the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:03 am

So ok yeah, there is literal rebirth in the Suttas



Just because I like pink :D
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:30 am

clw_uk wrote:So ok yeah, there is literal rebirth in the Suttas
In the suttas, tied directly to the Four Noble Truths and conditioned co-production.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:21 am

BlackBird wrote:
chownah wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Well that's one way of looking at it Craig, unfortunately 'rebirth is something that is going on all the time' is not what the Buddha intended..

Does the Buddha whisper in your ear about how he intended his teachings or does he send you emails via the kammic Internet? I really hope so as there are a lot of things in the Suttas which are not specifically spelled out.....I mean LOTS of things and I would like him to clarify them not only for me but for you and everyone else too!
I hope my irreverent joking around does not disturb you but really it does seem that you think you can in some way determine the Buddha's intentions......can you?
chownah


Chownah, I've read most of 3 of the nikayas, and a good portion of the 4th. There are some things the Buddha is quite categorical about, it doesn't take a stream enterer to figure it out when the Buddha says "I say this because I have seen it with my own eyes"... Or in a more general sense when he speaks in ways that do not leave room for alternative interpretations.

Your sarcastic post is a bit hurtful. I know you don't like what I say, and I would warrant your issue with me probably extends beyond the words that I write... But perhaps you should address the things I say with logical counter points rather than saying nasty stuff. If not for the general vibe of this place, then for your own sake.

I have no issues with you. How could I have an issue with you that extends beyond the words you write?....the words you write is the only experience I have had of you. It is not a matter of whether I like what you say or not. I did say with a directly stated and logically presented point which is that it seems from what you posted that you somehow know what the
Buddha intended in what he taught....and in fact your reply here seems to be saying that you do think that you know what the Buddha intended in what he taught. I am presenting this in a direct and obvious and I think logical way. I really want to know if you think that you know what the Buddha intended. This is not about my view of you as I would ask this of anyone who declared in a post what the Buddha intended and this includes any famous monk you might like to name...I would ask them the same thing.

Also, can you explain the basis for the idea that I might have issues with you that extend beyond the words you write?...I don't see how this is possible.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:51 am

tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:...Or grasp or avert from rebirth and fall into mara's trap
But the Buddha did teach it. And, as he said, he taught only what is true and useful (MN 58).

So let me see if I'm caught up, now that I'm out of retreat and regrounded in the mundane world.
    * clw now agrees that the suttas show that the Buddha taught literal rebirth, but he doesn't care about that because his practice (and, he suggests, everyone's practice) is the same whether there is literal rebirth or not.
    * tilt is sure the Buddha-of-the-suttas did teach literal rebirth, and isn't saying one way or another whether he personally believes in rebirth.
    * tilt is very pleased that clw_uk is admitting that the Buddha taught literal rebirth in the suttas.

I find myself in the interesting position of about 2/3rds disagreeing with clw. I agree that everyone's practice *should* be the same whether there is literal rebirth or not -- that there is a theoretical ideal understanding of Buddhism (what the Buddha intended) that we should be practicing and whether there is literal rebirth or not the practice should be that theoretical ideal because what leads to liberation happens in the here and now.

My concern is always that *if* the Buddha did not teach literal rebirth, and practitioners believe that he did, there will be a tendency to cling to views about rebirth which are not part of that theoretical ideal understanding that the Buddha was trying to get us to.

My full disagreement with clw -- and tilt -- is that, having studied the texts in the context of the Buddha's times, it's clear to me that he did *not* teach literal rebirth. This is the case I was working towards back around page 197 of this thread, when I was trying to show that it is possible to see all the "literal" rebirth language through an understanding that teachers of the day spoke in a certain style that was intended to be read on more than one level, that this style required a very bright mind to come up with a consistent structure and use it throughout, and that it was expected that the listeners would understand this and therefore have to work at getting to the deeper meaning. That the Buddha used this system in his talks -- discussing karma, and what sort of rebirth one would have if they behave this way or that way, or even saying what kind of rebirth specific individuals who died would have -- would not be untruthful, as long as everything he is saying about rebirth is consistent with a structure he's using which is built on rebirth but isn't actually *about* rebirth, and as long as pretty much everyone at the time (except the obtuse) knew that this is what teachers did. Those who were not intimately familiar with his system would definitely be left wondering where the line was drawn -- was he being literal up to this point or that? was there a deeper meaning and if so what was it? -- but his system was so deeply consistent that even if they didn't get the deeper meaning, they would still not be led astray, but be nudged further in the direction of the reduction of dukkha.

