the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Ben » Fri May 01, 2009 4:18 am

zavk wrote:Hi friends,

I don't have anything to add to the debate about rebirth, not least because I lack the expertise. But reading the last few posts about explaining the Dhamma, and particularly rebirth, to children who lack the maturity to understand such concepts....

I cannot help but wonder if perhaps in the larger scheme of things--and despite all our erudite arguments (and indeed, conviction) about rebirth and what not--we are really still babies and immature insofar as the wisdom of Dhamma is immeasurable and infinite?

Metta,
zavk


I propose we chisel the above in granite and highlight with gold leaf.
One of the most profound things ever stated on this thread, let alone, this board!
Thank you Zavk for your brilliant observation.
Metta

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saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Jechbi » Fri May 01, 2009 4:33 am

One weird thing: My 7-year-old often talks about things that he did in the past that I know he has not done. For example, he has talked about the wife he used to have. I think he's mostly joking about this, but the first time I asked him what he was talking about, he looked puzzled, as if he wasn't sure himself where this story came from. He actually has a place name for where he used to live before. It's "Garcia." He frequently talks about what things were like in Garcia. I figure most of it is fantasy. But I have never, ever talked with him about rebirth. Somehow he got this elaborate notion of a past lifetime in his head without any prompting or suggestion that I'm aware of.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 01, 2009 5:28 am

Jechbi wrote:One weird thing: My 7-year-old often talks about things that he did in the past that I know he has not done. For example, he has talked about the wife he used to have. I think he's mostly joking about this, but the first time I asked him what he was talking about, he looked puzzled, as if he wasn't sure himself where this story came from. He actually has a place name for where he used to live before. It's "Garcia." He frequently talks about what things were like in Garcia. I figure most of it is fantasy. But I have never, ever talked with him about rebirth. Somehow he got this elaborate notion of a past lifetime in his head without any prompting or suggestion that I'm aware of.


You need to get more details:

* Garcia, Tarragona, a municipality in Ribera d'Ebre, Spain
* García, Nuevo León, a municipality in Mexico
* Garcia, Colorado, an unincorporated town in the United States

Sorry... :focus: ( or maybe not? )

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 01, 2009 6:02 am

Good one Dan... maybe Jechbi ought to let his young'un play with a globe and see if any Garcia-related places of note get pointed out. :)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby pink_trike » Fri May 01, 2009 6:14 am

Does he watch tv?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby christopher::: » Fri May 01, 2009 6:16 am

pink_trike wrote:
Christopher::: wrote:How would you explain rebirth to a 3 year old, an 8 year old?


You could teach them to recognize the rising/falling circle of the seasons, and the spectral circle of dawn/day/dusk/night. They don't need concepts to learn about rebirth...they're surrounded by mirrors of it everywhere in the natural world.


I agree, PT. Rebirth is not something we've talked about that much, and we do spend a lot of time talking about how the natural world works. Both of my boys are very interested in the physical sciences...

zavk wrote:Hi friends,

I don't have anything to add to the debate about rebirth, not least because I lack the expertise. But reading the last few posts about explaining the Dhamma, and particularly rebirth, to children who lack the maturity to understand such concepts....

I cannot help but wonder if perhaps in the larger scheme of things--and despite all our erudite arguments (and indeed, conviction) about rebirth and what not--we are really still babies and immature insofar as the wisdom of Dhamma is immeasurable and infinite?

Metta,
zavk


:bow:

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Chris:::,

Just to give some perspective... as far as sutta records go, the Buddha didn't "rip into" anyone because they disbelieved in rebirth. On the other hand, he had some firm words to say to those who imputed a self into the Dhamma.

MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta
http://tipitaka.wikia.com/wiki/Mahatanhasankhaya_Sutta

I would strongly recommend reading that and seeing whether what the Buddha teaches in that sutta correlates to your understanding of rebirth. Do you understand it as the Buddha teaches, or do you understand it like Sati, the fisherman's son?

