the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:55 pm

Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:05 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.



Maybe for you but not for everyone


It isn't for me, dukkha is my motivation
“ 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 Nikaya35 » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:27 pm

clw_uk wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.



Maybe for you but not for everyone


It isn't for me, dukkha is my motivation

I see your point but in another hand if we only have one life and thats it . That means it doesnt matter because ultimately Dukkha will end at death.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:44 pm

I see your point but in another hand if we only have one life and thats it . That means it doesnt matter because ultimately Dukkha will end at death.


Which is a speculative view that can't be known

Besides if there is one life it doesn't matter because there is dukkha in the here and now, and we can be free from It in the here and now.

All these speculations are pointless, as I said if rebirth was true or not, the freedom from dukkha is still in the here and now
“ 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 » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:47 pm

All i can be sure of is that dukkha exists because of clinging, and the less clinging there is the less dukkha there is and the easier life becomes

"The burden which is well borne becomes light." Ovid


Metaphysical questions about the afterlife are just meaningless IMO

Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife
“ 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 nowheat » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:25 pm

clw_uk wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.



Maybe for you but not for everyone


It isn't for me, dukkha is my motivation

Dukkha, yes, and not just my own. I'm far less concerned by the dukkha I create for myself than with the harm I do to others through my behavior generated by ignorance. What I find, in practice, in this path, is that though I may have set out to take care of my own problems, it has guided me to a place where I see that the root of mine is the root of many I create for others around me, and it has led me to recognize how true this is not just for me, but for others -- that people do what they do out of the same ignorance and confusion I have been suffering from. This last is the seed for compassion to arise in me, which has doubly good effect, in that it inspires me to want to help others more, and it slows down my once-angry reactions to my (usually incorrect) guesses as to why people do what they do as I stop and think about what may be happening in their lives in terms of the insights the Buddha has led me to.

Over time I've come to realize that what's important isn't so much my suffering, stress, or pain -- whether in this life or future lives -- but what effect the way I live my life has on others.

I find the possibility of there being literal rebirth of very little concern to me. I cannot see why I should be more concerned with the effect my thinking has on *one life* in the future than with *all lives* in the future. It also surprises me that the Buddha is perceived as directing us to be more concerned with one life -- our own lives -- in the future, rather than all lives. I have never found anyone who feels belief in rebirth is an essential part of practice, who is able to explain to me why the Buddha would have emphasized concern over one life to that degree.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:31 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:The more I think about the "skillful means" and "rebirth as metaphor" theories, the less convincing they become.

The Buddha taught a path leading to awakening, "seeing things as they really are", direct insight. And part of that path was Right Speech, ie speech that is honest and helpful.

Given that, is it really credible that the Buddha would have started making stuff up, or not being clear, or fudging the issue on the rebirth question?
Isn't the simpler and more likely explanation for the sutta accounts that the Buddha was speaking honestly and directly from experience?

I think I asked you earlier what you mean by "making stuff up" and if you answered, I must have missed it (or maybe I never hit the "Submit" key and it never posted).

At any rate, I am guessing you believe in literal Brahma and Mara, and all the deities who came and spoke to the Buddha, and in the numerous levels of heavens, and that he was able, at will, to visit them, and that in this world he could teleport himself across the Ganges, or from a location south of the Ganges up into the mountains far away? Because, what I am hearing you say, is that he didn't make stuff up.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:43 pm

maitreya31 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.



Maybe for you but not for everyone


It isn't for me, dukkha is my motivation

I see your point but in another hand if we only have one life and thats it . That means it doesnt matter because ultimately Dukkha will end at death.

If *my* dukkha matters to me, then the dukkha others experience matters to them. When I die, the things I have done continue to have an effect after I am gone, so that -- whether or not there is one particular life after the death of this body of mine that deals with what I have done in this life, one life that experiences dukkha as a result of my actions -- the dukkha generated by this life *will go on* into the future to be dealt with by the lives that have been touched by mine. Even if there is no rebirth, the dukkha I have created in this life doesn't stop here. Either way -- rebirth or no rebirth -- the dukkha I create in this world, present and future, is of equal concern to me. It *matters*.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:48 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:If the buddha lied to us about rebirth, what's to say he didn't lie to us about Nibbana. Its a pretty slippery slope when you start believing the buddha just made things up to get his point across. Certainly no account of the Precept of Honesty and not lieing allows for this process you call "skillful means" which by definition are not skillful at all.