What I had yet to get to in my argument is that the structure the Buddha uses consistently throughout his discourses is dependent arising (DA), that it has a structure that is particular to his place and time that has gone unnoticed for far too long, and that when that structure is understood, the suttas -- shorn of the occasional corruption like the broken logic of MN 60 -- are very consistently expressing a teaching that has to do only with the here-and-now, and that has as its primary point a revulsion for all views of any kind about anything that one has not seen for themselves -- which would include views about rebirth taught by our much esteemed teachers (I do esteem them) or even, for those who believe the Buddha was being literal, views developed because the Buddha seems to tell us we should have them.

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 03, 2013 10:09 am

"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' "

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So isn't indulging in this thread inappropriate?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Sat Aug 03, 2013 11:56 am

No. Because attending such is in terms of an "I", a self. But rebirth happens without such a self, and when seen like that is not inappropriate attention.

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or [other basis for self views]



Instead, the noble truths are appropriate attention:
"He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress.


Which of course has a very different perspective when seen in context of rebirth. - as I think it should be.

At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. Suppose, bhikkhus, a man would reduce this great earth to balls of clay the size of jujube kernels and put them down, saying [for each one]: ‘This is my father, this my father’s father.’ The sequence of that man’s fathers and grandfathers would not come to an end, yet this great earth would be used up and exhausted. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. For such a long time, bhikkhus, you have experienced suffering, anguish, and disaster, and swelled the cemetery. It is enough to experience revulsion towards all formations, enough to become dispassionate towards them, enough to be liberated from them.”


http://palicanon.org/index.php/sutta-pi ... -beginning


And of aeons of such length, we have wandered through so many aeons, so many hundreds of aeons, so many thousands of aeons, so many hundreds of thousands of aeons. For what reason? Because, bhikkhu, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning…. It is enough to be liberated from them.”
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Aug 03, 2013 12:12 pm

If we accept the scriptures as truthful, Either the Buddha believed and taught previous lives and rebirth, or the Buddha was a liar, I choose to believe in rebirth, and the Buddha(for the sake of arguement, I am considering acheiving Nibbana, and non rebirth as a form of rebirth in paranibbana, not a nihilistic ceasing to exist)

You can't have extended discourses about your past lives, and not belive in rebirth, do you think the Buddha just made up his past lives or was deluded about them?

I also disagree that's ones beliefs on rebirth do not effect ones practise, whether they should or not is another discussion. Belief in rebirth is a great motivator to practice the Path, believing there is nothing after death, is a great motivator to just give up caring about everything, and indulge the senses,

Just like Christians find a belief in Heaven and hell to be a great motivator to practice moral conduct, buddhists likewise do the same with rebirth, whether that is correct or not is not the question, but rather what is human nature, if you believe in an after life or after lives, you are more likely to let that influence you present behaviour and practice IMHO
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:25 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:If we accept the scriptures as truthful, Either the Buddha believed and taught previous lives and rebirth, or the Buddha was a liar


You can accept the Buddha as truthful, but given the oral tradition in which the scriptures were passed on, maybe some monks were not so truthful,...

lyndon taylor wrote:I also disagree that's ones beliefs on rebirth do not effect ones practise, whether they should or not is another discussion. Belief in rebirth is a great motivator to practice the Path, believing there is nothing after death, is a great motivator to just give up caring about everything, and indulge the senses...


If every Buddhist, or Buddhist inspired meditator, said that I had to believe in rebirth to follow the path then I'd take up golf...

Indulging the senses leads to pain in *this* life.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:44 pm

Note I said, IF we accept the scriptures as truthful, which I tend to do. There is no doubt that having a better life in this lifetime is a motivating factor but to deny having a faith or belief in rebirth could act as an additional motivator seems a bit silly.

If you don't accept the scriptures as truthful, then what did the Buddha say???, maybe the 4 noble truths aren't truthful, maybe the 5 precepts and the 8fld path aren't truthful. not to mention the non self teachings. I can Imagine possibly short sections or passages of scripture being added later, but not things that are mentioned and talked about all throught the scriptures, like rebirth, denying it was taught borders on being a conspiracy theory IMHO
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:24 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:Note I said, IF we accept the scriptures as truthful, which I tend to do. There is no doubt that having a better life in this lifetime is a motivating factor but to deny having a faith or belief in rebirth could act as an additional motivator seems a bit silly.


I didn't deny that having a faith or belief in rebirth could act as an additional motivator, it's just that I can't have faith or belief in something I haven't experienced... I've had a little bit of 'calm' and 'joy' from meditation, so I believe in that.

lyndon taylor wrote:If you don't accept the scriptures as truthful, then what did the Buddha say???, maybe the 4 noble truths aren't truthful, maybe the 5 precepts and the 8fld path aren't truthful...


