the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:37 pm

Though I have a fair amount of confidence in rebirth, based on the faith I have in people's claims, there are still some issues I struggle with. They may very well have come up at some previous stage in this topic but it is a bit too much for me to work through so please excuse me posing them anyway :)


1. We know today that many of our mental world - styles of thinking, habits, proneness to addiction etc are brain-related, genetic, and/or inheritable. So it would seem that the immaterial mind, when stripped from all of these physical conditions, is a very very abstract thing, maybe purely consciousness and nothing else. If this is so, then I find it quite difficult to give the law of karma a place beyond/through death, as many of these good and bad tendencies that we are trained in are stored in the brain and die with the brain. How does karma go from one life to the next? And how can this mind cause a particular rebirth, that is to say, "want" a particular rebirth, when "wanting" is something that rises from the (now dead) brain and all its memories, associations, etc?

2. If something dies, something will have to be born in order to have that mind reborn. So, if I kill something, that implies that causes a birth, and if I have a baby, I'm killing something else. Isn't this a violation of the law of cause and effect? Let's say for the sake of the argument we'd start a war and kill millions of people, how can this cause a birth wave, a phenomenon that in its own has his own completely separate causes? And what if we all decide to have lots of kids, where do those minds come from? See my point? Cause and effect seem really messed up there.

3. If we acknowledge minds are in all sentient beings, and they are countless, humans making up only a very tiny portion of them, then how comes it that people who claim to rememeber a past life (sometimes one from centuries ago) are always human? Why wouldn't anyone remember a completely strange and exotic kind of life? What are the odds of some mind turning out human on this little planet over here repeatedly? Isn't it strange?


I am not sure about the existence of rebirth but I am willing to have some confidence in it. These issues aren't about whether or not it exists, I'm just looking for a way of understanding it that makes sense considering these points. Anyone who has any insights in this that might help? I find this extremely curious since on the one hand I really do have faith in what evidence people bring to the table, but on the other hand these issues seem to completely discredit the whole idea. Thanks in advance :hello:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:47 pm

Dennenappelmoes wrote:1. We know today that many of our mental world - styles of thinking, habits, proneness to addiction etc are brain-related, genetic, and/or inheritable. So it would seem that the immaterial mind, when stripped from all of these physical conditions, is a very very abstract thing, maybe purely consciousness and nothing else.


Good point. A related point to consider: How do we know that another person is conscious in the first place? Think about this.

We can infer that he is angry because he frowned, clenched his fist, made a sound, his pulse can go up, his adrenal glands secreted adrenaline, etc etc. All of these are physical manifestations of anger.

Without physical signs, how can we know that she is angry? Also we can infer that she is conscious by physical actions she does and by what she says.

Lust has physical component such as hormones and genes. That is why a person has more lust when he has more testesterone, and boys develop lust when hormones start getting produced.

Dennenappelmoes wrote: If this is so, then I find it quite difficult to give the law of karma a place beyond/through death, as many of these good and bad tendencies that we are trained in are stored in the brain and die with the brain.


Right. How are genes passed? How about memories that are stored in brain, or at most - require this brain to access?

Dennenappelmoes wrote:3. If we acknowledge minds are in all sentient beings, and they are countless, humans making up only a very tiny portion of them, then how comes it that people who claim to rememeber a past life (sometimes one from centuries ago) are always human?


Right. Good point.


Why I don't have much confidence in Near Death cases are:

1) Person didn't really die and the corpse wasn't cremated or turned to dust in the grave. This is important
2) During traumatic experience, brain is either deprived of oxygen and/or pumped with various chemicals. This can produce hallucinations that can appear very real. I don't doubt the sincerity of those people who experienced malfunction of the brain.
3) They tell their story when the brain resumes functioning. Key point.
4) Christians use NDE to prove their religion, and so do Buddhists.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby manas » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:29 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Dennenappelmoes wrote:3. If we acknowledge minds are in all sentient beings, and they are countless, humans making up only a very tiny portion of them, then how comes it that people who claim to rememeber a past life (sometimes one from centuries ago) are always human?


Right. Good point.


if.the.question.is:

"why.are.the.past.lives.remembered
always.human.past.lives?"

they.are.not.

maybe.in.dodgy.new.age,
so.called.'past.life.regressions'
and.such.related.instances,yes;
but.not.in.more.reputable.disclosures.