You came into this conversation after I had started attempting to show that there is a specific structure to the Buddha's lessons about rebirth, a structure that is very tightly built -- no wobble in it -- in which all the pieces fit together, supporting each other. Everything he says is consistent with that structure. When he is describing the way we normally behave, the result is dukkha, when he is describing the end of dukkha, that is nibbana. The structure wouldn't hold together without nibbana.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sun Aug 18, 2013 7:58 pm

Sylvester wrote:Occupational hazard, m'dear. I'm one of those who persistently object to the use of Plain English in my profession. I now have to unravel some tax legislation that was carelessly drafted by Plain English advocates who could not see the distinction between an adjectival participle and a prescriptive term.

It can make sense in a profession, particularly in one involved with legalities (like tax law). But even within a profession, one does not talk full-blown technicalese to someone who doesn't have the vocabulary built for precise use in the field, with any expectation of being well-understood.

I don't think that your use of language in the conversation between you and I has the effect you're hoping for, when I only understand about two out of three words, and end up with only a vague understanding (or an equally vague misunderstanding) of what you're saying. I also believe that if one can't explain technical concepts in lay terms, then one hasn't understood the concept itself well enough. I have found that I get fresh insights and a great understanding of what I'm seeing when I take the language into the everyday world.

If you can't explain what you're doing and why you're doing it to any intelligent layman, that really means that you don't understand it yourself.
Allan Bromley, former President of the American Physical Society


Let me see if I can summarize what I think you've said in this last post:
(1) DN 15 and SN 36.6 share the characteristic of splitting contact into more-or-less the same two divisions with enough similarity that they might actually be the same -- or might not.
(2) A difference may lie in the way paṭigha is used in each of them. In SN 36.6 it's about underlying tendencies (anusaya), while in DN 15 it appears to be simply describing contact (you said "impact/collision" -- was your "impact" meant to have more significance than just "contact"? I can't tell) between the outside world and what goes on inside us.
(3) In DN 15, the contact that results in resistence isn't about aversion or rejection.
(4) Because of (3) you "don't think that 'bodily contact' is something to which one reacts with resistance in the SN 36.6 sense."

#4 -- is not something one reacts to with existence: (a) ever? (b) isn't what's being described? or (c) neither of the above (please clarify if -c- is the appropriate answer, thanks).

(5) Your understanding is that because pain seems to be described as one thing, and grief as another (I'm assuming this means grief can arise from pain, but that doesn't make it the same as pain) descriptions of bodily feelings aren't limited to experiences of sensuality (in the literal sense of lust: sexual, gastronomical, drug-related, etc). Bodily feelings can also call up experiences tied to thoughts that aren't primarily sensual. (You didn't say that, exactly; I'm extrapolating.)
(6) Something more than a discussion of pleasure is going on in SN 36.6.

. See what anusaya pertains to that hedonic tone and what other suttas (eg SN 36.7) have to say about this anusaya.

Sorry, I don't find SN 36.7 saying anything about anusaya?

On the other hand, I follow the traditional interpretation of paṭigha in DN 15 and all the arūpa pericopes...


I'm sorry, I must have missed something here. How is DN 15 an arūpa pericope?

Do you see the intersection between this anusaya and the delineation of self mentioned in DN 15? Does the delineation of self in DN 15 fall to be criticised as being identical with MN 64's sakkāya-diṭṭhanusaya?


I'm having trouble with the word "fall" in he above -- can't quite make sense of what you're saying there (not phrasing I've encountered before).

