Rebirth in clasical theravada

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Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:33 am

Do clasical theravadan teachings hold that rebirth is an importan teaching within the texts?
or do they hold that it happends but is not important to the aim of the path (Arahatship)?

just wondering if it is differnet to the modern theravadins who accept it as true.

Edit - I am only wanting to know the Clasical possition though.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:02 am

Seems quite important, and described in great detail in the Abhidhamma.

E.g A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma
By Anuruddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=hxo ... lQTussnmCQ

See this part of the Contents:
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=hxo ... Q#PPR13,M1

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:10 am

Greetings Manapa,

Manapa wrote:Do clasical theravadan teachings hold that rebirth is an importan teaching within the texts?


Suttas like...

SN 56.31: Simsapa Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

...explain that the Buddha only taught things that are "connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them."

So, it's all important, but since the Buddha taught differently to different people depending on their existing beliefs, their capacity etc. it's quite likely that what might be important for one person is not so important for another... so I don't think it's possible with a teaching like rebirth to give a blanket "yes" or "no" response to your question. It's certainly mentioned, and mentioned frequently... in the suttas, the commentaries and the Abhidhamma.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:51 am

Hi Retro,
That is what I suspected, but are there any schools of thought which hold is almost along the same lines of the Boddhisattva Vow in Mahayana (not the Boddhisatta vow of Theravada which is to my understanding to become the next or future Samasambuddha or their discipleto help them) as an essential teaching?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:57 am

Greetings Manapa,

It's interesting, because I can't recall anything I've come across in the commentaries or Visuddhimagga ever saying anything like "this teaching is really important" or "this one is just peripheral"... they just give the commentarial perspective on the matter, without commenting on the perceived importance of it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:05 am

Hi Retro, Manapa,

As Retro says, you won't find margin notes saying "this is the important bit". :reading:

However, in the 800-year old summary of the Abhidhamma that I referred to there is quite a lot about rebirth.

We could also refer to the Visuddhimagga XVI-33 (page 567 in the Nanamoli translation), where the First Noble Truth is being analysed and there is great detail:
Here [birth] should be regarded as the aggregates that occur from the time of rebirth-linking up the the exit from the mother's womb in the case of the womb-born and as onlty the aggregrates of rebirth linking in the case of the rest. ... it is the first manifestation of any aggregates that are manifested in living beings when they are born anywhere that is called 'birth'.

It's characteristic is the first genesis in any [sphere of] becoming. Its function is to consign [to a sphere of becoming]. It is manifested as an emerging here from a past becoming or it is manifested as the variedness of suffering.

But why is is called suffering? ...

The Abhidhamma (summarised in the Visudhimagga and A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma) goes into a lot of detail about different rebirths, how signs of the next life manifest in the cittas at the end of a life, and so on.

Vism. XVI-46
Without distinction as they die
Pain grips their minds impartially
When wicked men their foul deeds see
Or sign of new rebirth, may be,
Also when good men cannot bear
To part from all that they hold dear...


Metta
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:07 am

Hi Retro,
Yeah I thought their wasn't anything like that, and thought it was used in the suttas more to help people more than something essential to the practice as a whole (lifetime too lifetime not the moment to moment).

Anyway think this has covered my curiosity for now.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:36 am

Hi Mike,
I know it is a topic with lots of room in the texts, at the two models which can be derived from them (Life and psycological models) seam valid depending on whether the person accepts rebirth from life to life as a given or as something we don't know for certain but accepted.
but then their are those who hold the view it is essential, i.e. along the lines of the Boddhisattva vow in mahayana, explaining what is to be infered as fully drawn out if you will (the actual mechanics of rebirth never being explained further than a flame passing from one lamp to another, although the destinations or psycological productions are drawn out further depending on which view is held).
so was wondering just how essential a teaching classically it was, but actually is their a difference between modern and clasical view in regard to rebirth?
Maybe something which would call for the thread to be moved and title changed somewhat, and I think I am at least pushing the boundries of this room with this last one :embarassed:

Not actually read Bodhis book on the abhidhamma, and keep meaning to get the Vissudhimagga opened up I think it needs dusting again :embarassed: but I have read some of The Abhidhamma for University studends on Buddhanet those sections were interesting.

WM
Manapa

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Retro, Manapa,

As Retro says, you won't find margin notes saying "this is the important bit". :reading:

However, in the 800-year old summary of the Abhidhamma that I referred to there is quite a lot about rebirth.

We could also refer to the Visuddhimagga XVI-33 (page 567 in the Nanamoli translation), where the First Noble Truth is being analysed and there is great detail:
Here [birth] should be regarded as the aggregates that occur from the time of rebirth-linking up the the exit from the mother's womb in the case of the womb-born and as onlty the aggregrates of rebirth linking in the case of the rest. ... it is the first manifestation of any aggregates that are manifested in living beings when they are born anywhere that is called 'birth'.

It's characteristic is the first genesis in any [sphere of] becoming. Its function is to consign [to a sphere of becoming]. It is manifested as an emerging here from a past becoming or it is manifested as the variedness of suffering.

