the great rebirth debate

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

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:49 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
beeblebrox wrote:I think that's quite patronizing.

I don't think it is. Rather, suggesting that a small child can comprehend the first two noble truths is an example of a superficial understanding of the dhamma.


You're probably right... though I think it might be worth considering that if one takes the literal idea of rebirth so seriously, then I don't think that he would be looking down on the children easily.

Even when we consider that a stream-entrant would already be assured of his/her liberation, regardless of how he or she is treated, or spoken to... I still think that kind of talk is bad kamma. Even when it's spoken out of their ear-shot... because that still would be planting the bad seeds, whether within oneself or others.

I think it's better to venerate, the children included, rather than to try to argue so strenuously for one's own particular ideas of rebirth... especially when he/she doesn't seem to have such application within the practice.

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

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:51 pm

Aloka wrote:I would find it very helpful if someone could give a clear explanation of where the various realms actually are if they're not mental states, please ? Where are the hell and deva realms for example - under the earth and up in the clouds ?


You might find it helpful to explore the ideas put forward by modern physicists relating to different dimensions, multiverses, etc. There seem to be some parallels.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Nyana » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:54 pm

Aloka wrote:If this ancient world cosmology system doesn't actually exist and we shouldn't interpret it as being symbolic - then please explain how it should be interpreted, Tilt.

It's reasonable to separate (a) first hand contemplative experiences of other realms and/or beings, from (b) how the descriptions of these experiences were eventually formulated and systematized in ancient oral and written traditions. The former doesn't require the narrative and various literary devices found in the latter.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:57 pm

Aloka wrote:I agree - and in general, I often think its sad that some Buddhists, certainly when one is reading on the internet, appear to be just as fundamentalist and filled with condescending condemnation towards others, as their extremist 'hellfire' cousins from other religions.


What I see with these debates is an onging tension between traditionalists and revisionists, and both camps are sometimes guilty of fundamentalism and condescension. The revisionist version of fundamentalism is what I'd describe as rabid skepticism, an irrational urge to undermine the traditional approach.

I suspect this tension has always been present within Buddhism, and one only has to look at the arguments within the Church of England to recognise that it isn't peculiar to Buddhism.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:09 pm

daverupa wrote: I'd simply ask a different question than above, to wit: is any of it practical? I think both answers are "not now". It was once very plausible, and thereby quite practical. But it's an old, old scabbard for the Dhamma sword these days...


So are you arguing that the cosmology described in the suttas is redundant for modern Buddhists? And if so, are you arguing a case for Secular Buddhism?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:20 pm

porpoise wrote:
Aloka wrote:What about this sutta? This can't be about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.


SN 35 -Khana Sutta: The Opportunity

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a hell named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a heaven named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life."



.


The Buddha is saying he's seen a hell realm and heaven realm. In the hell realm all experience is disagreeable, in the heaven realm all experience is agreeable.
It seems quite straightforward.



It doesn't seem that way to me, its seems a direct reference to states of being within the human realm. That's the way I read it, I wasn't deliberately trying to 'interpret' anything.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:28 pm

Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote:The Buddha is saying he's seen a hell realm and heaven realm. In the hell realm all experience is disagreeable, in the heaven realm all experience is agreeable.
It seems quite straightforward.



It doesn't seem that way to me, its seems a direct reference to states of being within the human realm. That's the way I read it, I wasn't deliberately trying to 'interpret' anything.


My assumption is that the reference to the 6 sense bases is a means of translating human experience to other realms. Obviously this approach wouldn't work with the formless realm because there's no form. ;)
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:34 pm

BlueLotus wrote:If a person interprets suffering as inclusive of physical pain, sickness and old age, to that person ending suffering is ending all forms of existence. According to this line of thinking, there is no way to actually experience cessation of suffering whatsoever because a person's very existence is suffering.


But that is what the suttas seem to describe, and this is underlined by the fact that descriptions of dukkha invariably include physical pain, sickness, aging and death ( and, interestingly, birth ;) ).

So it appears that with a secular interpretation the goal is to end mental suffering, while with a traditional interpretation the goal is to end all suffering.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby santa100 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:34 pm

Beside the copious explicit descriptions of literal rebirth & realms ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ght.org%2F ), there're tons of instances where that common stock phrase about wrong view was repeatedly mentioned:
And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view
( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ng+offered )

If we simply give an un-biased objective look, it just doesn't make sense to see the Buddha went in great length emphasizing the explicitness of rebirth/realms AND the importance of right view over and over again just so it all turns out to be mere speculation or some kind of fanciful yet un-necessary add-on..
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:39 pm

santa100 wrote:If we simply give an un-biased objective look, it just doesn't make sense to see the Buddha went in great length emphasizing the explicitness of rebirth/realms AND the importance of right view over and over again just so it all turns out to be mere speculation or some kind of fanciful yet un-necessary add-on..


