A quote from Ajahn Brahm

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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:00 am

Greetings,

Monkey Mind wrote:Ajahn Brahm was not teaching a biology class, he was offering a Dhamma talk.

Well maybe then he should stick to the Dhamma, rather than speculative views and conceptual proliferation that is unconnected to the Dhamma... lest he muddy the waters between the two.

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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby nameless » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:55 am

Alright, so people who are probably more knowledgeable about evolution have proved that Ajahn Brahm is wrong, and those who are backing him are wrong. So what do we do now?

Spend lots of time criticizing him for the mistake? It wasn't even the main topic of the talk. He even specified that "this is an aside". Took maybe 5 minutes of a one hour talk. We've spent time listening to wrong information, wasted 5 minutes. We spend time arguing about it, well that's more than 5 minutes of my life I won't be getting back.

And what are the consequences of the mistake? If you're worried that people are using erroneous knowledge of evolution for evil, he's the least of your problems.

Or should we just be kind, forgive him his mistake, take whatever is good from the talk, and move on?

At the end of the day we can't control what other people say. What can we do? Lobby for a law so that only people with appropriate qualifications can talk about anything outside their field? It is up to the listener to use the information in a fruitful way.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:21 pm

Well said nameless. It seems to me that there are a couple of main routes that bring modern western educated people into contact with Buddhadhamma. The first is via what could be called mysticism " . The second is via science.
Those that arrive via mysticism are frequently surprised to find that Buddhadharma in its Theravada form is vigorously non mystical. It deals with the here and now by promoting a keen and thorough view of what is.
Those who arrive via science are sometimes taken aback to find that although Buddhadhamma does not promote views in the main opposed to the scientific view neither does not place science on the pedestal next to the Buddha or declare the existence of a fourth Jewel.
Several times in the last few weeks there have been attempts to make science a sacred cow and to chastise those who use science as a metaphor.

The fact is the Buddhadhamma has to be understood on its own terms not seen through the lens of either mysticism or science, even though it is not anti science.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:56 pm

Hello PeterB,

PeterB wrote:Well said nameless. It seems to me that there are a couple of main routes that bring modern western educated people into contact with Buddhadhamma. The first is via what could be called mysticism " . The second is via science.
.


Can you please explain what you mean by mysticism?

Personally I believe that a good main approach of Buddhism is as a psychological teaching. A psychological training to become happy and peaceful inside no matter the external circumstances that are out-of control. An awakened person does not experience unpleasant emotions unlike an ordinary person. IMHO this is an excellent approach. Buddhism as any tradition or religion cannot compete with materialistic science, neither does the "super experiences" (they can easily be gained through illegal drugs). But learning to be happy, peaceful and liberated inside no matter what - that is uniquely Buddhist.

IMHO.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:16 pm

In case I did not make myself clear Alex123 I was saying that Buddhadhamma was very different in aims and goals to mysticism. But mysticism provided the means for some to approach Buddhadhamma, whereby they drop their pursuit of the mystical. In the same way some who are turning away from certain irrational belief systems and taking Refuge in science come to Buddhadhamma thinking that it will meet their needs for a compromise with science. They may find that they have to rethink that at some point.
However I have to say that I think that Buddhadhamma only incidentally finds common ground in certain areas with psychology. I think that the aims and means of psychology and Buddhadhamma are completely different.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:28 pm

PeterB wrote:In case I did not make myself clear Alex123 I was saying that Buddhadhamma was very different in aims and goals to mysticism. But mysticism provided the means for some to approach Buddhadhamma, whereby they drop their pursuit of the mystical. In the same way some who are turning away from certain irrational belief systems and taking Refuge in science come to Buddhadhamma thinking that it will meet their needs for a compromise with science. They may find that they have to rethink that at some point.
However I have to say that I think that Buddhadhamma only incidentally finds common ground in certain areas with psychology. I think that the aims and means of psychology and Buddhadhamma are completely different.



Well, yes Dhamma has many things different from worldly psychology, it is simply better. But in a sense it is similar to psychology due to both being concerned working at the mind. IMHO this is what good about Dhamma and should be emphasized. Science can compete on physical level, but nothing can compete on inner, emotional level. IMHO people would understand Buddhism better if they approached it from psychological or CBT angle.

IMHO.

