the great rebirth debate

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:24 pm

PeterB wrote:In the absence of an argument they occasionally argue against themselves, taking the opposite view to the view they espoused three weeks before.


Hi Peter,

I'm probably guilty as charged, so let me say a few words in defense of this practice.

Sometimes, in the course of trying to gain a better understanding of an issue, it can be helpful to explore each side of a position, testing its strengths and drawbacks. Having someone at hand who can argue a contrasting position and point out the problems with one's own can also be very beneficial -- again, if the goal is to try and improve one's understanding. Not so much if the desire is to find an echo chamber for one's preconceptions.

Not being enlightened Buddhas, each of us really can only claim to have a partial view. As long as that is the case, dialectic is necessary and even healthy. An outside reader who comes to these threads on hells and rebirth and vegetarianism and what not will be able to survey the various positions offered and perhaps draw his or her own conclusions.

There is also the question of whether a position that has been proposed is logically sound, or has sufficient supporting evidence. That's not really a matter of "vehemence" or "argumentativeness" or other emotional disposition, but rather of objectively identifiable fallacies. In the same way, one is not being vehement or argumentative by pointing out, for instance, that the Tower of Pisa is at an angle.

If someone puts forward a claim such as "belief in literal hells makes people more inclined to be wholesome" or "literal rebirth must be true because it is needed in order to explain child prodigies and disabilties at birth", then it's a natural part of the critical thinking process to ask the person to support those claims. Buddhist forums are indeed places to learn -- but critical thinking and discussion are not in conflict with the learning process; rather they go hand in hand. Actually it is when we resort to declarations by fiat that the learning process is halted.

Off soapbox now...sorry...
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:25 pm

Alex123 wrote:
PeterB wrote:Au contraire..
As Ajahn Buddhadasa has pointed out clearly and repeatedly , if we put the Three Lives Model to one side a whole series of meanings start to leap out of the Suttas that are obscured by a semi Hindu model. In a very real sense the dissolution of the body and its rebirth happen with every breath.



Maybe it is the Hindu model that took Buddha's teaching and made their own teaching?

Why limit D.O. only to one model such as momentary? I believe it can be used for 3-1 lifetimes, momentary,, and structural.

It doesn't refute Rebirth. It depends on it. For why end suffering if we are going to be done with it even if we don't do anything and die? Hitler and Mother Theresa would equally achieve parinibbana... With one life 99.999% of dukkha is already gone...


The Buddha clearly explained what He meant by Body:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&start=2300#p143597

It is denial to assume that He meant something else by the word body, unless he redefined the term.




"[9] "He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Please note how the Body is defined in that sutta. There is absolutely no hint that it was any other body than the one that can walk, stand, sit, lie, decompose in the cemetery, is made of bodyparts (31 are listed for contemplation), and is made of 4 elements (earth, water, fire, air).

A very good example of the poetic in action.
The body is of course NOT made of 4 elements ( earth, water, fire and air ).
The Buddha may or may not ( probably not ) have known the reality, but he was communicating with those who certainly did not know the reality of our physiology, and did have a modifiable belief in Reincarnation.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:27 pm

I dont know if this helps or hinders Lazy eye, but i didnt have you in mind.
I find you very undogmatic..
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:44 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Discourse on Viewpoints
Discourse on The World


What these suttas deny is the false idea of metaphysical Atta that transmigrates. Buddha has not taught this, and so He denies it. The selfless process of 5 aggregates that continues after death for non-Arahants does exist. It just should not be mistaken for Atta that transmigrates. It is just the selfless process that flows. But it doesn't abruptly change at death.

"Bhikkhus, the five characteristics exist right there, although for the learned noble disciple; ignorance has been abandoned and knowledge has arisen. Therefore with the fading away of ignorance and the arising of knowledge; thus it does not occur to him ‘I am’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I am this’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I exist’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall not exist’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall be composed of materiality’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall not be composed of materiality’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall be composed of sense-awareness’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall not be composed of sense-awareness’, thus it does not occur to him ‘I shall consist of neither sense-awareness nor not of sense-awareness’. "

it doesn't deny rebirth. It denies the idea of metaphysical Atta that transmigrates.

