the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:48 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:...do the teachings of the Buddha stand or fail based on whether one believes in what cannot be reached by living experience?


I accept rebirth largely on trust in the Buddha, but I very rarely see it explained by others without some manner of implicit atta, which is a huge mistake. The idea, however, that agnosticism on this issue means one's Dhamma practice is less-than is horribly mistaken. Seeing it comes with effort (if it comes at all), and until then it's easily set aside in preference to those aspects of the Path that are more immediately verifiable.

kirk5a wrote:How do you KNOW it's a myth? How do you KNOW it "cannot be reached by living experience"? Others while living have said they have in fact seen the truth of it for themselves. So you put yourself in opposition to them - but what is your certainty actually based upon?


I'll wager that in place of "cannot be", above, we could say "has not been" and avoid the entirety of your critique. With this subtle change of phrase, we uphold the Buddha's injunction that we NOT claim to know what we, in fact, do not know, whether affirming or denying rebirth. We withhold judgment on the matter and continue with our individual practice.

ancientbuddhism wrote:With the myth of rebirth aside I do not see a mere system of ethics, mere petty morality, but a way of living with an analysis of experience which can be put into practice with evident progression.


This evident progression is the key, because it's evident whether or not rebirth is seen for oneself, accepted on trust, set aside for the time being, or discarded as irrelevant. In any of these cases, the Dhamma can be practiced for benefit. Claiming that rebirth is a necessary component to accept is incorrect and alienating to many.

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    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby kirk5a » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:59 pm

daverupa wrote:I'll wager that in place of "cannot be", above, we could say "has not been" and avoid the entirety of your critique.

Not unless one says - 'has not been reached by me"
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Postby kaiel » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:35 am

This may be a long winded post so I apologize. First off I am a Roman Catholic by birth and loosely practice it, that being said I believe no one religion is absolute. For this reason I do my best to study various belief systems. I have spent the last three months reading up on Buddhism in all its forms, and I must say I feel it to be truly an amazing and enlightening religion, one I wish to perhaps be a part of. However this concept of rebirth and anatta confuse me.

I have spent the last month on this topic specifically, the last 3 nights reading posts in this forum on the topic, I would like to get a good explanation on this realizing this is a the a Theravada forum.

Question If there is no soul, what if anything is reborn...since I don't expect to reach enlightenment in my 80 or so years of life, if I do not continue on, why even bother starting the path, after all only one guy has done it in 2600 years
.. now I would like to eliminate some possible responses off the bat, ones I have already seen posted here. Keep in mind I am currently not a Buddhist and therefore am not looking to debate anyone on scripture.

1. I've seen it said rebirth is not literal, that we go through rebirth every moment based on our karma from the last. My take here is the wise Siddhartha would of used simpler language, like you actions yesterday effect who you are and your well being today. Terms like deva and asura and hungry ghosts used for nothing more than describing a mental state seems like metaphorical overkill.


2. I've seen it said not even to bother thinking about it, to do so locks me further in samsara, well to that I reply I fully expect to be in samsara for a while, I'm okay with a slow crawl to enlightenment so yes I want to think about it.

3. I've also seen it said there is no soul, but a subtle self, or luminous mind, or mind stream. Now to me this sounds like a soul,many religions have different takes on what a soul is, but the gist of it is a part of you that continues on after. The Tibetans go on to describe the actual events while Inbetween lives, how is this anatta, yet I would expect these monks who should be well versed in Buddhas teachings

4. Lastly I have sadly seen posts here where one wiser than thou type simply states its too complex for the op to understand , that they , or me, do not grasp Siddharthas teachings, to me this type of response is no different than pushy Christian types exclaiming its in the bible so its true whether you like it or not.

So to reiterate if me...kaiel does not continue after death, and lets face it I am not going to be the next Buddha in 40 more years of life, why follow the path, surely there are other philosophies that one can follow to just make ones life a more productive one, or is there some sort of essence , mind stream, Jedi force, that continues.

I truly thank you all for your time and look forward to some good productive replies.


