Rebirth in clasical theravada

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jun 12, 2009 4:26 am

I was thinking of the Kalama Sutta, but that one's good too. :)
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Jun 12, 2009 4:52 am

i cant think of any pre-20th century teaching mahyana or theravada that is a non literal rebirth teaching or doesnt include rebirth as a part of buddhism.
the earliest example ive read of rebirth as non literal was a transcription of a japanese zen teaching from around WW2 (i think, though it may have been later) that was originally broadcast on japanese radio. after that comes Buddhadasa, who was influenced by zen so..... :shrug:
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Ben » Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:06 am

Thanks JC. We'll keep the current discussion focused on the Classical Theravada as per this sub-forum and the intent of the OP.
Kind regards

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Jechbi » Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:35 am

Dhammanando wrote:It is held to be an indispensible doctrine.
...
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.

I appreciate Ven. Dhammanando's post and find myself in agreement with every word of it. In that context, I wonder ...
Peter wrote:... it is important to adopt the view that it actually happens.

... What is the classical Theravada position with regard to how one goes about adopting a view that might conflict with views one has had for a long time, perhaps even for many lifetimes? What is the method for adopting this right view?

To clarify this question, I can imagine a situation in which a person has stubborn kamma associated with the view that upon physical death, existence ceases. Or perhaps a person has a stubborn kamma habit associated with the view that upon physical death, an eternal soul continues. Neither of these is mundane right view, yet I can imagine how a person might hear the Dhamma, accept the 4nt and 8fold path to the best of her ability, aspire to practice ardently, yet still observe thoughts of doubt or skepticism popping into the mind with regard to the notion of post-mortem rebirth, due to this stubborn kamma habit.

I had thought that the correct method to address this type of phenomenon would be:
1) To recognize any such thoughts as not right view.
2) To continue with the practices of right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, right concentration, right intention, and right view to the best of one's ability, recognizing that right view has not been perfected, and that in fact none of these practices has been perfected.
3) And as a result of applying all of these practices, right view will develop according to kamma.

In this respect, I tend to agree with the approach Ben suggests, namely, to set aside for the moment those views that one cannot bring oneself to accept, and to continue on with the rest of practice.

But I wonder if this approach is in line with classical Theravada thought, because an argument seems to be made that the correct method for adopting right view regarding rebirth is to simply accept it, regardless of whether one believes it. To me that seems like putting the cart before the horse, although I stand to be corrected.

What is the classical Theravada position with regard to the correct method for changing one's mundane wrong views regarding rebirth? Or for that matter regarding any other subject?
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Ben » Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:42 am

Hi Jechbi

Have a look at the following:
MN 60: Apannaka Sutta: The Incontrovertible Teaching
and...
MN 74: Dighanakha Sutta: To Dighanakha

These probably represent the tip of the iceberg but they are two I have been reading today.

If you don't have Ven Bodhi's translation, please let me know and I'll transcribe the notes.
Metta

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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 6:03 am

Jechbi wrote:In this respect, I tend to agree with the approach Ben suggests, namely, to set aside for the moment those views that one cannot bring oneself to accept, and to continue on with the rest of practice.

But I wonder if this approach is in line with classical Theravada thought, because an argument seems to be made that the correct method for adopting right view regarding rebirth is to simply accept it, regardless of whether one believes it. To me that seems like putting the cart before the horse, although I stand to be corrected.

If you look at the various Suttas, such as the ones that Ben mentions, it seems clear that the Buddha taught different things to different people, depending on what stage they were at. So if you take that as a model you'd have to say that someone who did could not accept Right View should be reading suttas such as
SN3.15: The simile of the mountains
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"I inform you, great king, I announce to you, great king: aging and death are rolling in on you. When aging and death are rolling in on you, great king, what should be done?"

"As aging and death are rolling in on me, lord, what else should be done but Dhamma-conduct, right conduct, skillful deeds, meritorious deeds?


On a slightly different tack:
I'll need to search for the exact reference, but I recall that there is a warning in the Commentary to at least one of the Suttas in the Samyutta Nikaya that attempting to develop insight without establishing Right View will cause problems (falling into nihilism, as I recall).

Metta
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Jechbi » Fri Jun 12, 2009 7:08 am

mikenz66 wrote:... attempting to develop insight without establishing Right View will cause problems (falling into nihilism, as I recall).

If right view and right thought are wholly encompassed by paññā, which I think is the classical Theravada position, then how can right view be established without insight?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 7:23 am

Jechbi wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:... attempting to develop insight without establishing Right View will cause problems (falling into nihilism, as I recall).

If right view and right thought are wholly encompassed by paññā, which I think is the classical Theravada position, then how can right view be established without insight?

I'm sorry, I've spent a little while thumbing through the notes to the SN, but I can't find the passage. Maybe I'm misremembering it, and it's in the Visuddhimagga, so perhaps I'd better start on that...

As Ven Dhammanando says above, we're talking about two different types of Right View, the mundane (accepting kamma, rebirth, etc) and the suppramundane Right View of an Ariya. The second, of course, requires insight.

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:22 am

retrofuturist wrote: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. :)


It is a private group so I cant unfortunately.
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 11:27 am

Greetings Manapa,

No problems... I was hoping it might provide some context, but that's okay.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:30 am

Hi Ben
I am going to edit this in a moment or two but Are the notes in "in the buddhas words"? I have that and MN!