Metta,
Retro. :)


Sounds like Sati was saying that's how things work, and even attributed his beliefs to the Buddha.

The views I hold about rebirth are a work in progress, a view that feels right to me, not factual and definitely not what Buddha taught. There are similarities with what Hinduism teaches, probably because I first heard this view from Hindu teachers, specifically Ram Dass who had a pretty strong influence on my thinking throughout the 1980s.

But even Ram Dass would say at times that beliefs are just human ideas, metaphors, myths of mind. No picture that one can hold in their imagination is going to fit the reality of the unseen, just as the word apple or even a picture of an apple is really nothing like a "true" apple....

I'm not attached to the views I hold of rebirth, and don't declare it to be the "truth." I've shared it with my sons. We've also shared with them stories of Santa Claus.

Image

I do think there's also a dynamic here, growing up in Asia, where many Buddhist laypersons (and teachers/priests) actually do hold folk beliefs about reincarnation and an afterlife that may be closer to Christianity and Hinduism then to what Buddha actually taught.

Ancestor veneration and prayer alters for deceased family members don't make much sense if you don't believe that your ancestors are "somewhere" and somehow appreciative of your prayers for them, imo...
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Jechbi » Fri May 01, 2009 2:17 pm

pink_trike wrote:Does he watch tv?

Yup. Reads a lot, too.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri May 01, 2009 3:59 pm

Hi, Christopher,

Just wanted to mention that I have come across several Zen writers who discuss the subject in ways not dissimilar to yours. Here is Muso, in Dream Conversations, on the topic of "Passing Through the Death Experience":

Muso, Cleary trans., pg 181 wrote:
When people are dying they should contemplate their mental and physical elements as being void of ultimate reality, having no independent reality and no identity of their own. Further, they should contemplate the true mind as being formless, neither coming or going, the essence of mind not coming into existence at birth and not going out of existence at death, being forever tranquil. By this means, people can leave the world; they will not be drawn to beatific visions or frightened by horrific visions, such as they may experience at death according to their mental states. The mind will be forgotten and merged with the cosmos.


And here is your take:

christopher::: wrote: I view the Universe as something like a field of Mind or Awareness, potentially. A being is born, Awareness is localized for a short time. Die and your individual Awareness field either merges back into the Source- the larger field of experiential potentiality- or moves on in its individualized state, to a heaven-like dream world or to take another physical body... The Buddha's teachings of anatta point to the understanding that these individual points are not real, they are like dream bubbles flowing thru time. Eventually we all merge back into the Source.


To my ear, at least, the two passages are saying basically the same thing.

Metta,
LE
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 01, 2009 7:35 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Hi, Christopher,

Just wanted to mention that I have come across several Zen writers who discuss the subject in ways not dissimilar to yours. Here is Muso, in Dream Conversations, on the topic of "Passing Through the Death Experience":

Muso, Cleary trans., pg 181 wrote:
When people are dying they. . . merged with the cosmos.[/b]


And here is your take:

christopher::: wrote: I view the Universe . . . we all merge back into the Source.


To my ear, at least, the two passages are saying basically the same thing.

Metta,
LE


Still looks like Hinduism.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri May 01, 2009 8:24 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Still looks like Hinduism.


Sure. Not saying it doesn't. My purpose in posting was simply to note there is support for Christopher's view within the Zen canon. :sage:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Fri May 01, 2009 8:40 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Still looks like Hinduism.


Sure. Not saying it doesn't. My purpose in posting was simply to note there is support for Christopher's view within the Zen canon. :sage:


Not at all. Muso is at best an individual expressing his opinion, not the tradition out of he comes.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Fri May 01, 2009 9:35 pm

To me the issue isn't whether or not people believe in rebirth.
But to say that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth is a different story.

:anjali:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby kc2dpt » Fri May 01, 2009 9:56 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:To me the issue isn't whether or not people believe in rebirth.
But to say that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth is a different story.

