the great rebirth debate

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

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:28 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:That is a fallacious conclusion. An arahant has indeed eradicated suffering and is thereby not subject to another womb birth.


What you say is not in the least related to the fact that an arahath has eradicated suffering in the here and now. He has eradicated suffering by eliminating the mind's latent tendency to measure as "I be". While I do not dispute the "no future womb birth" possibility I am not blind to the elaborate psychological reference in the sutta.

BlueLotus wrote:Like I said previously, if you're not concerned with continued birth and death in saṃsāra then there are more reasonable paths to follow than the path of renunciation.


Like I said previously, this is just your opinion over and over again. Which is fine. Just don't think this is the only way there is. There are monastics who have renunciated domestic lay lives without holding your view on after-life rebirths. Actually I would do too if it wasn't for a severely disabled dependent.

BlueLotus wrote:the denial of the next world also renders the Buddha's teachings on kamma untenable as well, because not all results of actions have corresponding consequences in this life.

My understanding of kamma is not that "all results of actions have corresponding consequences" nor have I seen such notions explicit in suttas.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:43 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:It's necessary for liberation.


There is Canonical evidence of many Anagami lay followers. I am not sure of fully-enlightened lay followers but dhammawiki.com says:

there are about 3,000 lay sotapannas mentioned in the Pali Canon, at least 90 sakadagamis, at least 500 anagamis, and about 21 lay arahants mentioned in the Pali Canon


There is nothing there about renunciation being an absolute necessity for nibbana. Either way, my point is that renunciation does not necessarily equate to detachment...
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:13 pm

BlueLotus wrote:While I do not dispute the "no future womb birth" possibility I am not blind to the elaborate psychological reference in the sutta.

It seems like you're keen to argue at length for some non-traditional interpretation. Personally, I'm not interested in your interpretation as it is clearly a wrong view according to MN 60, MN 117, DN 1, DN 2, DN 23, etc.

There's a trend these days of people who question the view of the next world trying to rewrite or reinterpret the suttas to erase the view entirely, instead of taking the prudent advise offered in the suttas about remaining agnostic regarding this issue and practicing the four brahmavihārā. By dismissing the advice offered in the suttas they're unnecessarily creating more problems for themselves.

BlueLotus wrote:There are monastics who have renunciated domestic lay lives without holding your view on after-life rebirths.

It's not my view. It's the view of every extant Buddhist tradition and lineage.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:21 pm

BlueLotus wrote:My understanding of kamma is not that "all results of actions have corresponding consequences" nor have I seen such notions explicit in suttas.

This text addresses your qualms regarding kamma and rebirth: The Truth of Rebirth And Why it Matters for Buddhist Practice by Ven. Ṭhānissaro.

:buddha1:
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby daverupa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:15 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:If the view of continued birth and death in saṃsāra is denied then the monastic path as prescribed in the vinaya and suttas becomes an unreasonable and entirely unnecessary way to live one's life.


But it need be neither denied nor upheld. In a position of agnosticism paired with concern over suffering and the way to end it, such efforts as ordination are altogether attractive options for a life course. That you find it unreasonable makes sense - you say as much - but the claim that lack of belief in rebirth objectively invalidates the practice of the Dhamma, even in part, is spurious.

One has to accept moral efficacy; that wholesome and unwholesome can be defined.

One has to accept that there is an opportunity for choosing between these two.

Beyond these two aspects of the discussion, no cosmological component of the Nikayas appears to be essential - neither a literal, nor a metaphorical, understanding of hell realms. Just the Dhamma via the middle...

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

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:11 pm

daverupa wrote:... the claim that lack of belief in rebirth objectively invalidates the practice of the Dhamma, even in part, is spurious.

Again, that isn't what I'm suggesting. What I said was:

Ñāṇa wrote:But if one is going to actually live by the vinaya precepts and various related prescriptions given in the suttas it is far more reasonable and purposeful to accept the possibility that the assertions made in the texts are true.

