Accepting Rebirth

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Accepting Rebirth

Postby Sindre » Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:46 am

Hello all,

Rebirth is an subject I have been thinking about and been discussing in an another forum lately. I do not think this is an easy theme but I have faith in rebirth as an reality. One reason I have faith in this is based on this quote from Kalama Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el008.html
The criterion for acceptance
10. "Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.


And since I think believing in rebirt makes people want to attain a non-attachment lifstyle and this is also the effect the Buddha said that the truth will have on people, I think it is best for me to accept it.

But not all buddhist seem to accept the idea of rebirt - and they even use the same sutta to deni it, saying that the sutta leaves the question open - and therefor rebirth is of no importance of knowing and understanding the teachings of the Buddha.


And now I wonder:

- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?

- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?


I would appreciate if some of you can shine some new light over this questions for me.

Mettaya,
Sindre :)
"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:05 am

Moderator's note: Please keep this sharply to the OP's question. Those who might think the Buddha did not teach rebirth can refer Sindre to "The Great Rebirth Debate" thread: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41 .

Here rebirth is the topic.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:22 pm

Hello Sindre
- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?


it would depend how useful to the practice you find it, and as long as you stayed on the path and not diverted off it due to the view then what would be the problem! so the importance would be its usefulness.

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?


I think both, but I do think that the rebirth from life to life was more to do with giving an aid for producing effort in the practice to attain the final result in the teaching of it, rather than anything else specifically as the actual machanics of it aren't very detailed in the suttas, there are times when he is talking about one the other or both combined.

- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?


I don't think it is irrational, but it would depend on how the "believing" is held, personally I think for my practice atleast the psycological rebirth or moment to moment in this life view is more helpful for practice, and certainly i see no problem with the life to life model if held as a reminder of having to go through it all again, but I do find some can have a view, or interest with rebirth which i think is not useful.
Although this may be pushing the limits of the thread so that is all I have to say for now!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:26 pm

Sindre wrote:- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?

The Buddha lists rebirth as part of Right View. He also describes Nibbana as the ending of the rounds of rebirth. So it seems to me quite integral.

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?

There is no evidence the Buddha was just talking of psychological rebirths in this life. Furthermore, whenever the Buddha was speaking in metaphor, he was clear in stating this was the case, but he never stated this when talking of rebirth. Furthermore, certain teachings, like talking about the rebirths of people who were already dead, are impossible to understand as just psychological rebirths in this life. In short, the idea that he was just talking of psychological rebirths in this life has no support in the scriptures.

- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?

Belief requires not seeing it for yourself. If you saw it for yourself, then it wouldn't be belief! There are some parts of the Buddha's teachings we can readily see for ourselves right now. There are other parts of the teachings we can only see after developing our ability to see clearly. For example, the possibility of Nibbana is necessarily just a belief until we attain it for ourselves!

I hope this is helpful.
- Peter

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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Samanera Tris Andika » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:35 pm

:goodpost: :anjali:
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Sindre » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:51 pm

Hi Manapa, Hi Peter, Hi all

This was very helpful to me. Thanks alot for your answers. :namaste:

Mettaya,
Sindre :)
"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:21 pm

Greetings

- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?


IMO it isnt integral but it is helpful for some.


To call something a foundation of the Buddhist Teachings is only correct if firstly, it is a principle which aims at the extinction of Dukkha [2] and, secondly, it has a logic that one can see for oneself without having to believe others. These are the important constituents of a foundation.

The Buddha refused to have any dealing with those things which don't lead to the extinction of Dukkha. Take the question of whether or not there. is rebirth. What is reborn? How is it reborn? What is its kammic inheritance [3] ? These questions are not aimed at the extinction of Dukkha. That being so they are not Buddhist teaching and they are not connected with it. They do not lie in the sphere of Buddhism. Also, the one who asks about such matters has no choice but to indis­criminately believe the answer he's given, because the one who answers is not going to be able to produce any proofs, he's just going to speak according to his memory and feeling. The listener can't see for himself and so has to blindly believe "the other's words. Little by little the matter strays from Dhamma until it's something else altogether, unconnected with the extinction of Dukkha.