Because of the way I see the Buddha's dhamma, I see an intersection between just about any two discussions you can give me (if I have any understanding of them at all -- there are still a lot of flat-out mysteries to me in things he says, things that are most likely so couched in the context of the day that the key to understanding is missing), with the exception of the brahma viharas, which I don't find fitting into the rest of the structure with anything like precision or need.

But to answer the first question in the quote just above, yes, I see anusaya being described in the delineation of self in DN 15 -- though it makes no mention of underlying tendencies -- specifically because of what's being discussed in namarupa, which brings us back to the original question which (I think) could be Plain Englishly put as:

How would a Vedic student of the Upanisads, if he recognized that the structure the Buddha was speaking of in DA, have known that the Buddha wasn't simply endorsing the student's Upanisadic view of the universe. You also (if I recall) pointed out how radically different the Buddha's detailed explanation of what's going on in namarupa was from the Vedic use of namarupa (though damned if I can find where you said that so maybe it wasn't you). But the answer to the former is the latter, among other things -- like the way he roundly condemned the Upanisadic view as Wrong View, which would certainly give the student pause and a reason to ask himself if he had misunderstood the Buddha's apparent use of his worldview to endorse it or... maybe he meant something else, hmmm.

While I was trying to locate what I thought was your comment about namarupa (I am prepping for my daughter's birthday party so I'm about to hit a wall here) I found this, though:

If the Buddhist texts record this teaching as being given with a grammatical construction that is apparently commonly understood, what evidence is there that the brahmins would have understood it differently from the Theravada Commentators?


And I suspect there may be a misunderstanding in there, because I don't have the impression that the *grammatical structure* (or even the statement's structures) of the field/set/where was "commonly understood" by people in the Buddha's day. In fact, I seriously doubt anyone had ever done what he did in the precise way he did it ever before -- what he did was brilliant but not simple.

What I believe I've been saying was commonly understood was that teachers tended to develop a structure of some sort and teach from that and that this resulted in them making pronouncements that might seem too obvious ("Where does death come from? From birth!") or a bit wrong-headed ("To end suffering we must become detached" -- which is logical but most of us don't want to stop caring about the world). So I am not saying that just everyone will have understood the structure of "What is X? X is 'just what you think it is', X is detail, detail, detail" where the first comment seems obviously to mean just what you think it means, but doesn't, actually. That other teachers also used "structures" doesn't equate to "used the same structure the Buddha did." (see remark just above about "brilliant -- not simple".)

So then I guess your next question:

I would trouble you to point to some textual sources for the purported Vedic pedagogy that the Buddha exploited or criticised, specifically how it intersects with DA.

was asking me to provide evidence of that "common understanding" that was not what I was saying at all, so my answer ("the dog ate my homework") was overkill?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:04 am

nowheat wrote:Let me see if I can summarize what I think you've said in this last post:
(1) DN 15 and SN 36.6 share the characteristic of splitting contact into more-or-less the same two divisions with enough similarity that they might actually be the same -- or might not.


Yes


(2) A difference may lie in the way paṭigha is used in each of them. In SN 36.6 it's about underlying tendencies (anusaya), while in DN 15 it appears to be simply describing contact (you said "impact/collision" -- was your "impact" meant to have more significance than just "contact"? I can't tell) between the outside world and what goes on inside us.


Almost yes, since I accept the traditional understanding that paṭigha is a polysemous word. For its DN 15 sense, I borrowed "collision" from the CPD explanation for ārammaṇa -

"cakkhādīnaṁ vatthūnaṁ rūpâdīnaṁ
~ānañ ca paṭighātena samuppannā saññā (the per-
ception which is produced by the collision of the physi-
cal bases as eye etc. and the sense-objects as form etc.) pa-
ṭighasaññā, Vism 329,23 = As 201,31 ≠ Paṭis-a 132,30;
556,14; Moh 177,8; "


So, since I view paṭigha in DN 15 as kammically neutral, I do not attach any "ethical" significance to its impact or collision per se.

(3) In DN 15, the contact that results in resistence isn't about aversion or rejection.