I.heard.only.recently
a.very.senior.and.i.must.say
highly.likeable.Tibetan.meditator/monk
disclose.with.much.good.humour
that.he.can.recall
(while.in.deep.meditation)
many.many.previous.lives
as.an.animal,hungry.ghost.or.hellbeing

(he.was.only.mentioning.the.difficult.births
and.not.the.more.pleasant.human.or.deva.births
to.make.a.point,i.believe:that
we.should.not.be.complacent!)

so,not.only.human.lives
are.recalled.
but.it.normally.takes.great.skill
not.to.mention.years.and.years
of.virtuous.living
and.meditation.practice
to.be.able.to.learn
how.to.do.that
aiui

metta. :anjali:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:54 pm

manas wrote:I heard only recently a very senior and i must say highly likeable Tibetan meditator/monk disclose with much good humour that he can recall (while in deep meditation) many many previous lives as an animal,hungry ghost or hellbeing
(he was only mentioning the difficult births and not the more pleasant human or deva births to make a point,i believe:that we must not be complacent!).

[Alex edited "." out]

An interesting thing is that in this case we have a Tibetan meditator who believes in such forms of existence as outlined in his Dharma books who recalled it. And in addition to that, he wanted to say this in order to motivate us not to be complacent.

It would be interesting if someone who doesn't know about Buddhist cosmology to recollect such past lives.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby manas » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:33 pm

Alex123 wrote:
manas wrote:I heard only recently a very senior and i must say highly likeable Tibetan meditator/monk disclose with much good humour that he can recall (while in deep meditation) many many previous lives as an animal,hungry ghost or hellbeing
(he was only mentioning the difficult births and not the more pleasant human or deva births to make a point,i believe:that we must not be complacent!).

[Alex edited "." out]

An interesting thing is that in this case we have a Tibetan meditator who believes in such forms of existence as outlined in his Dharma books who recalled it. And in addition to that, he wanted to say this in order to motivate us not to be complacent.

It would be interesting if someone who doesn't know about Buddhist cosmology to recollect such past lives.


In.all.sincerity.i.can.say
I.think.he.was.being.honest

when.i.said.he.mentioned.realms.of.sorrow
to.motivate.the.listener
(plus.because.he
seemed.to.find.it.humourous
to.disclose,because
with.all.the.reverence.he.gets
he.was.basically.saying
"no.one.at.all.is.immune,so.strive!")
yes:i.think.he.was.relating
what.he.has.directly.perceived
in.meditation.

you.can.choose.to.believe.it
or.not,Alex
but.in.my.case
if.it.was.just.anyone
i.would.be.sceptical
but
when.its.a.yogin
who.has.meditated.for.70.years
and.comes.from.a.spiritual.tradition
in.which.telling.a.deliberate.lie
is.seen.in.an.extremely.bad.light
with.dire.consequences
then.i.tend.to.pay.more.attention
to.the.words.that.person.of.virtue.and.wisdom
is.saying
and.have.more.openness
to.the.possibility
that,rather.than.being.merely."visions"
the.past.lives.recalled
were.actually.being.recollected,literally
remembered.

I.agree.Alex.that.we.ought.not.to.believe
just.anyone.
but.dont.you.have.any.extra.trust
in.persons.of.virtue.and.wisdom?
or.are.you.equally.sceptical.towards.everyone?

(sorry.if.i.sound.harsh
its.said.with.metta!)

manas.:anjali:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:57 pm

manas wrote:In.all.sincerity.i.can.say I.think.he.was.being.honest


I don't doubt his honesty. I am sure that people to whom Jesus, Aliens, God, etc, speak are honest as well.

manas wrote:if.it.was.just.anyone i.would.be.scepticalbut when.its.a.yogin who.has.meditated.for.70.years


When one is placed in sensory deprivation, hallucinations can occur. When one meditates in dark caves (for example), and tries to shut out 5 sense activity, it is not impossible to see visions.

Also, if one gets sleepy, one can dream while sitting. I had many such experiences when due to low energy I would fall into this dull state and have mental imagery appear. Sometimes these images were clear, I could mentally see a sheet of paper with something written on it. Of course I would analyze the experience and don't give it any more significance than a dream. After all, samatha-like anapanasati can induce sleep.

manas wrote:or.are.you.equally.sceptical.towards.everyone?


Even to myself. The worst or one of the worst nightmares were not me being stabbed (with corresponding bodily feeling). I dreamed that Satan screamed into my ear calling me to go to hell. If I didn't realize it was a dream, and If I didn't analyze the experience - I don't know... I'd probably go insane. Dreams can appear very real.

