the great rebirth debate

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:10 pm

Hi!

As a beginner, I find these discussions more useful than not. Remember that for people who are new to Buddhism or just exploring it, what we have here
are not infallible teachings but a set of propositions that have been put before us. Therefore, it's useful to us newbies to see them critiqued point by point, the objections raised and discussed, and so on. Not to go through this process would entail accepting faith without insight -- and that's a recipe for doubt.

Also worth keeping in mind: we may all find ourselves in discussions with skeptics. Without rigorously examining the teachings, we lack the ability to defend them in argument. And because it is important to make the case for spirituality, there is a benefit to learning how to argue.

DarkDream, just a few thoughts on the points you raised in your blog, which I enjoyed reading by the way. You write very well.

Consciousness can not exist without a body


The Buddha actually declined (in MN 63) to endorse substance dualism (mind as detachable from body). Nor is such dualism necessary in order for rebirth to occur. What can arise once, can arise again. A process that ends can begin anew. A fire that is put out can flare up; a cancer can recur. "We" are simply recurring manifestations of the processes driving samsara.

It's possible to posit a materialist theory of rebirth (although, of course, this would not be orthodox Buddhism) via property dualism. We can argue that although mind cannot exist without a material base, it nevertheless can be meaningfully understood as its own animal. Collective consciousness allows for the possibility of psychological rebirth across individuals and lifespans. I have met Elvis Presley, for instance. He was sitting across from me on the DC metro. I swear it!

Some Zen teachers talk of "lateral" rebirth, along similar lines.

karmic energies must be able to extend infinitely (in order to make contact with a body) or somehow be able to teleport (thus not strictly moving from one entity to another) into the new body


If I understand it correctly, Buddhism envisages a web of infinite connections and causality, so it is possible that an event in one part of the universe could impact an event anywhere else. . The (Mahayana) Flower Garland sutra uses the metaphor of Indra's net to depict such a universe.

Also, our assumptions about "local" behavior or proximity might be illusory. From a cosmic point of view, the distance between here and, say, Beijing, is extremely small. From a microscopic point of view, the distance between my two feet is extremely large.

Many miles away
Something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish loch

sorry, no more pop culture references, promise...!

So the karmic energy must somehow locate a suitable entity-to-be that meets the karmic energy’s requirements. Somehow the karmic energy must not only sense the being-to-be’s genetic makeup (beautiful or ugly) but sense its socio-economic environment (inferior or superior) and overall fortune (fortunate and unfortunate).


Yes, there seems to be a risk of ascribing clairvoyant powers to kamma. One explanation is that kammic forces tend to pull beings towards a certain outcome. If you take an axe to a tree, it's going to fall a certain way. There's probably no way to remove a certain "metaphysical" element to the teachings on kamma -- these logical questions are always going to come up.

However, perhaps they are missing the point. Kamma a moral teaching, the gist of which is that virtue reaps rewards and malevolence reaps pain. Both in this life and the next. It might be more useful simply to accept the teaching at this general level and not worry about the specifics of how Britney Spears turned out beautiful but in a screwed up socioeconomic/family environment, etc...

how can the karmic energies condition a new birth, if at that exact moment of death, the necessary conditions are not present for a birth to take place?...
My main point is that it appears from a purely statistical stand point that there is the guaranteed possibility that at the exact moment of death there will be no suitable coming-to-be-beings for a dying entity's karmic heritage.


Sex is always happening somewhere. If there is no being waiting for rebirth, conception won't take place. If beings can't find the proper birth in this world, they'll be born in some other world. Like the "overpopulation" problem, this one only arises if you assume a limited pool of rebirth opportunities.

a factor of luck is added in to the equation which may therefore result in an entity being born in a realm its karmic energies
are not suitable for. Instead of being in a deva world, a dying man’s karmic energy could end up being in an ass (the animal that is). This randomness and unfairness associated
with it does not at all appear to be like the impersonal law-like nature of kamma that governs where beings are born.


From our samsaric point of view, there is indeed an apparent factor of luck, as well as a great deal of unfairness; the workings of kamma
appear imponderable. The Buddha assures us that there is, after all, some moral order to the universe. He does not say that you or I
understand how it works.

