the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby kirk5a » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:53 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
“Myth of rebirth in the early texts notwithstanding”


Which is to say ‘lets set aside what we cannot demonstrate in order to consider...’ (not for nothin’ but – rebirth fits exactly the definition of what a myth is)

So your definition of a myth is something that cannot be demonstrated by anyone? Or something you personally cannot demonstrate? Or what?

“do the teachings of the Buddha stand or fail based on whether one believes in what cannot be reached by living experience?”


‘whether’ includes both yours et al, textual and personal assumptions on faith & one who chooses to work with what can be known directly; ascertainable by the faculties one has (unless you have an extra khandha in your pocket, this means all of us).

Extra khandha? Who said you need an extra khandha? The Buddha said he saw his past lives in meditation, that didn't require an extra khanda. What is ascertainable by you or me is not the scope of what is possible to ascertain, which is what your statement seemed to suggest.


And this would qualify the question by what the questioner suggests is universally workable, that is, you can believe in rebirth and practice, another can be agnostic on rebirth and practice; all without losing what is essentially the aim of the Buddha's teaching.

Fine. Who is disagreeing with this? Some people here, myself included, are simply pointing out various things the Buddha said about rebirth, which is an entirely separate thing from saying that we have to believe in rebirth. I've pointed out elsewhere that the Buddha said there is such a thing as wrong view about rebirth. Even in the very sutta where he states that, he is not saying "you should believe in rebirth." Why would he say we're supposed to "believe" in something we personally may not have any knowledge about? He didn't. However, there are plenty of people who think they know rebirth is not true. That is not admitting that one does not know. That is thinking that one does. That could be a problem, in practice. And then there are those who say rebirth is all metaphor, or all speculation, or the Buddha didn't speak of it. Any of those claims are open to challenge, as far as I'm concerned, without maintaining that "we're supposed to believe in rebirth"

It's when someone's personal outlook on the matter prevents them from acknowledging the basic facts of what it is the Buddha said, that is questionable.
"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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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby shjohnk » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:56 pm

Ervin wrote:Once a Budhist reverend told me that one day in hell is 50 thousand years. If that is really the case than that is horific and extremley cruel and disproportionate punishment. Honestly I hope there a is no hell or at least if Budha was right than I hope they are to be taken metaphorically.


Remember that the Buddha is not the one 'sending' beings to hell realms to 'punish' them: we send ourselves there. The Buddha was pointing out the reality of this: This is what goes on in Samsara (the six-realms of conditioned existence). This is not the same as the conundrum facing the monotheistic religions where a supposingly loving God condemns his own flawed creations to never-ending Hell based on one hit-or-miss life time. So we can't complain to the Buddha about this anymore than we can to the doctors who diagnose us with an incurable disease - They're just pointing out our condition, they didn't make us sick.

Now, the good news! The Buddha didn't reveal the existence of Ghost realms/Hell realms to scare or control us, but to show us the disadvantages of hanging around in the conditioned realms: And he pointed out the escape route, the 8-fold noble path!!! :buddha2: So look after your thoughts, speech and actions and you won't end up in the staes of deprivation, in this life or any other :anjali:
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby santa100 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:08 pm

Ah, Hell, you know where to find it by reading your daily newspaper. Innocent children starving to death in Somalia, young girls being gang-raped by warlord militants in Africa, women strapping themselves with explosives and blowing their neighbors up into bits in the Middle East, fathers committ incestuous violence against their daughters in Europe and America, etc. I'm sure for these poor folks, one second in their lives must've felt like a century. Oh yes, there's no doubt that hell is as "real" and "literal" as it could get! And it just doesn't stop there. We all know Suffering knows no bounds, so don't be surprised if there's a "realm" out there where pains and sufferings are about 10 or 100 or 1000....fold greater..Some motivation for us all to practice harder eh..
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:43 pm

The Theravada take on this is that yes, hell and hungry gosts are real.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:48 pm

That depends.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby ground » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:03 pm

kirk5a wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I doubt that there is a definition given by the Buddha for what is the meaning of "literal". IMO "literal" can only refer to the dependent arising of habitual fabrication by thought after eye and eye consciousness (or ear and ear consciousness) have contacted an optical (or acoustical) symbol known as "word" or "term" which is meaningless as such. So a "literal meaning" of a meaningless symbol as such actually is determined by habits. Such habits may differ between individuals.

