the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby SamKR » Tue May 07, 2013 5:16 pm

Thank you, Ñāṇa, for mentioning the reletad suttas.

Assu sutta and similar suttas like Mata sutta etc., which have been quoted many times before, clearly state literal rebirth. I think, the Buddha cannot be more clear than this about literal rebirth:
"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

"This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.


Now, the important question is whether understanding of rebirth is useful or not. I think it is very useful (although not essential) and related to the goal, otherwise the Buddha would not have put so much stress on it. It is connected to dispassion and release:
"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."


And his words right after awakening:
Through the round of many births [Anekajāti] I roamed
without reward,
without rest,
seeking the house-builder.
Painful is birth
again & again.

House-builder, you're seen!
You will not build a house again.
All your rafters broken,
the ridge pole dismantled,
immersed in dismantling, the mind
has attained to the end of craving.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#dhp-153


The important thing is to understand such literal rebirth within the context of the Buddha's teachings about anatta, and that what we call literal rebirth is actually rebirth of relative experiences in one of the different relative planes-of-experiences as conditioned by past mental development.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 07, 2013 7:15 pm

binocular wrote:.
As much of an unconjecturable the exact workings of kamma may be - it's a matter of principle:
If we settle that things happen by chance - then we can forget about being able to do anything about our suffering, and this whole thing called "Buddhism" is a mere farce.
But many teachings on kamma emphasize the power of human action.


Yes, but if we look at those teachings carefully, we see that the focus is usually on how present action can affect the future, and not so much on past causes. Live according to Dhamma, and you'll create less negative kamma, causing your suffering to be reduced.

The problem arises when we look for past-kamma explanations of present suffering. As I said earlier, even if we speculate about kamma causing this or that particular instance of suffering, we still are left with the question "why that kamma at this time", and so the explanation explains very little.

In the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta (Shorter Exposition of Kamma), the Buddha frames the discussion in terms of present action influencing future results:

19. "So, student, the way that leads to short life makes people short-lived, the way that leads to long life makes people long-lived; the way that leads to sickness makes people sick, the way that leads to health makes people healthy; the way that leads to ugliness makes people ugly, the way that leads to beauty makes people beautiful; the way that leads to insignificance makes people insignificant, the way that leads to influence ma
kes people influential; the way that leads to poverty makes people poor, the way that leads to riches makes people rich; the way that leads to low birth makes people low-born, the way that leads to high birth makes people high-born; the way that leads to stupidity makes people stupid, the way that leads to wisdom makes people wise.


By contrast, when discussing the topic of past kamma and its influence on the present, he emphasizes the complexity and non-linearity of the process (see Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta, the "Greater Exposition of Kamma").

But why do only some children get raped, and not all? Because life is chaotic, and some get away unscathed, and others suffer - and nothing can be done about it?


They don't "get away unscathed". As Lonesome Yogurt pointed out, those who cause harm will experience the consequences sooner or later. The point is to live in a way that brings about the results that you want, not to try and map all the kammic threads that led to the current state of affairs. Only an arahant or Buddha can really know that anyway.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 08, 2013 4:22 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:A kammic explanation is redundant, because human aggression and cruelty are sufficient to explain such actions. Bad things happen to good people because violence, hatred and greed are common human afflictions. No further "metaphysical" explanation is needed.

This is an important point. When a child is raped, it happened for no reason other than someone decided to rape a child. If we're going to discuss kamma in such a situation at all, it would be the immense negative kamma accrued by the rapist, not the supposedly causal kamma of the child.

kamma is redundant if you pretend that materialism is true despite there not being any scientific evidence to illustrate it is.

in buddhism kamma is the main condition of aggression and a preceding moment of mind is the substantial cause.

Lazy_eye wrote:"why that kamma at this time", and so the explanation explains very little.

there are many factors involved in why that kamma at that time. it involves the person/object, your mind, and the history of that kamma. due to causes and conditions a kamma will ripen whereas others cannot. kammas are, momentary conditioned phenomena. that there is no answer for 'why one and not another' is false, it is just extremely complex and difficult to ascertain the function of kammas. for example most people cannot even concentrate for any significant duration and cannot even ascertain the quality of their mind, thus the formation of the belief that they do not even have a mind
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 08, 2013 4:37 am

Ben wrote:
Ben wrote:
Aloka wrote: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.


Excellent post, Aloka.

Yes, it is.
Taking refuge in the triple gem isn''t about blindly accepting doctrine.
Belief in rebirth is as much a wrong view as disbelief in rebirth.
Until we develop knowledge via penetrative insight, then any discussion of what occurs beyond death is essentially speculation.

depends how you define penetrative insight. in buddhism conceptual analysis and reasoning when refined are types of valid cognitions. therefore, in buddhism it is completely mistaken to "set rebirth aside and deal with the present". this is not a buddhist assertion, it is a nihilistic assertion.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 08, 2013 4:44 am

retrofuturist wrote:
5heaps wrote:although they lack access to that they by definition know of past and future lives by virtue of having realizing the 3rd path.