The 4 noble truths agree with my experience... I've tried to reduce my craving for things, succeeded to a small extent, and my suffering has decreased. Ditto with trying to follow some elements of the path.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:33 pm

So what is this? Surely it can't be that no one disagrees with me. Tired of the debate? Expecting to only hear the same old thing?

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:13 am

Perhaps it's the complexity of your thought that requires much more digestion before anyone can even mount a response. I'm still ruminating (as in like a cow).
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 10, 2013 7:24 am

nowheat wrote:
    * clw now agrees that the suttas show that the Buddha taught literal rebirth, but he doesn't care about that because his practice (and, he suggests, everyone's practice) is the same whether there is literal rebirth or not.
    * tilt is sure the Buddha-of-the-suttas did teach literal rebirth, and isn't saying one way or another whether he personally believes in rebirth.
    * tilt is very pleased that clw_uk is admitting that the Buddha taught literal rebirth in the suttas.

I agree that everyone's practice *should* be the same whether there is literal rebirth or not -- that there is a theoretical ideal understanding of Buddhism (what the Buddha intended)...


How can you know what the Buddha intended? You can't ask him, and he didn't write anything. There is only what you can glean from the suttas and your previous understanding, that is, you can only end up with a Buddhism that you intend. For instance, Stephen Batchelor argues that talk of rebirth in the suttas is barnacle-like material that has attached itself to the raft launched by the Buddha. His Buddhism, heavily based on the suttas, but using his previous understanding, doesn't include rebirth. He tries to argue that this Buddhism is not only his Buddhism, but the Buddha's Buddhism. All I can say is "maybe", because the Buddha isn't there to ask.

I think there are several theoretical understandings of Buddhism, non of them ideal, as none of them are anything like "winning the day". Even if you stick to Theravada that is true... you come to a different theoretical understanding if you read the translations of Thannisaro or Bodhi, never mind more extreme translations/interpretations, like Batchelor's.

My concern is always that *if* the Buddha did not teach literal rebirth, and practitioners believe that he did, there will be a tendency to cling to views about rebirth which are not part of that theoretical ideal understanding that the Buddha was trying to get us to.


Even if he did teach rebirth, shouldn't we avoid clinging to views on rebirth? In meditation we might think "there is rebirth!" and then shouldn't we "let go" of that thought? So does it matter at all whether we believe in rebirth or not?

My full disagreement with clw -- and tilt -- is that, having studied the texts in the context of the Buddha's times, it's clear to me that he did *not* teach literal rebirth.


Is it really that clear? Batchelor hasn't convinced many people about this. What extra arguments do you bring to the party that might lead to added clarity? Both sides of the argument ("There is rebirth!", "There is not rebirth!") are a grasping at views. That's clear to me because I feel the pain when I try to hold either of them! Just let them go... it's very relaxing...
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:51 am

mal4mac wrote:
.....Just let them go... it's very relaxing...

:twothumbsup:


.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:17 pm

mal4mac wrote:Both sides of the argument ("There is rebirth!", "There is not rebirth!") are a grasping at views. That's clear to me because I feel the pain when I try to hold either of them! Just let them go... it's very relaxing...


Yes it is very relaxing.

But what I'm talking about isn't about views about rebirth. I don't have a view about rebirth -- let it go long ago -- this is about understanding what the Buddha taught by understanding how he taught, and that is not something I see him having told us to let go of. We don't find him saying "Don't concern yourself with why I said what I said the way I said it, or -- in brief -- what I meant" do we?

As far as I can tell this thread is about two rebirth-related things: "Is there rebirth or is there not?" and "Did the Buddha encourage us to believe in rebirth or did he not". The two tend to get confused but I don't engage in discussions on the first because of what my understanding is of the second.

It'll take me a bit to respond to the earlier elements of your post. Thanks for the discussion!

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:55 pm

There is a difference between holding a view and not. What is wrong in having a reasoned opinion?

Issue of rebirth is crucial.

If life is ultimately only dukkha, and escape from it is not to be reborn, then why not suicide? Instant parinibbana!

If there is rebirth, then suicide of course is NOT the answer.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:08 pm

Alex123 wrote:There is a difference between holding a view and not. What is wrong in having a reasoned opinion?

Issue of rebirth is crucial.

If life is ultimately only dukkha, and escape from it is not to be reborn, then why not suicide? Instant parinibbana!

If there is rebirth, then suicide of course is NOT the answer.

