Addressing everyone, not just tilt.
tiltbillings wrote:But you are simply missing the point that I am making which is that if there is only this life and that is it, the point of practicing the Dhamma is greatly diminished. The Dhamma becomes naught more than something like the Buddhist derived mindfulness therapies that are out there, which are not bad things, and can help someone lead a better life, but something fundamental is lost. While you can argue that belief in literal rebirth is not necessary to do the practices, which I think is true, something fundamental to the Buddha's Dhamma is lost.
For me, all this concern about whether individuals will be liberated after 7 lifetimes -- or a hundred -- misses the point of what the Buddha taught. Liberation isn't about *me* -- it isn't about anyone's *me* -- it isn't about *individuals*. The dhamma, as I understand it, is about relieving suffering for *everyone* because the things I do as a result of the views I hold don't only affect *me*. What's at issue is how "my" attitude -- the "me" attitude -- affects the whole damned world. This is no less significant if it turns out that there is continuous rebirth or there is only one life.
You can spend all your future lives working towards your liberation and after aeons what'll you have? One liberated individual. Yay you! Or you can have this opportunity to put this life's energy into removing from this one life the "me-ness" that causes so much trouble for so many around you, and have that good attitude spread, the way attitudes do, to people around you and off into the future, and you can put everything you have into doing this because *it might well be the only chance you get to make a difference*. If there is rebirth, then in your next life you presumably pick up more-or-less from where you left off and you can continue putting in the same good effort to reduce suffering for all, in your new existence as "Person X". If there is no rebirth then the Person X who inhabits the body of the person you would have been had there been rebirth at least has a marginally better world to live in because you were in it and you were focused, as if your hair was on fire, on making the world a better place. And if the teachings are understood not to be about liberating individuals but about how we affect each other, and that's what's important, not my suffering, but everyone's suffering, then maybe Person X can pick up where you left off.
I started out with a selfish motive -- I admit that I did. I wanted to relieve my own suffering, and there is nothing wrong with that being the whole of one's motive. But the process of learning the Buddha's methods for achieving that goal has made me thoroughly aware that the process that causes my suffering causes the same for *everyone* -- both by my direct action affecting those around me, and by other folks out there doing the same things the Buddha showed me that I am doing, doing them to themselves and to those around them. He led me to a point where it's no longer about *me* -- I am no longer at the top of my list of worries, except as I impact others. Will I be liberated? I don't actually care. I assume that this process leads to liberation, and if I follow it, then I get there -- but it's not the point for me. I just want to behave in ways that reduce the max amount of suffering for the sum total of people affected by my life (myself included in equal share with everyone else in proportion to how much influence my behavior will have).
Of course, I started out as a reasonably moral person, even before Buddhism -- I think most people who seek solutions and end up Buddhists probably start out the same. I wouldn't suggest that the-teaching-without-literal-rebirth would be a good solution for an amoral person or an immoral one.
So when folks ask "Without rebirth, what is the point?" this is my answer: reducing dukkha for all of us. Does this not seem to you to be a worthwhile motivation?
Am I the only one who recognizes this? I come back to this point over and over and I never hear anyone who believes the Buddha was speaking about literal rebirth and counting it as essential to practice and liberation explain why he would be fostering an attitude that *my* future suffering should be of greater concern than the effect I have on the world-at-large.