the great rebirth debate

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

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

Postby daverupa » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:25 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:But if we have only one life...


Agnosticism avoids this line of speculation.

Lazy_eye wrote:At some point a decision must be made because so much hinges on it.


The Buddha said something different to Pāṭaliya.
    "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 Aloka » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:42 pm

LazyEye wrote: 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.


It's fine to be honest and say "I don't know". To quote Ajahn Sumedho (Thai Forest Tradition Abbot) in 'The Sound of Silence':

“Rebirth,” like “reincarnation,” is a term that’s used generally referring to having gone through a series of different lives, and then there are various views about whether once you get reincarnated into human form where you can go, become a frog again or something like that. I was teaching a retreat in Australia at the Theosophical Society, where people’s views were split. Some held that once you made it to the human level you can’t slide back into a lesser animal one, whereas others insisted that you could. But the truth of the matter is, nobody really knows.

When Ajahn Chah taught about rebirth, he did so in the context of paticcasumappada, or dependent origination. He was talking about the kind of rebirth you can actually witness in daily life; birth is the beginning, death is the ending. How many rebirths have you gone through today, mentally ? What is born dies; what arises, ceases. Rebirth in this sense is actually provable.

In the paticcasamuppada, through desire (tanha) comes attachment (upadana), and then attachment leads to becoming (bhava), becoming leads to rebirth, and rebirth leads to suffering. Jati (birth) is the result of grasping desire.

I quite like the idea of reincarnation and rebirth, on a theoretical level. I’ve no bias against it, but it is speculative and it’s conceptual.”


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

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:17 pm

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


So, agnosticism also refrains from claiming this.

This has already been acknowledged. The only thing I'd add is that even then it's still prudent to consider actions in the context of post-mortem continuity so as to not engage in what is potentially unskillful in that context. MN 60:

    With regard to this, an observant person considers thus: 'If there is the next world, then this venerable person — on the breakup of the body, after death — will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Even if we didn't speak of the next world, and there weren't the true statement of those venerable contemplatives & brahmans, this venerable person is still praised in the here-&-now by the observant as a person of good habits & right view: one who holds to a doctrine of existence.' If there really is a next world, then this venerable person has made a good throw twice, in that he is praised by the observant here-&-now; and in that — with the breakup of the body, after death — he will reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. Thus this safe-bet teaching, when well grasped & adopted by him, covers both sides, and leaves behind the possibility of the unskillful.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:38 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.


You don't notice any dukkha at all with the hedonists? I think that this still can be seen clearly... even within the "single lifetime" scenario.

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

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:44 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
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.


You don't notice any dukkha at all with the hedonists? I think that this can be seen clearly... even within the "single lifetime" scenario.

Hedonism can be moderate, i.e. the pursuit of primarily moderate pleasures. Moreover, people who are ascetic renunciates also experience dukkha unless they're arahants.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:19 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Hedonism can be moderate, i.e. the pursuit of primarily moderate pleasures. Moreover, people who are ascetic renunciates also experience dukkha unless they're arahants.


Even when the hedonism is moderate (and experienced within a single lifetime), the dukkha is still experienced. The fact that the ascetics still have their share of the dukkha can also be seen within the single lifetime. The cessation of dukkha can be seen within a single lifetime... even the dukkha could be seen to originate from within a single lifetime.

All of that can be very easily observed. But that doesn't mean that the origination, the experience, and the cessation of dukkha would always have to happen within a single lifetime.

This fact can also be very easily observed by seeing that there is still such thing as an origination of dukkha, its experience, and the cessation, which happen beyond a single lifetime. I think this is very plain to see... but even that still doesn't mean that we should limit ourselves to some kind of a multi-lifetime worldview.

I've figured the only thing which makes this topic confusing (or difficult) for many people is when they would try to view a self within a single lifetime, or they try to spread it across many lifetimes.

If a person tries to stick with the former, then they would become baffled with some people's seeming adherence to multi-lifetime theory (because then they would try to imagine themselves going on for several lifetimes)...