With metta,

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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:35 pm

Would it surprise you to know Alex that many, probably most, psychologists do not recognise the existence of the mind ?
I know that you are using the term in a more general way, and certainly CBT has much in common with Buddhadhamma..
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Goedert » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:38 pm

Dhamma-vicaya is a principle similar to both.

Just as in science Buddhism does not require its followers to have dogmatic belief in anything that the Buddha taught. The Buddha advised people not to blindly accept what he taught, but research on them for themselves before accepting.

Science, in 20th century showed us that such concepts as impermanence, rebirth, telepathy and selflessness taught by the Buddha 2.600 years ago, are true phenomena of nature which are beyond three spatial dimentions and therefore beyond classical science.

Derek Parfit a probaly the most important philospher of today alive have a quote on Buddism:

This bundle of elements is void of Self. In it there is no sentient being. Just as a set of wooden parts receives the name of carriage, so do we give to elements the name of fancied being.
Buddha has spoken thus:..."There is no Individual. it is only a name given to a set of elements."

So we can see that a being is like an animated matter. How can this matter evolve? We are talking about matter not about conciouness or the mind it self. How the plants envolved? Plants are not consciouness.

"There comes a time, Vasettha, when, after the lapse of a long, long period, this world died. And when this happens, beings have mostly been reborn into the Realm of Abbhasara; and there they dwell, made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. There comes also a time, Vasettha, when sooner or later this world begins to re-evolve. When this happens, beings who had deceased from the World of Abbhasara usually come to life as humans... now at that time, all had become one world of water, dark, and of darkness that maketh blind. No moon nor sun appeared, no stars were seen, nor constellations, neither was night manifest nor day, neither months nor half-months, neither years nor seasons, neither female nor male. Beings were reckoned just as beings only. And to those beings, Vasettha, sooner or later after a long time, earth with its savours was spread out in the waters, even as a scum forms on the surface of boiled milky rice that is cooling, so did the earth appear." - Aggañña Sutta

The most suitable explanation is the law of nature, or been specific natural selection of the most resistent for living in certain conditions, wich is passed trough genes, and this genes trough DNA, and this DNA from RNA, and this RNA from organic molecules of aminoacids, and this organic molecules from unanimated matter. It doesn't evolve from desire, how can we say that an hermafrodit being reproduce itself because of desire? Or plants produces seeds because of desire? What we can say is that sentient being exist because of desire, when Abbhasara beings start consuming the organic matter so the sentience life began on earth.

No one can afirm that evolution occurs in the way Ajahn Brahm stated, because science has evidence of how the life began. I think Ajahm Brahm should stick with advices and talks restrictly to the dhamma. Or he could make some studies before give a talk to don't conduct people to wrong understanding of the law of nature. Specific given talks about how to to adjust and cope with events of our daily life focusing on the path.

It happen that someone put his video talk on youtube and modern people give a try to buddhism watching it. If this person has an emphyrical experience about some aspects, like scientific emphyrical experiments, this person possible create aversion to buddhism or put it in hall of useless relegion that use emotion to reach their goals, having a wrong view about buddhist practioners. Emotion causes belief and obedience to the techings, Buddhism stress wisdom. The video was put in youtube for the public, remember it.

"O Bikkhus, as gold is tested by rubbing, cutting and melting - accept my word only on analysis and not simply out of respect". This includes the word of a Bikkhu.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 5:50 pm

PeterB wrote:Would it surprise you to know Alex that many, probably most, psychologists do not recognise the existence of the mind ?
I know that you are using the term in a more general way, and certainly CBT has much in common with Buddhadhamma..


You mean those who believe in "Eliminative materialism" ? Well, do they understand any word, can they read this or hear and understand what another person is saying? If understanding, thinking, knowing, cognizing, etc is a mental state... Then the idea of "there is no mind or mental states" is contradicted by an act of understanding at every instance of communication. If there is no communication (which requires mind to exist in the first place) then nobody could know what is written here, nobody could argue or accept these propositions written here.

If I were to talk to Eliminative materialist, I could also swear at them and ask them if they are thinking angry thoughts and planning to hit me. Is anger a mental state? Is planning (lets say to hit me) a mental state? Of course.