1. I have seen this answered by simply saying, do not worry about it, or its not worth thinking
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Postby plwk » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:48 am

Have you read this? Ignoring all 'one wiser than thou type simply states its too complex for the op to understand'...
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
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Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Aug 05, 2011 5:36 am

Life is a process, not a thing — a wave, not a particle.

The so-called self or soul is an illusion, not a person or a being. If we can realise the nature of the illusion then doubt will disappear and insight will arise.

If we have a clear intellectual understanding of the nature of illusions, we know how they work and that they are just illusions, but we are still deceived by them. However, the deception is not so completely beguiling. We start to think in a more skilful way since the ego doesn't obstruct our thought process.

An enlightened person has destroyed doubt about the right path and the ego-illusion completely, so they cannot do immoral deeds such as killing, stealing, adultery, or telling lies that are liable to send deluded beings to hell or the animal realms.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:26 am

santa100 wrote:
Daverupa wrote:
Kamma doesn't operate solely across the alleged death-birth barrier, but within one life as well. It has effect in this world, or in the next, or later, per the Suttas


Indeed, and if there's no rebirth, Kamma won't hold in 2 out 3 cases: the "previous world" and the "next world". Its scope would be solely restricted to the "current world", which obviously not on the same page with the Suttas..

Not " obvious" to me..
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:59 am

daverupa wrote:This evident progression is the key, because it's evident whether or not rebirth is seen for oneself, accepted on trust, set aside for the time being, or discarded as irrelevant. In any of these cases, the Dhamma can be practiced for benefit. Claiming that rebirth is a necessary component to accept is incorrect and alienating to many.


I agree. Dhamma is a process of discovery and verification, not a process of taking on beliefs.

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Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:02 am

kaiel wrote:I don't expect to reach enlightenment ... only one guy has done it in 2600 years
I am confident quite a few people have achieved nibbana.

Anyway, this is my understanding (and I am certainly not an arahant so bear in mind it could be wildly wrong): Anatta means no permanent self can be found in the five aggregates. These five aggregates constitute what we think of as 'us'. Upon death these five aggregates break up, so that illusion of 'self' is defiled and no longer exists. The consequences for the choices we make, however, do not end at death and causality continues to play out. This gives us a huge responsibility. Our choices are the cause of a new being coming into existence and our choices effect their existence just as they effected our own. Causality is reborn. Kamma-vipaka rumbles on through countless lifetimes. We have the responsibility to try to end suffering not just for our selfish sake (after all, our aggregates are already becoming defiled from the moment we are born and we will die) but for the sake of the serial existences we will cause by our volition. Ideally we will attain nibbana and end the cycle of causality, end our part in kamma-vipaka.

Edit: Again, that caveat, I'm a beginner myself.
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Postby chownah » Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:03 pm

kaiel,
You posted, "...since I don't expect to reach enlightenment in my 80 or so years of life, if I do not continue on, why even bother starting the path, after all only one guy has done it in 2600 years".
I want to point out that from the Theravada perspective the goal is to end dukkha (suffering) which is the same thing as reaching nibhanna...this is the same ending of suffering as the Buddha reached and the same nibhanna that the Buddha reached. It is not the goal for most people to attain to the same state of the Buddha in general in that the Buddha's special qualities only arises in another Buddha every gazillion years give or take a few bazillion and every Buddha's "job" is to rediscover the path and teach it. Since only one of these is needed every gazillion years give or take a few bazillion it is not necessary for everyone to achieve this so we only need to achieve nibhanna without worrying about developing all those special abilities...unless we want to....but remember that there are alot of people who indicate that they want to achieve the Buddha "status" so the competition is fierce....for my money just plane old nibhanna will do just fine....
Since you are a beginner I"ll warn you to not take any one person's views on anything in Buddhism as being definitive....you need to listen and read and learn what ideas are out there and then try it out for yourself....the proof will be discovered by your own experiences....I guess.
Also, I want to point out that in the scriptures there lot's of people (thousands I think) that are said to have attained nibhanna in the Buddha's life and it is assumed that there are people today who have achieved it too....although mostly people don't talk about their achievements.....although I will say that I have achieved a method for raising rice organically!!!
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Postby Saijun » Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:19 pm

kaiel wrote:[...]
Question If there is no soul, what if anything is reborn...
[...]
So to reiterate if me...kaiel does not continue after death, and lets face it I am not going to be the next Buddha in 40 more years of life, why follow the path, surely there are other philosophies that one can follow to just make ones life a more productive one, or is there some sort of essence , mind stream, Jedi force, that continues.