But why is is called suffering? ...

The Abhidhamma (summarised in the Visudhimagga and A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma) goes into a lot of detail about different rebirths, how signs of the next life manifest in the cittas at the end of a life, and so on.

Vism. XVI-46
Without distinction as they die
Pain grips their minds impartially
When wicked men their foul deeds see
Or sign of new rebirth, may be,
Also when good men cannot bear
To part from all that they hold dear...


Metta
Mike
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 11:32 am

Manapa wrote:Boddhisattva vow in mahayana, explaining what is to be infered as fully drawn out if you will (the actual mechanics of rebirth never being explained further than a flame passing from one lamp to another, ...

????
It is spelt out in microscopic detail, citta by citta, in fact, in the Abhidhamma, as I tried to illustrate by quoting from the Visuddhimagga.

OK, lets look at the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma page 222 on the version I linked to:
V-37 Death and Rebirth-Linking
To one who is on the verge of death, either at the end of a cognitive process or at the dissolution of the life-continuum, the death consciousness, the consummation fo the present life arises and ceases by way of death.

Immediately after that death consciousness has ceased, a rebirth-consiousness of the appropriate kind arises and is established in the subsequent existence, apprehending the object thus obtained, either supported by the heart base or baseless; it is generated by a volitional formation that is enveloped by latent ignorance and rooted in latend craving, as is appropriate. That rebirth-linking conciousness, so called because it links together the two consecutive existences, is cojoined with it's mental adjuncts, and acts as the forerunner to the conascent states as their locus (or foundation).

V-38 Objects of Sense-Sphere Rebirth Conciousness
Herein, in the death-proximate cognitive process, only five feebly ocurring javanaa should be expected. Therefore, when death takes place while present objects are occurring and have entered the avenue of sense, then the rebirth-linking and life-continuum (of the new existence) also take a present object. In the case of a sense-sphere rebirth-linking, when the object is a sign of kamma or a sign of destiny percieved at any of the six doors, that object may be present or it may be past. But kamma (as object) is only past, and it is percieved only at the mind door. All these objects (of sense-sphere rebirth) are limited phenomena only.

V-39 Objects of Sublime Rebirth Consciousness
In the case of rebirth-linking in teh fine-material sphere the object is a concept and it is always a sign of kamma. ....

V-40 Determination of Rebirth
When one passes away from an immaterial realm, one may be reborn in superior immaterial realms, but not in lower immaterial realms, and one may be reborn in the sensuous plane with three-rooted rebirth-conciousness. ...

V-41 The Continuity of Consciousness
So, or those who have thus taken rebirth, from the moment immediately following the cessation of the rebirth-linking conciousness, theat same type of consciousness apprehending that same object flows on uniterruptedly like the stream of a river, and it does so until the arising of the death consciousness, so long as there is no occurrence of a cognitive process. Being an essential factor of existence, this consciousness is called the life-continuum. At the end of the life, having become the death conciousness in the form of passing away, it then ceases. Thereafter, the rebirth-linking conciousness and the others continue to occur, revolving in due sequence like the wheels of a cart, until one attains nibbana.

This book is a summary that apparently Bhikkhus memorise before beginning their reading of the actual Abhidhamma texts, so it doesn't really make much sense unless you read Bhikkhu Bodhi's commentary on it, where he summarises relevant things from the full texts (which run to many volumes). However, it is clear that the level of detail is microscopic. The diagram that accompanies this text (p225) summarises that death-birth takes 17 mind moments. 14 in the old life and 3 in the new.

Metta
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:56 pm

Manapa wrote:Do clasical theravadan teachings hold that rebirth is an importan teaching within the texts?
or do they hold that it happends but is not important to the aim of the path (Arahatship)?

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "important". You mention the Mahayana bodhisatva vow. I cans see this vow becomes far less meaningful if there were no rebirth. Is that what you mean by important? That the teachings become greatly diminished or distorted if rebirth is removed from the picture? I think this is so. The problem is defined in terms of rebirth, endless cycles of birth, death, and all the suffering that comes in between. The solution is defined in terms of rebirth, breaking the cycle. Rebirth is included in the path to the solution, right view includes it.

Important? I dunno. Integral? Yes. I say it isn't a focus as much as it is a backdrop. Perhaps I would call it fundamental.

It's like... do architects think about and discuss gravity when they are designing buildings? No, but you can bet it underlies every design decision. And if someone were to deny gravity and try to design a building, they would likely come up with something much different than those that take gravity as a fundamental.
- Peter

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:23 pm

Manapa wrote:Do clasical theravadan teachings hold that rebirth is an importan teaching within the texts?
or do they hold that it happends but is not important to the aim of the path (Arahatship)?


It is held to be an indispensible doctrine. As I wrote in the Great Rebirth Debate thread:

    The orthodox understanding is that they have to be taught mundane right view in order to make them ready for ariyan right view. That is to say, there is no possibility of leaping from a state in which wrong view ("there is nothing given, nothing offered...etc.") is ever liable to arise to ariyan right view. Rather, wrong view must be dislodged and the only cause that can effect this is the arising of mundane right view ("there is what is given, there is what is offered...etc."). In effect this means that high attainment in Dhamma is out of the question for those who remain skeptical, agnostic or non-committal regarding the affirmations that constitute mundane right view.

