Birthmarks and Reincarnation

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Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Yana » Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:08 am

Hi Everyone,

I just came back from the library where i stumbled on this interesting book about reincarnation. I read that in some Asian cultures they mark a dying person so that when they are reborn they’ll bear the same markings and they’ll be able to recognize them. Have you heard of such practices,are they common in Buddhism? It also says that birthmarks were actually fatal wounds we got in our past lives,that it affected our relinking consciousness or our last moments of consciousness, to the point that it got carried into our present lives.

That book kind of surprised me because I remembered this memory when I was in junior high and I was waiting for the bus at school,I use to have this sharp pain like I got stabbed but not with a knife or anything big.It was an isolated pain,and it was on my chest. I grabbed my chest and held it in knowing the whole time that there were no wounds or anything physical but I could still sense pain vibrating from that spot and it made me grit my teeth.It was cold.And I could taste blood and metal in my mouth.The pain was like a cold vibration on my chest. Felt like a small thin metal and sharp like object went right in. When my mother checked the spot that I pointed at, she just said it’s a silly little birthmark ,I was born with it she remembers. It’s a small perfect circle on my chest that I have managed to ignore,I experience this pain maybe 4 times a year since as long as I can remember but now it's fading away. Never really gave it much thought. The circle just looked like you used an instrument to draw it because it looks very precise. A perfect circle.
Then I thought well if I did die because of a fatal insertion(an entry wound) to my chest then It should come through on the other side of my body. And it should leave another birth mark quite naturally. so I went to the bathroom used two mirrors to check my back for any signs.I thought there would probably be a few on my upper neck or lower back but to my great surprise there was ONLY ONE RIGHT BEHIND the one on my chest!and I froze! I studied it carefully it was just an inch to the left and it was not a perfect circle a bit oval but the same overall size and colour. After searching i realized those are the only two birth marks I have.And the only two i have are both in the same angle.

So it really gave me something to think about..especially about death and rebirth ..for a weird moment it doesn't seem like a distant thought ..it seemed quite real and tangible now even natural..which is interesting because if it is true birthmarks could serve as a handy reminder of death and rebirth much like a tattoo would in many ways now that i think of it.

But i'd like to know if you do have similar experiences?
What does Buddhism say about this?According to Buddhism could there be any truth to it? Or could it be pure coincidence? Is there anywhere in the sutta that tells a story of a deformity or birthmark that was a product of a previous life.(I forgot to mention it also says deformity).

Thank you! :anjali:
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Aloka » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:52 am

Hi Yana,

Did you get a medical check-up about the pain in your chest when you were a schoolgirl ?

This article from a health site regarding supersitions about birthmarks might be of interest:


Birthmark Myths and Social Stigma

Birthmarks have spawned myths and superstitions throughout human history. Every culture has a slightly different take on these spots -- sometimes good, and sometimes very, very bad.

Many societies once believed that a pregnant woman's behavior could cause birthmarks. Some believe that eating too many red foods caused strawberry marks. Others believed that strong fearful emotions or overwhelming desires in a mother imprinted the marks. More recently, people thought that X-rays directed at a pregnant woman left marks on her baby.

Birthmarks have other meanings in some cultures where reincarnation is prevalent. In some cases, people believe that the marks indicate an area where a person was injured in a previous life.

Some interpretations of birthmarks are more insidious. People with birthmarks have been cast out of normal society and demonized as witches because they were born with the "devil's mark." And in Japan, many pregnant women were warned never to look at fire, lest their baby be born with a "burn" on his skin.

Contemporary societies aren't exempt from these kinds of stigma. In India one woman recently was ostracized from her peers because they thought her birthmark suggested that she was possessed. Fortunately, not all birthmark legends have such negative connotations -- in some eastern European countries, it's considered good luck to touch someone with a birthmark.

continued :

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/beauty/birthmark4.htm



with kind wishes to you,

Aloka
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:57 am

A few years back I read a bunch of Dr. Ian Stevenson's work on rebirth. He has a a book on just this subject here: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Reincarnation-Biology-Intersect-Stevenson/dp/0275951898

Also you can check out this page here: http://www.sinor.ru/~che/birthmarks.htm

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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Aloka » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:23 am

So I'm wondering does this kind of 'evidence' for reincarnation from Stevenson mean that we can speculate about other preposterous theories, such as the birth deformities and lack of limbs which were the results of pregnant women taking thalidomide in the 1950's may be the results of the babies having had limbs chopped off in a previous life ?....or the babies having done something 'bad' to others ?