Hello Kaiel,

For what it's worth from a Mahayana person (though I'm not convinced that my view is out of line with the Theravada standpoint), I was asked by another Sangha-mate, "[t]he only thing I have a hard time wrapping my mind around is this. After stripping away the mental being...and the physical being...what exactly is left over to even be carried over into a new body/mind?"

And I answered (still the best answer I can come up with):
Elsewhere, I wrote:The best way that I can put it conceptually is that the ego carries on; the three "poisons," i.e., greed, aversion, and ignorance make up the ego and propel it on. For one to be reborn again and again, there have to be conditions, just as for one to awaken, there have to be conditions (that bring you to the gate of the unconditioned).

So, it's like an etch-a-sketch (remember those?) The drawing is subject to knobs being twiddled. When we die, it's like someone shaking the picture out (except for the purposes of this simile, it's a very bad etch-a-sketch and there is residue [karma/vipaka] still sort of left on after the shaking). Awakening is when the etch-a-sketch is put down. No more holding on to it, no more twiddling the knobs to make the picture just so. Just set it down and don't bother trying to make things anymore.

It's a weak simile at best, but that's basically all I've got at the moment.


Anyway, that's my take on the whole thing, or at least a reasonable approximation. I hope this helps!

Metta and Anjali,

Saijun
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Postby santa100 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:12 pm

Kaiel wrote:
1. I've seen it said rebirth is not literal, that we go through rebirth every moment based on our karma from the last. My take here is the wise Siddhartha would of used simpler language, like you actions yesterday effect who you are and your well being today. Terms like deva and asura and hungry ghosts used for nothing more than describing a mental state seems like metaphorical overkill.
3. I've also seen it said there is no soul, but a subtle self, or luminous mind, or mind stream. Now to me this sounds like a soul,many religions have different takes on what a soul is, but the gist of it is a part of you that continues on after. The Tibetans go on to describe the actual events while Inbetween lives, how is this anatta, yet I would expect these monks who should be well versed in Buddhas teachings


For item 1., notice that moment-to-moment rebirth and literal rebirth don't have to be 2 mutually exclusive concepts. Both are well supported on logical ground and references from the Buddhist Canon. If you haven't been to a Buddhist temple, I'd recommend you pay a visit and have some friendly chat with the monks there to get more insight into this important concept.

For item 3., notice Buddhism doesn't deny a conventional, temporarily labeled "self". We still recognize a Mr. Kaiel who raises good questions about Buddhism. But it stops there, this conventional self is not permament, composed of many many constituents, and most important of all: being subjected to sufferings like aging, sickness, lamentation, stress, death, etc. The "self" is just a label like a "car" is a label temporarily assigned to a structure with 4 wheels, engine, electrical systems, frame,etc. The "self" is not "real" because it constantly changes. Your body cells constantly die off and being replaced with new ones. So technically speaking, Mr. Kaiel 5 minutes ago is not the same as Mr. Kaiel now. Most of his cells already been replaced and he gets slightly older 5 minutes later. So, if there's a real, absolute, and immutable "self" to be defined, where do you find it? Which Kaiel out of the hundreds or thoudsands of "Kaiel instances" is the "real" Kaiel? Same logic can be deduced for the "soul". When a husband loses his temper and acts like a lunatic, his wife would say "you are not yourself anymore". If he has a real and immutable "soul", which one is it? The calm version, the wrathful version? So, afterall, what got carried over to one's next life? That which is "the gist of a part of you that continues on after"? Kamma!