Yes, those are really two different discussions. Sometimes, however, people who do not believe in rebirth sometimes try to defend their belief by arguing the Buddha didn't teach it. Perhaps these people can't abide the idea that they disagree with the Buddha. :shrug: In any case, this is why the two discussions often become conflated.

And then there are the two issues of a] whether the Buddha taught rebirth and b] whether Buddhist tradition teaches that the Buddha taught rebirth. Of course we cannot know what the Buddha taught apart from what the Buddhist tradition tells us. And all Buddhist traditions agree that the Buddha taught rebirth. So even if one wants to hold the belief that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth, one does so in opposition to every Buddhist tradition worldwide.

I suppose it comes down to what one thinks it means to practice Buddhism. To me it means finding a Buddhist teacher and learning from him and putting what I've learned into practice. In other words, it means being part of a tradition that (hopefully) stretches all the way back to the Buddha himself. In this age of corrupt Christianity, however, we've got lots of people who want nothing to do with any established tradition of any religion.* Such people believe that they can, all by themselves, translate and interpret the surviving scriptures and come up with a more accurate interpretation than those taught by existing Buddhist traditions. This seems like nothing more than aversion and ego to me. :shrug:


* To me it seems a leap to go from "Christian bishops who persecute gay people obviously corrupted Jesus' message of love" to "Buddhist monks who teach rebirth obviously corrupted Buddha's message of anatta" and yet this is what seems to be happening. :shrug:
- Peter

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby christopher::: » Fri May 01, 2009 10:44 pm

Thanks for posting that, lazy eye. :namaste:

What do you all think of this view?

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/heaven.html

To me it doesn't sound congruent with the link Retro provided.

And Peter, I think this comes with our age, definitely. Its not something I can change easily. I was taught by my parents and teachers to "think for myself." Religion has always been a personal matter. I've read from lots of different traditions and it wasn't until I came to E-sangha about 5 years ago (at age 43) that I heard the Buddha's transmigration view in completeness.

Prior to that I'd heard of people looking forward to the Pureland, of Tibetan Lamas reincarnating, etc and it all didn't sound very different from Christian and HIndu views, to me.

Its not that I deny what the sutras say Buddha taught, its just that a) I don't yet understand it and b) there are inconsistancies that don't yet make sense to me.

The inconsistancies include the Pureland teachings, the presentation of dieing taught by the Tibetan Book of the Dead and then things that Zen teachers have taught. Buddhist traditions don't all seem to give one consistant clear presentation. And certain things people say dont make sense, logically, to me- such as that there is no wise loving "essence" to a person that continues on for some time. I don't believe in an eternal soul or atman, but when some Buddhists talk about going to the Pureland and developing rainbow bodies but then deny that there is an essence, spirit or "soul" I just scratch my head.

It doesn't compute for me, yet...

As zavk has stated, that's okay. I have a provisional view that makes sense in my head. But I do not grasp to it or declare that its the truth. I think that's in line with the Buddha's teachings, no?

:shrug:

P.S. With the link that Retro provied, is the word "evil" really the best choice, in English? I have trouble accepting that Buddha actually spoke in that way. Wouldn't he have been more likely to say a view is "wrong" or "incorrect"?


MN 38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta
http://tipitaka.wikia.com/wiki/Mahatanhasankhaya_Sutta
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Fri May 01, 2009 11:16 pm

Christopher::: wrote:I have a provisional view that makes sense in my head. But I do not grasp to it or declare that its the truth. I think that's in line with the Buddha's teachings, no?


I think that's in line with the Buddha's teachings too.

:buddha2:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 02, 2009 1:42 am

Greetings Christopher:::,

christopher::: wrote:What do you all think of this view?

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/heaven.html

To me it doesn't sound congruent with the link Retro provided.

