the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:12 pm

clw_uk wrote:
The great bulk of this debate isn't about whether rebirth is "real" or not, it's about how the suttas should be interpreted - and in fact many of the topics on this forum are concerned directly or indirectly with sutta interpretation. Though of course people's underlying beliefs and disbeliefs inform their opinions.

So on that basis rebirth is an entirely valid topic for discussion, not something to be swept under the carpet because a few people feel uncomfortable about it or want to marginalise it, or whatever.

If rebirth isn't something you want to discuss, then there is no obligation to post in this post


Doses the validity of rebirth impact on your practice of buddhadhamma?


My understanding of what the suttas say certainly does.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby binocular » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:20 pm

clw_uk wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Doses the validity of rebirth impact on your practice of buddhadhamma?


I can't speak for him, but the validity of it certainly is an important part of my Saddha.



Out of interest can I ask why?

If "you" are reborn its only anicca, dukkha and anatta. A future life doesn't belong to you just like this one doesn't :)

Isn't it true that dukkha still exist's regardless of if "you" are reborn or not?

Yup, yup, like the Stalinists would say: No man, no problem.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 4:00 am

clw_uk wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Doses the validity of rebirth impact on your practice of buddhadhamma?


I can't speak for him, but the validity of it certainly is an important part of my Saddha.



Out of interest can I ask why?

If "you" are reborn its only anicca, dukkha and anatta. A future life doesn't belong to you just like this one doesn't :)

Isn't it true that dukkha still exist's regardless of if "you" are reborn or not?


You seem to be looking at this as an objectivist rather than through the necessary subjective mode of being. It is true that there is no ownership over the khandas, and any prospective future life would be the same - But it's still experienced and until one reaches stream entry you are still stuck with self view in every immediacy and reflective thought that takes place. You cannot escape it, as much as you tell yourself 'this is not self' you're still conceiving a being who's thinking that thought whether you realize it or not.

Dukkha exists as long as there is self. Once one realizes stream entry dukkha's packing it's bags (and yet until arahantship remnants still stick around) because there is no longer the illusion of a 'me' or a 'myself' for these things to apply to. Dukkha is subjective, and once the subject is gone - As the Buddha says himself: How can contacts contact a groundless one?'

As for the validity of rebirth being an important part of my Saddha it is rather simple. If rebirth does not exist, I would only need to cut off my life stream in order to experience nibbana, but the Buddha has said that annihilationism is a wrong view, he has quite clearly stated that, therefore I take rebirth on faith, as the Buddha has stated that he has seen the nature of it with his own eyes. If the Buddha just made it all up, lied about it to garner support from the populace at large that believed that stuff back in the day, it does not bode well for his character being perfect in every way. Or say the Scholar monks invented it all and the Buddha never taught it. Well - Then my faith is shot too, because how much do you know is real Dhamma the Buddha spoke and how much is invention? How do you seperate the wheat from the chaff?

There is no way in my mind the Buddha teachings works as being quote "free of patchwork" as he describes it, unless rebirth is factual. Therefore I take it on faith, and it strengthens my practice, for without rebirth Kamma is also more or less dead in the water, and the Buddha has stated that this being is bound to Samsara, and kamma is his means of going beyond. I remind mysel when times are tough that if I think some situation in my life is bad, to remember that I have experienced much worse at times, and will experience much worse in future if I do not practice well, and use the precious time I have to achieve progress in the Dhamma. In light of rebirth, nothing seems quite as bad. It's a useful context for any evaluation of present experience - be it that which is good, or that which is bad.

That's just me though :) I'm not saying you have to see things my way.

metta
Jack
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:03 am

BlackBird wrote:If rebirth does not exist, I would only need to cut off my life stream in order to experience nibbana,


Hi Jack,

I'm quite puzzled by that statement. Whether there is rebirth or not, nibbana is experienced by the living, how could it be experienced when the body is dead?

with kind wishes,

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:31 am

BlackBird wrote: If the Buddha just made it all up, lied about it to garner support from the populace at large that believed that stuff back in the day, it does not bode well for his character being perfect in every way. Or say the Scholar monks invented it all and the Buddha never taught it. Well - Then my faith is shot too, because how much do you know is real Dhamma the Buddha spoke and how much is invention? How do you seperate the wheat from the chaff?