So all these quotes deny the metaphysical Atta that transmigrate, not rebirth of impersonal process.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:47 pm

PeterB wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
PeterB wrote:Au contraire..
As Ajahn Buddhadasa has pointed out clearly and repeatedly , if we put the Three Lives Model to one side a whole series of meanings start to leap out of the Suttas that are obscured by a semi Hindu model. In a very real sense the dissolution of the body and its rebirth happen with every breath.



Maybe it is the Hindu model that took Buddha's teaching and made their own teaching?

Why limit D.O. only to one model such as momentary? I believe it can be used for 3-1 lifetimes, momentary,, and structural.

It doesn't refute Rebirth. It depends on it. For why end suffering if we are going to be done with it even if we don't do anything and die? Hitler and Mother Theresa would equally achieve parinibbana... With one life 99.999% of dukkha is already gone...


The Buddha clearly explained what He meant by Body:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&start=2300#p143597

It is denial to assume that He meant something else by the word body, unless he redefined the term.




"[9] "He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Please note how the Body is defined in that sutta. There is absolutely no hint that it was any other body than the one that can walk, stand, sit, lie, decompose in the cemetery, is made of bodyparts (31 are listed for contemplation), and is made of 4 elements (earth, water, fire, air).

A very good example of the poetic in action.
The body is of course NOT made of 4 elements ( earth, water, fire and air ).
The Buddha may or may not ( probably not ) have known the reality, but he was communicating with those who certainly did not know the reality of our physiology, and did have a modifiable belief in Reincarnation.



The Body is made of 4 elements. All solid (flesh, bones, etc) parts are earth, all liquid parts (blood, urine) are water, all heat is fire and internal air (oxygen, CO2, etc) is air element.

Furthermore, as I've said, the Buddha has stated that this body can walk, stand, sit, lie, decompose in the cemetery, is made of bodyparts (31 are listed for contemplation) and can live up to 100 years or more:

"Because this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So much for the body being a momentary mental state that can arise many times in a day.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:03 pm

It is a momentary structure that arises and passes away from moment to moment and in the case of any given individual this process can occur from moment to moment for a hundred years. :smile:
This is true both at the atomic level, and at the psychological level.

As I said I have no wish to convert anyone to my view.
I think its worth putting on record the fact that there are a number of interpretations..
And to once more direct those interested to the work of Ajahn Buddhadasa, To my mind the greatest Theravadin thinker of our age.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:18 pm

PeterB wrote:It is a momentary structure that arises and passes away from moment to moment and in the case of any given individual this process can occur from moment to moment for a hundred years. :smile:
This is true both at the atomic level, and at the psychological level.



"Because this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more."

The Buddha talked about on body that can last for hundred years or more. And where does anyone can get Buddha's definition of body being something other than literal body, that dies? And then there is rebirth.

""[9] "He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Please explain how the above passage can be taken in any other way than Buddha talking about rebirth?


One can doubt rebirth, sure. I just do not agree with projecting this doubt onto Buddha's teaching and changing it so that the Buddha would appear to say something other than what He has said.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:36 pm

Of course it is a literal body that dies...no one is putting forward another hypothesis that i am aware of.

I refer you to the body of work of Ajahn Buddhadasa...and withdraw.


I have no mission or agenda. Apart from pointing to the alternatives to the Three Lifetimes model.

:anjali:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:41 pm

PeterB wrote:Of course it is a literal body that dies...no one is putting forward another hypothesis that i am aware of.


And then, it doesn't end with the death of this body. Rebirth occurs:

"with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in "


PeterB wrote: Apart from pointing to the alternatives to the Three Lifetimes model.