We still run into the major problem of infinite regress because to guarantee that all beings will be able to achieve an intermediate existence
(including the gandhabbas as well) each entity must have one gandhabba ready for it. And if a gandhabba needs to have an intermediate existence as well when it dies,
then its intermediate gandhabba will need its own and so on and so on.


Infinite regress signals a limitation in our ability to conceptualize. It marks the outer boundaries in any system of knowledge. Consider the "Big Bang", for
example. What caused the Big Bang? And what caused whatever caused the Big Bang?

Having said that, I agree that the "Gandhabba" is problematic. There appears to be no clear consensus on what it is, other than that it represents
the factor of consciousness that must be present along with the sperm and egg in order for conception to occur.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:25 pm

Peter wrote:
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.


I've noticed from being on web forums for a while now that the more people know the less they tend to write.
Very often it's about quality, not quantity. :anjali:

Now back to rebirth, I don't think that anyone here is claiming that the afflicted aggregates don't die a conventional death. But that doesn't stop sentient beings from continuing to take birth in samsara. Am I missing something here?

Consciousness can not exist without a body
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:08 pm

I think its very important to remember that rebirth is not a doctrine to be grasped at, just like anatta and anicca and dukkha are not to be grasped at, they are skillfull means to use for awakening



: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 Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:15 pm

clw_uk wrote:I think its very important to remember that rebirth is not a doctrine to be grasped at...


Or develop aversion to...

:smile:

I know I'm at a Theravadan site! But just as in interesting point of reference, some people in other traditions do entire dedicated practices for many years just to be prepared for death (or a death transition, if you like).

So for some it's no big deal at all and not necessary for practice (according to what people here are saying). For other kinds of buddhists, it's pretty darn important :mrgreen:
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:20 pm

Hi Drolma

I think it depends on different traditions, for example if one has taken bodhisattva vows rebirth will be more important since the practice is about staying in rebirth to help others

For ones who havent taken bodhisattva vows and are intent on nibbana here and now rebirth isnt as important if at all, at least thats how i see it


: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 Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:22 pm

clw_uk wrote:Hi Drolma

I think it depends on different traditions, for example if one has taken bodhisattva vows rebirth will be more important since the practice is about staying in rebirth to help others

For ones who havent taken bodhisattva vows and so are intent on nibbana here and now rebirth isnt as important if at all


:anjali:


Yes Craig, that's all I meant :toast:

I was just trying to inject the point that for some it can be very relevant! But I'm not trying to derail the conversation.
Different strokes for different folks, right?

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:40 pm

nathan wrote: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. ...
:zzz: :coffee:
Which is somewhat connected with this observation:
Drolma wrote:I've noticed from being on web forums for a while now that the more people know the less they tend to write.

However:
Lazy_eye wrote:As a beginner, I find these discussions more useful than not. Remember that for people who are new to Buddhism or just exploring it, what we have here
are not infallible teachings but a set of propositions that have been put before us. ...

This is the only reason I (and, I believe, nathan, and others) take any time with threads such as this.

I would urge beginners to get a few good, cheap, books that present the standard Theravada view in a readable manner. My favourite is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.lasso?-KeyValue=104
:reading:
If you spend a few weeks studying the breadth and depth of the Suttas presented there you'll find it a lot easier to see through the shallowness of some arguments presented in forums such as this.
:popcorn:

Even better, spend some time with some real-life teachers, particularly monastics. Check that they satisfy the criteria of the Canki Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on greed that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on greed... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not greedy. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.
This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's greedy. ...
... aversive.
... deluded.

It is possible to apply those criteria to on-line discussions as well, but that can be a little more difficult... :spy:

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:47 pm

This is going to be a whopper. There is a very short version at the bottom. Rejoice!

[I apologize if my suggestion that we do not need to meditate on rebirth and that it will not liberate us was offensive to those who have a practice concerned with rebirth, (likely those who follow other traditions) my comments were restricted to this tradition. I am not opposed to contemplating it or meditating on it at all. I meant to say it was not connected with the primary aims of followers or disciples in the limited sense we typically refer to in Theravada discussions. If we are required to exercise all of these sensitivities here then there is probably little use for a Theravada-ish bboard.]

You may not want or need a fuller response from me but I did say I would reply so here goes. I promise everyone I will before long disappear for a long while so that I can go off, learn Pali, learn Abhidhamma, study the entire Tipitaka and commentaries and learn it well. Don't worry about me picking up useless superstitions as well, I've been vaccinated for it. If at all possible I will then return and answer all questions in precisely the manner we would most like to hear, entirely by the book. Until then I can't do much more than anyone else that way and set to seeking out what bits and pieces I can find and toss them into the discussion.

