the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:54 pm

mal4mac wrote:I'm not sure if life is only dukkha
Death comes soon enough, anyway. I'm sure of that..


Then why not pursue sukkha as much as possible while you still can?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:56 pm

Alex123 wrote:
nowheat wrote:Because this one (myself) who neither believes nor disbelieves in rebirth disagrees that life is only dukkha.


Then why follow Dhamma?

Because it is the dhamma that tells me that all life is not dukkha; because the dhamma tells me that this life is precious and how I can take better care of this life I certainly do have, that I can do something with this life that makes it better not just for me but for all the lives mine touches; the dhamma tells me that this is worth doing. And I can see all that for myself -- I agree with the dhamma that life is not all suffering, that it is precious -- but I follow it because it shows me so much I can do to make this precious life better not just for me but for those whose lives mine touches. And I'm thankful for it.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:21 pm

mal4mac wrote:Even if he did teach rebirth, shouldn't we avoid clinging to views on rebirth? In meditation we might think "there is rebirth!" and then shouldn't we "let go" of that thought? So does it matter at all whether we believe in rebirth or not?


The way you asked that question makes it tough for me to answer because if I simply answer your questions -- yes, it does matter whether we believe in it or not; yes, we should avoid clinging to views on rebirth -- that comes out sounding like I'm contradicting myself. But it's because we should avoid clinging to views that is the reason it matters whether we believe in rebirth or not.

That last phrase "whether we believe in rebirth or not" makes it sound like there are two options but there are at least three: (1) believe in rebirth (2) believe there is no rebirth (3) or neither of the above.

mal4mac wrote:Is it really that clear? Batchelor hasn't convinced many people about this. What extra arguments do you bring to the party that might lead to added clarity?

It is really that clear to me, yes, but I haven't gotten the whole of my understanding, or the whole of my reason for understanding it the way I do, out where others can see it -- most of it is still only in drafts on my laptop -- but I have gotten the most central piece of it out, in the form of a published paper, which was linked to in another topic on this forum:

viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3167&start=60#p193392

It details the hypothesis that the structure of dependent arising (DA) is (well, okay, this is how I'd put it for the purposes of this discussion, not exactly how I put it in the paper) based on the Vedic notion of three lives: physical birth (once-born), indoctrination into the Vedas/naming ceremony (twice-born), and birth into the after-life (thrice-born). I don't use the paper to say "The Buddha wasn't teaching literal rebirth" because that would not have been appropriate, but I will say here that this is my understanding of what he was doing: the Buddha used a familiar structure (Vedic life and worldview) to simultaneously describe what they thought was going on, and to deny the accuracy of it, and to point out what they should actually be studying rather than the Vedas.

I'm working on a paper about what looks like a very old sutta in the Sutta Nipata that has dependent arising not couched in the same terms as the classic 12-link DA -- not couched in terms of rebirth -- but still containing the same basic structure. I get that many of the secular scholars out there think that someone took that original DA and later came along and "Brahmanized" it, and I can understand why they would think that way, but they haven't really seen or understood the subtlety and pure elegance of what the Buddha did with the Vedic 3-births and his use of DA or they'd recognize that this isn't the half-assed work of some later disciple but the pure genius of the man himself. (I need to do a better job than I am of conveying it; mea culpa.) I think they may well be right as far as this: there was an early DA that didn't use rebirth as a model, but it was not long before he developed the model and then he used it consistently because it was the perfect structure to say what he wanted to say, in the style of the day, to the folks he was speaking to; that it actually allowed him to speak on the dual level that was the most useful in his times.

So in answer to the question "What extra arguments do you bring to the party that might lead to added clarity?" this is it: that all throughout the Buddha's discussions when he refers to rebirth, it is DA he is referring to (not DA as modern Buddhists think of it), and that his speaking style (mentioned in my just-earlier posts in this thread) supports this, that if we understand both his style and what structure he was using in DA, what he's saying becomes clear: holding onto views of any kind* is detrimental to our well-being.

