Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

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Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby EricJ » Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:59 pm

I have a question that may be speculative and unrelated to practice, but this is the Dhammic free-for-all.

I have been thinking about rebirth recently, and specifically, the relation of belief in rebirth to practice. It seems that the answer to my question (as stated in the title of this topic), if you are a Buddhist whose practice is centered on gaining enlightenment, is yes. This is because rebecoming in a lower realm seriously prolongs and compromises the path to enlightenment.

However, there are certainly those who fear rebirth in a hell/petaloka/animal realm based on other characteristics of these stations, such as extreme pain, unfulfilled desire and anguish (a la the hell of Christianity and Islam), as opposed to fear based on the the obstructions a rebirth in these stations places in the path of a "person" seeking bodhi. This seems illogical to me. Since "we" won't be the same "person" experiencing the suffering characteristic of lower rebirth, and since the only frame of reference "we" can have is our range of experience, why fear the pain and anguish of another realm which "we" will never consciously experience.

It seems like this could have an effect on a person who is considering taking refuge and who "accepts" rebirth in another way. If this person is attached to certain behaviors which are traditionally said to lead to a lower rebirth (drug addiction or hunting animals, for instance), but he/she realizes that "he/she" will only be experiencing one life as "him/herself, the fear of lower rebirth wouldn't be there. This person would need other reasons to practice Dhamma aside from a desire to escape the cycle of rebecoming, and specifically, rebecoming in lower realms.

So, what is the place of lower rebirth discussion within Buddhism? Why be afraid of lower rebirth if you are a non-Buddhist who accepts the principle of rebirth or a Buddhist whose practice is centered on gaining a favorable rebirth? What is the utility of discussing lower rebirth when discussing sila (as opposed to discussing the positive benefits of sila in this very life)? Can ignoring the threat of lower rebirth lead to moral "relativism" (for lack of a better designation)?

I apologize for my extensive use of quotation marks and hypothetical scenarios. :D
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With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:47 pm

If the fear motivates you to be a better person, then it is good for a time being.

If it just makes you worry more and doesn't increase your wholesome qualities - then it is wrong.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby octathlon » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:00 pm

EricJ wrote: Since "we" won't be the same "person" experiencing the suffering characteristic of lower rebirth, and since the only frame of reference "we" can have is our range of experience, why fear the pain and anguish of another realm which "we" will never consciously experience.


This is the way I also think of it in my current understanding, except I would add, why hope for a reward of rebirth in a higher realm either. I guess it has to be looked at from the point of view that we all raise each other up and/or drag each other down, so if each person improves their own situation, this helps everyone.
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Aloka » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:00 pm

.

Personally I neither accept nor reject rebirth -and this enables me to practice in the present moment and leaves my mind free from pointless speculation . :smile:


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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby PeterB » Sun Jun 27, 2010 7:07 pm

You beat me to it Aloka...
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Anicca » Sun Jun 27, 2010 7:33 pm

Aloka wrote:Personally I neither accept nor reject rebirth -and this enables me to practice in the present moment and leaves my mind free from pointless speculation.

:goodpost:
One may accept rebirth and also free the mind from pointless speculation, but great post none the less. :clap:

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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby octathlon » Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:12 pm

Anicca wrote:
Aloka wrote:Personally I neither accept nor reject rebirth -and this enables me to practice in the present moment and leaves my mind free from pointless speculation.

:goodpost:
One may accept rebirth and also free the mind from pointless speculation, but great post none the less. :clap:

Metta


I guess if you feel it necessary to point that out on every thread where it may apply, you will be keeping yourself very busy on this website. :D
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Aloka » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:15 am


I guess if you feel it necessary to point that out on every thread where it may apply, you will be keeping yourself very busy on this website. :D


Indeed I would...but I just don't have that amount of spare time at the moment ! :D
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:48 am

The way I see it if you experience a lower rebirth then you obviously have a lesson to learn, so be thankful for that and better get on and learn it. No point being in paradise if still clinging to delusion.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Aloka » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:13 am

Goofaholix wrote:The way I see it if you experience a lower rebirth then you obviously have a lesson to learn, so be thankful for that and better get on and learn it. No point being in paradise if still clinging to delusion.