Now, if one doesn't raise those sort of problems, one can ask instead, "Is there Dukkha?" and "How can Dukkha be extinguished ?". To these questions the Buddha agreed to answer and the listener can see the truth of every word of his answer without having to blindly believe them, see more and more clearly until he understands. And if one understands to the extent of being able to extinguish Dukkha, then that is the ultimate understanding. One knows that, even at this moment, there is no person living; one sees without doubt that there is no self or anything belonging to a self. There is just a feeling of "I" and "mine" arising due to the foolishness whereby one is deluded by the beguiling nature of sense - experience.


http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... o_Tree.htm

The important teaching in Buddhadhamma is dukkha and its quenching, or to expand on that the 4 noble truths




- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?


IMO it was mind states. I dont have time to write much atm so ive given you some quotes from Ajahn Buddhadasa

BIRTH


Now, going a little higher, we come to the word "birth" (jti). In everyday language, the word "birth" refers to physically coming into the world from the mother's womb. A person is the born physically only once. Having been born, one lives in the world until one dies and enters the coffin. Physical birth happens to each of us only once. This birth from the mother's womb is what is meant by "birth" in everyday language.

In Dhamma language, the word "birth" refers to the birth of the idea "I" or "ego" that arises in the mind throughout each day. In this sense, the ordinary person is born very often, time and time again; a more developed person is born less frequently; a person well advanced in practice (ariyan, noble one) is born less frequently still, and ultimately ceases being born altogether. Each arising in the mind of "I" in one form or another is called a "birth". Thus, birth can take place many times over in a single day. As soon as one starts thinking like an animal, one is born as an animal in that same moment. To think like a human being is to be born a human being. To think like a celestial being is to be born a celestial being. Life, the individual, pleasure and pain, and the rest-all these were identified by the Buddha as simply momentary states of consciousness. So the word "birth" means in Dhamma language the arising of the idea of "I" or "me," and not, as in everyday language, physical birth from the mother's womb.

The word "birth'' is very common in the Buddha's discourses. When he was speaking of everyday things, he used the word "birth" with its everyday meaning. But when he was expounding Higher Dhamma-for instance, when discussing conditioned arising (paticca-samuppda)Ðhe used the word "birth" (jti) with the meaning it has in Dhamma language. In his description of conditioned arising, he wasn't talking about physical birth. He was talking about the birth of attachment to ideas of "me" and "mine," "myself" and "my own".

...

WOEFUL STATES


Now let us direct our gaze downwards. Let us look at the "four woeful states" (apaya). The woeful states are the nether worlds. Normally four of them are recognized: hell (naraka), the realm of the beasts (tiracchana), the realm of the hungry ghosts (peta), and the realm of the frightened ghosts (asura or asurakya). These four as a group are called the "four woeful states''. They are vividly depicted in temple murals. Hell, the beasts, the hungry ghosts, and the asuras are all depicted according to traditional beliefs, which means all four are thought to apply only after death. In other words, the four woeful states as understood in everyday language are interpreted materialistically. The denizens of hell, the beasts, and so on are thought of as actual lowly, "flesh and blood" creatures.

In everyday language, hell is a region under the earth. It is ruled over by the god of death, who carries off people and subjects them to all sorts of punishments. It is a place where one may go after death. Contrast this with hell as understood in Dhamma language. Here hell is anxiety, anxiety which burns us just like a fire. Whenever anxiety afflicts us, burning us up like a fire, then we are in hell, the hell of Dhamma language. Anyone who roasts himself with anxiety, just as he might burn himself with fire, is said to fall into hell in that same moment. And just as anxiety is of various kinds, so we recognize various kinds of hells corresponding to them.