Skeptics employ a variety of strategies in their attempts to marginalise the teachings on rebirth and kamma. Personally I don't find these strategies very convincing, because I think they often represent thinly-disguised aversion, rather than reflecting an objective and open-minded reading of the suttas.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:33 am

Skeptics employ a variety of strategies in their attempts to marginalise the teachings on rebirth and kamma. Personally I don't find these strategies very convincing, because I think they often represent thinly-disguised aversion, rather than reflecting an objective and open-minded reading of the suttas.


If people are honest and say "I really don't know about this, but I'm still continuing to read the suttas", or even "I haven't found any convincing evidence to believe this at the moment, but I'm continuing to practice the Dhamma in my daily life"
it is certainly neither aversion nor closed mindedness.

Even a Tibetan Buddhist teacher said to a friend of mine who said he found it difficult to believe in rebirth: "That's ok, never mind about other lives, this is the one that counts!"

I recommend you travel a little and talk to some teachers. Amaravati is a good place to visit, especially to hear Ajahn Amaro giving talks and joining in the question and answer sessions.

Hope you're enjoying the nice warmer weather we're having here in the UK. Have a lovely day.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:35 am

Aloka wrote:
BlackBird wrote:If rebirth does not exist, I would only need to cut off my life stream in order to experience nibbana,


Hi Jack,

I'm quite puzzled by that statement. Whether there is rebirth or not, nibbana is experienced by the living, how could it be experienced when the body is dead?

with kind wishes,

Aloka


Bad choice of words I guess, I should have wrote 'in order to attain nibbana', hope that solves your puzzlement.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:16 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
BlackBird wrote: If the Buddha just made it all up, lied about it to garner support from the populace at large that believed that stuff back in the day, it does not bode well for his character being perfect in every way. Or say the Scholar monks invented it all and the Buddha never taught it. Well - Then my faith is shot too, because how much do you know is real Dhamma the Buddha spoke and how much is invention? How do you seperate the wheat from the chaff?


Skeptics employ a variety of strategies in their attempts to marginalise the teachings on rebirth and kamma. Personally I don't find these strategies very convincing, because I think they often represent thinly-disguised aversion, rather than reflecting an objective and open-minded reading of the suttas.


I agree that they're not convincing. I think those who are not prepared to accept Rebirth and Kamma often still put themselves and their own intellect above that of the Buddha, or at the very least on the same level. It is a subtle conceit, but logically it denies the fact that the Buddha was enlightened and the person is deluded by avijja. We're wandering around in the dark here and I do find it laughable that some have the conceit to think they know better than the Buddha, or at the very least that their views are just as valuable as the Tathagata's.

Of course I do not mean to lump all those who do not accept rebirth in this category. Personally I don't think everyone who is an annihilationist has aversion, but they most certainly have wrong view, and more wrong view than those who accept kamma and rebirth. I think there is a tendency to disregard this important statement the Buddha has made, i.e. That annihilationism is wrong view. Furthermore mundane right view is known as a belief in kamma and rebirth.

So frankly I don't think it's correct for these people to call themselves a follower of the Buddha's teachings. Because following requires submission, which is something they refuse to do, they would rather make the Buddha Dhamma fit with their predilections than make their predilections fit with the Buddha Dhamma. Perhaps they can say that they are a practitioner of meditation and they have an interest in Buddhism, but they have not taken refuge in my view - That requires submission of one's own views regarding that which cannot be directly seen for oneself - Rebirth and Kamma.

Rebirth skeptics seem to feel as though they can surgically remove rebirth and kamma from the Buddha's teachings the way one might remove an appendix, but this is not the case. Removing rebirth and kamma from the Buddha's teachings is like removing the lungs.

I don't think you can be a real Buddhist and not believe in rebirth and kamma - You're cutting away vast swathes of the nikayas, entire suttas fall under the knife of rebirth skepticism. It is a slippery slope I'm afraid - Once you start butchering up something that the Buddha has already declared is free of patchwork, you've crossed the rubicon, and why stop at rebirth and kamma, why not reinterpret anything else that poses difficulties, that disagrees with your own predilections? It would certainly become easier to do after the initial rejection.

Not believing in rebirth and kamma does not stop one meditating, practicing satipatthana, all that jazz, heck Ven. Nyanavira (whose claim to Stream entry I wholeheartedly believe) even stated that for a sotapanna rebirth must still be taken on faith. So on one hand I don't think the path and fruit are cut off for one who maintains a skeptical view of agnosticism or that 'it's not important' but I really must question whether they have the urgency that those who believe in rebirth do, and without that urgency, will you make it to nibbana? What's the point striving for nibbana when you can just wait for death to come along and you'll get the same thing.