If a person tries to stick with the latter as a preference to the former, then it's probably because of some perceived shortcomings that they saw with the single lifetime theory, which they in turn based on a viewpoint of self... i.e., a common argument against the single lifetime theory is that if a very wicked person dies then there won't be any chance to punish "that person" in the next lifetime, which is a very silly viewpoint to me. It's obviously based on a view of self.

I think that all of that makes for a very fertile ground for dukkha.

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

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:12 pm

beeblebrox wrote:I've figured the only thing which makes this topic confusing (or difficult) for many people is when they would try to view a self within a single lifetime, or they try to spread it across many lifetimes.

If a person tries to stick with the former, then they would become baffled with some people's seeming adherence to multi-lifetime theory (because then they would try to imagine themselves going on for several lifetimes)...

If a person tries to stick with the latter as a preference to the former, then it's probably because of some perceived shortcomings that they saw with the single lifetime theory, which they in turn based on a viewpoint of self... i.e., a common argument against the single lifetime theory is that if a very wicked person dies then there won't be any chance to punish "that person" in the next lifetime, which is a very silly viewpoint to me. It's obviously based on a view of self.

I think that all of that makes for a very fertile ground for dukkha.

I don't see anyone here asserting a permanent unchanging self. Selflessness accounts for both change and continuity.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:51 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:I don't see anyone here asserting a permanent unchanging self. Selflessness accounts for both change and continuity.


I think it's always easy to deny... seems obvious that there's a debate in here, and a lot of clinging, to what?

edit: apologies... clicked on edit instead of quote.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:03 pm

beeblebrox wrote:I think it's always easy to deny... seems obvious that there's a debate in here, and a lot of clinging, to what?

To state the obvious, this is a discussion pertaining to saṃsāra and related topics such as the right view of the continuity of consciousness, etc. The importance of this subject is explained by Ven. Dhammanando:

    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.

If you're interested in this subject then feel free to contribute. If you're not interested then feel free to move on.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:14 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:I don't see anyone here asserting a permanent unchanging self. Selflessness accounts for both change and continuity.


I think it's always easy to deny... seems obvious that there's a debate in here, and a lot of clinging, to what?


To put it in another way: if no one in here, as you say, is asserting a permanent, unchanging self... then why all of this concern with the debating?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:38 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
beeblebrox wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:I don't see anyone here asserting a permanent unchanging self. Selflessness accounts for both change and continuity.


I think it's always easy to deny... seems obvious that there's a debate in here, and a lot of clinging, to what?


To put it in another way: if no one in here, as you say, is asserting a permanent, unchanging self... then why all of this concern with the debating?


Perhaps clinging to the raft floating across a dangerous river with crocodiles all around. Seems reasonable.
"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: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:47 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:Perhaps clinging to the raft floating across a dangerous river with crocodiles all around. Seems reasonable.


If the person didn't make his raft so small, then maybe it could accomodate a single-lifetime viewpoint without too much worry.

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

Postby cooran » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:48 pm

Please stay on topic and dispense with comments (implied or direct) about other posters.

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

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:59 pm

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


I don't see it that way. In a one-life scenario, the Buddhist path is a little like having your leg amputated in order to prevent a foot ache; the sacrifice is not justified. If there is only one short life, it is not necessary that we reach a final end to all suffering. It's entirely sufficient that we reduce our suffering and cultivate enough happiness to get us through the single lifespan. All pleasures may be ephemeral, but some of them persist long enough to do the job. Also, embarking on the Buddhist path, if you are serious about it, also entails suffering and difficulty.

The final end to dukkha can wait. We'll be a long time dead.

When you have attained nibbana, you continue to live in peace. 2 different concepts.


This makes it sound like arahantship is some sort of lifestyle. But I think it is better seen as the release or escape from samsara. The goal of the path is not to find a way of "living in peace" -- that is, to arrive at some better state of being than that experienced by regular people; it's not really about achieving some kind of state at all. It's about bringing an end to being and becoming. The arahant has "reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden". All that remains is physical death and the crumbling of the body. The arahant is desire-less, sexless, emotionally dead, indifferent to pleasure or pain, similar to a withered tree (to use a common metaphor). I guess you could call that "living in peace", if you want.