I'll admit I only skim-read it but it seems alright to me. It's important to be able to distinguish between the conventional/everyday style of language and the ultimate/absolute style of language. In a conventional/everyday sense you can speak of a person, and it's fine to do so, even though in the ultimate/absolute sense there is no person... there is merely conditional causation, the arising and cessation of phenomena based on causes. In Buddhism, "Going to heaven" makes sense when using conventional/everyday parlance that ignores the absence of a thing called "a person" in the absolute sense.

christopher::: wrote:P.S. With the link that Retro provied, is the word "evil" really the best choice, in English? I have trouble accepting that Buddha actually spoke in that way. Wouldn't he have been more likely to say a view is "wrong" or "incorrect"?

Terms like pernicious, unskilful, unwholesome, or harmful would be suitable alternatives. The point is that holding the view leads to bad consequences. What bad consequences? That one will not realise the consciousness is not-self, and thus there will be identification with it, and where there is identification with something there will be becoming and craving... and you know the rest of the story.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby christopher::: » Sat May 02, 2009 4:48 am

Hi Retro. Thanks for your views and the info.

retrofuturist wrote:It's important to be able to distinguish between the conventional/everyday style of language and the ultimate/absolute style of language. In a conventional/everyday sense you can speak of a person, and it's fine to do so, even though in the ultimate/absolute sense there is no person... there is merely conditional causation, the arising and cessation of phenomena based on causes. In Buddhism, "Going to heaven" makes sense when using conventional/everyday parlance that ignores the absence of a thing called "a person" in the absolute sense.


I agree, absolutely.

:namaste:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Tue May 05, 2009 12:32 pm

Greetings

Sorry for late reply, my internet has been down for a few days

Tilt

Except, kamma and paticcasamuppada are “speculative” until one, through one's own efforts gains insight into them. Knowledge of rebirth is open to personal verification just as is anicca, dukkha, anatta, and it can be a way of gaining insight into anicca, dukkha, anatta, paticcasamuppada, as the Buddha’s awakening (as well as others) suttas show.


The only one out of this that can be reguarded as an unknown is kamma, although one can understand on a basic level how intentions can lead to good or bad results

Saying that knowledge of rebirth is open to verification is to still assume that it is real


To claim that rebirth has nothing to do with “practicing the Buddha’s noble teachings,” is to claim a serious lack of textual knowledge, and even more so, as you repeatedly do here, it is to completely ignore any evidence that contradicts your position.


Because in the Buddhas teachings of the 4nt's etc there is no rebirth contained within them, perhaps you could explain why rebirth must be included in them? Im not saying rebirth isnt in some suttas, but that it was just a backdrop of the time, i cosmology that appealed to the many

I gave the very famous turtle discourse which directly ties rebirth to the Four Noble Truths: I quote: This precious human birth

"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation: 'This is stress...This is the origination of stress...This is the cessation of stress...This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'" — SN 56.48


To me this is a metaphor to stress how beings are blindly trapped in samsara of the mind, constantly becoming this and becoming that through clinging

What is worth noting is your inability to actually deal with an important, large text that places rebirth right in the middle of the paticcasamuppada chain. As for jati, you have ignored what others have said to you about this, offering no real reason that jati must always be taken in a figurative manner, as your position suggests. There is no reason to do so.


As i have said, if jati (birth of I am) is figurative, then dukkha is merely figurative

The problem with your taking a text like this without consideration of the broader context of other texts is that you simply and obviously distort the Buddha’s teachings, as you have been doing.


I dont ignore other discourses. I take discourses and compare them, look for the central theme and message. Now not all discourses in the pali canon are spoken by the Buddha, we know this. This is why comparison and investigation into those suttas is key, to find the underlying (or core) theme/message/doctrine. If we were to take every suttas at face value then we would be believing that the world is flat, that there is a big mountain in the middle, that there are spirits and ghosts living in forests and trees, that human beings can live for 80,000 years etc

All of those things have obviously nothing to do with the Buddhas teachings, nothing to do with dukkha and its quenching, they were just a backdrop of the times, something people could identify with and understand maybe. The same i feel for rebirth

There has been all this argument for rebirth in the Buddhas teachings but i have never seen one solid argument as to why

A) It must be there
B) The importance of it to the individual walking the path, so the importance of it to the practice and to nibbana


Metta
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Tue May 05, 2009 1:27 pm

Peter

And then there are the two issues of a] whether the Buddha taught rebirth and b] whether Buddhist tradition teaches that the Buddha taught rebirth. Of course we cannot know what the Buddha taught apart from what the Buddhist tradition tells us. And all Buddhist traditions agree that the Buddha taught rebirth. So even if one wants to hold the belief that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth, one does so in opposition to every Buddhist tradition worldwide.