Since one's mental state governs whether one experiences heaven or hell, how then does one know if one is actually 'lower' or 'higher' in the rebirth stakes ? :)


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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:38 am

it was definitely a good motivation tool for many of the famous monks from way back we now read the books of, especially a lot of the Japanese ones.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby cooran » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:17 am

Hello all,

Is fear of a lower rebirth useful? Yes.

The Guardians of the World - by Bhikkhu Bodhi
EXCERPT: "The Buddha points to two mental qualities as the underlying safeguards of morality, thus as the protectors of both the individual and society as a whole.

These two qualities are called in Pali hiri and ottappa. Hiri is an innate sense of shame over moral transgression; ottappa is moral dread, fear of the results of wrongdoing.

The Buddha calls these two states the bright guardians of the world (sukka lokapala). He gives them this designation because as long as these two states prevail in people's hearts the moral standards of the world remain intact, while when their influence wanes the human world falls into unabashed promiscuity and violence, becoming almost indistinguishable from the animal realm (Itiv. 42).

While moral shame and fear of wrongdoing are united in the common task of protecting the mind from moral defilement, they differ in their individual characteristics and modes of operation.

Hiri, the sense of shame, has an internal reference; it is rooted in self-respect and induces us to shrink from wrongdoing out of a feeling of personal honor.

Ottappa, fear of wrongdoing, has an external orientation. It is the voice of conscience that warns us of the dire consequences of moral transgression: blame and punishment by others, the painful kammic results of evil deeds, the impediment to our desire for liberation from suffering. Acariya Buddhaghosa illustrates the difference between the two with the simile of an iron rod smeared with excrement at one end and heated to a glow at the other end: hiri is like one's disgust at grabbing the rod in the place where it is smeared with excrement, ottappa is like one's fear of grabbing it in the place where it is red hot."
http://www.vipassana.com/resources/bodh ... _world.php

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby PeterB » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:26 am

Well, whatever turns you on...
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby cooran » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:47 am

PeterB wrote:Well, whatever turns you on...


Just the Teachings of the Buddha
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Aloka » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:07 am

Oh, gosh, I didn't know that Bhikkhu Bodhi was the new incarnation of the Buddha ! :)
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby cooran » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:25 am

No, he isn't aloka, and no-one claims that - he is a diligent, devoted, long-serving Bhikkhu and great Scholar, who is deeply respected world-wide.

You can also listen or read Ajahn Jayasaro give a talk on the Buddha's teachings of Hiri-otappa
http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/01/hi ... asaro.html

And view a previous topic on this subject:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1938#p25475

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby Aloka » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:30 am

cooran wrote:.

You can also listen or read Ajahn Jayasaro give a talk on the Buddha's teachings of Hiri-otappa
http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/01/hi ... asaro.html

with metta
Chris


Thank you Chris.
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby PeterB » Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:04 am

And once more the problem...do we take literally teachings that come from a world view of another time and place which is in fact every bit as alien and life negative as any treatise that emerged from the Spanish Inquisition if taken literally, or do we unpack it. See the relevance to our own lives. ...in short make it live.
Which begins by teasing out the metaphors. Not in objectified literalism,
Or so I would suggest.
I know what my view is.
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby cooran » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:30 pm

No.

We contemplate the teachings given by a Sammasambuddha - and by his arahant disciples ~ Those "who see things as they really are".
And gradually we come to accept those things which we find to be true and wholesome, and, having done this, we have the confidence and faith to put the more difficult things aside temporarily, until our understanding grows.
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is fear of a lower rebirth useful?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:21 pm

cooran wrote:No.

We contemplate the teachings given by a Sammasambuddha - and by his arahant disciples ~ Those "who see things as they really are".
And gradually we come to accept those things which we find to be true and wholesome, and, having done this, we have the confidence and faith to put the more difficult things aside temporarily, until our understanding grows.



Would "putting aside temporaily" mean taking an agnostic view towards literal rebirth in hell, or believing them despite not knowing?


Just interested in your POV


To the original post:

As to if rebirth in hell is a useful metaphor, i believe it depends on the person. However such concepts are tied up with a certain level of self view for such a concept to work


However if you mean useful in relation to the Buddhas teachings,, the 4NT's, then I would argue that they work quite well without such references
“ 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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