I don't reject momentary DO interpretation of some factors. There is just no sutta evidence presented to show us that the Buddha rejected rebirth of a process conventionally called "such and such a person". The Buddha just rejects the idea of metaphysical Atta that is reborn.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:47 pm

Alex...which part of " I refer you to the body of work of Ajahn Buddhdasa and withdraw " do you not understand..? ;)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:05 pm

I consider rebirth to be a special case of idappaccayatā, but it's rather pointless to insist on a special case in preference to the principle - rather, preference ought to be placed on seeing it for oneself, not accepting it as dogma. Therefore, meditation and the Noble Eightfold Path are proper foci, not rebirth doctrines and metaphysical realms beyond the ken of (nearly?) all of humanity. The Four Noble Truths can be explained to the most strident skeptic with benefit, but when rebirth is taken to be an essential explanatory tool the Dhamma becomes obscured, and it is for this reason alone that I seek to make this point:

Much is made of rebirth in the Sutta milieu, and rightly so given that this was the prevailing norm. Rebirth according to the Dhamma is the matrix within which the Buddha recast proto-Hindu karma according to his soteriological purpose. Rebirth may obtain, or it may not obtain, in the way in which one thinks. The point is not getting rebirth view right, the point is getting right view (& right intention, and so forth). Indeed, the Sammaditthi Sutta offers a number of ways of understanding sammaditthi without any recourse to rebirth at all.

Wholesome and unwholesome are defined according to whether or not an action of body, speech, or mind is conducive to liberation - not whether or not such action is conducive to rebirth.

"Upali, the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities do not lead to utter disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, nor to Unbinding': You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

"As for the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to utter disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding': You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'"


It is just as in this case:

"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.

"'If evil is done through acting, still I have willed no evil for anyone. Having done no evil action, from where will suffering touch me?' This is the third assurance he acquires.

"'But if no evil is done through acting, then I can assume myself pure in both respects.' This is the fourth assurance he acquires.


Disciples of the Buddha acquire assurance grounded not in knowledge of past and future states, but grounded in what can be observed here and now.

"Whenever you want to do a bodily action... While you are doing a bodily action... Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful mental qualities."


A view on rebirth is not required for practice. A view on rebirth is not required to explain Dhamma.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:39 pm

PeterB wrote:Alex...which part of " I refer you to the body of work of Ajahn Buddhdasa and withdraw " do you not understand..? ;)


Are we talking about Buddha's teaching on Rebirth, or Ajahn Buddhdasa's?

The Buddha was clear. Оne may have his/her own beliefs. But when there is a difference, don't mix your or Ajahn Buddhdasa's idea with what the Buddha has taught .
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:13 pm

Alex123 wrote:
PeterB wrote:Alex...which part of " I refer you to the body of work of Ajahn Buddhdasa and withdraw " do you not understand..? ;)


Are we talking about Buddha's teaching on Rebirth, or Ajahn Buddhdasa's?

The Buddha was clear. Оne may have his/her own beliefs. But when there is a difference, don't mix your or Ajahn Buddhdasa's idea with what the Buddha has taught .


To be fair, the texts were clear.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:16 pm

Perhaps rebirth as dogma is an internet thing where the fundaloonies come out of the .html woodwork like orcs in the Mines of Moria.

I haven’t read all 118 pages of this mosaic, but I can only imagine that this impasse has occurred here before. What has perplexed me over the years in these forum ‘rooms’ is that whenever this topic comes up and a rebirth-agnostic with present-life DO analysis position is offered, the fundaloonie takes it as his/her mission to refute it as though it was a heretical misrepresentation of the Buddha, or it is a claim that the Buddha never taught it, or that it was presented as the only way to interpret the matter; all of this coming from a position which carries none of that baggage.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:19 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:To be fair, the texts were clear.


Ok, good that you accept that texts were clear... about rebirth. Personally one can hold whatever one wants, just don't mix one's beliefs with what the texts say.


It would be good if there was only one life. Existence is dukkha and the quicker it ends, the quicker the better. One life would be awesome... Total pеаce after this misery.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:41 pm

Alex123 wrote:One life would be awesome... Total piece after this misery.


Peace, or piece (of cake)?

Inherent contradiction, either way. One life would be awesome if it wasn't dukkha, or as you say "this misery". Multiple lives of dukkha, one life of dukkha - it's dukkha, is what it is, however it's sliced. What's so awesome about the Buddha is that he taught the Dhamma for the cessation of dukkha, and did so such that speculation on things not verified by oneself is not required fare, as I have showcased in quotes from these texts we agree on.