If I'd have any type of weird experience, I would check if I am dreaming, and check if I accidentally took some wrong pill. I would be skeptical as a default position until I'd rule out everything else.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:57 am

Lazy_eye wrote:But all of this, really, is grasping at straws. The basic problem is that religious people are looking for science to confirm their pre-existing beliefs. And that quest is inherently screwed. For one thing, scientific findings frequently change. So even if you did find a research paper or case study that seems to support rebirth, what happens next year when that evidence is debunked?

It would be better, I think, if devout Buddhists simply stopped trying to rationalize their beliefs via science and just admitted the beliefs are based on faith in the Buddha or some sort of conversion experience.


Yes. It seems that they are trying to defend Buddhism, or themselves, against science. The question is, why do they do that?
If they are taking science as the authority who is supposed to have the last word anyway - then why bother with Buddhism at all ...


Really, I don't see that much is gained by these selective appeals to science. I have to say that when I first started exploring the topic of rebirth, I was not only open minded but inclined to believe. But after encountering the barrage of pseudoscience and fallacious logic that we usually see in these discussions, I have become less inclined to believe. I'm still open to the possibility, but my view is somewhat influenced by the poor quality of the arguments put forward. I have seen a lot of unconvincing reasons offered, and very little in the way of convincing reasons.


I don't say that I believe in kamma and rebirth; I do consider them to be useful concepts for explaining moral problems, especially issues of justice.
Without kamma and rebirth explaining problems of justice, we end up with an explanation of life and the world that is chaotic, that doesn't offer us points on which to orient ourselves.

A one-lifetime conception of life leaves us with a brutal, meaningless universe. And that kind of conception can be hard to live with.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:02 am

Dennenappelmoes wrote:1. We know today


Who is this "we"?


Alex123 wrote:Good point. A related point to consider: How do we know that another person is conscious in the first place? Think about this.

We can infer that he is angry because he frowned, clenched his fist, made a sound, his pulse can go up, his adrenal glands secreted adrenaline, etc etc. All of these are physical manifestations of anger.

Without physical signs, how can we know that she is angry? Also we can infer that she is conscious by physical actions she does and by what she says.


Why should the state of another being matter to you?

It really depends on your motivation for why you seek information or surety about the state of another person.


Lust has physical component such as hormones and genes. That is why a person has more lust when he has more testesterone, and boys develop lust when hormones start getting produced.


Then what is it that small children feel when they crave sweets? You're unduly limiting the meaning of "lust" to just 'sexual lust.'
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:08 am

binocular wrote:A one-lifetime conception of life leaves us with a brutal, meaningless universe. And that kind of conception can be hard to live with.


Why does universe has to have a meaning?

Why does truth have to be pleasant? Maybe truth is hard to swallow.

Why do you want to live more than one life?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:57 am

Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:A one-lifetime conception of life leaves us with a brutal, meaningless universe. And that kind of conception can be hard to live with.

Why does universe has to have a meaning?
Why does truth have to be pleasant? Maybe truth is hard to swallow.
Why do you want to live more than one life?


Nihilistic, fatalistic and relativistic views are fine and well - as long as one can approach life comfortably from one's armchair.
When aging, illness and death show their teeth - this is when one needs something more substantial.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:08 pm

binocular wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:A one-lifetime conception of life leaves us with a brutal, meaningless universe. And that kind of conception can be hard to live with.

Why does universe has to have a meaning?
Why does truth have to be pleasant? Maybe truth is hard to swallow.
Why do you want to live more than one life?


Nihilistic, fatalistic and relativistic views are fine and well - as long as one can approach life comfortably from one's armchair.
When aging, illness and death show their teeth - this is when one needs something more substantial.


They help me to deal with my own health problems.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:44 pm

Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:Nihilistic, fatalistic and relativistic views are fine and well - as long as one can approach life comfortably from one's armchair.
When aging, illness and death show their teeth - this is when one needs something more substantial.


They help me to deal with my own health problems.


Sure, they can, for some time. But when aging, illness and death combined, in their various forms, strike together, as they are wont to do ...
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Mon May 06, 2013 11:46 pm

Dennenappelmoes wrote: If something dies, something will have to be born in order to have that mind reborn. So, if I kill something, that implies that causes a birth, and if I have a baby, I'm killing something else. Isn't this a violation of the law of cause and effect? Let's say for the sake of the argument we'd start a war and kill millions of people, how can this cause a birth wave, a phenomenon that in its own has his own completely separate causes? And what if we all decide to have lots of kids, where do those minds come from? See my point? Cause and effect seem really messed up there.


Forgive me for posting in a *bump*-like fashion, but I would really like to get back to one of my points about rebirth. I have a moderate degree of confidence in the concept of rebirth on some abstract level, I have faith in people's honesty when they say they have memories from past lives, but I really just can't get over the objection cited above. Something to add to this; the other day I saw someone on this forum write something like "being born as a human is rare but the odds have increased since there are more people on the earth today" - ...what? I thought what rebirth you'd get was going to be determined by kamma, not by contingent circumstances.