Perhaps it's really about time to abandon Ven T's translation of paṭigha in the DN 15 and the arūpa pericope as meaning "resistance". That leads to confusion with the latency tendency of aversion. It would be clearer if we adopted BB's several translations, eg sensory impact, sensory impingement. Nevertheless, since my answer to (2) posits that paṭighasamphassa in DN 15 as kammically neutral, you understand me correctly that it is not associated with the anusaya of aversion per se.


(4) Because of (3) you "don't think that 'bodily contact' is something to which one reacts with resistance in the SN 36.6 sense."


According to MN 44, each type of hedonic tone will generally engender its corresponding anusaya, save in a few exceptional cases associated with the jhanas. Presumably, well-established mindfulness also arrests the surge of the anusayas, if one reads the vineyya in the mindfulness formula to be a gerund or infinitive, instead of an absolutive. But by and large, for an uninstructed worldling, bodily/impingement contact will be followed by the reactions driven by the respective anusaya.

So, I don't agree with (4). If this will make things clearer, let me make explicit my belief -

- SN 36.6's bodily darts arise from DN 15's paṭighasamphassa (impingement contact)
- SN 36.6's mental darts arise from DN 15's adhivacanasamphassa (designation contact)

Even if paṭighasamphassa in DN 15 is kammically neutral, MN 44 suggests that the reactive sequel driven by the anusayas is almost always inevitable.


#4 -- is not something one reacts to with existence: (a) ever? (b) isn't what's being described? or (c) neither of the above (please clarify if -c- is the appropriate answer, thanks).


???


(5) Your understanding is that because pain seems to be described as one thing, and grief as another (I'm assuming this means grief can arise from pain, but that doesn't make it the same as pain) descriptions of bodily feelings aren't limited to experiences of sensuality (in the literal sense of lust: sexual, gastronomical, drug-related, etc). Bodily feelings can also call up experiences tied to thoughts that aren't primarily sensual. (You didn't say that, exactly; I'm extrapolating.)


That is correct. See for example the common motif found in eg MN 13 which discusses the gratification and drawback of sensuality (kāmā). Interestingly, in the case of the drawback of sensuality, both types of contact are described, namely (i) the pain and suffering of one's endeavours, plus (ii) the grief that results from non-profits etc.


(6) Something more than a discussion of pleasure is going on in SN 36.6.

. See what anusaya pertains to that hedonic tone and what other suttas (eg SN 36.7) have to say about this anusaya.

Sorry, I don't find SN 36.7 saying anything about anusaya?


It's to be found in the reference to the latent tendency to ignorance in the body and the 3 feelings.



On the other hand, I follow the traditional interpretation of paṭigha in DN 15 and all the arūpa pericopes...


I'm sorry, I must have missed something here. How is DN 15 an arūpa pericope?


It is not an arūpa pericope. It shares with the arūpa pericope the concept of paṭigha, which occurs as paṭighasaññā in "with the passing away of perceptions of impingement". This is generally interpreted as a genitive tappurisa (perceptions of impingement), but I wonder if it might not be a kammadhāraya (impinging perceptions).



If the Buddhist texts record this teaching as being given with a grammatical construction that is apparently commonly understood, what evidence is there that the brahmins would have understood it differently from the Theravada Commentators?


And I suspect there may be a misunderstanding in there, because I don't have the impression that the *grammatical structure* (or even the statement's structures) of the field/set/where was "commonly understood" by people in the Buddha's day. In fact, I seriously doubt anyone had ever done what he did in the precise way he did it ever before -- what he did was brilliant but not simple.


Well, I did give the example of the grammatical construction from DN 16 that was used in a non-DA context. Are we to suppose that the Buddha's auditors would not have understood it in a manner that did not require an exposition? Yes, the DA chain was novel, but the grammar underlying each nidana within the chain was not.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:29 am

Just flying through -- will give all this a closer look tomorrow. But a few things...

nowheat wrote:#4 -- is not something one reacts to with existence: (a) ever? (b) isn't what's being described? or (c) neither of the above (please clarify if -c- is the appropriate answer, thanks).


typo, sorry -- you had said "reacts with resistance" -- my brain said "with resistance", my fingers decided to type "with existence".