For those of us who believe the Buddha's teaching on rebirth - We need to strive and put forth great effort, because death is coming and we could be reborn anywhere. But for those who don't? What's the rush? You can just meditate and you can live comfortably, and maybe it would be cool to reach sotapatti because hey - that's a novelty too, but really? What's the point, why bother - When death will be the release from experience anyway.

I really wish you rebirth skeptics were right. Things would be a lot easier. But I think the Buddha knows best.

I'm sorry to be so blunt and critical because there are a couple of posters in here who do not accept rebirth or are skeptical whose company I do enjoy and I mean you no offense. This is just the way I feel on the subject.

Edit: Upon re-examination I have decided that I was wrong to say those who do not believe in Kamma and Rebirth are not real buddhists. I don't have a right to say that. I am sorry if any offense was taken when rebirth skeptics read this passage.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:45 am

I belief I've said something along the following lines before; it may as well be in this thread. But since the thread is so long and I think the below can help in mutual understanding, I'll post it anyway.

Going in the direction of right view is more than just believing in rebirth or not. I'd say those who don't belief it can be closer to understanding the Dhamma than those who do and for example strive for a rebirth in heaven, or those who think it requires some sort of self. There are many other aspects of right view than just believing in rebirth. So the suttas do say annihilism is (paraphrased, can't find it now) "the foremost among second views" because that view includes some sort of acceptance of cessation already. That's something we can't say about a lot of people who do belief in rebirth.

It's also not a simple matter of choosing what we belief. Beliefs are not choices. What we belief is always based on what we experienced, how we are brought up, our personality etc. This doesn't have to be based on aversion at all. So of course people can be followers of the Buddha without believing in rebirth. If anything, their beliefs may still change over time. And although I am also convinced the Buddha taught rebirth, I think it's shortsighted to say those who spent years of their lives meditating, reading, living virtuously and kindly, but just can't accept rebirth, are not real Buddhists. In a similar fashion -and I think in a sense more correct even- I could say (but I don't) people without right view are not real Buddhists, but obviously it's not like you choose to have right view. In this sense, if you take rebirth on faith instead of insight, it is not right view either.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:53 am

Look I'm not saying it's an evaluation of how good a person is because obviously you have real buddhists who might believe in rebirth and kamma -> give dana every so often and that's it. Compare that person to someone who meditates daily, keeps the precepts, but doesn't believe in rebirth or kamma. I would praise the second person more than the first.

Regarding annihilationism - It might be the foremost of wrong views, but it's still a wrong view.

I usually just keep to myself about these things, but I have been asked to thresh out why rebirth is important to me, and this is why. Without it, I do not believe one can muster enough urgency to make a real run at achieving nibbana. As I have stated before, what's the point?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:03 pm

I know it wasn't a judgement, as you made clear in your post and I respect that. But I think about how it comes across to people when they read on a respected forum that they are not considered Buddhists. Of course, you are free to say it, but I don't think it will do any good or has any real use. If anything, in my eyes it creates more of a gap between the different interpretations, making discussion more difficult. So I try to close this gap a little as I honestly belief there is not such a big difference.

Because, taking rebirth on faith (using the usual interpretation of faith) is also still wrong view. So in that sense, annihilism or taking rebirth on faith, on mere belief, are not really that different. If you see how many Buddhists in traditional countries treat the idea of rebirth, it's obvious that it is not based on right view either and so it is also not more conductive to practice.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:11 pm

reflection wrote:Because, taking rebirth on faith (using the usual interpretation of faith) is also still wrong view.


No, I've never come across this statement in my reading of the suttas. Where did you get that idea? Please provide sutta reference.


So in that sense, annihilism or taking rebirth on faith, on mere belief, are not really that different.


On the contrary. The Buddha has described anihilationism as a wrong view, and he has described belief in kamma (by inference rebirth) as mundane right view. So I think there is the world of difference.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:15 pm

reflection wrote: In this sense, if you take rebirth on faith instead of insight, it is not right view either.


I think you are mistaken here. One does not realize rebirth on insight. The only way to see rebirth is to develop supernormal powers, but these are not connected with the path and fruit of the four stages of sainthood. Belief in Kamma and rebirth is mundane right view. You should be careful not to misrepresent the Buddha's teachings like this.

