the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:57 pm

nowheat wrote: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


It may be easier for everyone to follow if this ‘early sutta’ is simply mentioned. Could it be Suttanipāta – 3.12. Dvayatānupassanāsuttaṃ?

I think ATI has some excerpt variations of it.
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’

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:06 pm

mal4mac wrote:
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.


Some claim that pleasure of Jhana is far better than all of these.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby daverupa » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:09 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Could it be Suttanipāta – 3.12. Dvayatānupassanāsuttaṃ?

I think ATI has some excerpt variations of it.


Here is a .pdf of that sutta, with alternating Pali and English. I wonder which Pali edition(s) were used, but in any event, it's probably the one.
    "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 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:57 pm

daverupa wrote: I wonder which Pali edition(s) were used, but in any event, it's probably the one.


SLTP
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 nowheat » Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:00 pm

So the thing is, the Buddha was doing the same thing with dependent arising's overall structure that he did with each element of it, and that he did with nutriment, and that he did while describing dukkha in the four noble truths. The structure describes "what everybody knows" -- or at least the "what everybody knows" that was the status quo of his day. When taken at its obvious level, DA described how, out of an apparent void that has us beginning knowing nothing (ignorance) the drive for existence (sankhara) causes consciousness to appear in the womb (vinnana) and then we are born into our particular individuality (name-and-form) and gain the use of our sense (salayatana) [first birth] then we are indoctrinated into the worldview of our culture [second birth] and spend a life performing the rituals in the middle section* that theoretically lead us to whatever we idealize as the best post-mortem outcome; then after death we transition (bhava) and are born into (jati) [third birth] whatever wonderful world we envision for ourselves.

So far that's "what everybody knows" about the way the world works (even if not everybody held beliefs within that system, the outliers, like modern atheists and agnostics, would have been familiar with the religious beliefs of the dominant groups the way we are now, so everybody would easily recognize that what was being described was the way the majority thought the world worked).

But after the turn into what should be the bliss of whatever comes with that third birth, the Buddha's story ends a different way, thus letting us know he's not telling the same story: instead of sukha, there's dukkha -- aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, despair -- the same old stuff, no escape from it as long as we keep doing what "everyone knows".

* The language -- the titles -- of the middle section reflect their nature as a description of fire rituals, which is how they help create the structure that suggests one's second (adult) life and its purpose. But the detailed descriptions of the rituals themselves are also part of the undermining of the structure. Instead of saying "first you lay out your tools, then you chant your vedas, then you light the fire, then you pour on the ghee..." they give the actual instructions of what to do/what to pay attention to instead of the usual rituals: it starts with contact...


:namaste:
Last edited by nowheat on Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:03 pm

Sylvester wrote: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?


So maybe you can see, from the post I put in just above, that what I'm saying is going on isn't revealed by the word-by-word use of grammar, but by paying attention to the overall structure of how he puts things.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:37 pm

nowheat wrote: DA described how, out of an apparent void that has us beginning knowing nothing (ignorance) the drive for existence (sankhara) causes consciousness to appear in the womb (vinnana) and then we are born into our particular individuality (name-and-form) and gain the use of our sense (salayatana) [first birth] then we are indoctrinated into the worldview of our culture [second birth] and spend a life performing the rituals in the middle section* that theoretically lead us to whatever we idealize as the best post-mortem outcome;



It talks about the links, but nowhere does it prove them. DO doesn't prove anything.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:37 am

Nowheat.
Do you know about the mathematical or logical idea of sets which is also called set theory? Is your "field/where" like a set and your "what" like a subset of your "field/what" set?
Example: Take a set of all fruits(this means make a list of all different kinds of fruits). Now you have a set containing the names of all fruits. A subset of your set of fruits is defined to be any list which contains only names taken from your set of fruits. So, if I made a list containing banana, lemon and apple it would be a subset of a set of all fruits....but if I made a lost containing banana, orange and craving then this would NOT be a subset of a set of all fruits because craving does not appear in the set of all fruits. In this example the set of all fruits would be called the superset and any set containing only things taken from the list of all fruits (the superset) would be called a subset......specifically it would be called a subset of the set containing all the fruits.
So, are you saying, for example, that the Buddha starts by talking about the superset of craving and then changes focus to a particular subset of craving to focus in on the issue at hand?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:18 am

nowheat wrote:
Sylvester wrote: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?