Just going to look on a sutta study site from Australia where the suttas tend to have the notes from bodhi when available so will get the links for a quick look if they are the same ones.
Edit
http://www.vgweb.org/sutta/m74.pdf
They don't have MN60


Ben wrote:Hi Jechbi

Have a look at the following:
MN 60: Apannaka Sutta: The Incontrovertible Teaching
and...
MN 74: Dighanakha Sutta: To Dighanakha

These probably represent the tip of the iceberg but they are two I have been reading today.

If you don't have Ven Bodhi's translation, please let me know and I'll transcribe the notes.
Metta

Ben
Last edited by Cittasanto on Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:32 am

Hi Manapa,
Manapa wrote:It is a private group so I cant unfortunately.

Perhaps you could give some quotations. It seems a little pointless to mention that someone has some opinion without explaining it...

I really have no idea what you are getting at when you say:
"A person there seems to hold an almost Mahayana Bodhisattva vow view of the importance of rebirth."
Do you just mean that s/he thinks that accepting rebirth is an absolutely essential part of the Path, or is the comparison with Mahayana Bodhisattva vows supposed to have some particular significance?

Metta
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:46 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Manapa,

No problems... I was hoping it might provide some context, but that's okay.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Hi Retro
The group is small but very active, but it is closed and I think by invite only, I don't think you can just apply to join either?
I used the Boddhisatta/Tulku references to help with context as that is probably the closest that I know of to how strongly this belief is being expressed without the Mahayana overtones.
But I Think I have grasped enough from some of the posts to be able to say I see.

Got to edit one post
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 11:47 am

Hi Manapa
They're in A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. I don't known whether they're in In the Buddha's Words as I don't yet own a copy of that volume.
I'm in the middle of transcribing the notes to MN 60.
Metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:54 am

I Have just edited the last postt but here is the link to MN74
http://www.vgweb.org/sutta/m74.pdf

WM
Manapa

Ben wrote:Hi Manapa
They're in A translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. I don't known whether they're in In the Buddha's Words as I don't yet own a copy of that volume.
I'm in the middle of transcribing the notes to MN 60.
Metta

Ben
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 kc2dpt » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:33 pm

Jechbi wrote:What is the classical Theravada position with regard to how one goes about adopting a view that might conflict with views one has had for a long time, perhaps even for many lifetimes? What is the method for adopting this right view?

And excellent question! In short, I'm not sure.

I had thought that the correct method to address this type of phenomenon would be:
1) To recognize any such thoughts as not right view.
2) To continue with the practices of right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, right concentration, right intention, and right view to the best of one's ability, recognizing that right view has not been perfected, and that in fact none of these practices has been perfected.
3) And as a result of applying all of these practices, right view will develop according to kamma.

Seems like a good approach. The important part there seems to be "recognizing that right view has not been perfected". For example, I still pursue sensual pleasures (TV, food, etc.), but I recognize this is not in accord with the Buddha's teachings, that it is a result of a defiled mind, and I keep my eyes open for insights that will help loosen my attachment to these defiled thoughts. In a similar way, a person can recognize their wrong view as wrong, the product of defilements, and strive to find ways to loosen attachments to that wrong view.

What we find a lot of on these forums are people who insist wrong view is actually right, that the Buddha didn't actually teach rebirth. When I argue with these people, it is not with the hope that they will suddenly change their view, but only that they will recognize their "view has not yet been perfected".

But I wonder if this approach is in line with classical Theravada thought, because an argument seems to be made that the correct method for adopting right view regarding rebirth is to simply accept it, regardless of whether one believes it.

Maybe we can differentiate between "adopting a view" which is an active choice and "believing" which is a passive result of past conditions? I'll think about it. What I do know is the Buddha teaches belief, view, faith all arise due to conditions. And I seem to recall the conditions for right view arising is to associate with good people and hear the true Dhamma; the arising of faith is to associate with good people and observe their behavior is free from greed, hatred, and delusion; the arising of conviction comes from seeing for oneself that the Path leads where the Buddha says it leads.

I think it's important to remember the goal is not to see that rebirth is true. The goal is to see that adopting right view, which includes the view of rebirth, leads to the ending of suffering.

To me that seems like putting the cart before the horse, although I stand to be corrected.

Maybe we can think of our beliefs as products of the defilements and adopting right view as part of the path to eradicating the defilements. After all, we cultivate the path in order to eradicate the defilements. It is not the case that we first eliminate the defilements and only then start cultivating the path.

Anyway, this is a good question and I don't have any definite answers. If this post seems rambling and confused it's because it is. :rolleye:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:29 pm

Manapa wrote:I used the Boddhisatta/Tulku references to help with context as that is probably the closest that I know of to how strongly this belief is being expressed without the Mahayana overtones.

But that's why I'm so confused, because those are Mahayana overtones. :shrug:

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:38 am

Hi all

Please find attached a word document containing the notes to Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Namamoli's translation of MN 60: The Incontrovertible Teaching. I transcribed these notes for the benefit of those who do not have access to The middle length discourses of the Buddha: a translation of the Majjhima Nikaya by the venerables published by Wisdom.

The attached document is in RTF as the system doesn't like docx file format! Any typographical errors are my own.
Metta

Ben
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MN 60 Notes.rtf
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Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:51 am

Hi Ben,

I'm posting a PDF version of your file, in case that's helpful to someone...

The introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu to his translation of MN60 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html is also quite helpful.

Metta
Mike
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Re: Rebirth in clasical theravada

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Jun 13, 2009 2:01 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?


If a person's faith in rebirth rests upon evidence of this sort, then I suppose reading Ian Stevenson books and the like will be important to him. In practice, however, my impression is that there are very few Buddhists whose faith in rebirth is of this sort.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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