Some argue that this was all just skillful means, ie the Buddha was just using the belief system of the time. But would a teacher of the Buddha's stature basically make up a load of stuff in order to reach a wider audience? It doesn't seem likely to me.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:57 pm

porpoise wrote: Some argue that this was all just skillful means, ie the Buddha was just using the belief system of the time. But would a teacher of the Buddha's stature basically make up a load of stuff in order to reach a wider audience? It doesn't seem likely to me.


Again, I prefer to pay attention to the words of Ajahn Sumedho - who from personal experience I regard as a most excellent teacher.


“ These are categories we can all relate to. We all have these six realms within ourselves, so it isn’t a matter of trying to decide if there is a Brahma-realm somewhere in the sky. –- ‘Can you get to it by rocket ship or shuttle? Should the Americans spend a lot of money trying to discover where the Brahma-world is ?’ These are really about human conscious experience. If you look at these six realms of existence, I am sure each of you will be able to relate them to experiences you have already had. “

(from his book: “Don’t Take Your Life Personally”)



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

Postby daverupa » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:28 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Because, among other things, I've yet to see any textual example of an agnostic arahant.


That isn't necessary.

porpoise wrote:But would a teacher of the Buddha's stature basically make up a load of stuff in order to reach a wider audience?


"Make stuff up" is a wholly inadequate description of the processes involved in textual transmission; it sets up a false dichotomy, and it ignores the chronological development which can be seen in the Nikayas, something which continued for some time after the Buddha' death.

Additionally, every Vinaya has statements by the Buddha which are in all likelihood later than his lifetime; the Buddha said none of it, but were these compilers lying? No - this was a common technique in ancient literatures. Be wary of imposing anachronistic values here. The Nikayas are a literary product, not courtroom dictation.

porpoise wrote:So are you arguing that the cosmology described in the suttas is redundant for modern Buddhists? And if so, are you arguing a case for Secular Buddhism?


I'm saying the Dhamma is not tied to metaphysical claims.
    "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 alan... » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:57 pm

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.

for example a yogi who has seen his past lives, the history of the universe, gods, etc. would be considered enlightened in almost all other traditions, but in buddhism that alone is not enlightenment. only nibbana is and it's not even related to that stuff. all of the mystical knowledge, be it real or fake, is useless in the long run. even the "gods" with their supposed MASS amounts of knowledge and absurdly long life spans are said to be deluded and beneath nibbana.


nibbana and the hell, hungry ghost realms (and heavenly, etc. etc.) are totally separate and unrelated. the buddha taught the path to nibbana as the main and most supreme goal. that is all we need. if the realms spur some people on then great. if others don't want to believe but still want to seek nibbana, equally great. actually one could argue that one who is tied up with the realms and always seeking information on them or meditating and trying to experience them is running astray and should be focusing on nibbana instead and should forget that stuff.

nibbana is. everything else is irrelevant, unrelated, a flash in the pan, a bubble of foam, a lightning strike, an illusion, a dream about to vanish.

TO THE OP: i'm not even talking to you directly at this point, just so you know. just addressing this issue as a whole and the discussion it has become. i don't want you to think i'm trying to lecture you or implying that you are running astray by learning about the realms or whatever or any of the things discussed above, they are just examples and nothing to do with you or anyone in particular, just a hypothetical imaginary practitioner(s) :heart:.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Papashaw » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:26 am

I feel a lot of compassion for beings in hell if there was a place, the torture wouldn't hurt as much as the boredom of being there for a 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000..... years.

I feel strong fury whenever i see someone hurt anyone in this world. If I were to encounter hell as a observer I would be extremely driven to any sort of action possible, I would stand between a torturer and a hellbeing and refuse to even move. I understand actions sends someone to a lower place for a disproportionate time, but it should not be that way. Yama is so easily mistaken for some torturer god willing to please himself and his minions with the sights of horrible cruel slasher movie scenes. :stirthepot:

The attitude i notice here is that of "Oh sucks for that guy, lucky I found buddhism" instead of strong sympathy or pity if somewhere to go to a lower realm. In tibetan buddhism prayers are said for those in the lower realms to relieve their suffering, I guess in theravada though if someone ends up there they are fudged and worth forgetting as they have their intestine ripped out and blood fried longer than they have lived as a human.

Oh i feel so much passion, I must let go of it and not indulge it. I am spouting drivel for provoking other peoples replies to my views to better understand what is right and wrong. This must be the last time.

