Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

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Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby edwhys211 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:40 pm

I am an agnostic who is interested in Buddhism. I like meditation, the teachings of The Buddha and Asian culture, but I cannot accept rebirth without skepticism. As an agnostic I cannot be sure or unsure about anything, but I really do not fully believe in rebirth and the realms of rebirth. I view it more as a story, not a truth. Does Zen, or any other minor school just view Buddhism as a philosophical religion without rebirth?
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Justsit » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:53 pm

No, there are no "Buddhist" schools that do not teach rebirth. Rebirth, and karma, are fundamental to the Buddha's teaching.

It seems that Westerners often have difficulty with the concept of rebirth. We often come from a scientific/materialistic background, or from distasteful experiences with religion. It may be helpful to just put it aside until one is a bit further along on the path, when one's understanding of the teachings may be a bit deeper. Put it on the back burner for now, learn more, revisit rebirth later. It's always fine to say, "I don't know. "

One day the penny will drop.

Just my .02, YMMV.
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Aloka » Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:00 pm

I think there are some Soto Zen teachers who are agnostic on the subject of rebirth. You might like to check out Brad Warner, for example.

http://hardcorezen.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/literal-rebirth.html
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby plwk » Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:03 pm

Once again, Zen Buddhists can be reached on this subject fully here or here
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Alex123 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:46 pm

edwhys211 wrote:I am an agnostic who is interested in Buddhism. I like meditation, the teachings of The Buddha and Asian culture, but I cannot accept rebirth without skepticism. As an agnostic I cannot be sure or unsure about anything, but I really do not fully believe in rebirth and the realms of rebirth. I view it more as a story, not a truth. Does Zen, or any other minor school just view Buddhism as a philosophical religion without rebirth?


As I understand it, Orthodox Zen does believe in rebirth, though it is your choice to believe or not. It seems that only modern, 20th/21st century teachers tend to reject it.
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby dude » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:14 pm

Why are you interested in Buddhism?
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 6:03 pm

edwhys211 wrote:I am an agnostic who is interested in Buddhism. I like meditation, the teachings of The Buddha and Asian culture, but I cannot accept rebirth without skepticism. As an agnostic I cannot be sure or unsure about anything, but I really do not fully believe in rebirth and the realms of rebirth. I view it more as a story, not a truth. Does Zen, or any other minor school just view Buddhism as a philosophical religion without rebirth?


To me this question is just plain wrong. Buddhism is not a party and there is no party line, whether in Theravada, Zen or anywhere else. There are teachers who talk about rebirth and there are teachers who don't and there are also some who deny it, at least literally. In (Japanese) Zen it is not very common to talk about post mortem rebirth from what I have seen, so I take it tha most teachers at least don't consider it an important teaching. I can't tell what the people believe and I also don't see it as being very important. As far as I can make out, Buddhism is about liberation from delusion not about belief.
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:16 pm

I have been a Buddhist since the age of 22 and a monk for 35 years. I have always believed in literal rebirth, but I still cannot remember my previous lives, nor do I know what my next existence will be.

So what's the difference between you and me? Believing is not knowing, and not-believing is not knowing either. Learn to see doubt for what it is, accept that there are some things that you cannot know, and try to understand the things that you can.

The Buddha's teaching is about understanding suffering and its causes. We should try to understand as much as possible in this very life, since the next life is uncertain. For the first twenty two years of this existence I did not know anything about the Buddha's teaching — now that I do, it guides my life and motivates me to abstain from evil, cultivate good, and purify the mind. If there is another life after this one, that cannot be bad. If there is not, it makes me happier in this existence.

Read the Apannaka Sutta and study the discourse in full if you have time. Perhaps it will clear some of your doubts and help you to focus on what is important.
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:45 pm

Greetings,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha's teaching is about understanding suffering and its causes. We should try to understand as much as possible in this very life, since the next life is uncertain. For the first twenty two years of this existence I did not know anything about the Buddha's teaching — now that I do, it guides my life and motivates me to abstain from evil, cultivate good, and purify the mind. If there is another life after this one, that cannot be bad. If there is not, it makes me happier in this existence.

:goodpost:

Well said bhante.