As Chownah mentioned, keep on learning more about Buddhism (ref: http://www.accesstoinsight.org), practice meditation, spend more time with it, and you'll be able to find out more answers for yourself. Good luck..
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Postby Dhammakid » Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:31 pm

I highly encourage you to check out the many great articles on the concept of anatta and rebirth found on Access to Insight. Once you receive a proper understanding on the two concepts, you will wonder how anyone can consciously believe in this fleeting, ever-changing self. It will be a mind-altering experience.
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Postby kaiel » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:02 pm

Fir off thank you all kindly for your time, I truly appreciate it. To what Santa109 said, I understand the car metaphor, I grasp that I am in constant flux, but could not a soul be in constant flux as well, it is not permenent in the sense of a solid unchanging stone, but it simply outlasts the physical. My example would be particle physics, assuming string theory to be correct, an electron is always in flux, changing position, spin etc.. however underneath that electron is just a 1dimensional string vibrating at a specific frequency. My issue here is if I simply live and die, and that's it what is the point of reaching enlightenment, why not spend time writing books or painting to be remembered, worse yet from a lesser persons point of view start wars, kill, rob, etc...

If my karma is simply a bank account for something to inherit, why should I be concerned.

I understand these questions may seem silly or even utterly nonsensical to one who is a true follower but I have them none the less. I will read the link suggested and would also like to find a mahayana forum to posit the same question to if anyone knows such a site.

Last question, in your sects view, is the Buddha still in existence in so,e higher realm, or is he gone,
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Postby kaiel » Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:38 pm

Did some reading on the suggested site
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
I understand here that Buddha really never gave an answer here, I see why

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el414.html
Wow, we got 31 realms, a sage sad because he knows he will be reborn in the formless realm where he can't reach enlightenment prior to sidhartha becoming Buddha. Point is this article certainly seems to favor some sort of mind stream, soul

I will continue on reading,

P.S. any good references on how to begin meditating, my mind is always so active I've yet to quiet it more than 15 seconds
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Postby Tex » Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:02 pm

P.S. any good references on how to begin meditating, my mind is always so active I've yet to quiet it more than 15 seconds


This is an excellent book for a beginning meditator:

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Plain ... 0861713214
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"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
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the great rebirth debate

Postby santa100 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:37 pm

Kaiel wrote:
My issue here is if I simply live and die, and that's it what is the point of reaching enlightenment, why not spend time writing books or painting to be remembered, worse yet from a lesser persons point of view start wars, kill, rob, etc...
If my karma is simply a bank account for something to inherit, why should I be concerned.


Vibrating string would be a good analogy for Kamma. Depending on the frequency, it could manifest in so many different sizes, shapes, forms, and states, wholesome or unwholsome.
Even if we temporarily set aside the concept of self/no-self, sould/no-soul, the fact remains: suffering exists. Mr. Kaiel inherits both wholesome and unwholesome Kamma that Mr. John Doe created in a previous life. Similarly, Mr. Kaiel will generate some new Kamma (hopefully a lot more wholesome :smile: )for Ms. Jane Roe for her next existence. As long as you 3 people still stuck in the viscous realm of Samsara, your sufferings will be just as "real" as anything you see under the sun regardless of whether you "three" are really "one" or not. So, out of compassion for this temporary "self", and out of compassion for many others, one should really live and practice in accordance with the Path..That's the only way to final Nibbana, the end of all sufferings..

Try this Thread for some info. on meditation. Good luck..
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4056
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Postby Nicro » Fri Aug 05, 2011 8:28 pm

I will have a go at answering these. Look at the bold.


kaiel wrote:
1. I've seen it said rebirth is not literal, that we go through rebirth every moment based on our karma from the last. My take here is the wise Siddhartha would of used simpler language, like you actions yesterday effect who you are and your well being today. Terms like deva and asura and hungry ghosts used for nothing more than describing a mental state seems like metaphorical overkill.

As said before there is both moment to moment rebirth and literal rebirth. And in the Dhammapada he said exactly the part I italicized above I believe.


2. I've seen it said not even to bother thinking about it, to do so locks me further in samsara, well to that I reply I fully expect to be in samsara for a while, I'm okay with a slow crawl to enlightenment so yes I want to think about it.

I have never heard this. The closest thing I have heard to an answer like that is "even if you don't believe in rebirth you should still take the actions that would lead to a good rebirth. Doing kind, and wholesome acts leads to happiness in this life and if you are reborn, you will have a better life there.


