, form is Anicca, what is Anicca is Dukkha, what is dukkha has ceased and passed away. feeling...perception...volitional formaton...consciousness is anicca, what is anicca is dukkha, what is dukkha has ceased and passed away"


There is also a sutta that i cant currently find, but it states how the Buddha is different from other teachers on account of when other teaches disciples pass away they say he re-appeared there even when they were lay followers or enlightened, but when they Buddha is asked he states that if they are not Arahants they re-appear there but when they are Arahants he states that they have made an end to becoming, so the Buddha there is not stating that death is the end of becoming but nibbana is ( i will try and find the sutta for you if your interested in taking a look at it)

Of course it is quite enough that one accepts rebirth in this moment, thats the important one, if it happens after death doesnt really matter since it would just be more of the same thats here, craving and dukkha. Whats important is enlightenment in this moment right here, which of course is what the Buddhas central teachings are all about


Does this help answer some of your questions? :smile:

:anjali:
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:36 pm

DarkDream wrote:As for (2) you say, "Why do you think this is? it happens everymoment of this life, kamma leads to a new birth of being in this moment." I couldn't agree more. To me this is the essential point. I do believe in the notion of kamma and rebirth in this life where it happens all the time. What I was referring to is the notion of when we physically die, our kammic energies need to go some where. From what I understand from the Therevada perspective it happens instantaneously which I try to point out issues with.


Hello DD,

Where do you think the "karmic energy,s" which currently influence your actions are stored? What do these "energies" consist of? Are they electrical, chemical, inertia, Heat? Is "energy" a metaphor?


Metta

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:06 pm

Chris wrote:And, besides which, if you look at the Board Stats, it's clearly where most people come when on Dhamma Wheel.

The Dhammic Free-for-all and associated sub-forums beats all the other forums and sub-forums here hands down in numbers of Topics and Posts.

"This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment." - Buddha, SN 6.1

Fact is, most people aren't really interested in learning the Dhamma. Even people who spend time on Buddhist web-forums.
- Peter

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:11 pm

Fact is, most people aren't really interested in learning the Dhamma. Even people who spend time on Buddhist web-forums.



:goodpost:
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