the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby Fede » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:09 am

I'm sorry....

But Retro seems to have been re-born as Jen (The elfling in dark Crystal).....


I'm mesmerised by the transformation..... :jawdrop:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:03 pm

A good point that someone brought up earlier was to ask the question would anyone who did remember a past life be inclined to post about it on this board and in this thread?

If they were, would it be good enough for people?

What if the person didn't do a Dr. Stevenson thing and verify that there was such a person in the past with public records of that person and verify that they wouldn't have come across those records in the course of their daily life?

I've heard that Dr. Stevenson's work is voluminous and dry, but I read this review for an interesting book about Stevenson himself and his last fact finding tour before he retired:
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:12 pm

As significant as Dr. Stevenson's work is, I think it would strengthen the case for rebirth if examples of other research were provided. Excessive reliance on one person's work is a liability -- it suggests non-replicability, anomaly or methodological problems. Theories gain credibility when they are supported by plentiful research conducted by different sources.

Not bashing Stevenson here or those who have mentioned him -- it's just that I suspect he may be hurting the case more than helping. It's come to the point that whenever I see a Buddhist article or discussion of the subject, I already know how the argument will proceed...."Yes, there is scientific evidence for rebirth.... a man named Dr. Ian Stevenson researched hundreds of cases...blah blah...thus rebirth is a valid scientific theory!" Frankly this is about the level of sophistication we find on The 700 Club (this just in! new evidence for Noah's Ark found in Turkey!)

Isn't there something newer/better out there?

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby Jhana4 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:23 pm

You are absolutely right, but I think Dr. Stevenson's work is the only game in town.

I don't know what the original poster's motivation but my guess would s/he wanted to know if there was any weight to the idea of rebirth. In that regard, Stevenson's work which involved small children with no access to public records probably has more weight that an adult on the internet, who does, making claims.

For the record, I'm an agnostic in regards to rebirth. I would probably be an atheist in regards to rebirth without my association with Buddhism. My view is that there is a "dependent origination" with beliefs. If you have a lot of contact with people or texts who repeat an idea, it comes to seem more reasonable to you independent of evidence.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby pulga » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:58 pm

It seems to me that a lot of it has to do with personal identity. Am I the same person I was yesterday? And would my memory of yesterday be any more problematic in overcoming my belief in a self than if I experienced a memory of a past life?

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:20 pm

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:50 pm

"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Who has verified rebirth personally?

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:48 am

Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Refugee » Sun Apr 03, 2011 11:33 am

:namaste: More than two thousand years have gone by and there is still no consensus about (post-mortem) rebirth. Will there be consensus about this in our relatively short lifespan? I don't think so! Then, are we wasting our time here? Maybe not; because "the great rebirth debate" may actually be a positive thing, in that, it could point to the futility of seeking answers about rebirth based on intellectual arguments.

Some claim the Buddha taught about rebirth, while others have a different slant on this. Then, again, some claim they acquired experiential knowledge that rebirth actually happens. But, others reject this. There's so much reference to the different suttas and commentaries on both sides, but still no consensus. There's also no guarantee that everything in the suttas is exactly how the Buddha explained it. Some people simply choose to be angostic about it. And, being agnostic about rebirth may not be a problem because the driving force of the Dhamma is simply to know dukkha, its causes, its cessation, and the Way (8FP) to its cessation. Perhaps, knowledge about whether or not there is (post-mortem) rebirth is not essential to the practice of the Buddha-Dhamma. I am not too sure about this, but if it is the case, then beginners who field questions about (post-mortem) rebirth should be advised accordingly. Then, at least, they will put aside this "distraction" and continue with the practice... leaving this debate to more "experienced" practitioners. :tongue:
My practice is simply this: Avoid evil, do good, and purify the mind.

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Postby greggorious » Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:03 am

Just a quick question. Does one HAVE to believe in re birth to be a Theravada Buddhist?
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah

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Re: Rebirth

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:10 am

Greetings Greg,

Understanding what rebirth means probably takes precedence over whether one believes it or not.

So we know what you're considering believing/disbelieving, can you explain to us in your words what you think rebirth is?

Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Rebirth

Postby Nibbida » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:07 am

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Re: Rebirth

Postby plwk » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:08 am

Thus Have I Heard: The more one practices, the less one need 'beliefs'...

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Re: Rebirth

Postby Jason » Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:48 am

"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" ().

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Re: Rebirth

Postby Digity » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:11 am

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Re: Rebirth

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Apr 06, 2011 3:17 pm

There is no narrative or story you have to buy into to become a Buddhist- you just have to feel that the Buddha, dhamma and sangha can offer you a refuge, where other teachings cannot.

with metta

With Metta

& Upekkha

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Re: Rebirth

Postby Tex » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:17 pm

One of the many great things about Buddhism is that we aren't asked to just believe. Buddhist faith (saddha) is a well-reasoned faith, not a blind leap of faith. We're encouraged to investigate and understand for ourselves, rather than take someone else's (even Buddha's) word for it.

If rebirth (or any other concept we encounter in the Dhamma) seems dubious or doesn't make sense at first glance, it's perfectly fine to put it off to the side and continue studying the parts that do resonate with us. There's nothing forcing us to accept or reject any concept immediately. And sometimes that difficult concept that we put off to the side, neither accepting nor rejecting, becomes much clearer once we understand more about the Dhamma as a whole and we can see that difficult concept in a more complete context.
"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus

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Re: Rebirth

Postby alan » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:59 am

Well said, Tex!

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Re: Rebirth

Postby ricketybridge » Thu Apr 07, 2011 11:37 pm

I was wondering the same exact thing, but to put it more specifically, is it possible to become a stream-entrant (not just a general Buddhist) without believing in rebirth--or even kamma? The pre-requisites for stream-entry appear to be quite clear: the elimination of three of the ten fetters, which include doubt about the dhamma. Since rebirth and kamma are pretty darn fundamental to the dhamma, I would imagine that most buddhists would say that even if someone were otherwise identical to a stream-entrant in every way in terms of behavior and mental states (I know, you could argue that this would be impossible without believing in dhamma and kamma), just the fact that one of them doesn't believe in kamma and rebirth means that they must not be a stream-entrant. This seems, to me, akin to Christians saying you'll go to hell if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

This bothers me because I (at least at this point) cannot believe in these things. I'm sorry if this seems blasphemous or disrespectful to anyone, but I'm actually surprised that Buddha believed in these concepts. I know he comes from a different time and culture, but all of his teachings, with the exception of these two things, are completely experiential and provable. He even seems to advocate a sort of scientific method, encouraging people to try the teaching, and to reject it if it doesn't work. Kamma and rebirth, however, are completely, entirely unprovable, and, as with the existence of god, why bother yourself about something that is utterly unknowable and probably made-up? (I know the arguments in favor of kamma and rebirth, so no need to trouble yourself with trying to convince me otherwise.)

I DO, however, believe in those things in a more practical or metaphorical sense: if you don't follow the dhamma, you will be miserable. I've sure experienced that myself. And I see the end of rebirth as the end of the rebirth of desires. Since this is sufficient, to me, to agree with the rest of his teachings, shouldn't it be sufficient for stream-entry?

I feel like some people will feel compelled to answer with "why are you worried about this? You're so far from stream-entry anyway, just do the practice, etc." or "why are you so resistant? Why don't you examine that, etc.", but, to me, these sorts of answers shut down questioning and exploration, and Buddha himself answered questions thoroughly (most of the time), so I would just like to humbly request answers that aren't merely dismissive.

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Re: Rebirth

Postby Ben » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:01 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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