Rebirth and causality. Both central to the Buddha's teachings but I simply cannot put them together... I'm really lost on this one. Please help me out a bit :( Thanks in advance :anjali:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Tue May 07, 2013 12:11 am

Dennenappelmoes wrote:
Dennenappelmoes wrote:So, if I kill something, that implies that causes a birth, and if I have a baby, I'm killing something else. Isn't this a violation of the law of cause and effect? Let's say for the sake of the argument we'd start a war and kill millions of people, how can this cause a birth wave, a phenomenon that in its own has his own completely separate causes? And what if we all decide to have lots of kids, where do those minds come from? See my point? Cause and effect seem really messed up there. I thought what rebirth you'd get was going to be determined by kamma, not by contingent circumstances.

1. the substantial cause for rebirth is a previous moment of mind. conditions include ignorance, kamma, appropriate physical material from the parents, etc.
2. kids can come from any previous moment of mind, from any type of creature, from any planet, from any level.
3. if you have a baby you are not killing anything. the previous moment of mind of that mental continuum has already ended by the time of the present. in other words the previous lifespan has already ended and a new one has begun. having ended is a prerequisite for a beginning.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby daverupa » Tue May 07, 2013 12:11 am

Stop thinking that it must conform to what you already know - one planet, etc. If you don't know, even speculations will be inadequate. Get on with the training!
    "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.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 07, 2013 12:48 am

Greetings,

daverupa wrote:Stop thinking that it must conform to what you already know - one planet, etc. If you don't know, even speculations will be inadequate. Get on with the training!

It's funny, I used to think about rebirth a bit... try to understand it, take an honest look as to whether I believe it or not etc.... but nowadays I don't think of it at all.

What I know is the fabricated (sankhata) nature of samsaric existence, and the truth of the Buddha's teaching on kamma in that context... I know that kamma (and thus, paticcasamuppada) holds true in terms of result in the present and in the future. That provides my direction in life.

Whether there is or isn't rebirth has no impact whatsoever on the above knowledge and the fact that I will continue to live my life in accordance with that knowledge... and since it will not change what I do (which you could call 'the training', if it was viewed as such), and since the reality or falsity of rebirth isn't going to change dependent upon my speculations/beliefs, it doesn't even come to mind as a consideration because I see that the arising of such a thought is inconsequential at best.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
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: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Tue May 07, 2013 1:12 am

retrofuturist wrote:I know that kamma (and thus, paticcasamuppada) holds true in terms of result in the present and in the future. That provides my direction in life. Whether there is or isn't rebirth has no impact whatsoever on the above knowledge and the fact that I will continue to live my life in accordance with that knowledge... and since it will not change what I do (which you could call 'the training', if it was viewed as such), and since the reality or falsity of rebirth isn't going to change dependent upon my speculations/beliefs, it doesn't even come to mind as a consideration because I see that the arising of such a thought is inconsequential at best.

in other words, you do not begin by first conjuring a conception of rebirth and then proceed to work your way toward observing conditioned existence.
instead, you closely observe conditioned existence and from this rebirth naturally follows as not merely a conjured conception.
yes/no?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Tue May 07, 2013 1:21 am

Greetings 5heaps,

Rebirth just doesn't factor into my "practice". If it exists, it is simply part of "in the future". If it doesn't, so be it. Its validity or otherwise has no discernible bearing on how I live and does not trouble me.

Understanding the arising of sankharas, and their qualitative nature (as explained by the roots of greed/aversion/delusion & non-greed/non-aversion/non-delusion - i.e. kamma), and the resultant experience of nama-rupa (as explained from vinnana/nama-rupa onwards in paticcasamuppada, which could alternatively be thought of as sabba or loka) is sufficient for me to know the appropriate way to respond to situations in life.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
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: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Tue May 07, 2013 1:27 am

Hi Dennenappelmoes,

I don't know one way or the other about rebirth and find it pointless speculating about past and future lives. Therefore I set it aside in order to deal with the living of my present life and practice here and now.

with kind wishes,

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Ben » Tue May 07, 2013 1:52 am

Aloka wrote:Hi Dennenappelmoes,

I don't know one way or the other about rebirth and find it pointless speculating about past and future lives. Therefore I set it aside in order to deal with the living of my present life and practice here and now.

with kind wishes,

Aloka


Excellent post, Aloka.
kind regards,

Ben
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