Right view is of two kinds: mundane and supramundane. Mundane right view means belief in kamma; or the belief that as we sow, so shall we reap. This right view is found in all religions. An educated Buddhist will also believe in the tenfold mundane right view as follows: 1) there is a benefit in giving alms, 2) there is a benefit of grand offerings, 3) there is a benefit of trivial gifts, 4) there is a result of good and evil deeds, 5) there is special significance of deeds done to one’s mother, 6) there is special significance of deeds done to one’s father, 7) there are spontaneously arisen beings such as deities, ghosts, and brahmas, 8) there is this human world, 9) there are other worlds, such as heaven and hell, 10) there are some people who, by the power of concentration, can see beings reborn in other worlds.

- http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Kamma/kamma.html

But you know what - Maybe I was mistaken saying that those who do not believe in Kamma and Rebirth are not real buddhists. Who am I to make that judgement. Call it a fit of passion :embarassed:

I do however think they are missing something necessary. Let's just leave it at that.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:16 pm

reflection wrote:Beliefs are not choices.


I disagree, I think we do have some choice, at least to the extent of recognising that our beliefs and disbeliefs are transient and insubstantial. I think the important thing is to be aware of these biases and assumptions, and to be willing to challenge them.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:17 pm

Hey BlackBird,

I respect your attenuation of what you said.

About mundane right view, I know of that sutta and you could argue based solely on that. But I'm going to argue against it, because first off, "mundane right view" versus "supermundane right view" doesn't make too much sense. One either has right view or one hasn't. "Mundane right view" indicates one is toward right view, but it would still not be the noble right view. But as far as I know this distinction only occurs in this single sutta. In all other places there is just right view and wrong view, no mention of two types of right view. Now could this sutta have been altered later? This is not uncommon. It seems to me it is, just if based on logical reasoning and comparing it with other suttas in the Pali canon. But venerable Analayo had something to say about this also, by comparing it to other versions of the canon:
This becomes evident with the parallel versions, where such a supramundane description is not found. [..] as can be seen from the Madhyama-āgama discourse which I now translate.

What is right view? 28 This view, namely: ‘there is [efficacy] in
giving, there is [efficacy] in offerings, there is [efficacy] in reciting
hymns, there are wholesome and evil deeds, there is a result of
wholesome and evil deeds, there are this world and another world,
there is [obligation towards one’s] father or mother, in the world there
are true men who have reached a wholesome attainment, who are
well gone and have progressed well, who by their own knowledge
and experience abide in having themselves realized this world and the
other world’ — this is reckoned right view


http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... risaka.pdf


Now, how right view encompasses the understanding of rebirth on not mere faith, but insight. A first indicator is already in the translation above: "who by their own knowledge and experience abide in having themselves realized this world and the other world — this is reckoned right view". But the power of seeing past lives is not the only way to know this, as all those with right view have seen the Dhamma and:
"Whoever sees dependent co-arising sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent co-arising."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


In many other cases those who are referred to as having right view, understand the four noble truths, which includes the truth of the origination of suffering, describing dependent origination also:
"And which is the noble method that he has rightly seen & rightly ferreted out through discernment?

"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones notices: When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. When this isn't, that isn't. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.

"In other words: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


With metta,
Reflection
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:19 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
reflection wrote:Beliefs are not choices.


I disagree, I think we do have some choice, at least to the extent of recognising that our beliefs and disbeliefs are transient and insubstantial. I think the important thing is to be aware of these biases and assumptions, and to be willing to challenge them.

That I can agree with, but of course it's not like you walk up to a skeptic and say: "change your belief", and it will happen.

If I say to you, start believing in Wodan the Viking god, would you be able to make this choice? Would you really belief it? Probably not. Of course, the example may seem ridiculous but to people who sincerely can't take on rebirth it may feel comparable. I know I was in this situation once. And in that place, even if you want to change your beliefs, you just can't. It requires something else than a choice, which is indeed partly this willingness to challenge your beliefs.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby BlackBird » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:29 pm

*sigh* you've extrapolated a bit too far if you're trying to include the 'realization' of rebirth within that which is knowable through insight or path/fruit. It is widely described within the suttas as a supernormal power attained through concentration practice. You have made an odd interpretation of the sutta you have quoted above, one that is in my opinion wholly inadmissible.

In my corner I have Ven. Nyanavira, whom I have already stated that I believe to be correct in his assertion of stream entry, and he stated quite categorically that rebirth is something to be taken upon trust, that even with the arising of the Dhamma-eye in him, he had to take rebirth on trust. Of course that would not be admissible evidence, but I have not seen one instance of Ven. Nyanavira making a statement that contradicts the suttas. So I have placed my trust in him.

