Self and reincarnation

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
alfa
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Self and reincarnation

Postby alfa » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:06 pm

Namaste,

If there's no self, what is it that reincarnates? Or, do I understand this to mean that the self exists but since it keeps changing all the time, it's almost as if it doesn't exist?

Alfa

David2
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby David2 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:10 pm

Imagine a candle. You light this candle.

Is the flame in two hours the same flame as the flame now?

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bodom
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby bodom » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:44 pm

Hi Alfa

See this thread:

the great rebirth debate

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Jason
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby Jason » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:00 pm

alfa wrote:If there's no self, what is it that reincarnates? Or, do I understand this to mean that the self exists but since it keeps changing all the time, it's almost as if it doesn't exist?


The question often arises, If Buddhism doesn't posit a self or soul, what gets reborn? From the Theravadin point of view (or at least from the point of view of those in Theravada who accept the idea of postmortem rebirth), rebirth is viewed as the continuation of a process—nothing 'remains,' nothing 'transmigrates,' there are merely fleeting phenomena that condition other fleeting phenomena in the interdependent process we call life.

One way to look at it is that a casual process can be self-sustaining, with causes creating effects, and effect acting as causes, creating feedback loops. And if you admit the possibility of immaterial causes and not just material ones (assuming that a clear distinction between the two can even be made), then the continuation of said process isn't limited by or to a single material body. And if you believe Bertrand Russell, the more we understand about matter (i.e., energy), the more the word itself becomes "no more than a conventional shorthand for stating causal laws concerning events" (An Outline of Philosophy).

Here, consciousness isn't seen as a static things going from life to life, but simply as one link or event in a complex causal chain, i.e., moments of consciousness arising and ceasing in rapid succession, with the last consciousness of a being at the time of death immediately conditioning the arising of a new consciousness due to the presence of craving (kind of like 'spooky action at a distance' where two entangled particles communicate with each other instantaneously, even over great distances). It's almost better to think of it as a transmission of information rather than the transmigration of some thing.

Thus, in Buddhism, there can theoretically be continuity between lives without having to posit some type of permanent, unchanging consciousness or soul that travels from life to life. That's why the Pali term vinnanasota or 'stream of consciousness' is often used to describe the flow of conscious events, even when presented within the context of rebirth. (Similarly with terms like bhavangasota (stream of becoming), found in Snp 3.12, and samvattanikamvinnanam (evolving consciousness), found in MN 106.)

Unfortunately, there are no suttas that give a detailed explanation of this process, and the detailed workings of this process are to be found in the Abhidhamma and Pali commentaries. While many people reject the Abhidhamma and commentaries as reliable sources of information regarding what the Buddha taught, I don't think the views of the Buddha and the ancient commentators such as Buddhaghosa are necessarily mutually exclusive.

As for the teachings on not-self (anatta), the basic idea is that whatever is inconstant (anicca) is stressful (dukkha), and whatever is stressful is not-self, since whatever is inconstant, subject to change, and not fully under our control isn't fit to be called 'me' or 'mine' (SN 22.59). Practically speaking, to hold onto anything that's inconstant, subject to change, break-up and dissolution as self is a cause for mental stress and suffering; therefore, the teachings on not-self are designed to help one let go of what isn't self (i.e., the five aggregates) in order to free the mind from the suffering engendered by clinging to ephemeral phenomena.
Last edited by Jason on Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:40 pm

The so-called "self" is an illusion, so there is no "thing" to get rid of and no "thing" to get reborn. What needs to be abandoned is craving and ignorance.

The Nature of Illusion
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acinteyyo
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:34 pm

alfa wrote:Namaste,

If there's no self, what is it that reincarnates? Or, do I understand this to mean that the self exists but since it keeps changing all the time, it's almost as if it doesn't exist?

Alfa

This is an inappropriate question!
Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism
If there's no self, then who gets enlightened?
If there's no self, then what gets reborn?
If there's no self, then why...?

Nowhere in the Pali canon does Buddha categorically declare, without qualification, "There is no self."[1] Any question that begins along the lines of, "If there's no self..." is thus inherently misleading, dooming the questioner to a hopeless tangle of confusion — "a thicket of [wrong] views" [MN 2]. Such questions are best put aside altogether in favor of more fruitful lines of questioning.[2]

Notes:
[1.] See "The Not-self Strategy" and "No-self or Not-self?" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
[2.] See "Questions of Skill" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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BrownRice (Element)
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby BrownRice (Element) » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:03 pm

What reincarnates are mental tendencies. For example, you have a tendency towards mango & macadamia ice cream. This tendency or inclincation reincarnates.

:popcorn:

Image

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tiltbillings
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:04 pm

BrownRice wrote:What reincarnates are mental tendencies. For example, you have a tendency towards mango & macadamia ice cream. This tendency or inclincation reincarnates.

:popcorn:

Image
Buddhadasa taught that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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BrownRice (Element)
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Re: Self and reincarnation

Postby BrownRice (Element) » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:12 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Image

Buddhadasa taught that.

Sir

I am not aware Ajahn Buddhadasa spoke such a teaching nor was partial to mango & macadamia ice cream. I was merely giving my personal opinion & inclinations.

:popcorn:


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