"Without rebirth, there's no reason to practice" is the same sort of ridiculousness as "Without God, we'd all be immoral beasts". It's a sloppy non sequitur.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:42 pm

Alex123 wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:To be fair, the texts were clear.


Ok, good that you accept that texts were clear... about rebirth. Personally one can hold whatever one wants, just don't mix one's beliefs with what the texts say.


It would be good if there was only one life. Existence is dukkha and the quicker it ends, the quicker the better. One life would be awesome... Total piece after this misery.


Are you able to hear any point of view other than your own?
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby santa100 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:12 pm

AncientBuddhism wrote:
Are you able to hear any point of view other than your own?


Sure he did:

Alex123 wrote:
I don't reject momentary DO interpretation of some factors.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:04 pm

daverupa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:One life would be awesome... Total piece after this misery.

Peace, or piece (of cake)?


Peace. I made a typo.

daverupa wrote:Inherent contradiction, either way. One life would be awesome if it wasn't dukkha, or as you say "this misery".


The awesomeness was that the dukkha would then be limited to one life rather than to trillions of even endless amount of them. I've never denied dukkha of this miserable life of this sack of urine & excrement conventionally called "Alex".

daverupa wrote: What's so awesome about the Buddha is that he taught the Dhamma for the cessation of dukkha,
...
"Without rebirth, there's no reason to practice" is the same sort of ridiculousness as "Without God, we'd all be immoral beasts". It's a sloppy non sequitur.


Without rebirth, If there is one life only, I could commit suicide and be done with Dukkha once and for all. No need for years or decades of hard work (that may not pay off that much either. How many people now have become Arahants within one life?). However within multiple lifetimes, suicide would not work unless one could become an Arahant at the moment of death, which is risky. Suicide would be a shortcut to parinibbāna if there was only one life.
Rebirth is the reason why suicide is not a shortcut to parinibbāna.

With best wishes,
Alex
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:21 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Perhaps rebirth as dogma is an internet thing where the fundaloonies come out of the .html woodwork like orcs in the Mines of Moria.

Some would say that no one comes out of the woodwork with anti-rebirth dogma out in the real world of Dhamma practice... :tongue:
ancientbuddhism wrote:I haven’t read all 118 pages of this mosaic, but I can only imagine that this impasse has occurred here before. What has perplexed me over the years in these forum ‘rooms’ is that whenever this topic comes up and a rebirth-agnostic with present-life DO analysis position is offered, the fundaloonie takes it as his/her mission to refute it as though it was a heretical misrepresentation of the Buddha, or it is a claim that the Buddha never taught it, or that it was presented as the only way to interpret the matter; all of this coming from a position which carries none of that baggage.

Both many-lives and present-life arisings abound in the suttas, abhidhamma, and commentary. I don't see it as an either-or thing. Ven Nanananda's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katukurund ... anda_Thera nibbana sermons argue strongly for a single-life interpretation of DO, but he also talks clearly about rebirth. And, in fact, I've pointed out before in this thread that Ajahn Buddhadasa seems to me to do the same (not deny rebirth, just deny that DO involves rebirth).

Ven Thanissaro describes his interpretation this way:
To begin with, the causal principle underlying the processes of
dependent co-arising is a complex principle, allowing for feedback loops to
develop, to interact persistently, and to intersect on different time scales. The
principle is this: ...

e.g. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... fering.pdf

For many things in the Tipitika and commentaries, the interesting question is not so much "what does it say?" as "how should be take it?". As Peter says, "poetic" (I prefer the term "mythic") does not mean "wrong". The Buddha teaches a "first person discourse" (the "all" is "all that can be experienced"). It is possible to argue (as Ven Nanananda does) that the aggregates themselves involve deluded concepts. Even if one does not want to go that far, certainly it's concepts/papanca that leads to the delusion of self and how we perceive "the world".

So our "reality" is, at least to some extent, created by our delusions and these questions about what is "true" are interesting, difficult and complex. And will not be satisfactorily settled by dogmatic statements that it has to be like this or like that...

:anjali:
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