Now to the realm of beasts (tiracchna). Birth as a beast means in everyday language actual physical birth as a pig, a dog, or some other actual animal, Rebirth after death as some kind of lower animal is the everyday meaning of rebirth into the realm of the beasts. In Dhamma language, it has a different meaning. When one is stupid, just like a dumb animal, then at that moment one is born into the realm of beasts. It happens right here and now. One may be born as a beast many times over in a single day. So in Dhamma language, birth as a beast means stupidity.

The term "hungry ghost" (peta) in everyday language refers to a creature supposed to have a tiny mouth and an enormous belly. It can never manage to eat enough and so is chronically hungry. This is another possible form in which we may be reborn after death. These are the hungry ghosts of everyday language. The hungry ghosts of Dhamma language are purely mental states. Ambition based on craving, worry based on craving-to be afflicted with these is to be born a hungry ghost. These symptoms are just like those that result from having a mouth the size of a needle's eye and a belly the size of a mountain. Anyone suffering from an intense craving, a pathological thirst, anyone who worries and frets excessively, has the same symptoms as a hungry ghost. Such a person can be said to have been reborn a hungry ghost right here and now. It is not something that happens only after death.

Now to the asura or frightened ghosts. In everyday language, an asura is a kind of invisible being. It goes around haunting and spooking, but is too afraid to show itself. In Dhamma language, the word "asura" refers to fear in the mind of a human being. To be reborn as an asura, it is not necessary for the body to die. Whenever one is afraid, one is simultaneously reborn an asura. To be afraid without good reason, to be excessively fearful, to be superstitiously afraid of certain harmless creaturesÐthis is what it is to be reborn as an asura. Some people are afraid of doing good. Some are afraid that if they attain nibbna, life will lose all its flavour and be unbearably dull. Some people do have this kind of fear of nibbna. To be afflicted with unjustified fear of this kind is to be reborn as an asura right here and now.

The are the four woeful states as understood in Dhamma language. They are rather different from the woeful states of everyday language. Now there is a point worth thinking about in connection with this. If we don't fall into the woeful states of Dhamma language, then we are sure not to fall into the woeful states of everyday language. For instance, if we avoid making the mistakes that lead to affliction with anxiety, then we avoid falling into hell in this life. At the same time, we need have no fear of falling into hell in some later lifetime after death. Again, if we avoid being stupid like the beasts, ravenous like the hungry ghosts, and frightened like the asura, then we are free of the kinds of unskillful attitudes that might cause us to be reborn after death as beasts, hungry ghosts, or asura.

So it behoves us to interest ourselves only in these woeful states that we are in danger of experiencing right here and now. The kind that we may experience after death can be put aside. There is no need for us to concern ourselves with them. If we avoid right here and now the hungry ghosts and other Woeful states as understood in Dhamma language, then no matter how we die, we are certain not to fall into the woeful states of everyday language. If we live and practice properly, we avoid falling into the woeful states here and now, and we are certain not to fall into the woeful states that are supposed to follow death.

Most people recognize that heaven and hell are simply states of mind. Why, then, are they so foolish as to misunderstand the meaning of the four woeful states, which are so much a part of life? True enough, the heaven and hell of everyday language are external realmsÐthough don't ask me whereÐand they are attained after death; but the heaven and hell of Dhamma language are to be found in the mind and may occur at any time, depending on one's mental make-up. This is how the woeful states of Dhamma language differ from those of everyday language.


http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... nguage.htm


- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?


Interesting question, i would say it is irrational to believe something as true when one has no evidence. Same as believing in God, fairies, Angels or Thor. Of course this doesnt mean its not true but in rational terms it is irrational to believe in rebirth if you have no evidence

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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:04 pm

Interesting question, i would say it is irrational to believe something as true when one has no evidence. Same as believing in God, fairies, Angels or Thor. Of course this doesnt mean its not true but in rational terms it is irrational to believe in rebirth if you have no evidence


Hi Craig :)

This might be a tough standard you're setting for rationality. I can think of a lot of things that we believe to be true though we may not have direct evidence for it. Lots and lots of thing!

