0pper wrote:One of the Buddhist concepts I have a difficult time wrapping my mind around is the notion of re-birth.
1. How central is re-birth to Buddhism? Could I profess to be a Buddhist but reject the concept of re-birth?
The basic complete aim of Buddhism is to end "dissatisfaction", and in the basic definitions of "dissatisfaction", the idea of continual rebirth is very basic. So it has been for Buddhists for the past 2500 years. A few modern commentators, trying to "align Buddhism with material science" have raised their doubts. They are by far exceptions to the general Buddhist traditions. Although Buddhism in the west is rather new, few would really like to admit it.
You can profess anything you like, nobody is stopping you. But it is usually skillful to profess things that conform to the way that they are generally understood. That helps other people understand what we are saying.
There is also a difference between "reject" and "not accept". The former, to me at least, is saying "There is no such thing as rebirth!" The latter is saying "I do not know, maybe there is, maybe not." The latter at least opens the possibility of learning, the former does not, and forms just another obstructing view to the path.
2. If there is a little moth that gets killed, does it get re-born as a moth again? How do Buddhists prove this kind of thing?
Buddhists are seldom bothered with proving into what form other living beings are reborn. However, taking the premise that wholesome karma leads to happy future states, and unwholesome karma to unhappy ones, they do their best to cultivate the former and eliminate the latter.
There is a lot of evidence of rebirth around. If you are willing to look outside the typical mainstream Western material culture, you'll find some very convincing evidence and studies here. The sheer bulk of which should give us pause to consider, at least.
3. Since a lower life form, like a moth, is not capable of practicing the Dharma how can it ever move up to a higher life form and eventually attain Nirvana?
First of all, unlike some non-Buddhist reincarnation theories, Buddhism does not posit that beings "move up to a higher life form and eventually attain Nirvana", in the sense of a necessary process, where nirvana is the pinnacle on top. Although some types of life are generally more happy than others, there is no requisite that beings "move up" or "eventually attain nirvana". Some may be stuck in horrible places for a very long time. Also, nirvana is not the "highest form", but rather, beyond any and all forms, total transcendence, yet that may occur whilst alive. Paradoxical? Perhaps. Never mind.
That out of the way, the point is this: The karma which projects a living being into the next life form at death is not necessarily a karma which has been made in that life. In other words, the mental stream has karmic potentials from a beginningless round of lives. Hence, they may have some wholesome karmic potentials which could arise at death, and project them into happy states.
But, in general, it is considered incredibly rare to attain a human rebirth. Incredibly rare. The possibility of the average moth (or whatever) having wholesome karma potentials mature at death which leads them to human form is mind bogglingly unlikely. Technical possible, but incredible unlikely.
So, most Buddhists consider that: "Now that I have a human life, I better make very good use of it!"
I know there is alot of stuff I am missing here.
Many thanks for your time.
Sure. There is a lot of stuff that most of us are missing here. Hope the above is helpful.