I am trying, here, to work out ways to explain what I'm seeing -- and am wanting anyone who can see a flaw in my logic to point it out. I don't need anyone to tell me there is another way to see it -- I understand the Theravadan way of seeing all this -- I'm not seriously suggesting that anyone who is entirely happy with that way of seeing it give it up. But I am saying that for anyone who isn't sure, you might want to take a look because there is another way of seeing it that isn't a piecemeal method of "I kinda sorta think the Buddha was being metaphorical" but a really solid paradigm. At least I think it is. Unless someone here can show me a fatal flaw.

* re: views, to Alex's point:
Alex123 wrote:There is a difference between holding a view and not. What is wrong in having a reasoned opinion?

Just so. But there is a difference between "having a reasoned opinion" and "clinging to a view". We need opinions -- theories -- about how the world works in order to make choices (stop at the stoplight or run it?) but whether they are integral to "self" is the issue. When I talk about "views" I am talking about things we cling to as part of self, not opinions and theories simply used to guide us through life and easily revised on new evidence.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:27 pm

nowheat wrote:I was stating that there is a theoretical goal post for all of us: to practice in the way, and with the understanding he intended, with the outcome he was suggesting. That goal post remains the same regardless of any individual's opinion on what the Buddha meant.


Having spent days discussing the difference between Thanissaro's and Bodhi's translation of one line of the Pali canon, and still not knowing which is the right translation, I don't hold out any hope of determining "the understanding he intended".

So the "theoretical goal post" you have is not mine! The approach I'm considering is to take a respected teacher as defining the "theoretical goal post", living with it, in depth, and then trying another if it comes up short. For instance, I might start with Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught". Then, to paraphrase you, "I will practice in Rahula's way, with the understanding Rahula intended, with the outcome he was suggesting".

Where our opinions on his intention comes into it is in the relationship of each individual's actual practice and understanding, to the theoretical ideal that the Buddha intended...


The "theoretical ideal that the Buddha intended" is something that we can never know. You can talk about Rahula's conjecture of the theoretical ideal, or Bodhi's, or Thanissaro's, but you *cannot* talk about the Buddha's theoretical ideal, because it is hidden from us forever, behind a veil of silence, because he didn't write anything down!
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:34 pm

Alex123 wrote:
mal4mac wrote:I'm not sure if life is only dukkha
Death comes soon enough, anyway. I'm sure of that..


Then why not pursue sukkha as much as possible while you still can?


Because I'm finding that a simple life of philosophy, virtue, and meditation leads to deeper happiness. I'm not going to pursue worldly pleasures because Buddha (and the Greek philosophers...) have shown me better, more fruitful, happier things to do... Read Epicurus to see a "one life" appreciation of these matters
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:52 pm

Alex123 wrote:There is a difference between holding a view and not. What is wrong in having a reasoned opinion?

Issue of rebirth is crucial.

If life is ultimately only dukkha, and escape from it is not to be reborn, then why not suicide? Instant parinibbana!

If there is rebirth, then suicide of course is NOT the answer.



Unless we see it as not being born into ideas ...
“ 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: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:06 pm

Also killing your self for oblivion would be craving not to be, as well as craving to be. All stemming from contact between mind and thoughts (in this case about death) and the resultant feeling born from that contact


All of which is happening in the present moment, as is the escape from it :)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:14 pm

The Buddha saw that whatever the mind gives rise to are just transitory, conditioned phenomena, which are really empty. When this dawned on him, he let go, gave up, and found an end to suffering. You too must understand these matters according to the truth. When you know things as they are, you will see that these elements of mind are a deception, in keeping with. the Buddha's teaching that this mind has nothing, does not arise, is not born, and does not die with anyone. It is free, shining, resplendent, with nothing to occupy it. The mind becomes occupied only because it misunderstands and is deluded by these conditioned phenomena, this false sense of self.