We have seen over and over again how one well versed, well referenced and deeply contextualized answer from the Dhamma as presented in the Tipitaka can pretty much put a complete end to a question. So until then you get mostly my own thoughts and feelings, insights and understanding partly from life and partly from learning Dhamma. More or less what most of us bring to the discussion. I can add a hundred links to this and if that is what you want just ask. Until then, here is my take on it. After this, I retire again from rebirthing seminars as do I think there are better approaches than I can muster, the one I plan to take someday if I can, or none.

I posit neither a mind body dualism nor a mind body non-duality. I see the whole question of what is mind and what is matter quite differently. The problem I have with my perceptions is that they do not fit entirely into any models because models are just that and not representative of what is observable in my mind and body. It is just like the difference between your life and your personal details. You can list your age, weight, sex, height, and any number of other physical attributes and marks. You can detail the things you have done or jobs you have held or qualifications you have and so on. But none of this picture or any picture of you is actually you.

While consciousness is linked to this body it is not bound by it. I do not think it conceivable that mind arises from the body as an epiphenomena if the nature of mind is known or that the body arises from the mind as a metaphysical extension if the body is known. There is a mutual dependence by ongoing association for the duration of that body but the body is not a limit in many ways for the mind. The mind I would not view as I do the body and so here is where I think regarding everything as only momentary breaks down. Forms persist. Both in the mind and in the body and not in the same ways. The forms exist momentarily. They persist across the three times.

You are right in some ways at some times. Trying to take the Buddha always literally is often a disaster. Our notion of what literal speech is is actually more recent by far than the time of the Buddha so of all the ways to take him, it is probably one of the last to try. You see what happens when you take my figures of speech literally. Instead of laughing you are fearful. Sorry again. Even when I am trying to straight talk I am never trying to be taken entirely literally. I try to write well and keep difficult to understand wordings and imagery to a minimum but a strictly literal read of me would be pretty crazy making.

I do not think I could make an accurate model of living and being nor do I think it is worth it and I am inclined to think that the Buddha thought more along these lines. But there are various perspectives on life and being that are valuable and these have many different frames of reference. Some mesh entirely and some do not. Still, in the moment one can not take several perspectives on at once just as one cannot view a sculpture that is actually four dimensional in space, another dimension can only be represented in some other way, even if there were a valid dimension of the same kind in that same space the body is not equipped to organically perceive it.

I have four main experiential kinds of reasons for my not having a model about rebirth which perhaps you can tackle with yours or some other.

1)Physical Death - I've tried it. For all practical intents and purposes consciousness continues to arise and cease without a living body.

2)The timescales in the mind apart from contact with the body can be almost meaningless in many ways.

3)Conscious contact with mind and form objects external to the body and internal contacts both inside the body and inside the mind that are not caused by this mind but another individuated beings mind.

4)Complete cessation of consciousness in a living body.

I have no idea how I would put this stuff into a model but I have tested it all many times under many conditions. The mind continues on in this life, one moment of contact with an object after the next regardless of the relationship to the body. The body continues to live even in the complete absence of consciousness with no ill effects unless it's functions have been impaired. So life in the body and consciousness are not simultaneously necessary and consciousness can remain in awareness of contact with the body or it can escape that awareness and place it entirely on the mind or make contact with other forms and minds external to the body. I have experienced this many times in both forms, as both "host" and "visitor". It is very odd, I admit, but it does not fit into models very well. Neither does the mind in contact with external objects but it occurs so if there is going to be a suitable model for mind that encompasses my experience it will have to include all of the things necessary for all of the normal functions which everyone commonly experiences but a whole host of very strange functions which most people do not experience but some of us also experience so frequently that we are comfortable with these peculiar phenomena.

I have tried many times to find out how to "model" this stuff so that the whole experience of being will make coherent sense but for the most part one or another aspect of it is a taboo subject for one person or another and most models of this stuff are so speculative that they are mostly useless. The Dhamma eludes all of this model making skillfully and so that is very likely a part of what the Buddha is doing in his presentations. Presenting truth and not presenting more models. I don't think a lot of it can be rationalized. It is sort of like saying suppose people existed who have none of the usual perceptual or functional mental and physical limits. How do you then define what they might be or become? I began by pointing out how hard it is to match some kind of a model of you to the actual you. If you pull the ceiling off of a graph of possibilities for human development you can't put any easily defined limits on it's potential forms of expression.