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, more than 10,000 children in 46 countries were born with deformities, such as phocomelia, as a consequence of thalidomide use.] It is not known exactly how many worldwide victims of the drug there have been, although estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide

Lets not forget that Buddha said the precise working out of the results of kamma are unconjecturable. (AN 4.77)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Yana » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:57 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Dr. Ian Stevenson's


Yes he co-wrote the book there is another writer involved as well.I should borrow library books but it was too heavy.

Aloka wrote:Hi Yana,

Did you get a medical check-up about the pain in your chest when you were a schoolgirl ?

This article from a health site regarding supersitions about birthmarks might be of interest:



Hi Aloka,

I received complete medical checkups every year when i was living with my parents.It was fortunately covered by my father's work.There was however no complications in the chest region.At least none that i ever recalled being reported to me or my parents.I usually had problems with my digestive system or eye sight owing to several minor causes such as exams stress or sitting too close to the screen.

However,I don't think birthmarks and rebirth links should be classified as superstition at all.Not when someone as credible as Dr.Ian Stevenson went through all that trouble to compile all the evidence.The Buddha taught us to investigate and Dr. Ian Stevenson's did just that. And you know what,he wasn't even a Buddhist.And yet you can't help but admire the man for such a determination to investigate matters objectively.He did it in such a way where he compiled all the data and left it to us to determine,and it was compelling.The evidence speaks for itself.

To be honest with myself,there's more evidence of birthmarks linked together with previous lives than there are,just about "rebirth" taken on it's own,a concept that most Buddhist seem to accept with little or no evidence.

You come to ask yourself,Which is blind faith and which is the truth born out of an investigative mind?

Should accepting the concept of rebirth with no evidence perhaps be classified too as superstition.

No because The Buddha taught so.Yes but where's the evidence? If the Buddha taught you to jump off a bridge would you do it too?

:anjali:
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Aloka » Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:07 pm

Hi Yana,

I didn't actually say anything about rebirth belief because I neither believe nor disbelieve, simply because it has absolutely no relevance to my practice here and now. (and this is fine in terms of my personal conversations with a Forest Tradition teacher)

What I was questioning was the so-called 'proof' of rebirth. The truth is nobody knows for sure.

There are also skeptics who comment on Stevensons reports and point out their weaknesses - such as the 2 articles found at the link:

http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482

Anyway, I don't think I have anything further to say now that I've expressed an opinion. I wasn't looking for an argument with anyone, life's too short !

with metta,

Aloka :)
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:09 pm

Well, there's no 'proof' of anything--scientific or otherwise. Only evidence which may or may not support hypotheses. As anyone who understands the scientific method knows, the scientific method forms hypotheses and tests them; no scientist ever says he or she has proven anything. Since I worked as a mechanical engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for 12 years, I had this drilled into me in conversations with people so scary smart my mind was forever blown. I also heard and saw things that led to my permanent retirement from the field and the 'system' in general. :tongue: But that's another story.

My point is if we wait for 'proof' of anything we're going to sit at home on the couch a long time before making a commitment to action. One person's hypothesis is another person's rock of faith. Since the evidence concerning 'reality' obtained by the sensorium is specious at best, and this specious information is filtered through our biases and attitudes, and further interpreted by our conditioned intellect, all we can really say is that I prefer my superstitions over your superstitions.

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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Yana » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:18 pm

Aloka wrote:Hi Yana,

Anyway, I don't think I have anything further to say now that I've expressed an opinion. I wasn't looking for an argument, life's too short !



Hi Aloka,

"Rebirth has absolutely no relevance in our practice here and now". On the contrary,i think rebirth makes all the difference.

If rebirth makes no relevance in your practice here and now then neither should kamma.For rebirth is the product of kamma and how can there be one without the other.

When you express an opinion it's an opinion.
When i express an opinion its an argument.
The truth is we're both just expressing an opinion.
And at the end of the day we can agree to disagree. :anjali:
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby SamKR » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:45 pm

Hi Yana,

That is interesting, thanks for sharing.

Yana wrote:
On the contrary,i think rebirth makes all the difference.


I agree. The Buddha's teachings are so precious just because there has been so much suffering because of continuous birth and death "from an inconstruable beginning". Although I do not have any scientific evidence (besides Dr. Stevenson and other researchers), my intuition compels me to believe in it. If I didn't have this "automatic" belief, I wouldn't be interested in practicing the Buddha's teachings. So for some people rebirth makes all the difference. If it does not make any difference for others, that's perfectly fine too.
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby daverupa » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:48 pm

How do we get from "inconstruable" to "it is to be construed in this way"?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

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

Postby SamKR » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:55 pm

daverupa wrote:How do we get from "inconstruable" to "it is to be construed in this way"?