Thus the view that a continuum of consciousness continues post-mortem to another birth in one of the realms of saṃsāra is simply not denied. This is reasonable and accords with MN 60. However, I think Ven. Ṭhānissaro goes a bit further than this in the previously linked text of his.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby daverupa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:55 pm

I understood "unreasonable and entirely unnecessary way to live" differently than apparently you'd meant; sorry to be obtuse here.
    "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: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:43 am

At any rate, in a single lifetime scenario there's no reason to disengage from any hedonistic pleasures as long as one is not causing harm and can rationalize the pleasure to pain ratio in a cost-benefit analysis.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:47 am

BlueLotus wrote:In MN 9, suffering is eradicated here and now while the noble disciple is alive and breathing. In this context birth cannot be a physical birth. He ends suffering by destroying all tendencies of the mind to measure as "I be". This by all means is psychological. If you take this "birth" to only be a "womb birth", the suttas just don't add up.


They do add up because the way the nidanas are defined fully supports the traditional model where the ultimate goal is pari-Nibbana, release from samsara. So straightforwardly Nibbana ( cessation of the taints ) leads to pari-Nibbana, ie the cessation of birth, ageing and death.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:50 am

BlueLotus wrote:MN 9:
Friends, there are three [types of] being: being with sensuality, being with matter, and being with the immaterial. With the arising of holding there is the arising of being, with the cessation of holding there is the cessation of being.


This can very well be interpreted as "Being is the mind's behaviour in sensual thoughts, thinking about material and maintaining the mind in immaterial states." "Arising and holding" is constantly entertaining such mental states.


I don't see how it can be interpreted in this way. It looks like wishful thinking to me. And I don't really understand your objection to reading the nidana definitions at face value - why the need to impose a psychological interpretation when there is no evidence it was ever intended?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:03 am

BlueLotus wrote: He has eradicated suffering by eliminating the mind's latent tendency to measure as "I be".


It's the taints that cease. This passage from MN36 provides some clarification ( "fermentations" = "taints" in this translation ):

"The Blessed One said: "In whomever the fermentations that defile, that lead to renewed becoming, that give trouble, that ripen in stress, and lead to future birth, aging, & death are not abandoned: Him I call deluded. For it is from not abandoning the fermentations that one is deluded. In whomever the fermentations that defile, that lead to renewed becoming, that give trouble, that ripen in stress, and lead to future birth, aging, & death are abandoned: Him I call undeluded. For it is from abandoning the fermentations that one is undeluded."
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby daverupa » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:13 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:At any rate, in a single lifetime scenario...


So, agnosticism also refrains from claiming this. The open-ended view of the single life which can be perceived prevents even this assumption. The result is "work with what you have", and it then becomes a choice to decide what one's concern will be.

If dukkha becomes one's concern, then the Dhamma can be practiced with increasing benefit while holding Buddhist cosmologies with agnostic hands.
    "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: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:29 pm

daverupa wrote:So, agnosticism also refrains from claiming this. The open-ended view of the single life which can be perceived prevents even this assumption. The result is "work with what you have", and it then becomes a choice to decide what one's concern will be.

If dukkha becomes one's concern, then the Dhamma can be practiced with increasing benefit while holding Buddhist cosmologies with agnostic hands.


I used to think so too, but increasingly I'm convinced that it's better to have a firm view one way or the other. The reason has to do with the nature of the Buddhist path and what it requires of practitioners.

The path is demanding and requires great sacrifices. One is urged to abandon most the things which make the world tolerable -- intimate relationships, family life, art and music, culinary pleasures, a rewarding career or vocation, and so on. If this brief life is all we have, it is pointless to give up these things. Not just pointless, but a sad waste of one's time here on earth.

On the other hand, if beings really are caught in an endless cycle of (mostly miserable) lives, with all pleasures becoming pain, and all pursuits turning out to be empty, then renunciation makes sense. We have good reason to struggle hard and endure constraints/discomforts in order to break free of the cycle. The Buddha's path requires a full commitment ("practice like your hair is on fire") which is justified by the urgency of escaping the samsaric prison. But if we have only one life, there is no reason for urgency, as we will all achieve cessation at the moment of death.

Thus, it seems to me that agnosticism ultimately won't do. At some point a decision must be made because so much hinges on it. For non-believers like me, there is still benefit in Buddhist teachings and practices, but only to a point -- perhaps with the sort of non-religious approach advocated by Sam Harris.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:57 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:It seems like you're keen to argue at length for some non-traditional interpretation. Personally, I'm not interested in your interpretation as it is clearly a wrong view according to MN 60, MN 117, DN 1, DN 2, DN 23, etc.