:anjali:
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:10 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
Interesting question, i would say it is irrational to believe something as true when one has no evidence. Same as believing in God, fairies, Angels or Thor. Of course this doesnt mean its not true but in rational terms it is irrational to believe in rebirth if you have no evidence


Hi Craig :)

This might be a tough standard you're setting for rationality. I can think of a lot of things that we believe to be true though we may not have direct evidence for it. Lots and lots of thing!

:anjali:



Hey

I can think of a lot of things that we believe to be true though we may not have direct evidence for it. Lots and lots of thing!


such as?
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:14 pm

clw_uk wrote:
Sindre wrote:- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?

i would say it is irrational to believe something as true when one has no evidence.

But that doesn't answer the question. Unless you believe "can not see it for yourself" is the same as "one has no evidence"? I can not see Jupiter for myself and yet I have evidence of it's existence.

On another note, since there is plenty of evidence for rebirth I guess this means you, Craig, no longer believe it is irrational to believe in it? Glad to see you've changed your mind on this topic.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:33 pm

Peter wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Sindre wrote:- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?

i would say it is irrational to believe something as true when one has no evidence.

But that doesn't answer the question. Unless you believe "can not see it for yourself" is the same as "one has no evidence"? I can not see Jupiter for myself and yet I have evidence of it's existence.

On another note, since there is plenty of evidence for rebirth I guess this means you, Craig, no longer believe it is irrational to believe in it? Glad to see you've changed your mind on this topic.



I didnt say simply not seeing something is the same as there is no evidence, there are lots of things in science that we cant see but have evidence for. I answered the way i did because i assumed that by saying "we can not see it for our selves" sindre was alluding to the lack of evidence for it and not the actual act of not being able to see it

On the other note, if there was strong empirical evidence for rebirth then i would accept it. Im interested to know what strong evidence you have access to that i do not?
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:47 pm

Craig wrote:Hey

Laura wrote:I can think of a lot of things that we believe to be true though we may not have direct evidence for it. Lots and lots of things!


such as?


Hi Craig,

Is it irrational to believe in the existence of love? :)
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jun 09, 2009 6:58 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
Craig wrote:Hey

Laura wrote:I can think of a lot of things that we believe to be true though we may not have direct evidence for it. Lots and lots of things!


such as?


Hi Craig,

Is it irrational to believe in the existence of love? :)


No because we have direct exp. of it. We see it in other people all the time and we can also measure it slightly via the scientific method
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:59 pm

Moderator's note: We see here the position that holds rebirth, at best, to not a having an important place or role to play in the Buddha's teachings. This has been discussed/argued at length in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41 . Rather than turn present thread into a variation of a still active thread, I would ask again that those who hold rebirth to not having a central role to play in the Buddha's to refer Sindre to viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41 and continue the discussion there, please.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:05 pm

The OP is asking if rebirth is in the teachings

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?


Thus shouldnt the whole thread by re-directed to "the great rebirth debate" thread or re-ask the question there and remove it from this thread since no one can answer it without affirming or denying rebirth in the teachings


If the thread is simply about how to accept rebirth then the above question shouldnt be included
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:14 pm

As the moderator, I shall state this one more time: It is not unreasonable that we do not turn this thread into another version of what is already a lengthy on going, active thread. It is not unreasonable to split up the subject matter in this way to allow both discussions to go forth in separate threads. That allows for more and varied opinions and thoughts to be expressed with out turning one thread into a variation of another. Also, please not that this thread has been moved.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby pink_trike » Wed Jun 10, 2009 12:19 am

- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?

It varies significantly among practitioners and teachers, ranging from "not important" to "extremely important" and everything in between.

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?