Therefore, the Buddha had us look at our minds. What exists in the beginning? Truly, not anything. This emptiness does not arise and die with phenomena. When it contacts something good, it does not become good; when it contacts something bad, it does not become bad. The pure mind knows these objects clearly, knows that they are not substantial.



http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Ajahn ... 0Teachings




If you consciously notice this awareness, and appreciate it, you move more towards being nobody, towards not knowing anything at all, rather than being someone who knows everything about everything, and having all the answers to all the questions, and knowing the solutions to every problem. To be nobody knowing nothing is scary, isn't it? But this attitude helps to direct us, because there is a strong desire in us to become, to attain and achieve. Even with the best of intentions, if that kind of desire is not recognised, it will always control you, whether it is the desire to become something, the desire to control things, or the desire to get rid of annoying things or bad thoughts or irritations around you. So trust in this awareness, this openness, this receptivity, attention, listening. And question the personality. For instance, I bring up my own personality, 'I'm Ajahn Sumedho. These are my robes, and these are my spectacles.


...

No matter how intimidated you are by your thinking, trust in the awareness of it and not in the judging of it. You don't need to get rid of it, but recognise: thinking is like this, views, opinions, attachment to views and opinions are like this. Then you'll begin to see what attachment is as a reality, as a habit that we've developed. And you'll see personality, when it arises and when it ceases, when there's attachment to it and when there's non-attachment.



http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Ajahn ... nality.htm


We can see this in our thoughts and views, they change all the time. They can't be sustained and so they are anicca, dukkha and anatta

So we should just observe them as they rise and fall, but let them go

You yourself have demonstrated how views change (and so should be let go of) with your initial view of radical faith and acceptance of rebirth, to scepticism

Just like I have :)
Last edited by clw_uk on Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:44 pm

clw_uk wrote:Also killing your self for oblivion would be craving not to be, as well as craving to be.


if there is only one life, Who cares if suicide is immoral, craving, etc, if it leads to parinibbana?

Dying with craving matters only if there is going to be rebirth after death.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:48 pm

Alex123 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Also killing your self for oblivion would be craving not to be, as well as craving to be.


if there is only one life, Who cares if suicide is immoral, craving, etc, if it leads to parinibbana?

Dying with craving matters only if there is going to be rebirth after death.



Which is a view/opinion/thought that arises and creases in the present moment :)


That thought is not you
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:52 pm

clw_uk wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Also killing your self for oblivion would be craving not to be, as well as craving to be.


if there is only one life, Who cares if suicide is immoral, craving, etc, if it leads to parinibbana?

Dying with craving matters only if there is going to be rebirth after death.


Which is a view/opinion/thought that arises and creases in the present moment :)


What is the point of saying:
"Which is a view/opinion/thought that arises and creases in the present moment" or
"Also killing your self for oblivion would be craving not to be, as well as craving to be."?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:56 pm

Because they both point to things arising in the present moment, which are not-self and dukkha if held to (because they change)

As I said, views and opinions can't be sustained, they change and so are dukkha and not-self

Freedom is found in observing their rise and fall, without chasing after them
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:43 am

clw_uk wrote:

As I said, views and opinions can't be sustained, they change and so are dukkha and not-self

Freedom is found in observing their rise and fall, without chasing after them


I think that in one way or another, we all tend to express our views and opinions on the internet.

Craig, I highly recommend this talk from Ajahn Sumedho, which I went to at Amaravati Monastery before he retired :

"Who Needs Enlightenment When I Have My Opinions"

http://forestsanghapublications.org/viewTalk.php?id=639

with metta,

Aloka :)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:28 am

Thanks :)



:focus:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:59 pm

mal4mac wrote:
nowheat wrote:I was stating that there is a theoretical goal post for all of us: to practice in the way, and with the understanding he intended, with the outcome he was suggesting. That goal post remains the same regardless of any individual's opinion on what the Buddha meant.

Having spent days discussing the difference between Thanissaro's and Bodhi's translation of one line of the Pali canon, and still not knowing which is the right translation, I don't hold out any hope of determining "the understanding he intended".

So the "theoretical goal post" you have is not mine!

I'm not sure if you're not understanding what I'm saying, or what but... I'll just set this aside.

The approach I'm considering is to take a respected teacher as defining the "theoretical goal post", living with it, in depth, and then trying another if it comes up short. For instance, I might start with Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught". Then, to paraphrase you, "I will practice in Rahula's way, with the understanding Rahula intended, with the outcome he was suggesting".