Non-traditional does not imply inaccurate at any cost. Once upon a time the most prominent scholars in the world believed the world was flat. I did not expect your interest in my opinion either. It was you who initiated this discussion in the first place. Further, I am not denying your view while it is you who keep denying all opinions other than your own. Furthermore, MN 117 talks about 'para loka' which is "other worlds". 'Para' mean other. It doesn't even necessarily imply "life after death". Finally, even if MN 117 means "life after death" I do not deny that possibility. But that doesn't make me blind to the very much visible psychological aspect of the dhamma experienced here and now.

Ñāṇa wrote:There's a trend these days of people who question the view of the next world trying to rewrite or reinterpret the suttas to erase the view entirely, instead of taking the prudent advise offered in the suttas about remaining agnostic regarding this issue and practicing the four brahmavihārā.


Frankly, I have much better things to do in THIS life than to speculate about the beyond times. As for erasing the view entirely, I have repeatedly said I entertain both views. On the contrary, you talk about "remaining agnostic regarding this issue" while remaining strongly attached to a specific belief system. :juggling:

Ñāṇa wrote:By dismissing the advice offered in the suttas they're unnecessarily creating more problems for themselves.


Different people view, translate and interpret the suttas in different ways. These old parchments have come from many such mouths and hands. So let's not unnecessarily make these parchments an attachment.

BlueLotus wrote:It's not my view. It's the view of every extant Buddhist tradition and lineage.


Obviously incorrect. There are Buddhists around the world who do not have after-life beliefs or who do not choose to take a definite side. You seem to be saying all those who don't believe in rebirth are not Buddhists. It's no better than saying all those who do not believe in God are sinners. Well, good luck with that.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:57 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:This text addresses your qualms regarding kamma and rebirth: The Truth of Rebirth And Why it Matters for Buddhist Practice by Ven. Ṭhānissaro.



I am not a blind believer of some modern-day scholar monks' sutta commentaries. Ven. Ṭhanissaro obviously has strongly-held beliefs that are projected in his commentaries. I will take it 50-50.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:03 pm

porpoise wrote:They do add up because the way the nidanas are defined fully supports the traditional model where the ultimate goal is pari-Nibbana, release from samsara. So straightforwardly Nibbana ( cessation of the taints ) leads to pari-Nibbana, ie the cessation of birth, ageing and death.


The goal of practice is nibbana which is repeated in suttas as "cessation of suffering". Where does it say the ultimate goal is parinibbana? Could you please quote the sutta pitaka on this one because I frankly don't know.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:46 pm

porpoise wrote:I don't see how it can be interpreted in this way.


I agree. You don't see.

porpoise wrote: why the need to impose a psychological interpretation when there is no evidence it was ever intended?


There is no "imposing". Imposing is insisting ONLY one interpretation is right. There IS evidence in sutta on the psychological interpretation.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:22 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Thus, it seems to me that agnosticism ultimately won't do.


Then why don't you believe in rebirth? You have all the reason to believe in it right? Lol
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:30 pm

Lazy_eye wrote: The Buddha's path requires a full commitment ("practice like your hair is on fire") which is justified by the urgency of escaping the samsaric prison.


Personally for me, full commitment is justified by the urgency to end the pain and suffering I go through right here, right now.

Lazy_eye wrote: But if we have only one life, there is no reason for urgency, as we will all achieve cessation at the moment of death.


Amusing statement coming from a "believer in denial"? :D

But then again, death is cessation of life (at least to you since you don't believe in rebirth). ;) How can cessation of life be ever equal to a life without suffering? When you die, you cease to feel and perceive. When you have attained nibbana, you continue to live in peace. 2 different concepts.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Kenshou » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:19 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:At any rate, in a single lifetime scenario there's no reason to disengage from any hedonistic pleasures as long as one is not causing harm and can rationalize the pleasure to pain ratio in a cost-benefit analysis.
Having lived much of my life under this mindset, I believe that this gives the benefits of hedonism too much credit, even if only within the context of a single life. Unless "rationalize" is the keyword, here. Though individual mileage is sure to vary.
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