So, all kinds of forms of being and conditions of being are possible in human beings and all sorts of other beings. The model we have for all of it is the whole universe we are a part of. The only useful model for what a human being is, is being a human being. The models of human beings are only measurements or only snapshots and sound bites of one kind or another.

For all the dryness of some kind of mechanistic outlook on how the universe functions it fails to capture most of the qualities of life and being. For all of the beauty and wonder that a more metaphysical or philosophical outlook has it sometimes falls apart trying to rationalize life and being or to give it meaning. Really all there is as a model for bare unadulterated truth seeking is direct experience, knowledge, realization and any resulting persistent understanding. We have an excellent model for how that functions and develops in Theravada and the potentials for that are hardly tapped. I suspect the reason is that we are using the model to try to accomplish all sorts of other things with it which are not related to it's primary intentions. So it doesn't do what we want. What does it do? Thats what I've tried to do, find out what I can do and what this Buddha outlook can do to my outlook.

I like the image of fire and the materials it consumes as an analogy for being. We can say all the things we say based in Dhamma about mind and form and the image of fire still works very well as our closest analogy.

My perceptions and conceptions could be pretty strange before and so they remain at times. If you have perceptions and conceptions of a given kind they will likely also continue to develop along those lines. The Dhamma as a text can't provide me anything that is the same as the actual experience but it is an excellent guide, I would say the most superior or ultimate guide to wherever I want to take that experience. It is loaded with good advice and helpful warnings about what will improve that experience. I can't say there is much in the texts that I have not encountered in some way and whether what is in the texts is exactly the same as what I am encountering can be pretty difficult to determine at times. If it is possible and beneficial and leads to further development of the experience I make efforts to move in that direction.

It can be frustrating that we don't have all the answers and it is doubtful that we ever will. What is immensely gratifying is having better experiences as a result of having been set on a path that continually improves experience by improving the manner in which experience is encountered. I wouldn't trade this for any model or answer book no matter how comprehensively it presented the whole universe. I have read a few that were quite impressive but none which were satisfying and none which explained anything which ever came close to the satisfaction that comes from a direct experience of the same thing. Having directly known a thing, the mind can go on to examine it until it is satisfactorily understood. Thereby ending it's agitation and anxiety about what it might be entirely which is something that not even a complete and precise explanation can ever do.


This from here:
http://www.mettanet.org/english/punabbhava.htm

Saccàni amma buddhavaradesitàni te bahutarà ajànantà
ye abhinandanti bhavagataü pihanti devesu upapattiü.
Devesu ' pi upapatti asassatà bhavagate aniccamhi
na ca santasanti bàlà punappunaü jàyitabbassa. Therãgàthà vv.454-5

Many, O mother, not understanding the teachings of the Noble Buddha, rejoice continuing in Samsàra. They aspire for birth in the heavenly worlds. Birth even in the heavenly worlds is impermanent, for it is still within the ever-changing samsàra. The foolish dread not at being born again again. [ Translated by the author ]

This sums up my sense of things quite well. Despite the fact that there is all sorts of extensively pleasant forms of being, both in the body and apart from the body, no form of being and becoming is desirable. When the nature of being is directly examined, even in it's optimal conditions being is not ever better than the cessation of being. Only the experience of the cessation of being is convincing and irrefutable evidence that there isn't some set of conditions of some kind that would be more preferable to none at all. Moving experience towards that cessation by training the mind and body in how to experience being and becoming in more skillful ways is all to the good all along the way and all sorts of questions and concerns get dumped in that process and whatever else happens they will no longer trouble you again in this life.

I don't have a better definition of "the gandhabba idea" but I have a good sense of what it is like, a good feel for it. I think most of the views of it are ignorant more or less entirely so what use is one more half baked view, I don't want one, only whatever more direct experience of it is necessary. If, as I suspect, it is much like many parts of this mind as presented to this ongoing sputtering of consciousness then I would not be very surprised.