The "theoretical ideal that the Buddha intended" is something that we can never know. You can talk about Rahula's conjecture of the theoretical ideal, or Bodhi's, or Thanissaro's, but you *cannot* talk about the Buddha's theoretical ideal, because it is hidden from us forever, behind a veil of silence, because he didn't write anything down!

To paraphrase Alex, <begin rhetorical question> then why follow the dhamma at all? If the Pali canon is not worth dealing with -- if it makes no sense to you or is dismissable because it came from an oral tradition rather than being in writing -- what makes it Buddhism at all to you? If what we have of what the Buddha said is useless to you, you're not following the Buddha, right? you're following Buddhists?<end rhetorical question>

I guess you aren't the right person for me to be having this discussion with, though, if the Pali canon is, in your view, not worth studying, since I strongly disagree with that position, and the canon is where I am starting from. More power to you and good wishes on your journey, though.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:01 pm

Anyone else find any holes in the hypothesis that the Buddha's dependent arising was based on Vedic three births, and that just about all his discussion of rebirth pointed to that structure and that lesson?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:13 pm

nowheat wrote:To paraphrase Alex, <begin rhetorical question> then why follow the dhamma at all? If the Pali canon is not worth dealing with -- if it makes no sense to you or is dismissable because it came from an oral tradition rather than being in writing -- what makes it Buddhism at all to you? If what we have of what the Buddha said is useless to you, you're not following the Buddha, right? you're following Buddhists?<end rhetorical question>


I'd like to clarify. If you are able to bliss out in meditation, then do it! Even if there is only one life, from cradle - to grave, blissing out is its own reward.

However, what if someone takes on unpleasant practices for some future goal that may not even exist? This is why certain questions are not merely speculative metaphysics but are very important in practical sense.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:55 am

nowheat wrote:Anyone else find any holes in the hypothesis that the Buddha's dependent arising was based on Vedic three births, and that just about all his discussion of rebirth pointed to that structure and that lesson?

:namaste:



Hi. Re the Vedic 3 births model, might you be thinking about the one in the Aitareya Upanisad? If so, you do know that there's some controversy over the dating of that section pertaining to the 3 births.

I'm still ruminating your previous post on p.197 -

The problem here is that I've only just barely touched on how the Buddha uses the "where? in this field!" structure, and the parallels from one to the next are not exact. Perhaps a quick run-down would help:

* ignorance -> out of all forms of ignorance [<- the field/where] we're talking ignorance of the four noble truths [<- the what]
* sankhara (as "drives") -> where: out of all kinds of drives (which would include "the will to live" and procreation); what: the drive to have a self* and know it
* consciousness -> where: all forms of consciousness; what: the consciousness that is driven to create and know that self and its relationship to the world here-and-now and the afterlife/cosmic order
* name-and-form-> where: through our apparent individuality (of body and mind); what: our tendency to give name to form and define form by name, and relate these definitions to the self that consciousness is seeking
* six senses -> where: the use of our six senses; what: the senses seeking information that tells us about (our over-the-top, uber-defining) self and its relationship to the world
* contact -> where: all contact with the world and ideas; what: contact that supports our definitions of self-and-world
* feeling -> where: all experiences, pleasant, unpleasant, neutral; what: feelings that are generated when we experience contact that fulfills our need to know about the (over-the-top*) self and the world
* craving -> where: all forms of craving; what: craving to have and know the self*
* clinging -> where: all forms of clinging; what: clinging to concepts of self, concepts around self, concepts that support our existing sense of self
* becoming -> where: transitions from one "form" to another, whether mental or physical or spiritual or any combination of the above, built around conceptions of self-and-the-world; what: the way the "self" we have "built/perfected" through all that went before comes to hang together
* birth -> where: our appearance in the world; what: the portion of our appearance in which the self that we have built becomes visible in the world and takes part in life in ways that will generate suffering (the anger, ill will, delusion)
* aging-and-death -> where: all experiences of impermanence; what: the ways in which we relate to impermanence that result in suffering.