You seem to be looking to make the suttas fit your preference here, so I don't think there's much chance at an honest discussion. Regarding mundane/supermundane duality, I very much respect Ven. Analayo's view on the matter, and it is quite true that the duality is not commonly found, when right view is spoken of it is almost always the 'supermundane' but that doesn't mean that mundane right view doesn't exist. There are some very important doctrinal points within the suttas that are only mentioned sparingly. Not that I think mundane right view is altogether that important of a distinction, the point is something doesn't have to crop up in virtually every sutta (ironically as rebirth does) to be true in nature.

I don't think your view that mundane right view is not a real dhamma is pernicious - because frankly in the end you can think that way and it doesn't make on iota of a difference, one is still set on realizing the MAIN right view, that of paticcasamupada and the four noble truths. But I do think your novel interpretation of how to realize rebirth is pernicious - Your idea that belief in rebirth is a wrong view aswell - and I would advise you turn back these two views, because it's not what the Buddha taught.

with metta
Jack
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:31 pm

reflection wrote:That I can agree with, but of course it's not like you walk up to a skeptic and say: "change your belief", and it will happen.


I'm not suggesting that. What I'm suggesting is that it's possible to put beliefs and disbeliefs to one side, at least temporarily. I'm suggesting that without that ability it's very difficult to see things clearly, because these beliefs and disbeliefs colour our perception.
And without that ability it's very difficult to read the suttas in an objective way.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:58 pm

BlackBird wrote:*sigh* you've extrapolated a bit too far if you're trying to include the 'realization' of rebirth within that which is knowable through insight or path/fruit. It is widely described within the suttas as a supernormal power attained through concentration practice. You have made an odd interpretation of the sutta you have quoted above, one that is in my opinion wholly inadmissible.

In my corner I have Ven. Nyanavira, whom I have already stated that I believe to be correct in his assertion of stream entry, and he stated quite categorically that rebirth is something to be taken upon trust, that even with the arising of the Dhamma-eye in him, he had to take rebirth on trust. Of course that would not be admissible evidence, but I have not seen one instance of Ven. Nyanavira making a statement that contradicts the suttas. So I have placed my trust in him.

You seem to be looking to make the suttas fit your preference here, so I don't think there's much chance at an honest discussion. Regarding mundane/supermundane duality, I very much respect Ven. Analayo's view on the matter, and it is quite true that the duality is not commonly found, when right view is spoken of it is almost always the 'supermundane' but that doesn't mean that mundane right view doesn't exist. There are some very important doctrinal points within the suttas that are only mentioned sparingly. Not that I think mundane right view is altogether that important of a distinction, the point is something doesn't have to crop up in virtually every sutta (ironically as rebirth does) to be true in nature.

I don't think your view that mundane right view is not a real dhamma is pernicious - because frankly in the end you can think that way and it doesn't make on iota of a difference, one is still set on realizing the MAIN right view, that of paticcasamupada and the four noble truths. But I do think your novel interpretation of how to realize rebirth is pernicious, and I would advise you turn back from it, because it's not what the Buddha taught.

with metta
Jack

Hi,

with all respect, I refrain from responding in detail, because I think your post indeed reflects there is no chance for a honest discussion. So let's just go our ways.

II'm happy to continue the conversation with anybody who thinks we can continue.

Perhaps I should just say -for clarification of what I said earlier and not as a new argument- that the power discussed in the suttas is the recollection of past lives, the real memory. One can understand and know the process of rebirth without having a memory like this.

With metta,
:anjali:
Last edited by reflection on Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:03 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
reflection wrote:That I can agree with, but of course it's not like you walk up to a skeptic and say: "change your belief", and it will happen.


I'm not suggesting that. What I'm suggesting is that it's possible to put beliefs and disbeliefs to one side, at least temporarily. I'm suggesting that without that ability it's very difficult to see things clearly, because these beliefs and disbeliefs colour our perception.
And without that ability it's very difficult to read the suttas in an objective way.


I know you weren't and probably nobody was, and I agree with what you are saying here. Being able to put our beliefs aside is a wonderful thing to be able to do. But I was responding to multiple reactions at once. The part about not being able to make a choice was mostly referring to Blackbird when he said "make their predilections fit with the Buddha Dhamma."

:anjali:
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