I could present an endless supply of challenging questions too. Every now and then I toss one out and more often than not it never gets past the first post or two. Either because people have no idea what I am talking about, they have no idea how to talk about it, they know better than to try or they have accepted good reasons or rules prohibiting them from doing so. I would love to know when my whacko questions are or are not acceptable questions to ask even more than I would like answers and often the texts are not clear to me on that either.

If the Buddha were here today I could ask him if that was a deva I met or what and he could probably give me the deva's first and last name and last known address. If I ask the question today I will probably be told, more often than not, that there are no devas and I am delusional. Not very similar at all. So naturally I am not a fan of modifying the texts. The Buddha has much good advice for me while people these days have diagnosis' for me. Not hard to choose. I do dread being born again, simply from having been born this time. And that is all I need to know about rebirth. I do know how difficult it is to stop being and becoming in this life and so I have no basis to doubt it will otherwise continue to occur and indeed it does appear to be internally compelled to continually do so until you compel it to do otherwise. Thankfully it is all happening broken up into arisings and ceasings ongoing or there would be no knowable way to find any interruptions in being to explore and exploit. So even samsara is better the way it is than it would be in an eternalistic or annihilational universe. If it was either or both of those ways we would be screwed coming and going.

The I me mine question is again like a layer cake. On the surface you can call it the I view, and through to the bottom it is simply being and becoming in any and every sense. The moment is what we can use to free ourselves, to pry ourselves out of the ongoing. Imponderable existence is what we have to consider in terms of the past and future. So I do agree that the moment is of primary concern. The longer perspectives are useful but only to limited extents and never directly experienced as anything but the present. Whether or not the mind actually makes contact somehow with objects in the past or future is another interesting question. It would be interesting to hear something 'expert' about this but making efforts to experience anything in that way seems highly unnatural and counterproductive in terms of liberation in the present. So, although it is interesting it is not important and probably a very risky practice, surely so for me, for now anyways. Probably would be the first thing I'd look into when all that need be done is done if being then persists for any significant time.

------------------Short form

None of the six points listed in the OP hold much water for me. If the above leaves any important questions as to why unaddressed, let me know and I will address any one of them as concisely as possible.

My assessment of your Blog presentation, which has many fine thoughts in it, is that you have correctly understood some important points of the teaching. The only error is then applying that understanding to removing a part which you do not understand. I am sure you will have a much better presentation when you find no cause for doing so and can include that part as well.

To fully know and understand being and becoming:

A proof of rebirth is unnecessary. A disproof of rebirth is unnecessary. A long period of examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A momentary examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A long period of examination of being and becoming, in the moment, is sufficient.
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 Prasadachitta » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:21 pm

Hi Nathan,

That was a fun read. :jumping:

Thanks

Gabriel
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ben » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:30 pm

Thanks Nathan
Your perspective is one that I always welcome.
Metta

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:46 pm

I apologize if my suggestion that we do not need to meditate on rebirth and that it will not liberate us was offensive to those who have a practice concerned with rebirth, (likely those who follow other traditions) my comments were restricted to this tradition. I am not opposed to contemplating it or meditating on it at all. I meant to say it was not connected with the primary aims of followers or disciples in the limited sense we typically refer to in Theravada discussions. If we are required to exercise all of these sensitivities here then there is probably little use for a Theravada-ish bboard]


Oh dear, I wasn't offended in the least! It's not a sensitive subject. I was only trying to point out that relevance may vary by practitioner, only to widen the perspective a little. I was trying to help, sorry...

:anjali:

ps. I hadn't read your previous post nathan-there's so many rebirth posts going! Nothing I wrote was aimed at you.
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:57 pm

Different strokes for different folks, right?


lol i quite like that phrase :D


A long period of examination of being and becoming, in the moment, is sufficient.


:twothumbsup:

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:02 am

I made two typos in this post. Corrected in bold.

Individual wrote: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 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 pseudoscientific.
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:
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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?
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:11 am

Thanks for responding back to me and supporting your positions with quotes from the suttas in a very rational manner.

You make some very good and important points.

clw_uk wrote:Hi DarkDream

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


You say, "kamma can be instant in this life as well so no reason why it cant after physical death." Well for one thing kamma as I understand it is a primarily a psychological process associated with volition. The generation of kamma seems to be contingent upon an actual individual (specified by the Buddha as the five skhandas) without those in place how can it continue? Maybe the result or vipaka of kamma can exist after death, but how can kamma?