Now im not saying tradition is useless or should be done away with but just because tradition says it is so, doesnt mean it is. You seem to be suggesting that people cant think for themselves and only tradition can be trusted, despite the fact the Buddha said that one shouldnt believe something just because it is tradtition and he encouraged people to think and investigate for themselves


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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Tue May 05, 2009 1:41 pm

Craig,

Me: Except, kamma and paticcasamuppada are “speculative” until one, through one's own efforts gains insight into them. Knowledge of rebirth is open to personal verification just as is anicca, dukkha, anatta, and it can be a way of gaining insight into anicca, dukkha, anatta, paticcasamuppada, as the Buddha’s awakening (as well as others) suttas show.



Craig: The only one out of this that can be reguarded as an unknown is kamma, although one can understand on a basic level how intentions can lead to good or bad results


Are you saying paticcasamuppada has nothing to do with choice?

Saying that knowledge of rebirth is open to verification is to still assume that it is real.


Saying that knowledge of paticcasamuppada is open to verification is to still assume that it is real.

Because in the Buddhas teachings of the 4nt's etc there is no rebirth contained within them,


A statement that has been shown via a number of texts to be wrong, but the only rebuttal you have offered is naught more than gainsaying and avoiding actually addressing what has been carefully presented.

perhaps you could explain why rebirth must be included in them? Im not saying rebirth isnt in some suttas, but that it was just a backdrop of the time, i cosmology that appealed to the many


It is not a matter of “must be”; it is a matter that rebirth is interwoven into the Buddha’s teachings. If it were not part of the way the universe operated, as the Buddha saw it, there is no reason he would have taught as being the way things are given that the Buddha stated he taught what was only true and useful.

To me this [the blind turtle simile] is a simile to stress how beings are blindly trapped in samsara of the mind, constantly becoming this and becoming that through clinging


So you claim, but you have not given any reason why it must not be read simply as it is written. This pretty much sums up the extent of your argument -- a statement of belief that has no real arguable basis. Certainly you can believe what you like, but that does not make it so.

As i have said, if jati (birth of I am) is figurative, then dukkha is merely figurative


There is no justification that you have given that requires that jati has be read in one way only in all circumstances. This has been pointed out to you in detail, which you have simply ignored.

I dont ignore other discourses. I take discourses and compare them, look for the central theme and message.


Not that you have shown us. What you have shown with this posting, is what we see time and again with your “argument” is that you will simply ignore what has been put to you in response your “argument.”

Now not all discourses in the pali canon are spoken by the Buddha, we know this. This is why comparison and investigation into those suttas is key, to find the underlying (or core) theme/message/doctrine.


But we have seen no real argumentation from you to support this, though we have seen you ignore text after text and argument after argument that do not support your position..

The same i feel for rebirth


And so we all know, but it is also plainly evident that you have no real evidence for your position.

There has been all this argument for rebirth in the Buddhas teachings but i have never seen one solid argument as to why

A) It must be there
B) The importance of it to the individual walking the path, so the importance of it to the practice and to nibbana


The fact of the matter, it is there. You have given no reasoned and exampled evidence as to why it should not be there.

You seem to be suggesting that people cant think for themselves and only tradition can be trusted, despite the fact the Buddha said that one shouldnt believe something just because it is tradtition and he encouraged people to think and investigate for themselves


Before one can decide what bits of tradition that can be viewed otherwise, it is really important to actually understand the tradition, something I have yet to see from you.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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tiltbillings
 
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