So if you're walking in a park and someone says "look out for the cliff!" then... what. Meaningless-as-such auditory symbols? Which one has a habit of interpreting metaphorically? :smile:

Yes meaningless symbols as such. If this would not be the case then even someone who does not speak English would understand.
Now even in the case of someone who speaks English but who never has been taught the meaning of "cliff" in the context her/his visual experience the term "cliff" as such will have no meaning.

Now compare this to "hell" or "hungry ghost" ... is there a sense experience to which these terms can be applied on the basis of learning so that one can know a definite meaning? What is "literal" and what "metaphorical"?

Or ... sugar tastes "sweet" but the taste of suger is not the term "sweet". Does sugar taste "literally sweet" or "metaphorically sweet"?


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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Tex » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:41 pm

Whether the hells or heavenly realms are taken literally or metaphorically, the important thing to understand, in my view, is that all of our actions have consequences. Wholesome leads to wholesome and unwholesome leads to unwholesome. And as far as the spectrum of our actions reaches in both wholesome and unwholesome directions, so too do the results.

But if we are able to understand that all living beings are worthy of loving-kindness and compassion and we work hard to treat them accordingly, all the heaven/hell stuff will sort itself out just fine.
"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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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Zom » Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:01 pm

Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?


Yes.


PS: Interesting to notice - usually people ask about the reality of hells or ghost realms, but rarely they ask about the reality of heaven realms :D

By the way, let there be no doubt about "this world and the next world" ,)

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 0-piya.pdf :reading:
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:16 pm

My understaning is that Budhists believe in hell realms


Rather than them being literal places somewhere invisible to me, I consider them to be disturbed mental states which I could experience as a result of negative thoughts and actions.


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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby phil » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:01 pm

Aloka wrote:
My understaning is that Budhists believe in hell realms


Rather than them being literal places somewhere invisible to me, I consider them to be disturbed mental states which I could experience as a result of negative thoughts and actions.


.


Ok, but please keep an open mind to the Buddha's teaching on it as well. No need to force a belief in it, but also no need to close a door or on it. I think perhaps when this view of Hell realms as mental states is adopted. as it often is in the West, the unfortunate thing is that it leads to a rejection of the Buddha's teaching rather than a keeping-in-mind that it could be that the Buddha's teaching on it isn't clear to one's understanding yet, i.e let's not get locked into our views just because they are more sensible to us.
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:20 pm

Hi Ancientbuddhism,
ancientbuddhism wrote:Which is to say ‘lets set aside what we cannot demonstrate in order to consider...’ (not for nothin’ but – rebirth fits exactly the definition of what a myth is)


And can we demonstrate Nibbāna to another person? Have you directly and personally seen it beyond any reasonable doubt?
Have you personally seen an Arahant... Anāgāmī...Sakadāgāmī... Sotāpanna? Are you sure?

Can modern Science prove Nibbāna, Kamma, Arahatship? These require lots of personal development, just like the meditative powers required to see past lives and rebirth.

With best wishes,

Alex
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:32 pm

TMingyur wrote:I doubt that there is a definition given by the Buddha for what is the meaning of "literal".


"Literal" teachings that are to be taken as saying what they say.

Whenever the Buddha used a simile, He has said so, ex: “I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning...." as BB translates it in SN.


Such is NOT the case regarding rebirth, devas, hells, etc.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:12 am

Alex123 wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I doubt that there is a definition given by the Buddha for what is the meaning of "literal".


"Literal" teachings that are to be taken as saying what they say.

Whenever the Buddha used a simile, He has said so, ex: “I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning...." as BB translates it in SN.


Such is NOT the case regarding rebirth, devas, hells, etc.

