Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

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Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:15 am

Hello all,

I'm forever confused about 'rebirth'/'rebecoming'. I know this topic has been discussed to DEATH here and in other Buddhist forums, but I'm not afraid to be the one that asks stupid questions if it'll help me understand something. Please forgive me if you're bored of this topic, maybe just ignore me?

Right, Punabbhava, as I understand it so far, is a process by which this "I" came into being. There were a set of conditions that existed and led to "my" existence. During "my" life (including the moment of "my" death) "I" make choices and do 'stuff'. This 'stuff' will be a contributing factor in another 'becoming'. Am I right so far?

So, firstly, what do we call the next 'becoming' which is the result of many factors (including "my" volition)? Is it okay to say "My next life" or is this confusing things? Similarly, what do we call the life that played a role in "my" becoming? Is it okay to say "My previous life/past life" or is this confusing things too? What is the correct nomenclature for the sentient beings whose lives are linked in samsara?

Secondly, I don't quite understand what 'punabbhava' is... so I'll give a summary of my understanding. Could you please correct me where I make mistakes and maybe point to suttas that can help me? It seems to me that:

1) there is no permanent/eternal soul. No permanent "me", no permanent "self". Therefore, when "I" die, that's it for "me", but if "I"'ve not attained Nibbana my choices in life become a contributing factor in another being's 'becoming'. Is this okay so far?

2) there is no 'thing' that goes from "my" life to the next one. The next life is the result of many contributing factors including "my" own life, but "my" body, "my" mind, "my" consciousness, "my" personality... "me"... dies and rots. Is this right?

3) in "my" life it is possible to develop such a deep realisation that I could somehow visualise the 'past lives' that lead to where "I" am. (I think, but I may be wrong, the Buddha developed this via the Jhanas?)... but as no 'thing' from those lives exists in "mine", this visualisation is not simply a memory exercise, more of a transcendence. Is that right?

Taking all that into account I am slightly worried that my materialistically-trained mind has latched onto another idea... that punabbhava is nothing more than the process by which a baby is made (the birds and the bees, so to speak). Now I am SURE this is wrong view, so I'd rather like to be corrected! In my mind I have the 'cause' of a new being as 'sex between two people'... that new person lives (hopefully) after the parents have died... so is this simply what punabbhava is teaching? I'm conflicted because I know a LOT of people have MUCH more Dhamma knowledge and understanding than me, and they've not come to this conclusion (after all, the new 'being' comes after the old 'being's' death, right?). Could someone please explain punabbhava for me correcting my mistakes and quoting from the canon? I would appreciate it so much!

Many many thanks
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:33 am

A moderator's point of procedure. This not a thread for disproving rebirth; this is not a thread for advocating some sort of metaphorical take on, or idiosyncratic “Dhamma Language” interpretation of, punbhava or paticcasamuppada. There are two threads active now for just that. The questions asked are rather clear, and it has been asked that the explanations be grounded in the Pali Canon.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:22 am

Thanks tiltbillings, yes, exactly!
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:31 pm

1) Not another being, nor the same one either. “Whatever kamma I shall do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.” You will not inherit my kamma, and I will not inherit yours. You may have heard the expression, “The boy is the father of the man.” What we do in childhood and youth, conditions what we become as a mature adult. It is a process of becoming. There is no static being, just a continuous process of becoming (bhava) again and again (punabhava). This process does not suddenly cease at death.

2) No soul transmigrates from this existence to the next. Theravādins prefer to use the term “Rebirth” rather than “Reincarnation.” See the Mahātanhasankhaya Sutta, which refutes the eternalist wrong view of transmigration of consciousness held by Bhikkhu Sati. The other extreme is the nihilstic view of one life only. There is rebirth as long as we do not attain Arahantship. As long as the cause remains, the effect continues to arise.

3) A baby is made from three causes: the ovum, the sperm, and the gandhabba. This term “gandhabba” causes much confusion because it is also used in the sense of a celestial musician. However, in this context it simply means “A being to be born.” The parents provide the physical basis only, the kamma of the being to be born is crucial — that is why wicked children can be born to virtuous parents, and vice versa. How a child's character develops is a combination of causes — nature and nurture.
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:25 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:that is why wicked children can be born to virtuous parents, and vice versa. How a child's character develops is a combination of causes — nature and nurture.

Yeah, that's a very good point
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:41 pm

So, firstly, what do we call the next 'becoming' which is the result of many factors (including "my" volition)? Is it okay to say "My next life" or is this confusing things? Similarly, what do we call the life that played a role in "my" becoming? Is it okay to say "My previous life/past life" or is this confusing things too? What is the correct nomenclature for the sentient beings whose lives are linked in samsara?


You can say next life if you wish

1) there is no permanent/eternal soul. No permanent "me", no permanent "self". Therefore, when "I" die, that's it for "me", but if "I"'ve not attained Nibbana my choices in life become a contributing factor in another being's 'becoming'. Is this okay so far?


My understanding is that all that dies is the aggregates, in reality there is an illusion of "I" or self, this is because "I" and self come from grasping at the aggregates as identity, so when the aggregate that is grasped at ceases, the ignorance thats there believes it to be a self thats ceasing. As long as there is craving/clinging there will be future becomings and results in relation to kamma. There is no "I" attaining Nibbana


2) there is no 'thing' that goes from "my" life to the next one. The next life is the result of many contributing factors including "my" own life, but "my" body, "my" mind, "my" consciousness, "my" personality... "me"... dies and rots. Is this right?