Again, if we only have one brief life, I find this a perplexing goal to pursue. But it makes perfect sense if we see beings as being caught in an ongoing samsaric cycle, much of which is spent in the hells.

Then why don't you believe in rebirth? You have all the reason to believe in it right?


You seem to be assuming that because i perceive rebirth as being important to Buddhism, that means that I necessarily believe in it.

As to why I don't, my reason is just the usual one. Lack of a credible basis for believing it. And don't think I haven't investigated it thoroughly. I've read enough books and articles and participated in enough rebirth threads on Buddhist forums to have a pretty good idea of what is out there. And the arguments are predictably fallacious or pseudoscientific, with maybe one or two exceptions.

I'm always on the lookout for something more convincing, though! :popcorn:
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:11 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:If there is only one short life, it is not necessary that we reach a final end to all suffering. It's entirely sufficient that we reduce our suffering and cultivate enough happiness to get us through the single lifespan. All pleasures may be ephemeral, but some of them persist long enough to do the job.


If we look at this honestly... would that be sufficient, even within the single-lifetime viewpoint? If that was the case, then there would be no reason at all for anyone to come to Buddhism, in the first place.

About the topic... I think that the hell and the hungry ghost realms should be taken literally. Hell realm is a place where there is a lot of suffering, with the lack of options to alleviate it... and the hungry ghost realm is a place where there is a lot of difficulty in getting the needs met, even when there are plenty of resources.

I don't think anyone on here would have to worry about being in these two realms, unless they were practicing very badly... whether they have a single-lifetime viewpoint, or not.

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

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:52 pm

beeblebrox wrote:To put it in another way: if no one in here, as you say, is asserting a permanent, unchanging self... then why all of this concern with the debating?

Looks to me like you're the one concerned....
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby darvki » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:27 am

Lazy_eye wrote:In a one-life scenario, the Buddhist path is a little like having your leg amputated in order to prevent a foot ache; the sacrifice is not justified.

I don't really have a dog in this fight when it comes to one- or more-than-one-life outlooks. I think people should take on the viewpoint that works for them. However, I think you're misrepresenting your own outlook demographic on several points here. Neither camp is a homogeneous group.

Lazy_eye wrote:If there is only one short life, it is not necessary that we reach a final end to all suffering. It's entirely sufficient that we reduce our suffering and cultivate enough happiness to get us through the single lifespan.

Except that so many one-lifers are obviously not content to carry out their lives in such a simplistic manner. For example, there are so many individuals who end up on this board or in various practice groups, who view rebirth, et al, as definitively metaphorical, but they're still looking to find a more refined or beyond-the-mundane quality for their existence and sometimes even commit themselves very intensely to practice.

Lazy_eye wrote:All pleasures may be ephemeral, but some of them persist long enough to do the job. Also, embarking on the Buddhist path, if you are serious about it, also entails suffering and difficulty.

Assuming mundane pleasure and pain are the only measurements by which the one-lifer sees the world. Many have a sense of higher cause.

Lazy_eye wrote:The final end to dukkha can wait. We'll be a long time dead.

For those who see the end of this life as a complete void, there's a chance that they don't see it as a desirable escape, since it really isn't anything at all. Many wish they could live forever.

Lazy_eye wrote:This makes it sound like arahantship is some sort of lifestyle. But I think it is better seen as the release or escape from samsara. The goal of the path is not to find a way of "living in peace" -- that is, to arrive at some better state of being than that experienced by regular people; it's not really about achieving some kind of state at all. It's about bringing an end to being and becoming. The arahant has "reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden". All that remains is physical death and the crumbling of the body. The arahant is desire-less, sexless, emotionally dead, indifferent to pleasure or pain, similar to a withered tree (to use a common metaphor). I guess you could call that "living in peace", if you want.

This isn't supported by the suttas. Buddha (an arahant of his own kind), smiled, spontaneously uttered joyous verses (Udana), stretched his aching back, and spoke of escaping headaches by entering deep meditation.

Lazy_eye wrote:Again, if we only have one brief life, I find this a perplexing goal to pursue.