3. I've also seen it said there is no soul, but a subtle self, or luminous mind, or mind stream. Now to me this sounds like a soul,many religions have different takes on what a soul is, but the gist of it is a part of you that continues on after. The Tibetans go on to describe the actual events while Inbetween lives, how is this anatta, yet I would expect these monks who should be well versed in Buddhas teachings

"Mind Stream" doesn't equate to a soul though. "Mind Stream" would be basically your stream of thoughts. For example, you are driving to work feeling fine, then someone cuts you off. You become angry and mad. You weren't angry just 20 seconds ago, but now you are in a whole new state. You only view yourself as being the "same" because your mind connects these different states together like passing off a baton. You view yourself as the baton race, the whole interconnected series of different states, instead of seeing your life moment by moment.


4. Lastly I have sadly seen posts here where one wiser than thou type simply states its too complex for the op to understand , that they , or me, do not grasp Siddharthas teachings, to me this type of response is no different than pushy Christian types exclaiming its in the bible so its true whether you like it or not.

That is not a good thing to do. But I will urge you to practice meditation, as many of these topic become clearer and easier to understand if you undertake the investigation of your mind up yourself.

So to reiterate if me...kaiel does not continue after death, and lets face it I am not going to be the next Buddha in 40 more years of life, why follow the path, surely there are other philosophies that one can follow to just make ones life a more productive one, or is there some sort of essence , mind stream, Jedi force, that continues.

That would be your Kamma. Think again of the baton race. Your Kamma is the baton. The runners are your different states, your kamma continues to build as you go through the different states, becoming dirty while in the hands of a filthy runner(think nasty states and actions) or get a little cleaner when its grabbed by a runner who just happens to have some Sani-wipes on him(good states and actions). The whole goal of the race is to "win", just like people try to do in life(have a good job, nice house and car, lots of money etc..) Only the race never ends, so no matter what you end up suffering because you never reach your goal. Once you realize this you stop running and drop the baton.




Again, take up meditation and investigate yourself. Take a look at this to learn Vipasanna:

http://www.vipassanadhura.com/howto.htm

And these youtube videos aswell for Vipassana:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLvU7ppM ... B03E12F5A1
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the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:06 pm

Hello Kaiel,

kaiel wrote: To what Santa109 said, I understand the car metaphor, I grasp that I am in constant flux, but could not a soul be in constant flux as well, it is not permenent in the sense of a solid unchanging stone, but it simply outlasts the physical.


What we call "a person" is a process of mental and physical events. Every moment is a new moment that is conditioned by the previous moments.

kaiel wrote:
If my karma is simply a bank account for something to inherit, why should I be concerned.


Five year old "Andrew" is not totally the same as 25 year old "Andrew" 20 years later, but not totally different either. If five year old Andrew looses an arm, for example, after 20 years, that Andrew (who is now 25 years old) will still feel the consequences of that event. Even though every cell in the body, and mental states can be different, still actions bring results, and it does matter for 25 year old what "that" 5 year old did. In dream you may forget your personality, languages that you may know, waking memories, etc. But you still feel "I am" and scary or pleasurable events in the dream still matter even though your identity is temporarily different.

Same with good/bad kamma and rebirth. As I understand it, what passes is the deluded sense of "I Am" plus all the kamma and un-eradicated tendencies. Just like you can feel pain or pleasure now (and be totally oblivious to whom you were in distant past), same will be in the future, unless you achieve parinibbāna. Rebirth is like falling into another dream, except that you don't wake up into previous "waking personality" and you can still feel 5 sense objects.


IMHO,


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Postby kaiel » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:54 pm

it seems there is as much disagreement between the schools of Buddhism as there is between us Catholics and Christians. Allegorical interpretation versus Literal, different Suttas in different sects. Found this article which uses strong language against Theravada's idea of anatta http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive ... 00018.html, I do not like how they approach their arguments as they are certainly not using kind language


It seems I should just do what has been suggested here and learn to meditate and find the answer myself, I do believe Buddhism to possibly be closer to the truth than any other religion.

Thanks for the book suggestion Tex, already ordered it
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Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:09 pm

kaiel wrote:Found this article...


An opaque and sesquipedalian wall of text with no discernible thesis. :roll:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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