I do not see how even killing a single parent is equal to being in avici for 10^18 years having your skin burned and torn apart for a trillion trillion trillion years, I know my father or mother would forgive me but karma is blind and unfair, it is the way it is.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby alan... » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:51 am

Papashaw wrote:I feel a lot of compassion for beings in hell if there was a place, the torture wouldn't hurt as much as the boredom of being there for a 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000..... years.

I feel strong fury whenever i see someone hurt anyone in this world. If I were to encounter hell as a observer I would be extremely driven to any sort of action possible, I would stand between a torturer and a hellbeing and refuse to even move. I understand actions sends someone to a lower place for a disproportionate time, but it should not be that way. Yama is so easily mistaken for some torturer god willing to please himself and his minions with the sights of horrible cruel slasher movie scenes. :stirthepot:

The attitude i notice here is that of "Oh sucks for that guy, lucky I found buddhism" instead of strong sympathy or pity if somewhere to go to a lower realm. In tibetan buddhism prayers are said for those in the lower realms to relieve their suffering, I guess in theravada though if someone ends up there they are fudged and worth forgetting as they have their intestine ripped out and blood fried longer than they have lived as a human.

Oh i feel so much passion, I must let go of it and not indulge it. I am spouting drivel for provoking other peoples replies to my views to better understand what is right and wrong. This must be the last time.

I do not see how even killing a single parent is equal to being in avici for 10^18 years having your skin burned and torn apart for a trillion trillion trillion years, I know my father or mother would forgive me but karma is blind and unfair, it is the way it is.



ever heard of dizang (ksitigarbha)? sounds like something you would like :smile:
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:58 am

Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote: Some argue that this was all just skillful means, ie the Buddha was just using the belief system of the time. But would a teacher of the Buddha's stature basically make up a load of stuff in order to reach a wider audience? It doesn't seem likely to me.


Again, I prefer to pay attention to the words of Ajahn Sumedho - who from personal experience I regard as a most excellent teacher.


“ These are categories we can all relate to. We all have these six realms within ourselves, so it isn’t a matter of trying to decide if there is a Brahma-realm somewhere in the sky. –- ‘Can you get to it by rocket ship or shuttle? Should the Americans spend a lot of money trying to discover where the Brahma-world is ?’ These are really about human conscious experience. If you look at these six realms of existence, I am sure each of you will be able to relate them to experiences you have already had. “

(from his book: “Don’t Take Your Life Personally”)


:anjali:


OK, but you've quoted this before and it doesn't address the questions we're currently discussing. In particular it doesn't address the question I raised above, is it credible that the Buddha would have made up all the cosmology, rebirth, the realms etc?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:04 am

daverupa wrote:
porpoise wrote:So are you arguing that the cosmology described in the suttas is redundant for modern Buddhists? And if so, are you arguing a case for Secular Buddhism?


I'm saying the Dhamma is not tied to metaphysical claims.


The sutta you're referring to is basically a reminder that mindfulness is a way to access Dhamma in the here and now. It's neutral in terms of our current discussion.

I do get the impression that you're arguing for the redundancy of cosmology in the suttas, and for a secular approach to Buddhism. It's fine if you do, I'm just trying to understand your position.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:10 am

porpoise wrote:

.... is it credible that the Buddha would have made up all the cosmology, rebirth, the realms etc?



I didn't say that he did, I think these were beliefs that already existed 2,500 years ago. Please read my post written 9.09am yesterday.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:25 am

Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote:

.... is it credible that the Buddha would have made up all the cosmology, rebirth, the realms etc?


I didn't say that he did, I think these were beliefs that already existed 2,500 years ago.


You seem to be suggesting he just made use of existing beliefs without personal belief, insight or verification. But is that idea credible, given the sophistication of early Indian thought, given that the Buddha was from a high-status family and presumably well-educated, given that he explored the various spiritual traditions of the time in great depth, given the Buddha's willingness to challenge the orthodoxies of the time?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Postby Aloka » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:36 am

porpoise wrote:
Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote:

.... is it credible that the Buddha would have made up all the cosmology, rebirth, the realms etc?


I didn't say that he did, I think these were beliefs that already existed 2,500 years ago.


You seem to be suggesting he just made use of existing beliefs without personal belief, insight or verification. But is that idea credible, given the sophistication of early Indian thought, given that the Buddha was from a high-status family and presumably well-educated, given that he explored the various spiritual traditions of the time in great depth, given the Buddha's willingness to challenge the orthodoxies of the time?



I haven't suggested anything that you're implying, porpoise . Now if you'll excuse me, life goes on - and I have important things to do in the world outside my computer.

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