The beginning point is "inconstruable", not the Dhamma.
It is to be constured in this way (at least for some people) because:

"As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans."

"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.


Coming back to the topic of OP:
Yana wrote:But i'd like to know if you do have similar experiences?

Does this "automatic" belief in rebirth count as birthmark? :tongue:

Yana wrote:What does Buddhism say about this?According to Buddhism could there be any truth to it? Or could it be pure coincidence? Is there anywhere in the sutta that tells a story of a deformity or birthmark that was a product of a previous life.

I guess Buddhism, as we understand in Pali Tipitaka, is compatible with the idea of birthmarks. Although I cannot find any sutta that specifically tells about birthmark.
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:37 pm

Sounds like superstition...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXsxvdF4 ... re=related

It is also inappropriate attention...

"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?' http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


The birthmark and reincarnation thing also reeks to high heaven of confirmation bias.

Things like this are best put aside in my opinion.

:soap: :anjali:
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby SamKR » Sun Nov 18, 2012 12:06 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Sounds like superstition...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXsxvdF4 ... re=related

It is also inappropriate attention...

"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'


The birthmark and reincarnation thing also reeks to high heaven of confirmation bias.

Things like this are best put aside in my opinion.

:soap: :anjali:


Yes, to indulge about one's past or future is inappropriate attention, as stated by the Buddha in Sabbasava Sutta.

But to try to understand about "reincarnation" or rebirth is not inappropriate attention, although that is not essential for the practice of Dhamma.
Those who don't believe and want to put this question aside while practicing Dhamma, that's totally fine. But there are people who find the rebirth doctrine essential to their Dhamma practice. Therefore, I think it might be better not to dissuade believers from believing in things that have been stated many times by the Buddha.
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:49 am

Hi Sam, others,
SamKR wrote:Yes, to indulge about one's past or future is inappropriate attention, as stated by the Buddha in Sabbasava Sutta.

I agree. As far as I can see, the "inappropriate attention" is in the "I" part, not the "time" part:
What was/am now/will be "I"?

Whereas this sort of reflection about the future is recommended:
"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


:anjali:
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby SamKR » Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Sam, others,
SamKR wrote:Yes, to indulge about one's past or future is inappropriate attention, as stated by the Buddha in Sabbasava Sutta.

I agree. As far as I can see, the "inappropriate attention" is in the "I" part, not the "time" part:
What was/am now/will be "I"?

Whereas this sort of reflection about the future is recommended:
[...]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


That's true, Mike. The "inappropriate attention" is in the "I" part. I didn't have that in mind when I posted (my emphasis was in "indulge"), but your reasoning makes a lot of sense.
And still, the questions in the OP can be addressed without thinking in terms of "I" but in terms of aggregates, process of kamma, death and rebirth.
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:48 am

Hi Sam,

Sure, "indulge" is, perhaps, another way of pointing to "I making" and so on.

:anjali:
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby daverupa » Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:54 am

I sometimes wonder whether rebirth-view gets in the way of seeing anatta, or anicca... these burgeoning epicycles of discussion never seem to resolve this inherent dilemma, because to one extent or another 'personal continuity' rears its head in popular descriptions.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

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

Postby santa100 » Sun Nov 18, 2012 4:22 am

That's why the Buddha drew a sharp contrast between His teaching of Rebirth versus the wrong view of Eternalism, which believes in a permanent and inherent personal continuity that keeps wandering on from life to life. The other wrong view on the other end of the spectrum is Nihilism which is more commonly described by the stock phrase: "nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed, no fruit or result of good and bad actions, no this world, no other world, no mother, no father, no beings who are reborn spontaneously, no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins". Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a wonderful essay filled with useful info. about rebirth here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_46.html
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby DAWN » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:31 am

Knowledge make obstacle in liberation, obstacle in revelation of unconditioned nature of fenomenas. Like a ground wich hide the trasure, more there is ground, more you have to work to acces to this trasure.
Unconditioned mean that it have no condition to this state of being, is beyound all knowledge.

So of corse we can seek for "our" past reincarnation, for fun, but after that we have anyway go beyond it, and put all in the trash.

IMO
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: Birthmarks and Reincarnation

Postby Mr Man » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:58 am

Our yearning for a future life is really strong, which possibly feeds this great need for some kind of affirmation of "past life". How about investigating what it is that wants to believe in reincarnation and what the consequences of buying into this belief are?

In my opinion Dr Stephenson work may be interesting but is not relevant to the practice of the Buddha's teaching. To link the two does the Buddha's teaching a disservice.
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