That's fine, but let's not have your personal opinions speak for the entire group. What you've expressed does not represent most of the one-lifers I know.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:12 am

Lazy_eye wrote:I don't see it that way. In a one-life scenario, the Buddhist path is a little like having your leg amputated in order to prevent a foot ache; the sacrifice is not justified. If there is only one short life, it is not necessary that we reach a final end to all suffering. It's entirely sufficient that we reduce our suffering and cultivate enough happiness to get us through the single lifespan. All pleasures may be ephemeral, but some of them persist long enough to do the job. Also, embarking on the Buddhist path, if you are serious about it, also entails suffering and difficulty.


Obviously this is just your personal opinion. That is fine. Just don't think anyone else who doesn't have the same opinion as you is taking the full commitment in vain. Whether there is a beyond time or not, some people would try to get out of the current suffering anyway.

I'll give you two similes a friend came up.

Simile 1:
It's like a child going to school. He might say, well why should I study since I'm going to die anyway so I might as well just learn the alphabet, a little bit of math so that I can get through life sweeping the streets. That will put bread on my table. But another child may think whether I die or not, I want to learn some craft to the best of my ability and do something meaningful with it while I am here.

Simile 2:
Say you are in a pot of hot water. You have a way to make things cooler in the pot or you have the choice to continue to feel the painful hot water but manage with it. Now, one may think "why should I try to get out of this pot. When I die, they will throw me away anyway". Another may think "I MUST try to get out of this pot. When I die, they give me another life and transfer me to another pot". Another one may think "I am suffering. I want to get out of this pot NOW since there is a way to get out of it."

Trying to eliminate your current suffering either in a monastic setting or domestic setting has nothing to do with after-life, at least to some people.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:28 am

Lazy_eye wrote:This makes it sound like arahantship is some sort of lifestyle. But I think it is better seen as the release or escape from samsara. The goal of the path is not to find a way of "living in peace" -- that is, to arrive at some better state of being than that experienced by regular people; it's not really about achieving some kind of state at all. It's about bringing an end to being and becoming. The arahant has "reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden".


Again this is your own personal opinion. The suttas talk about nibbana as "cessation of suffering, experienced here and now". The Buddha continued to live in perfect peace of mind.

Personally, I see a continuous round of suffering in the here and now so I have my problem right here than to speculate about what happens after death. But if you prefer to see it that way, I wouldn't criticize that view either. All in all, nibbana is "ending suffering". It is not about ending existence. The Buddha has never said "your goal is to end the aggregates". He merely said "your goal is to end attachment to the aggregates". I can quote the suttas if you want.

Lazy_eye wrote: The arahant is desire-less, sexless, emotionally dead, indifferent to pleasure or pain, similar to a withered tree (to use a common metaphor). I guess you could call that "living in peace", if you want.


Incorrect! An arahath is emotionally stable, unshattered by worldly pleasures or sufferings, experiences constant mental wakefulness and clarity, is not vexed by sadness, anger, confusion, sexual desires or jest, is full of compassion, continues to enjoy and experience the beauty of nature. The Buddha has never described his peace the way you do.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby BlueLotus » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:53 am

Lazy_eye wrote:You seem to be assuming that because i perceive rebirth as being important to Buddhism, that means that I necessarily believe in it.


So you say
1) You have spent a long time reading about it, discussing it but there is lack of credible sources to actually believe in it.
Lazy_eye wrote: I've read enough books and articles and participated in enough rebirth threads...
Lack of a credible basis for believing it.


2) You say, most pro-rebirth arguments are predictably fallacious or pseudoscientific.

3) Yet it makes perfect sense to believe in it
Lazy_eye wrote: But it makes perfect sense if we see beings as being caught in an ongoing samsaric cycle


:clap:

Lol. I'll just say "I don't know" and continue to focus on the here and now. In short, put the confusions of "where was I, where will be" down and focus on the moment. It sounds worse than "dogmatic Islamic fundamentalism" to continue to say "I don't believe and I have no reasonable basis to believe" while trying to emphasize that belief is absolutely necessary on the other.
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