Maybe you could reference where you got this passage from. Unfortunately, I don't have the context from which theses statements were made. Just reading the passage seems to suggest in a later life, but it seems somewhat ambiguous with "here and now." To me that does not exclude some future date in the present life.

clw_uk wrote:
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


Good point. You are right, as the Buddha neither mentioned a finite or infinite amount of beings I can't exclude the infinite option. However, I do not think this detracts from my argument which points out that population explosions are totally contingent on beings dying enmasse from another world to allow for this to occur. This seems to to go against the common sense reason of population explosions that has to do with better health care, standard of living and so on.

clw_uk wrote: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 the Buddha taught a literal notion of rebirth in this present life, but I am not so sure if it goes back to the original Buddha himself that it actually continues after death.

clw_uk wrote: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.


What I am trying to say is that the term "punabhava" was most likely to have been a term the Buddha used. I think the proper understanding of the term is "becoming." You can read many of the suttas and substitute "rebirth" with "becoming" with a psychological connotation that works fine in lots of cases. However, I don't believe it makes sense in all suttas. In these, I contend were misunderstood, corrupted or made up.

clw_uk wrote: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.


I would argue that all heaven and hells are only in the mind. Sure it does not prove the non-existence of theses realms but I am very skeptical of their existence due to any lack of evidence and in all human soceities there has been the notions of heaven and hells which smacks somehow an extension of basic human psychology.

clw_uk wrote: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


Now this seems to be the whole key right here. Thanks for pointing out this sutta. It appears that all the five skhandas subside and go out. Therefore, the mental formations (which include consciousness) ceases (supporting one of my original points in the blog entry). Now can you point out to me a sutta which explicitly says that it is kamma and not consciousness or any other thing that "in some way conditions a new being"? This is the entire crux right here.

The whole point of my blog entries was exactly to examine the veracity of the idea of "kamma that in some way conditions a new being." I examined it to show the implausability of kamma somehow conditioning other beings to but the whole notion of literal rebirth after death in doubt.

But from the sutta you just described for me, I am even more doubtful that there can be any kamma that in some way continues. For me kamma (apart from the cosmological references) was described by the Buddha as a psychological process (volition) that seems to me to be a part of the "mental formations." Kamma to me has always been part of a process. By saying that kamma conditions a new being, how does that occur? Is kamma energy, a electro-magnetic wave, a thought?

It appears that by talking of kamma as being able to condition another human being you are inflating kamma from a process into some entity (sounds like a soul). If what you say is correct, then why does kamma not condition beings that are going to be born when we are alive? Why does this work *only* when we die? Can you answer me this question?

The reason kamma works when you are alive is that kamma is part of a mental process. Kamma can only exist contingent on a body that has all the five skhandas working. This I can see and verify. It seems to me fundamentally different the continuation of kamma to a different body than the same one that is working.

clw_uk wrote: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


If the really important thing "is enlightenment in this moment right here" then why do we need to even talk about rebirth after death. Does it not take a person away from looking here and now? I mean if we take what you say seriously couldn't Buddhism survive without belief in rebirth over many lifetimes?

Thanks for you answers, forgive me if I did not answer all of them but I only have a finite amount of time.

--DarkDream
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:53 am

Thanks for responding back and providing a reasoned response that shows that you've read my blog entries. I appreciate that.

nathan wrote:I have four main experiential kinds of reasons for my not having a model about rebirth which perhaps you can tackle with yours or some other.

1)Physical Death - I've tried it. For all practical intents and purposes consciousness continues to arise and cease without a living body.

2)The timescales in the mind apart from contact with the body can be almost meaningless in many ways.

3)Conscious contact with mind and form objects external to the body and internal contacts both inside the body and inside the mind that are not caused by this mind but another individuated beings mind.

4)Complete cessation of consciousness in a living body.