So maybe you can see, from the post I put in just above, that what I'm saying is going on isn't revealed by the word-by-word use of grammar, but by paying attention to the overall structure of how he puts things.

:namaste:


Much clearer now. :anjali:

Perhaps that was one of the models of 3 "births" that the Buddha had to contend with, much as it stands as an allegory for the phases in a Brahmin's life.

But what of the literal rebirths taught in the BAU and CU, when the termination of life here brings one to the realm of the "fathers" (provided enough sacrifice were properly performed), after which one returns to this world through water to end up as semen to be reborn again? Or how about the Upanisadic concept of non-return, where the route to Brahman is not sought through sacrifice, but through veda? Or perhaps even the esoteric knowledge of karman as the determinant of the nature of one's rebirth presented in the BAU?

Given the primacy of "desire" in Upanisadic cosmogony, I see some evidence that the Buddha was aware of this and this found its way into DA as sankhāra and abhisankaroti. These very much mirror the śatapatha brāhmaṇa's "abhisamskaroti". I don't see how the material here could be intended to be an allegory and not to be taken literally by the Upanisadic student.

As for discounting the grammar, this is something I wondered for a long time. Is the grammar of idappaccayatā unique to the Buddha, such that it did not form part of the general Indian linguistic patrimony at the Buddha's time? Does it require stream entry to understand it?

Apparently not. The grammatical structure underlying DA is not unique to idappaccayatā. Look at the examples from the Vinaya and suttas gleaned by Duroiselle and Wijesekara of the use of this special "conditional existential" locative absolute in ordinary conversation regarding issues outside of idappaccayatā and DA. Now, if this grammatical form can find expression in everyday conversation, should it not matter what it connotes when it is employed to express DA?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:38 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
nowheat wrote: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


It may be easier for everyone to follow if this ‘early sutta’ is simply mentioned. Could it be Suttanipāta – 3.12. Dvayatānupassanāsuttaṃ?

I think ATI has some excerpt variations of it.

The sutta isn't in any way critical to the argument I'm making but, sure, I can post a link to it.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:18 am

chownah wrote:Nowheat.
Do you know about the mathematical or logical idea of sets which is also called set theory? Is your "field/where" like a set and your "what" like a subset of your "field/what" set?
Example: Take a set of all fruits(this means make a list of all different kinds of fruits). Now you have a set containing the names of all fruits. A subset of your set of fruits is defined to be any list which contains only names taken from your set of fruits. So, if I made a list containing banana, lemon and apple it would be a subset of a set of all fruits....but if I made a lost containing banana, orange and craving then this would NOT be a subset of a set of all fruits because craving does not appear in the set of all fruits. In this example the set of all fruits would be called the superset and any set containing only things taken from the list of all fruits (the superset) would be called a subset......specifically it would be called a subset of the set containing all the fruits.
So, are you saying, for example, that the Buddha starts by talking about the superset of craving and then changes focus to a particular subset of craving to focus in on the issue at hand?
chownah

I have a vague memory of sets in math. I have probably confused this in past posts but to set it straight now: a field is a "where", which is different from the way we define things, which is a "what".

But, in part, yes. The thing is that the field I am talking about, as the Buddha uses it, has two different purposes and two different meanings. One purpose/meaning is as a mathematical set, as you say. Out of the set of all forms of craving, he is addressing as problematic only a subset of craving. So that is one definition of the field -- the field as a set.

But the other way he uses the field is more literally as a field -- something in which something else grows -- or more specifically, something that is necessary in order for the thing we are really concerned with to happen -- a least-proximate (but usually quite large, and certainly significant) cause. The thing that astounds me about the way he uses these is that they are always related, always inextricably intertwined. It would never in a million years occur to me to do what he did with them but it sure works beautifully.

So for example if he defines dukkha as (the large set of) birth, aging, sickness, and death he is:

(1) Describing the complete set within which we find dukkha -- it happens inside of birth, aging, sickness and death.
(2) Simultaneously pointing out that those things are *fodder* (nutriment -- the ground that the field is made up of) for the growth of dukkha -- as indeed, they are, as they represent impermanence.