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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:27 pm

It remains a fact Alex that almost no Psychology faculty in Northern Europe or the USA holds the existence of "the mind " to be other than a convention...they see the affective ( feelings ) and cognitive faculties as arising simply as the outcome of electrochemical processes.
The point I am making is that there is only so far that Buddhism can go in forming a joint knowledge base with most of Psychology.
Academic psychology would not for the most part accept the theoretical basis of CBT, although many would accept its experiential usefulness. They would however explain its operation in other terms.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:32 pm

Hello PeterB,

PeterB wrote:It remains a fact Alex that almost no Psychology faculty in Northern Europe or the USA holds the existence of "the mind " to be other than a convention...they see the affective ( feelings ) and cognitive faculties as arising simply as the outcome of electrochemical processes.
The point I am making is that there is only so far that Buddhism can go in forming a joint knowledge base with most of Psychology.
Academic psychology would not for the most part accept the theoretical basis of CBT, although many would accept its experiential usefulness. They would however explain its operation in other terms.



I was not arguing against Physicalism (that mind is based on matter). I was arguing against a self-contradictory belief that no mental states exist whatsoever. According to Buddhism, mental states can be based on matter but they are also based on previous mental states as well. The previous psychological tendencies DO affect the current ones.


By putting forth ANY kind of argument (lets say for eliminative materialism) that in effect proves that mental states (no matter if they are or aren't based on matter) do exist.

almost no Psychology faculty in Northern Europe or the USA holds the existence of "the mind " to be other than a convention...


What makes and understands conventions?!!!! Are conventions, names, concepts, etc, found in rocks and trees?
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby PeterB » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:01 pm

I dont need convincing Alex...I am not a psychologist. I am a psychiatrist and therapist... :smile:
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Laurens » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:27 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:I think folks here are way too literal sometimes. Ajahn Brahm was not teaching a biology class, he was offering a Dhamma talk. He also tells ghost stories. When he shares ghost stories, he is not claiming to be a parapsychologist. He is sharing an inspirational story. One can be absolute in their belief that ghosts don't really exist, and still find inspiration in the ghost story.


There are far too many Christian fundamentalists spreading disinformation about evolution, we don't need it from Buddhist monks either...

Evolution has no direction, it is not a concious process. Life began in simple forms, bacteria or something similar - bacteria is incapable of conciousness, or craving and desire. If evolution was driven by this it would not have gotten anywhere.

Again how can craving and desire have an impact upon genetic mutations? The earliest known ancestors of horses were tiny in comparison to modern day horses, this was not because they decided 'I really want to be taller' - it was because for whatever reason, natural selection favoured the genes for tallness (which is now being fiddled with by us by means of artificial selection). It has in no way go anything to do with what the creature wants. It has no concious process whatsoever.

To claim that desire and craving has anything to do with evolution is misleading completely. Education on the subject of evolution is, at best pathetic in many countries. We don't need people spreading unfounded and frankly stupid misinterpretations of it. I would have thought better of the guy. The chances are a lot of people who saw that video, bearing in mind the state of education on evolution may have generated a skewed view on the matter, believing that it happens, not cause of natural selection, but cause of desire and craving. Spreading such false information is one step away from being one of those ignorant people who deny it completely.

He doesn't even use cautious language, he presents it as though its fact. A lot of people follow Ajahn Brahm and a lot of people probably accepted that statement purely because he said it. I think his wisdom should have prevented him from saying such things personally. I wouldn't say its quite as bad as lying to people, but it is incredibly misleading and I really don't think it's something a Buddhist monk should do.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:25 pm

Laurens wrote:There are far too many Christian fundamentalists spreading disinformation about evolution, we don't need it from Buddhist monks either...

I am assuming that Buddhist monks do not base their teachings on what Christians do or do not teach.

Ajahn Brahm also teaches (as a statement of fact) the existance of ghosts, devas, and rebirth. One could realistically argue that there is zero scientific evidence that these things exist. But then AB is not scientific practitioner but a religious teacher.

Personally, whenever one of these talks contradicts my scientific training, I explore whether the teaching has any allegorical utility.
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as others are, so am I."
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:14 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:I am assuming that Buddhist monks do not base their teachings on what Christians do or do not teach.

Ajahn Brahm also teaches (as a statement of fact) the existance of ghosts, devas, and rebirth. One could realistically argue that there is zero scientific evidence that these things exist. But then AB is not scientific practitioner but a religious teacher.

Personally, whenever one of these talks contradicts my scientific training, I explore whether the teaching has any allegorical utility.