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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: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby Kamran » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:02 am

If interested, Soto Zen is non-mystical with no rebirth according to monks like Gudo Nishijima (see his interesting 30 questions below). He has a theory that meditation is a way to balance the autonomic nervous system.

http://www.dogensangha.org/questions.html

8. What is Heaven and Hell?
Heaven is a human supposition and Hell is also a human supposition. But when our autonomic nervous system is balanced, it is just Heaven, and when our autonomic nervous system is not balanced, it is just Hell.

16. Where will you be in 100 years from now?
When I die in a few years, not so long from now, everything will become nothing including me, and I will take a rest forever.

20. Does Zazen have a goal?
Zazen has a goal. The goal of Zazen is to practice Zazen itself.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Do Zen Buddhists fully believe in Rebirth?

Postby alan... » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:39 am

edwhys211 wrote:I am an agnostic who is interested in Buddhism. I like meditation, the teachings of The Buddha and Asian culture, but I cannot accept rebirth without skepticism. As an agnostic I cannot be sure or unsure about anything, but I really do not fully believe in rebirth and the realms of rebirth. I view it more as a story, not a truth. Does Zen, or any other minor school just view Buddhism as a philosophical religion without rebirth?


you're in luck with theravada, since we use the pali canon there is a sutta which will help you with your question: the oft quoted "kalama sutta" AN 3.65 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.soma.html

this sutta generally promotes skepticism in a functional way. as i read it, we should test out the buddhas teachings. so you don't believe in rebirth? okay that's fine, test out the buddha's teachings and see what happens. i for one am up in the air about rebirth and the realms. i leave it open. i have always approached the dahmma with a testing attitude and have found every aspect to be legitimate and functional EXCEPT rebirth and the realms. now does this mean they do not exist? certainly not. does this mean i'll never find out and i should just forget it? no, it means that further testing is required. according to the suttas we can literally see rebirth by delving into knowledge already in our minds. this requires mastering of the jhanas, a heady task to say the least. i am on jhana one and have been for three years. however jhana one is utter bliss and allows me to see not self much easier, so it's fine with me if progress is slow!

that being said, it really doesn't matter. the dhamma is not about rebirth or realms or any of that stuff. the buddha taught again and again that that speculation on that stuff is pointless and that we should simply practice practice practice, tame the mind and use it to see through reality itself. one can reach nibbana without any knowledge of rebirth/realms! in the suttas that knowledge is actually called "mundane", meaning it falls in with knowledge of books or outer space, what's in the deep trenches of the oceans, and so on. only nibbana is "supramundane" and one can seek it while leaving everything else aside.

trying to work out rebirth/realms is chasing your own tail, only nibbana is going in the right direction.





EDIT: also, zen has this weird thing going on in modern times where people are pretending it's it's own thing and even that it is not buddhism some times (how they get around the fact that it wouldn't exist without buddhism is beyond me!). however this is a fad, if you actually walk into a zen temple and speak with a monk they will know a lot about rebirth and the realms, there will be dharma talks that mention them and sutra readings that mention them. of course there are exceptions, this is my experience in temples and in reading, i can say for certain i have never heard or read of a zen master flat out denying the existence of these things, undoubtedly this has happened but i believe it's a very small minority. a zen master may not teach about them in their writings as writings frequently are supposed to be utterly functional and leading a person in the right direction with no side tracks, because as i said above rebirth/realms is mundane it is a huge side track and many teachers simply try to stay on track and just teach a person in the direction of liberation.

further, some teachers likely are enlightened or have at least tasted nibbana but have not mastered the jhanas and extracted their previous lives and all that. this being so they don't teach that these things are false, they simply don't mention them much. having reached the goal as prescribed by the buddha one likely has much deeper belief in the reliability of his teachings even if one has not experienced certain ones directly. and even the teachers that have experienced their past lives still may not teach about them. zen or theravada (vajrayana teaches about them ALL the time and so does pure land) are both schools where teachers may not mention these things much. zen has a particularly austere approach to the dhamma in some circles. particularly soto and rinzai. they get to the point at the same time as nearly not giving enough information in the first place (i say this with love, i have always had a great interest in zen and it's wily ways). that attitude doesn't leave much room for lengthy talks on otherworldly exploits. also as far as i know zen does not teach jhana, so it's possible that zen masters do not remember their past lives as a rule (with exceptions of course). perhaps they reach nibbana using meditation methods that simply do not serve that function? nonetheless they still teach that these things exist according to the dhamma.
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