Do they? I thought they say, "jati is ended". What "jati" actually signifies (e.g. "ontological birth of a being" versus "phenomenological experience of identification" or somewhere inbetween) is not a matter of general consensus amongst Theravada Buddhists...

5heaps wrote:they have traversed the truth of cessation and understand its meaning completely, meaning they know they have been released from the suffering of endlessly taking on new bodies and undergoing birth (which is itself included as part of the truth of suffering, which they also realize directly). at that time, long before becoming arhats, they also realize that their release is guaranteed within a limited period of time, since the causes for suffering have been located and counteracted.

... yet since you clearly understand it in the sense of the "ontological birth of a being" as per the classical three-lifetime model of paticcasamuppada, it is as if we are speaking two separate languages. To that end I invite you either to mutually accept this divide, or to study non-time-delineated models of dependent origination, as articulated well by the likes of venerables Nanananda, Nanavira, Buddhadasa et.al.

the models of dependent arising are spoken by the buddha at different times to relay different contexts and circumstances. sometimes dependent arising as a serious of moments, sometimes as a series of lifespans. this isnt controversial. what is controversial is to assert that the dependent arising can only be understood or was only spoken in the context of momentary serial succession, at the exclusion of the context of multiple lifespans. to hold such a position is simply nihilism.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 08, 2013 4:48 am

Greetings 5heaps,

5heaps wrote:therefore, in buddhism it is completely mistaken to "set rebirth aside and deal with the present". this is not a buddhist assertion, it is a nihilistic assertion.

5heaps wrote:the models of dependent arising are spoken by the buddha at different times to relay different contexts and circumstances. sometimes dependent arising as a serious of moments, sometimes as a series of lifespans. this isnt controversial. what is controversial is to assert that the dependent arising can only be understood or was only spoken in the context of momentary serial succession, at the exclusion of the context of multiple lifespans. to hold such a position is simply nihilism.

Huh? How can either of the statements you refer to in your previous two posts be called "nihilism" when neither are making any claim whatsoever about the validity or otherwise of rebirth?

You're over-reaching with your critique, lazily slapping inaccurate labels on perspectives that do not take your fancy.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
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 » Wed May 08, 2013 4:58 am

retrofuturist wrote:Huh? How can either of the statements you refer to be called "nihilism" when neither are making any claim whatsoever about the validity or otherwise of rebirth?

if you take the view that dependent arising as momentary cause and effect excludes there being an explanation of dependent arising over a series of lifespans then you deny that the buddha ever taught the latter

thats why most people accept that both versions were taught at different times, not that they are mutually exclusive, which is implied by saying that jati can only refer to a particular class of experience and not the suffering of once again having to take birth with a body
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 08, 2013 5:06 am

Greetings 5heaps,

5heaps wrote:if you take the view that dependent arising as momentary cause and effect excludes there being an explanation of dependent arising over a series of lifespans then you deny that the buddha ever taught the latter

:strawman:

Huh? Where did I say "momentary cause and effect"? I'll give you a clue... I didn't.

5heaps wrote:thats why most people accept that both versions were taught at different times, not that they are mutually exclusive, which is implied by saying that jati can only refer to a particular class of experience and not the suffering of once again having to take birth with a body

As I said earlier, believe what you like.... just desist from needless mischaracterisations of other's perspectives. Thanks.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
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 » Wed May 08, 2013 5:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:Huh? Where did I say "momentary cause and effect"? I'll give you a clue... I didn't.

so you have a presentation of dependent arising that is other than the multiple life presentation and other than the succession of moments presentation. what presentation are you then using?
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 08, 2013 5:15 am

Greetings,

5heaps wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Huh? Where did I say "momentary cause and effect"? I'll give you a clue... I didn't.

so you have a presentation of dependent arising that is other than the multiple life presentation and other than the succession of moments presentation. what presentation are you then using?

Non-time-delineated... i.e. not delineated by any timeframe (whether it be "moments", "lifetimes", whatever...)

In other words, structural not temporal.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
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 binocular » Wed May 08, 2013 8:26 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Yes, but if we look at those teachings carefully, we see that the focus is usually on how present action can affect the future, and not so much on past causes. Live according to Dhamma, and you'll create less negative kamma, causing your suffering to be reduced.

Sure. "Karmaism"- ie. understanding the workings of karma in terms of "it's your fault that bad things happens to you" - while being very popular, doesn't seem to have that much support in the Pali Canon. But it is not to be dismissed entirely, either. After all, it is said that living beings are the heirs of their actions etc.


The problem arises when we look for past-kamma explanations of present suffering. As I said earlier, even if we speculate about kamma causing this or that particular instance of suffering, we still are left with the question "why that kamma at this time", and so the explanation explains very little.

It could be that the big moral issues that people are usually so concerned about are another one of those categories that Buddhism doesn't take a stance on, along with questions such as "Is the world eternal? Are humans inherently good or bad?" etc.


They don't "get away unscathed". As Lonesome Yogurt pointed out, those who cause harm will experience the consequences sooner or later.