Hi Monkey Mind

If you're refering to ghosts or devas or rebirth (GDR) in the underlined passage, I should say the folowing: the domain of science is the experimental data and the theories which are falsifiable. Since the existence of GDR is not falsifiable (yet) there is no contradiction in the ultimate sense. What I mean by this is that it contradicts a scientific paradigm, but paradigms cannot be shown to be true, so the existence of GDR cannot be shown to be false.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:29 am

Laurens:
I believe you've proved your point and I've even changed my opinion on the subject due to your responses. The question I have for you is: what are you gaining from being so upset about it? How does it positively or negatively affect your practice?

Not saying this is the case with you, but I sometimes find myself holding Buddhist teachers on a pedestal, which sets up the possibility that I will be highly dissapointed when they do or say something with which I don't agree. I try to remind myself that they are human - they will make mistakes. Not every Buddhist monk is an arahant, and we should never fully expect them to act and speak as such. I need to get my practice and focus right first before I criticize the teaching of someone who has been practicing far longer than myself.

I remember the Buddha saying something to the affect of we should be quick to point out the good qualities of others instead of their bad qualities, especially when they have far mroe good qualities than bad (such as the Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso).

Just my two cents.

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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby lojong1 » Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:02 am

Laurens wrote:His words are 'craving to evolve' not 'craving sex' or 'craving to reproduce'...


I don't see how there could be a beef!

a definition of the intrasitive verb 'evolve': To undergo gradual change [Latin volvere, to unroll : ex- + volvere, to roll]
Samsara wiki entry: "Samsara means 'to flow on', to perpetually wander, to pass through states of existence.
Saṃsāra, literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth."

Ajahn Brahm is translating the Buddhist/Pali word 'Taṇhā' which wiki says: "literally means 'thirst,' and figuratively denotes unwholesome 'desire' or "craving,' and is traditionally juxtaposed with 'peace of mind' (upekkha). The most basic of these meanings (the literal meaning) is "thirst"; however, in Buddhism it has a technical meaning that is much broader. In part due to the variety of possible translations, taṇhā is sometimes used as an untranslated technical term by authors writing about Buddhism.
In the framework of the Four Noble Truths, the second truth identifies taṇhā as the origin of suffering (dukkha). This is elaborated upon more fully in the Twelve Nidanas of Dependent Origination in which taṇhā is the eighth link.
In the Pali Canon, several discourses explicitly refer to three types of craving:
* craving for "sensuality" or "sensual pleasures" (kāma-taṇhā)
* craving for "becoming" or "existence" (bhava-taṇhā)
* craving for "no becoming" or "non-existence" or "extermination" (vibhava-taṇhā)
Buddhist teachings describe the craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures. Taṇhā is a term for wishing to have or wishing to obtain. It also encompasses the negative as in wishing not to have. We can crave for pleasant feelings to be present, and for unpleasant feelings not to be present (i.e., to get rid of unpleasant feelings).
The origin of Taṇhā (craving, unwholesome desire, wish, thirst), extends beyond the desire for material objects or sense pleasures. It also includes the desire for life (or death, in the case of someone wishing to commit suicide), the desire for fame (or infamy, its opposite), the desire for sleep, the desire for mental or emotional states (e.g., happiness, joy, rapture, love) if they are not present and one would like them to be. If we experience, say depression or sorrow, we can desire its opposite. The origin of Taṇhā is far-reaching and covers all craving, irrespective of its intensity."

bacteria is incapable of conciousness, or craving and desire.
(Consciousness = Citta?) Now how can I find out the truth of these statements about tanha and evolution/conscious changing of states through my own personal experience? Better examine my own consciousness first...a little samatha, a little vipassana...Brahm was right about my evolution!!! Regarding bacteria, the best I can do at this point is wiki:
"Despite their apparent simplicity, bacteria can form complex associations with other organisms. These symbiotic associations can be divided into parasitism, mutualism and commensalism. Due to their small size, commensal bacteria are ubiquitous and grow on animals and plants exactly as they will grow on any other surface. However, their growth can be increased by warmth and sweat, and large populations of these organisms in humans are the cause of body odor.
Some species of bacteria kill and then consume other microorganisms, these species called predatory bacteria. These include organisms such as Myxococcus xanthus, which forms swarms of cells that kill and digest any bacteria they encounter. Other bacterial predators either attach to their prey in order to digest them and absorb nutrients, such as Vampirococcus, or invade another cell and multiply inside the cytosol, such as Daptobacter. These predatory bacteria are thought to have evolved from saprophages that consumed dead microorganisms, through adaptations that allowed them to entrap and kill other organisms.
Certain bacteria form close spatial associations that are essential for their survival. One such mutualistic association, called interspecies hydrogen transfer, occurs between clusters of anaerobic bacteria that consume organic acids such as butyric acid or propionic acid and produce hydrogen, and methanogenic Archaea that consume hydrogen. The bacteria in this association are unable to consume the organic acids as this reaction produces hydrogen that accumulates in their surroundings. Only the intimate association with the hydrogen-consuming Archaea keeps the hydrogen concentration low enough to allow the bacteria to grow."