I tend to use the word "field" because it covers both. If we recognize that what's being talked about is a big plot of dirt that nurtures something that grows, when we point to that field over there, the field includes the ground, and everything that grows in it -- it's the big complete set. And an agricultural given in that description of a field is that some of the stuff that grows is worth keeping, and some is not (subsets); even the extra add-ins in the field are subsets (seeds blown in, cow dung, rain landing). But what we are concerned with is making sure we know why what's growing grows, so that we can nurture the good stuff correctly, and discourage the bad stuff -- but we aren't going to do away with the ground, it's just there.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:51 am

Sylvester wrote:Perhaps that was one of the models of 3 "births" that the Buddha had to contend with, much as it stands as an allegory for the phases in a Brahmin's life.

But what of the literal rebirths taught in the BAU and CU, when the termination of life here brings one to the realm of the "fathers" (provided enough sacrifice were properly performed), after which one returns to this world through water to end up as semen to be reborn again? Or how about the Upanisadic concept of non-return, where the route to Brahman is not sought through sacrifice, but through veda? Or perhaps even the esoteric knowledge of karman as the determinant of the nature of one's rebirth presented in the BAU?

The thing about the three births on display in DO is that it is generic. It doesn't describe how that consciousness ended up in the womb other than it came from sankhara's desire-for-existence -- that could be a previous life finding its new home, or it could be mom & pop having a good time and wanting to perpetuate themselves the way we critters have for aeons. And in its description of the transition from our life-of-rituals to the next life (bhava) it describes a birth into "whatever birth" with lots of options listed afterward: take your pick! Even bhava, just before, offers three options: birth into the world of kama, of rupa, or of arupa (I subscribe to the theory that these represented the three primary worldviews of the time: cyclic rebirth/kama, world-of-the-fathers/form, oneness-with-Brahma/arupa).

The structure seems to me to be modeling the most basic representation of the thinking of the day: we are born, we do what we do in an effort to get a good outcome for life-after-death. The shape of the thing fits whichever view one subscribes to.

Given the primacy of "desire" in Upanisadic cosmogony, I see some evidence that the Buddha was aware of this and this found its way into DA as sankhāra and abhisankaroti. These very much mirror the śatapatha brāhmaṇa's "abhisamskaroti". I don't see how the material here could be intended to be an allegory and not to be taken literally by the Upanisadic student.

He seems pretty explicit to me when he describes the whole chain of life and then ends it with a "pffft!" instead of bliss. How would the Upanisadic student miss that? And then there's what he's saying with other bits of it (I haven't even gone into) -- that it's a bit mocking to start the chain with ignorance so that this is what the whole thing is about, rather than knowledge; that the downbeat ending tells us that every step described is describing what goes into making a big mistake, so it's not a positive rendition; and the detail of this life's rituals has Vedas (vedana) about something else entirely: the experience of feelings, followed rapidly by the formation of opinions, making a resounding condemnation of views (and, I believe, the examples given are specifically pointing out views about life-after-death).

But I have no doubt that there were those who never got it. I believe that there were so many who never got the subtlety of it that its use of language of rebirth was very easily subverted and taken literally by those who couldn't let go of their worldview. I expect the force of the status quo took over very quickly after the Buddha's death, when he was no longer there to correct for drift.

As for discounting the grammar, this is something I wondered for a long time. Is the grammar of idappaccayatā unique to the Buddha, such that it did not form part of the general Indian linguistic patrimony at the Buddha's time? Does it require stream entry to understand it?

Apparently not. The grammatical structure underlying DA is not unique to idappaccayatā. Look at the examples from the Vinaya and suttas gleaned by Duroiselle and Wijesekara of the use of this special "conditional existential" locative absolute in ordinary conversation regarding issues outside of idappaccayatā and DA. Now, if this grammatical form can find expression in everyday conversation, should it not matter what it connotes when it is employed to express DA?

Well, my friend, grammar is not my strong point. I am not sure what you're pointing out here -- are you talking about the frequent use of the causative? Or what?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:24 am

Well this is off topic the present discussion but on topic rebirth in general;

I think what we know beyond all doubt, is at least in the pali canon, the buddha taught rebirth, expounded at length on his memories of former lives, talked about the possibility of being reborn as a person, a hungry ghost, and animal, in the many hell realms or in "heaven" realms not to mention escaping further rebirth by attaining nirvana. This is beyond doubt and interpretation, unless you believe the pali canon is not the words of the buddha and composed by ??? much later.