If you mean physical death, all that goes on will be conditioning of kamma

3) in "my" life it is possible to develop such a deep realisation that I could somehow visualise the 'past lives' that lead to where "I" am. (I think, but I may be wrong, the Buddha developed this via the Jhanas?)... but as no 'thing' from those lives exists in "mine", this visualisation is not simply a memory exercise, more of a transcendence. Is that right?


When one recalls there many past lives, all the recall is past instances of clinging to aggregates as self. Yes you can reach a level of attainment where you can remember past lives, but it is a useless task since it doesnt lead you to nibbana. the buddha states that all those who recall there past lives just recall form, or feeling or perception, formations of consciousness, thats all there is to remember


Taking all that into account I am slightly worried that my materialistically-trained mind has latched onto another idea... that punabbhava is nothing more than the process by which a baby is made (the birds and the bees, so to speak). Now I am SURE this is wrong view, so I'd rather like to be corrected! In my mind I have the 'cause' of a new being as 'sex between two people'... that new person lives (hopefully) after the parents have died... so is this simply what punabbhava is teaching? I'm conflicted because I know a LOT of people have MUCH more Dhamma knowledge and understanding than me, and they've not come to this conclusion (after all, the new 'being' comes after the old 'being's' death, right?). Could someone please explain punabbhava for me correcting my mistakes and quoting from the canon? I would appreciate it so much!


punabbhava happens right now in this life all the time so its not neccesairly to do with sex and babies, an important thing to remember is that the cycle of birth and death goes on through everymoment, its not just physical birth and death


Has this helped?


:anjali:
Last edited by clw_uk on Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:53 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:Punabbhava, as I understand it so far, is a process by which this "I" came into being. There were a set of conditions that existed and led to "my" existence. During "my" life (including the moment of "my" death) "I" make choices and do 'stuff'. This 'stuff' will be a contributing factor in another 'becoming'. Am I right so far?

Yes. The primary factor leading to another becoming is clinging. If there was no clinging there could be no becoming.

what do we call the next 'becoming' which is the result of many factors (including "my" volition)? Is it okay to say "My next life" or is this confusing things? Similarly, what do we call the life that played a role in "my" becoming? Is it okay to say "My previous life/past life" or is this confusing things too? What is the correct nomenclature for the sentient beings whose lives are linked in samsara?

Let's see what nomenclature the Buddha himself used:
Buddha, MN36 wrote:I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

I think people who complain about using the word "I" or "me" are merely adopting an affectation. The problem is not the words we use; the problem is not taking the time to understand what those words mean.

1)
Fine.

2)
Fine. In addition, those things fall away and new ones arise during your life as well, not just at the end. There is nothing about you now that has persisted from when you were a child, for example.

3) in "my" life it is possible to develop such a deep realisation that I could somehow visualise the 'past lives' that lead to where "I" am. (I think, but I may be wrong, the Buddha developed this via the Jhanas?)

Fine.

... but as no 'thing' from those lives exists in "mine", this visualisation is not simply a memory exercise, more of a transcendence. Is that right?

I don't know if it is right. The logic is flawed though. Nothing about your mind exists from yesterday either. Yet memory still works. (As a side note: I heard an report on the radio that current theory holds that memory is not an object in a box that we can take out from time to time and look at and then put back in the box. Rather, recent experiments have shown that each time we recall something we actually build a new memory to replace the previous one. There is a transference of information, rather than some sort of object. And there is no reason a transference of information couldn't happen between lives as well.)

punabbhava is nothing more than the process by which a baby is made (the birds and the bees, so to speak). Now I am SURE this is wrong view, so I'd rather like to be corrected! In my mind I have the 'cause' of a new being as 'sex between two people'... that new person lives (hopefully) after the parents have died... so is this simply what punabbhava is teaching?

No. First off, if that were the case then the endless cycle of rebirth would be broken simply by not having children. Second, when recalling past lives, the Buddha would have recalled a pair of lives - mother and father. Third, the Buddha's teachig on sotapanna, sakadagami, & anagami wouldn't make any sense. A sakadagami will have one kid and then that kid will attain awakening? A anagamai would... I can't think of how this would be understood. And what of when the Buddha spoke of these attainments regarding dead people? "Such-and-such monk has died. He had attained sotapanna. He will be reborn no more than 7 times before attaining awakening." How could this possibly be understood as having kids?

There are many other problems with this idea of punabhava meaning making babies.
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:17 pm

Right, brilliant! You hae both helped me greatly!!

I can't reply directly to what you've all said right now because I'm using Dhammawheel via my phone, and typing is difficult.

Nonetheless, this has all helped me tremendously. Thank you!
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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:23 pm

Greetings venerable Pesala,

That was an excellent posting - succint and spot on. Well said.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:00 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings venerable Pesala,

That was an excellent posting - succint and spot on. Well said.

:anjali:

Metta,
Retro. :)

I agree.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Punabbhava for beginners, relevent suttas etc, help?

Postby gavesako » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:31 am

http://santifm1.0.googlepages.com/rebirth

Below is a selection of video clips taken from YouTube on the subject of rebirth.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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