Alex123,
SOMETIMES the Buddha indicated that something he said was a simile....this does not mean that every other time he spoke he meant it to be literal....also note that a simile is just one kind of non-literal description as there are many kinds of metaphor for instance....another kind of non literal story is an allegory...
My view on whether hell etc. is to be taken literally or not is that if you have had an experience of hell etc. then that experience can be taken to represent the literalness of the teachings...if you have not had an experience of hell etc. then perhaps it is beneficial to think of the teaching as non-literal but to also realize that no experience of hell etc. has yet arisen in you but that it is possible that it might arise at some time in the future.....for me it is interesting to note that people recalling their past lives never seem to recall being in a hell realm......wonder why.....
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby ground » Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:36 am

Alex123 wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I doubt that there is a definition given by the Buddha for what is the meaning of "literal".


"Literal" teachings that are to be taken as saying what they say.


1. they do not say but you understand
2. what language and translation are you referring to?


See the only thing I am trying to get at is that it is somehow funny how the meaning of the term "literal" when referring to another second term is taken as "a given" even in cases where there is no correlate of direct perception/experience for the second term because this second term refers to a mere phantasy, a mere product of thought.

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby phil » Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:21 am

chownah wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I doubt that there is a definition given by the Buddha for what is the meaning of "literal".


"Literal" teachings that are to be taken as saying what they say.

Whenever the Buddha used a simile, He has said so, ex: “I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning...." as BB translates it in SN.


Such is NOT the case regarding rebirth, devas, hells, etc.

Alex123,
SOMETIMES the Buddha indicated that something he said was a simile....this does not mean that every other time he spoke he meant it to be literal....also note that a simile is just one kind of non-literal description as there are many kinds of metaphor for instance....another kind of non literal story is an allegory...
My view on whether hell etc. is to be taken literally or not is that if you have had an experience of hell etc. then that
experience can be taken to represent the literalness of the teachings...if you have not had an experience of hell etc. then perhaps it is beneficial to think of the teaching as non-literal but to also realize that no experience of hell etc. has yet arisen in you but that it is possible that it might arise at some time in the future.....for me it is interesting to note that people recalling their past lives never seem to recall being in a hell realm......wonder why.....
chownah



If by people reciting their past lives you are referring to examples from the Canon, valid question. If not, do we want to pay attention to people reciting their past lives? Irrelevant when considering the Buddha's teaching.

Also irrelevant are what people would call "hell" experienced in the human realm, that's just fudging the Buddha's teaching to make it palatable to Western sensibilities, in my opinion...
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:57 am

phil wrote:
Also irrelevant are what people would call "hell" experienced in the human realm, that's just fudging the Buddha's teaching to make it palatable to Western sensibilities, in my opinion...

I think you might be misconstruing my post. I'm saying that if the Buddha taught about someting called flobshalist and if I have never experienced anything like what the Buddha teaches about flobshalist then I will not take flobshalist as being a literal thing but I will either take it as being something I need to reinterpret into experiences I have had (that is I would take it as being non-literal) or I would say that I have not yet experienced a flobshalist but it is possible that I might experience it at some time in the future. You can remove and replace flobshalist with hell if you want...or with rebirth for that matter....or heaven...or nibhanna....
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:07 am

chownah wrote:I think you might be misconstruing my post. I'm saying that if the Buddha taught about someting called flobshalist and if I have never experienced anything like what the Buddha teaches about flobshalist then I will not take flobshalist as being a literal thing but I will either take it as being something I need to reinterpret into experiences I have had (that is I would take it as being non-literal) or I would say that I have not yet experienced a flobshalist but it is possible that I might experience it at some time in the future. You can remove and replace flobshalist with hell if you want...or with rebirth for that matter....or heaven...or nibhanna....
chownah


Absolutely.

Also after private conversations with both a Vajrayana and a Theravada teacher I am confident that its ok for me to interpret the 'realms' as different mental states we can experience in this lifetime.


.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Zom » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:17 am

Thinking that heavens and hells should not be taken "literally" - is the Wrong View.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:36 am

Zom wrote:Thinking that heavens and hells should not be taken "literally" - is the Wrong View.


Unless you can show them to me Zom, then in my own view its all purely speculative and has no connection to my practice here and now.

Anyway, to return to Ervin's OP, this dhamma talk from Ajahn Sumedho "Where is Hell " might be helpful

http://www.dhammatalks.org.uk/index.php?id=40&file_id=674

.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:38 am

Please see The Incontrovertible Discourse from the Majjhimanikāya.
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