Which really gives us three options;

1; The Buddha taught rebirth, because he knew it was real and had experienced it
2; The Buddha taught rebirth, but was deluded about it, and thought it was real when it wasn't
3; The Buddha deliberately lied to us about rebirth, knowing it wasn't real, but thinking it would encourage us to take the teachings more seriously

However these are all possibiltities, you pick the one that makes sense to you, But don't try to say the Buddha doesn't teach literal rebirth in the scriptures, because he clearly does.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:34 am

Hi nowheat

The locative absolute, formed with the present participle of the √as verb atthi (not l.a. formed from participles of kiriya verbs). Definitely not the causative, if you were thinking of janeti (he causes to be born).

I find it rather difficult to see how the Buddha could not have intended DA to be applicable to rebirth. The clearest expression of that comes up in DN 15 and its Chinese parallel DA 13 (from T01n0001_p0061b09 to T01n0001_p0061b10 here - http://www.cbeta.org/cgi-bin/goto.pl?li ... 1_p0060a29) in reference to the womb/foetus (mātukucchi /若 識 不 入母 胎 者). Granted that the Buddha gave an expanded exposition of what else nāmarūpa means in relation to contact (paṭighasamphassa and adhivacanasamphassa) (ie aside from the Upanisadic concept of the differentiator at becoming), there's still no running away from the literal aspect of nāmarūpa in the becoming process.

Or do you see these 2 sutras as being allegorical as well? Granted, I've only looked at the Dharmagupta parallel, and have not had the time to consult the experts on the other parallels to DN 15.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:15 am

Sylvester,
In DN15 the Buddha explains how birth, becoming,........ ,...,..., contact, name and form, and consciousness are to be understood as requisite conditions in this context, For all of these his method is the same; for all of these he says to imagine that if there were no craving (for example) at all of any kind anywhere then clinging would not be discerned. To me this means to look far and wide for the craving....and for me this does not mean just to look at some singular individual which has either just been born or just about to be born...I think nowheet alluded to parental craving in a post above which I think is a good example which is contrary to what is usually assumed becuse it is taken from a wider field than what is usually assumed.

Along with this view I like to consider the term rebirth to take it's meaning in opposition to the term spontaneous birth......the scientific view of birth definitely sides with rebirth if spontaneous birth is the only other option to choose from.........so rebirth can be taken to mean a re-arising of the expression of human DNA within a suitable environment or vessel. Hard to think of this as spontaneous I think. Of course ask the teen aged boy how his girlfriend became pregnant and he might explain it as spontaneous but we both know that the kind of spontaneity involved there was probably of a different kind entirely.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:36 am

lyndon taylor wrote:Which really gives us three options;

1; The Buddha taught rebirth, because he knew it was real and had experienced it
2; The Buddha taught rebirth, but was deluded about it, and thought it was real when it wasn't
3; The Buddha deliberately lied to us about rebirth, knowing it wasn't real, but thinking it would encourage us to take the teachings more seriously

However these are all possibiltities, you pick the one that makes sense to you, But don't try to say the Buddha doesn't teach literal rebirth in the scriptures, because he clearly does.


Considering Nanda's story, #3 doesn't seem totally impossible, though I would not use the word "lie" but "skillful means".
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:06 pm

Alex123 wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Which really gives us three options;

1; The Buddha taught rebirth, because he knew it was real and had experienced it
2; The Buddha taught rebirth, but was deluded about it, and thought it was real when it wasn't
3; The Buddha deliberately lied to us about rebirth, knowing it wasn't real, but thinking it would encourage us to take the teachings more seriously


Considering Nanda's story, #3 doesn't seem totally impossible, though I would not use the word "lie" but "skillful means".


But it would have been a lie, and I'm not convinced by the idea that a teacher of the Buddha's stature would need or want to make up stuff in order to reach a wider audience.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:07 pm

Alex123 wrote:DO doesn't prove anything.


DO is a description of process, not a proof.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:16 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Alex123 wrote:DO doesn't prove anything.


DO is a description of process, not a proof.


Except for few common sense things, how do we know that D.O. is correct description of a process?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:16 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Which really gives us three options;

1; The Buddha taught rebirth, because he knew it was real and had experienced it
2; The Buddha taught rebirth, but was deluded about it, and thought it was real when it wasn't
3; The Buddha deliberately lied to us about rebirth, knowing it wasn't real, but thinking it would encourage us to take the teachings more seriously


Considering Nanda's story, #3 doesn't seem totally impossible, though I would not use the word "lie" but "skillful means".


But it would have been a lie, and I'm not convinced by the idea that a teacher of the Buddha's stature would need or want to make up stuff in order to reach a wider audience.


Why not?
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