I still cannot figure out the distinction and meaning you ascribe to the "field" and the "what". Could you perhaps indulge me and explain how you understand your model fitting in with the grammatical construction of idappaccayatā that underlies this order of DA?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:54 am

Sylvester wrote:Hi. Re the Vedic 3 births model, might you be thinking about the one in the Aitareya Upanisad? If so, you do know that there's some controversy over the dating of that section pertaining to the 3 births.

I don't see the structure the Buddha used as being tied to any one school of Vedic or Brahminical thinking, really. It seems clear it was a way of looking at the world that evolved slowly over time, and at any given moment -- certainly in the Buddha's time as we find it in the Pali canon -- there were many different approaches taken to cosmology, and many different threads being woven. Anyway, I'm not actually applying something I've read outside the canon to the Buddha's teaching, I'm seeing what's in the canon and noticing how well it fits with the general themes that were being explored at the time.

I still cannot figure out the distinction and meaning you ascribe to the "field" and the "what". Could you perhaps indulge me and explain how you understand your model fitting in with the grammatical construction of idappaccayatā that underlies this order of DA?

I don't think it has a whole lot to do with grammatical construction, to be honest, I think it has to do with a different expectation about what kind of answer you are going to get when you ask the question "What do you mean by x?" though I have seen questions framed in the early sutta I am studying just now explicitly using "where" instead of "what" -- I wouldn't venture an opinion as to why there is a difference in styles between the big books of the Pali canon and something like the Sutta Nipata -- late and early? different paths through different hands? different styles of language for different regions?

Anyway, I can definitely understand why you're having a hard time understanding what I'm trying to convey. First off, I'm not great at explaining it and, second, it's a way of thinking about things that is foreign to our way of framing it -- at least as weird as it seemed to me when I first learned Spanish and everything had gender (how strange that seemed!) and I'm sure that it not being native to me causes me to miss nuance. But this is a way of answering a question that is so at odds with what we do that it is no wonder to me that it has obscured what's being said for so long. And it being almost like word-play -- start by defining what everybody means when they say x but also mean it, too, just in a different way -- makes it ripe for literalists to misunderstand. Especially as we got further in time from that style of speaking.

All I am saying about "the field" and "what" vs "where" is that for example when the Buddha gives us a lesson explaining what it is about "nutriment for the existence of beings" that's a problem, and he starts with food -- it's pretty clear he's not saying we have to give up food entirely, but he *is* suggesting that we get completely rid of the other nutriments he names. This is because he starts by defining something that is, simultaneously, what we all think of when we are told there's going to be a talk on x (in this case, nutriment: oh! food!) and (simultaneously) he's saying that food is required for what he's describing happening to happen -- that's his little twist on it because food *does* play a part, it's just the background, though, not what we're actually concerned with. If we stop eating altogether there is definitely no self, no beings, no dukkha -- but then we'd die. Food is the broadest category of nutriment required for what's going to happen to happen, but he's not talking about literal food because he wants us to stop eating. He's just (1) giving the broad definition and (2) pointing out that it is required -- have to have a life for anything to happen at all. Only then does he go on to name the things that should really concern us, the things that are nutriment-like that can be used to make dukkha (because we also eat food). It is actually a really clever structure, subtle, beautiful in the way all the pieces fit.

The same thing happens with the whole structure of DA, but it's easier to see it with certain examples. For example "birth" -- it's almost the same situation as "nutriment" being defined as food. He gives the obvious definition of birth -- what everyone knows birth is. And that obvious definition says the same exact thing as "food" in "nutriment": must have a life for any of the things he's describing going wrong to go wrong. Clearly, the field in which dukkha can grow begins with birth. But, just as with "food" he's not saying "do away with food/birth" -- problem solved! -- no, he's actually talking about the birth of something else entirely, which is, I believe, why he mentions the aggregates in there, his favorite short-hand for what it is we put together to create what we think of as the self (our opinions about what a self is, formed through views about the aggregates).

Not sure if that makes it any clearer or not.

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:35 am

Alex123 wrote:I'd like to clarify. If you are able to bliss out in meditation, then do it! Even if there is only one life, from cradle - to grave, blissing out is its own reward.


What do you mean by blissing out? Feeling some joy, some calm? Why not go on a bike ride and have a nap? They seem easier ways to have a bit of pleasure and relaxation.
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