Kammic efficacy and rebirth are part of mundane right view. To reject or doubt rebirth is to suppose that there are some causes that don't yield effects – specifically, that there can be ignorance and craving that will not issue in further becoming. Those of such a view have not understood the conditionality of dhammas even at the intellectual/pariyatti level. To not understand this is to not understand the four noble truths, the three characteristics, or anything else that is of decisive importance in the development of paññā.

Best wishes,
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:56 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Manapa,

It's interesting, because I can't recall anything I've come across in the commentaries or Visuddhimagga ever saying anything like "this teaching is really important" or "this one is just peripheral"... they just give the commentarial perspective on the matter, without commenting on the perceived importance of it.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I would not think they would say it is this or that. Rebirth is simply an accepted, integral part of the doctrine. The sort of questioning that we see with the likes of Buddhadasa and his followers is a modern phenomena.
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.

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby cooran » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:11 pm

Hello Ajahn, all,

Ajahn said: It is held to be an indispensible doctrine.
............
To reject or doubt rebirth is to suppose that there are some causes that don't yield effects – specifically, that there can be ignorance and craving that will not issue in further becoming.
Those of such a view have not understood the conditionality of dhammas even at the intellectual/pariyatti level.
To not understand this is to not understand the four noble truths, the three characteristics, or anything else that is of decisive importance in the development of paññā.


Thank you for so clearly stating this Ajahn. Understanding this seems to present a major difficulty for those who do not yet see 'things as they really are' . As a result, It is so easy to put forward specious reasoning arising from our own intellectualising, doubts and māna ( http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/maana.htm ).

metta and respect,
Chris
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:22 am

But is it important to the path?
the unshakable belief that it actually happens, so much so that you go out looking for the evidence ie tulkus, or the stories that abound of children remembering their past lives.
is it that important to the path in the clasical sense?

Edit the quote Bhante uses above (mine) can be read as Mundane right view being the first line, the second line what is the Ariyan Right view in the clasical sense
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Ben » Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:37 am

Hi Manapa

I think at this point I would recommend that you do those things which are germane to your practice. As my teacher says from time to time put to the side anything which at the moment appears unacceptable. In time, as a result of your practice, you will develop greater saddha in the Buddha's omniscience and teaching, as you will also develop penetrative insight into the nature of all things, including the question of rebirth.
Metta

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:18 am

Ben wrote:Hi Manapa

I think at this point I would recommend that you do those things which are germane to your practice. As my teacher says from time to time put to the side anything which at the moment appears unacceptable. In time, as a result of your practice, you will develop greater saddha in the Buddha's omniscience and teaching, as you will also develop penetrative insight into the nature of all things, including the question of rebirth.
Metta

Ben


Hi Ben
This question has nothing to do with my practice! I have no personal inquiry into rebirth, or the nature of things, I was curious as to the clasical view, due to another group where a similare thread is going on, and a person their seams to hold an almost mahayana Boddhisatva vow view of the importance of rebirth.
notice ehat the responce I responded to first second and third and how I responded!

EDIT - if it was personal I would of just joind in the great rebirth debate.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:25 am

Greetings Manapa,

Manapa wrote:...due to another group where a similare thread is going on, and a person their seams to hold an almost mahayana Boddhisatva vow view of the importance of rebirth.


Any chance you could provide a link?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:54 am

Hi Manapa,
Manapa wrote:But is it important to the path?
the unshakable belief that it actually happens, so much so that you go out looking for the evidence ie tulkus, or the stories that abound of children remembering their past lives.
is it that important to the path in the clasical sense?

I'm getting confused about what you are asking. Tulkas are irrelevant in Theravada.

And I really can't figure out what the Mahayana Bodhisattva vows have to do with it. Sorry...

You have had various quotes from various sources showing that in Classical Theravada there is simply no room for discussion about rebirth. It's part of the furniture, or structure if you like. Commentarial works such as the Visuddhimagga and so on define the whole idea of the path in terms of getting out of the round of rebirth, and describe the process in minute detail.

I'm starting to feel like someone who, on being asked if the electrical system is an integral part of an automobile points to the diagrams in manual that shows that there are wires going all over the place, and is then asked "but where does it say in the manual that the wiring is essential?"

Metta
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:00 am

Manapa wrote:But is it important to the path?
the unshakable belief that it actually happens, so much so that you go out looking for the evidence ie tulkus, or the stories that abound of children remembering their past lives.
is it that important to the path in the clasical sense?

It is part of Right View, which is part of the Noble Eightfold Path. That means it is important to adopt the view that it actually happens. What's important is how you act, and the Buddha recommends acting as if rebirth were true. What you believe is only relevant in as much as it influences how you act.

Taking steps to increase your belief, while perhaps helpful, is not actually necessary in my opinion.
- Peter

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:07 am

Greetings,

What Peter says is well captured in...

MN 60: Apannaka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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