There's no consensus regarding this among teachers or scholars. There are highly respected teachers of global reputation who describe rebirth in terms of mind-states in this life. There are highly respected teachers of global reputation who describe rebirth as life-to-life (with many, many variations depending on the teacher and the tradition). And there are teachers who describe it as both.

- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves


Some Buddhists think that a belief in rebirth is unnecessary and irrelevant to liberation. Some think that pretending to believe in rebirth has some benefit. Some believe it fervently. Again, there is no consensus in Buddhism. Imo, a rational approach is to stick with "I don't know" and get on with practice.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby Individual » Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:59 am

Sindre wrote:- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?

Accepting it is not required, but outright rejecting it or being agnostic stands in the way of Nibbana's attainment, while accepting rebirth is a condition favorable to Nibbana's attainment because it is a wholesome view, even if bound up with kamma and samsara.

Sindre wrote:- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?

He talked about rebirth from life to life. It is difficult to claim that this was merely a metaphor, but it is important to distinguish rebirth from reincarnation and he did sometimes speak of rebirth in very different ways, both in the sense of a being that is reborn (with mental qualities and social status being preserved) but also in the sense that's very much unlike any notion of reincarnation. In one sutta, he describes human rebirth as "sheer coincidence," like a blind sea turtle wandering. Paul Carus quotes the Buddha in his Gospel of the Buddha as describing lighting a candle again and again is being like rebirth, says that the teacher is reborn in the student that repeats the teachings -- I'm not sure where this is from, but I've seen the same analogies used in the Milindapanha.

Sindre wrote:- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?

I'd say so, yes, but "seeing" isn't simply a matter of physical senses. The faculty of the mind, a refined intuition or intellect, is as much a sensory faculty as the five senses. Believing in rebirth -- or anything -- is irrational if a person believes in it despite knowing it to be wrong by not experiencing it through the five senses, or grasping it mentally with the mind. Because rebirth is not reincarnation, I'm not sure if it would be possible to see rebirth other than recognizing intellectually, "Okay, so thees are the twelve nidanas and it's a cycle that goes on and on..." Even when the twelve nidanas, pre-birth and post-death, seem intuitive, it's hard to imagine what it's really like, like where "we" go. But I'd attribute this, really, to being caught up with the idea of self, which is I think the root of all the contentions about it-- both the dogmatic, angry, hateful people defending it, and the heretical, atheistic, materialistic, equally angry, equally hateful people opposing it. If you recognize there is no self, then you realize: Life and death is like the recycling of an aluminum can, among which no self can be found. The can will return, but it won't be you, just as this can right now isn't you; it's just a can, just a human.

tiltbillings wrote:It is not unreasonable that we do not turn this thread into another version of what is already a lengthy on going, active thread.

Aaaahhh!!! :jawdrop: A triple negation!! I can't not never read no triple negations!! :mrgreen:

Not... unreasonable... that we do not...

So, you mean it's reasonable that we turn this thread... into... not not not...
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:18 am

Aaaahhh!!! A triple negation!! I can't not never read no triple negations!!

Not... unreasonable... that we do not...

So, you mean it's reasonable that we turn this thread... into... not not not...


It is a lot for some people, and now I am sure your brain hurts. Sorry for causing you distress. Taker an aspirin, gets some rest and pretend it never happened.
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Re: Accepting Rebirth

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:40 am

- How important is the accepting the idea of rebirth for the attainment of Nibbana?

depends on where youre at on the path. for some it could just be the basis of developing the sila to start you on your way to being a better person, to others it may develop in you a reason to practice harder, to others it might not even matter anymore.

- Did the Buddha really talk about rebirth from life to life or was he just talking of psykological rebirths in this life?

i think both,

- Is believing in rebirt irrational when we can not see it for our selves?

maybe, but does it matter? sometimes i have to accept the irrational just to keep the relationship with the woman i love a peaceful and happy one. maybe sometimes a little irrational thinking is a good thing. we are not robots after all.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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