Because this one (myself) who neither believes nor disbelieves in rebirth disagrees that life is only dukkha.

The problem we have here, Alex, is that you're framing my argument in terms of your worldview, which is why you come to the conclusion that suicide is a workable solution. My argument has its own paradigm, and my answer works within that paradigm. If you take a piece of my paradigm and stick it into your paradigm, of course it will come out as nonsense.

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:14 pm

How can you know what the Buddha intended? You can't ask him, and he didn't write anything.


I believe this side-tracks what I'm saying. My mention of the Buddha's intention was not about me knowing his intention; I was stating that there is a theoretical goal post for all of us: to practice in the way, and with the understanding he intended, with the outcome he was suggesting. That goal post remains the same regardless of any individual's opinion on what the Buddha meant.

Where our opinions on his intention comes into it is in the relationship of each individual's actual practice and understanding, to the theoretical ideal that the Buddha intended. And in looking at those relationship it's a given that no one knows for sure -- that is why there are so many different ways of practicing.

So I don't disagree that we can't ever have a conclusive answer -- even if we could ask him, even if we had a provable transcription of every word he ever said in his original language -- we still would come up with different understandings of what he was saying. But presumably those things would help us get closer to the goal post.

That we cannot, just by reading the words and working through the ideas and even by beginning our practice, get a precise understanding of what he meant (the goal post) doesn't mean we should not try to get closer to it, does it?

There is only what you can glean from the suttas and your previous understanding, that is, you can only end up with a Buddhism that you intend.

This is certainly the party line to take these days, but in putting into practice the effort of reading the suttas, it isn't a match for what I've experienced at all. I went into study of the suttas with no personal desire to arrive at any particular conclusion about what the Buddha taught at all -- my goal was simply to understand what he said and why he said it the way he did, because there were so many conflicting views out there and I was tired of being confused by them. So I told myself to go to the source (or as close to it as one can get) via the Pali canon. Along the way I discovered that I really wanted there to be such a thing as rebirth, that I really did not want my death to be the end of me.

I found the Buddha saying lots of things I didn't really like hearing. I am certain that wasn't coming from my intention to bend his words to my will. I struggled with aversion to a lot of it. Sometimes it turned out that what I thought he was saying wasn't what he was saying at all, and that's why I had the problem. But more often when this happened, it turned out that what he was saying had a good reason, and when more pieces of the puzzle filled in, what he was saying made sense, even if it still made me uncomfortable -- I would come to see the sense in it, and incorporate it into my understanding of the world and my life.

So I'm pretty sure I'm not doing as much shaping of my understanding of what the Buddha taught to conform to my own worldview (though no doubt that happens a little) but I am letting his understanding change me. Which, if we trust his teachings, is as it should be, isn't it?

For instance, Stephen Batchelor argues that talk of rebirth in the suttas is barnacle-like material that has attached itself to the raft launched by the Buddha. His Buddhism, heavily based on the suttas, but using his previous understanding, doesn't include rebirth. He tries to argue that this Buddhism is not only his Buddhism, but the Buddha's Buddhism. All I can say is "maybe", because the Buddha isn't there to ask.

I disagree with Batchelor and the whole crop of modern secular thinkers who posit that the talk of rebirth in the suttas is later additions. If that were the case we'd have to throw out the great bulk of the canon. The majority of the canon contains a consistent point of view, a well-integrated lesson, and the Buddha used rebirth as a way of getting his point across. I didn't set out to excise the bulk of what he said and take just take away the pieces I felt fit with a modern worldview, I set out to understand the whole -- working from the premise that it was a whole -- and that, and studying the philosophies and religions and teachers of his own time, whose ideas he responded to in kind, makes it possible to get what he's saying in the context of his own times. But it does require that we accept that he wasn't speaking our language; that what was clear enough to people in his own day because they lived and breathed in an environment in which teachers spoke the way this man did, isn't going to be immediately clear to us.

:namaste:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:21 pm

nowheat wrote:Because this one (myself) who neither believes nor disbelieves in rebirth disagrees that life is only dukkha.


Then why follow Dhamma?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mal4mac » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:49 pm

Alex123 wrote:Issue of rebirth is crucial.

If life is ultimately only dukkha, and escape from it is not to be reborn, then why not suicide? Instant parinibbana!

If there is rebirth, then suicide of course is NOT the answer.


I'm not sure if life is only dukkha

I'm not sure if rebirth exists or not, there might even be some kind of heaven. Who knows?

I'm not sure if suicide is the answer or not, so I'll stick around and see what happens, for now.

Death comes soon enough, anyway. I'm sure of that...
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