I'm sorry, I must have missed something here. How is DN 15 an arūpa pericope?


It is not an arūpa pericope. It shares with the arūpa pericope the concept of paṭigha, which occurs as paṭighasaññā in "with the passing away of perceptions of impingement". This is generally interpreted as a genitive tappurisa (perceptions of impingement), but I wonder if it might not be a kammadhāraya (impinging perceptions).

Okay, thanks. What arūpa pericope are you thinking of here? Maybe give me a sutta and PTS number for an example?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:23 am

nowheat wrote:Okay, thanks. What arūpa pericope are you thinking of here? Maybe give me a sutta and PTS number for an example?

:namaste:


Sorry, I don't have the latest PTS editions, so I'm afraid I'll have to saddle you with the Wisdom translation by BB and something from the online CSCD resource -

from MN 25 -

Again, with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of sensory impact, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite,’ a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space...

Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā paṭighasaññānaṃ atthaṅgamā nānattasaññānaṃ amanasikārā ‘ananto ākāso’ti ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharati.


If you have the 1888 PTS edition by Trenckner, it's at M i 159.


This pericope also finds expression in DN 15's list of Eight Emancipations. Using BB's old translation here http://www.bps.lk/olib/mi/mi018-p.html -

Through the complete surmounting of perceptions of material form, the passing away of perceptions of impingement, and non-attention to perceptions of diversity, (contemplating) ’Space is infinite,’ one enters and dwells in the base of the infinity of space. This is the fourth emancipation.

Sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā paṭighasaññānaṃ atthaṅgamā nānattasaññānaṃ amanasikārā ‘ananto ākāso’ti ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ upasampajja viharati, ayaṃ catuttho vimokkho.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:39 am

clw_uk wrote:Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife


I think you mean your Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife. For many Buddhists the rebirth teachings are important.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:42 am

nowheat wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:The more I think about the "skillful means" and "rebirth as metaphor" theories, the less convincing they become.

The Buddha taught a path leading to awakening, "seeing things as they really are", direct insight. And part of that path was Right Speech, ie speech that is honest and helpful.

Given that, is it really credible that the Buddha would have started making stuff up, or not being clear, or fudging the issue on the rebirth question?
Isn't the simpler and more likely explanation for the sutta accounts that the Buddha was speaking honestly and directly from experience?


I think I asked you earlier what you mean by "making stuff up" and if you answered, I must have missed it (or maybe I never hit the "Submit" key and it never posted).


I'm arguing that it's very unlikely that the Buddha would have fudged or fabricated on such an important question. I'm arguing that the theories of "skillful means" and "rebirth as metaphor" - while convenient for some - are actually full of holes when one examines them objectively.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:48 am

clw_uk wrote:.. Dhamma practice isn't dependent on there being an afterlife.


But again, you're making general statements when actually you're just talking about your own opinion.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:53 am

lyndon taylor wrote:Nonsense, belief in rebirth is one of the stongest motivating factors for practice.


For some traditions it is, for some it isn't. But I think it's very difficult to argue against the fact that the suttas describe samsara as a round of birth and death, with beings reborn in different realms according to their actions ( kamma ).
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:40 am

I was speaking more from a Therevada perspective, Spiny.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:59 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I was speaking more from a Therevada perspective, Spiny.


The same applies within Theravada.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:04 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote:

But what does that actually feel like to you in practice? What is it that you actually experience being reborn?


Identification, "I am this, this is mine"


I'm still far from clear. Could you give some practical examples of how you experience identification being reborn? I can see it might make sense to talk about desire being continually "reborn", but I don't think that's what you mean?


It occurred to me that by "identification" you might be referring to the continual rebirth of self-view, which is something I've considered. But from personal experience and reading the suttas I have the sense that self-view is a deep-seated underlying tendency or condition - this seems to be confirmed by self-view being one of the last fetters to be overcome.
To use an analogy, self-view seems like the ocean, not the wave, so to talk about self-view being born, then ageing and dying doesn't seem to work.
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