Wowee they appear to function just like I do, killing, eating, reproducing, making simple choices with Taṇhā.

Again how can craving and desire have an impact upon genetic mutations?
Cause/effect relationships get easier to see with a little Dhamma study and meditation. The horse, the bacteria, the baby growing into a man, the carrot...none of them exist in isolation and no single one of them alone at one point in time is responsible for the entirety of the next moment--the entire history of everything plays a part in the making of the next moment.
The earliest known ancestors of horses were tiny in comparison to modern day horses, this was not because they decided 'I really want to be taller' - it was because for whatever reason, natural selection favoured the genes for tallness
.
So, natural selection is a creature with consciousness but bacterium isn't? What exactly does the natural selecting? It's a combination of multitudes of simple decisions, involving Taṇhā. The horse doesn't need to desire a bigger body. A lion might desire to eat the smaller, slower horse, leaving the big one to reproduce, which it also desires to do, after eating a carrot and kicking the last Neanderthal man in the head. AHHH the last neanderthal man is dead now, by natural selection AND Taṇhā. What a tangle!
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Laurens » Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:01 am

Dhammakid wrote:Laurens:
I believe you've proved your point and I've even changed my opinion on the subject due to your responses. The question I have for you is: what are you gaining from being so upset about it? How does it positively or negatively affect your practice?


The reason I am "upset" though I wouldn't be inclined to use that word myself is because Buddhist monks are not supposed to be arrogant and dishonest - arrogant in the sense that the language used was very certain and there was no attempt to say "I might be wrong" "This is what I think" etc, and dishonest in the sense that what he said is completely and utterly untrue.

I am aware that maybe he doesn't know anything about evolution himself, but that being the case the best thing to do would be not to claim to know how it works.

I am not particularly offended or upset, but I have lost some respect for Ajahn Brahm, and felt I wanted to share.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby Laurens » Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:05 am

Wowee they appear to function just like I do, killing, eating, reproducing, making simple choices with Taṇhā.


I will address the rest of your points when I get home from work, but what I will say is when I made reference to bacteria, I did not mean modern day bacteria I was referring to the simple proto-cells etc which would have been the first (or one of the first) kinds of organisms on the planet - these were very simple compared to modern bacteria and shouldn't be confused with them.
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Re: A quote from Ajahn Brahm

Postby mud » Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:12 am

To put in my two cents:
I’m not so sure if the theory of evolution has much to do with the Buddha’s teaching.
Evolution is taking a look at an entire species, and how over time species change etc.
The Buddha explained the cause for a being to be reborn into a particular state. A certain type of mind will lead to birth as a certain type of being(animal).
Evolution makes no attempt to explain why a certain being is born as a dog, while another is born as a bird.
It’s kind of like the difference between history and psychology. The study of psychology tells you very little about what has happened in the past, and the study of history gives you very little information about how the mind works (apart perhaps from giving you a large collection of case studies).

In order to be born in the form realm two parents are needed. Some material seed is needed for consciousness to arise. And this seed will be of similar nature to the parents, (also mummy elephant and daddy giraffe doesn’t work!). But over time there is a gradual change in the offspring, until one day a scientist can look at them and say “these are two different species”.
But what is a species: a certain manifestation of 5 aggregates, not a concretely existing reality.

Millions of years ago there were no humans on earth (as far as we know) but there were dinosaurs. So being with karma to be reborn as dinosaurs were reborn here, but beings with karma to be born as human could not be born on earth. Now if a being has karma to be born as a dinosaur it cannot be born here, it must go to some other world system.

So in this way the Buddha’s teaching does not exclude evolution, but on the whole is unconcerned with it. IMHO I think it would fit into the kind of thinking that does not lead to liberation; “Was I in the past”, “was I not in the past”, “will I be in the future”…… It leads to more speculation, doubts and confusion rather than less.

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