I am not trying to be demeaning but what do you mean by, "Physical Death - I've tried it. For all practical intents and purposes consciousness continues to arise and cease without a living body"? Maybe I am misunderstanding something, but are you saying that you have killed yourself and experienced the continuing of your consciousness without your dead body?


nathan wrote:
This from here:
http://www.mettanet.org/english/punabbhava.htm

Saccàni amma buddhavaradesitàni te bahutarà ajànantà
ye abhinandanti bhavagataü pihanti devesu upapattiü.
Devesu ' pi upapatti asassatà bhavagate aniccamhi
na ca santasanti bàlà punappunaü jàyitabbassa. Therãgàthà vv.454-5

Many, O mother, not understanding the teachings of the Noble Buddha, rejoice continuing in Samsàra. They aspire for birth in the heavenly worlds. Birth even in the heavenly worlds is impermanent, for it is still within the ever-changing samsàra. The foolish dread not at being born again again. [ Translated by the author ]


I read the interesting article you gave a link to and it is interesting how the author defines becoming as:

Bhava in Pali in our Buddhist context means " a being's continuance in samsàra through death and birth, over and over again."


Looking at the Pali English Dictionary you get:

Bhava [cp. Sk. bhava, as philosophical term late, but as N. of a deity Vedic; of bhū, see bhavati] "becoming," (form of) rebirth, (state of) existence, a "life."


If you notice the first definition is "becoming." While it may have a notion of rebirth I believe this obscures the important meaning behind the word.

In the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta the Buddha defines bhava in the second noble truth http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html:

And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming (ponobbhavikā) — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure (kama-tanha), craving for becoming(bhava-tanha), craving for non-becoming(vibhava-tanha).


Here "further becoming" is on a psychological basis and is not to be taken as a craving for further rebirth or literally being born again in a cosmological realm. The Buddha is saying that people suffer because they crave becoming something or in a certain way. It is a fundamental truth that human beings want to stand out or continue to be so they can justify and feel their existence. It is a craving in a sense of being permanent.

nathan wrote:To fully know and understand being and becoming:

A proof of rebirth is unnecessary. A disproof of rebirth is unnecessary. A long period of examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A momentary examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A long period of examination of being and becoming, in the moment, is sufficient.


If like you say, "A long period of examination of being and becoming, in the moment, is sufficient," then why do we need all the talk about literally being reborn in the future and so on if the "moment, is sufficient?" By believing in a literal rebirth in the future, does that not take our focus away from the examination of the moment in this life?

Thanks,

--DarkDream
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:20 am

Two monks were arguing. One maintained that it was vital to believe in rebirth to be a Buddhist, the other maintained that it was unnecessary, that one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment.

The first went and asked the abbot whether it was essential to believe in rebirth. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.” The second went to the abbot and asked whether one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.”

The monks argued again, each saying that the abbot had told him he was right. So they went in together, and each said to the abbot, “You said I was right. We can't both be right.” The abbot thought for a while, and then replied, “Yes, you are right!”
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:35 am

DD:
By believing in a literal rebirth in the future, does that not take our focus away from the examination of the moment in this life?


Not that I have noticed.
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 kc2dpt » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:28 pm

tiltbillings wrote:DD:
By believing in a literal rebirth in the future, does that not take our focus away from the examination of the moment in this life?


Not that I have noticed.

This pretty much sums up this entire thread.

A terrible way to broach the subject: Start by assuming the teachings are wrong and proceed from there.
"The teachings on rebirth are flawed because they inevitably lead away the present moment."

A better way to broach the subject: Ask a question.
"Do you find the teachings on rebirth lead away the present moment?"

A still better way: Start by assuming there is something wrong with your own understanding and proceed from there.
"I find the teachings on rebirth lead me away from the present moment. What am I doing wrong or understanding wrong?"
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:29 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Two monks were arguing. One maintained that it was vital to believe in rebirth to be a Buddhist, the other maintained that it was unnecessary, that one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment.

The first went and asked the abbot whether it was essential to believe in rebirth. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.” The second went to the abbot and asked whether one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.”

The monks argued again, each saying that the abbot had told him he was right. So they went in together, and each said to the abbot, “You said I was right. We can't both be right.” The abbot thought for a while, and then replied, “Yes, you are right!”

:clap:
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:47 pm

Peter wrote:A terrible way to broach the subject: Start by assuming the teachings are wrong and proceed from there.
"The teachings on rebirth are flawed because they inevitably lead away the present moment."

A better way to broach the subject: Ask a question.
"Do you find the teachings on rebirth lead away the present moment?"

A still better way: Start by assuming there is something wrong with your own understanding and proceed from there.
"I find the teachings on rebirth lead me away from the present moment. What am I doing wrong or understanding wrong?"


Well said Peter.

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