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?