This is a question of how much faith one has in this.
In my experience, people who do evil things usually get away with it.


The point is to live in a way that brings about the results that you want

Maybe the things one wants are wrong to begin with, or impossible.
Perhaps being a Stepford wife is true happiness.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Wed May 08, 2013 8:34 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:When a child is raped, it happened for no reason other than someone decided to rape a child.


Again: How do you know?

It is possible to conjecture about the unconjecturables indirectly as well. Decision/volition is still kamma - and here you are conjecturing about the exact workings of it.


It looks like for all practical intents and purposes, some self-identified Buddhists do take a strong stance on the big issues of moral justice. Explaining them, no less, just like so many other traditions with a popularistic understanding of kamma, with kamma.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed May 08, 2013 8:37 am

retrofuturist wrote:In other words, structural not temporal.


I'm still not clear what you mean by "structural" - could you briefly explain? Also I'm not clear about your objection to a temporal view, given that birth, aging and death are clearly temporal events ( see the nidana definitions in MN9, SN12.2, etc ).
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Wed May 08, 2013 8:38 am

retrofuturist wrote:Non-time-delineated... i.e. not delineated by any timeframe (whether it be "moments", "lifetimes", whatever...)

In other words, structural not temporal.


What role does the desire to fit in with the current mainstream scientific understanding of things play in having this take on kamma and rebirth?

Inasmuch are some forms of modern Buddhism in fact sophisticated attempts to justify and further the mainstream Western consumerist way of life?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Wed May 08, 2013 8:40 am

porpoise wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:In other words, structural not temporal.


I'm still not clear what you mean by "structural" - could you briefly explain? Also I'm not clear about your objection to a temporal view, given that birth, aging and death are clearly temporal events ( see the nidana definitions in MN9, SN12.2, etc ).


It seems "structural" is similar to what some people mean when they say they believe in karma and rebirth "in a metaphorical sense, but not literally."
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Wed May 08, 2013 8:51 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Supposedly, since samsara is without an original cause or starting point, we have cycled through an infinite number of rebirths. But an infinite number of rebirths means that we have at some point created every possible kind of kamma, which means that any sort of vipaka could result at any time.

Per the sutta on unconjecturables, that sounds like conjecture.

The phrase usually used is "from an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration".

I've never seen it stated "samsara is without an original cause or starting point." Maybe you can provide a reference?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 08, 2013 9:01 am

Greetings,

binocular wrote:What role does the desire to fit in with the current mainstream scientific understanding of things play in having this take on kamma and rebirth?

Inasmuch are some forms of modern Buddhism in fact sophisticated attempts to justify and further the mainstream Western consumerist way of life?

None at all. If anything, the view leaves one further disenchanted with matters pertaining to "current mainstream scientific understanding of things" and "the mainstream Western consumerist way of life".

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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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
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 Lazy_eye » Wed May 08, 2013 12:33 pm

binocular wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Supposedly, since samsara is without an original cause or starting point, we have cycled through an infinite number of rebirths. But an infinite number of rebirths means that we have at some point created every possible kind of kamma, which means that any sort of vipaka could result at any time.

Per the sutta on unconjecturables, that sounds like conjecture.

The phrase usually used is "from an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration".

I've never seen it stated "samsara is without an original cause or starting point." Maybe you can provide a reference?


That's an interesting point you raise. It's true that "without an original cause" is not the language used in the suttas (at least in English translation).

In the Assu Sutta, the Buddha is recorded as saying (emphasis mine):

From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.


So we could argue about whether this means "samsara has a beginning point, but it's not evident", or "samsara has no beginning point".

However, the Buddha then goes on to say:

Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.


The same can be said of all pleasant experiences: i.e., you have repeatedly experienced all forms of happiness as well. By extension we can say that you have generated all forms of "good" and "bad" kamma, and your existence in samsara has taken you from the hells to the heavens and back many times over.

Therefore, to explain why some particular kamma ripens at some particular time is difficult. Any such explanation, it seems to me, leads to further "why" questions -- an infinite regress. The Buddha was wise to deem it an unconjecturable.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 08, 2013 1:44 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
5heaps wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Huh? Where did I say "momentary cause and effect"? I'll give you a clue... I didn't.

so you have a presentation of dependent arising that is other than the multiple life presentation and other than the succession of moments presentation. what presentation are you then using?

Non-time-delineated... i.e. not delineated by any timeframe (whether it be "moments", "lifetimes", whatever...)
In other words, structural not temporal.

the only way dependent arising could be a structure and yet not delineated by time is if it were independent of momentary dhammas ie. an atta to persons or essential natures to things.
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 08, 2013 9:24 pm

Greetings,

5heaps wrote:the only way dependent arising could be a structure and yet not delineated by time is if it were independent of momentary dhammas ie. an atta to persons or essential natures to things.

"Momentary dhammas", "essential natures" etc, commentarial notions the Buddha never spoke about... so what exactly are asking dependent origination to be independent of... commentarial notions?

:?:

Perhaps you could be a bit clearer and less haphazard in your statements?

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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