the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:14 pm

clw_uk wrote:So to summarise, d.o. Happens in the moment (you will find this isn't something new, it's apparently in the commentaries and abhidhamma) and rebirth is not central.


The Abhidhamma talks about a succession of mind-moments or consciousness-moments, but I don't see that this supports a "psychological" interpretation of DO.

Apparently there is something in the VisuddhiMagga referring to moment-to-moment rebirth, but I can't recall anyone having found a direct quote to support this. In any case I'm pretty sure that Buddhaghosa didn't rewrite DO in the way that Buddhadasa has attempted to do, ie by redefining the nidanas.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:17 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
nowheat wrote:I think I asked you earlier what you mean by "making stuff up" and if you answered, I must have missed it (or maybe I never hit the "Submit" key and it never posted).


I'm arguing that it's very unlikely that the Buddha would have fudged or fabricated on such an important question. I'm arguing that the theories of "skillful means" and "rebirth as metaphor" - while convenient for some - are actually full of holes when one examines them objectively.

So you are limiting your argument, about how the Buddha wouldn't make stuff up, to the use of skillful means applied by speaking of rebirth metaphorically. But I wonder about your lack of response to the comment I made that followed, which was:

nowheat wrote:At any rate, I am guessing you believe in literal Brahma and Mara, and all the deities who came and spoke to the Buddha, and in the numerous levels of heavens, and that he was able, at will, to visit them, and that in this world he could teleport himself across the Ganges, or from a location south of the Ganges up into the mountains far away? Because, what I am hearing you say, is that he didn't make stuff up.

What I wonder is, when you have a theory that the Buddha didn't "make things up" about "such an important question", why you would leave out stories which include Brahma and Mara, speaking of them as if real, with no overt mention if they are just made-up stories? I can understand that this may be because you, personally, either don't believe in them, or don't care if they exist or not -- it is perhaps an issue you have set aside -- but when the Buddha was speaking of these things, he was speaking to people who did care whether the gods existed or not, many of whom apparently did believe that gurus of great power could teleport from here to there as quickly as a man bends and unbends his arm. These were matters of great importance to people who spent a lot of their time and energy following teachers who claimed they could do such things, and who devoted wealth as well in rituals for the various gods. I think this undermines your theory that the Buddha didn't make things up about issues of great importance. I suspect you may be doing, here, what secular Buddhists do, and setting aside the parts you don't find important or believable -- which seems to me an acceptable step in one's practice -- but it is a mistake to set aside what we disbelieve or think unimportant and then generalize our attitude onto the people of the times when discussing why the Buddha might have said what he said the way he said it: he was speaking to them, familiar with their concerns.

If your theory that he didn't make up stuff that was important holds, then he either did visit with Mara and Brahma, or he believed he did. I find it far more likely that he used skillful means in telling stories, and that those who were sharp enough got that this was what he was doing and would be entertained by the way he made his point, and that those who weren't ready for deeper understanding might go on believing what they already believed, but would still end up taking in the lesson that underlay the story. It can even be argued that more people he spoke to would recognize -- as I assume you do -- that he was "making things up" when he talked about the gods than would have gotten what he was doing with rebirth, and that the stories he told that we understand *as* stories are also a "key" because they act as a way of letting us know he was not always being literal, and that we do need to look more deeply at what he says.

I perceive that he was consistent in using this method, that in the great bulk of what he said, there were always many levels. I recognize, though, that your understanding is that the great bulk of what he said was literal. This is the problem we have, because when you say, "... the theories of 'skillful means' and 'rebirth as metaphor' - while convenient for some - are actually full of holes when one examines them objectively" I think the holes you're seeing are caused by you seeing things from within the literal approach, and from your understanding and practice of the dhamma -- having already made choices like the one above that leaves out whats unimportant to you but would have been important to people in the Buddha's society -- and therefore finding it difficult to make the shift over to seeing it the way I am trying to show that it can be seen (it has taken me years to get the implications of what I see in the Buddha's way of speaking -- and my understanding is still evolving -- so it is in no way me disparaging anyone for not getting all that I'm saying in a week's worth of posts). The holes that you see seem to me to be generated by trying to judge one internally consistent paradigm by the standards of another paradigm -- very much like rebirth believers in the Buddha's day would judge atman-brahman believers' explanation of what happens at and after death as "annihilation", and therefor find what they are saying to be horrible.

So far, I haven't found anyone here pointing out *actual* holes in the theory I'm putting forth. I'm only seeing them imagining there are holes in the way I've just described above, or telling me I'm in over my head without being able to cite an instance, or simply misunderstanding what I'm saying and pointing out how wrong I am if I said what they thought I said. No one has shown a sutta they believe to accurately represent the Buddha's own words that undermines what I'm saying; no one has cited any understanding of the Vedic times that disagrees with anything I've actually put forth (it would be difficult to do the latter, since I'm saying that what the Buddha was using as the structure in DA, and in talks where he uses the "field", were very generic beliefs about the times).

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby clw_uk » Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:34 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife


I think you mean your Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife. For many Buddhists the rebirth teachings are important.



Maybe for motivation to start the path, but ultimately practice is not dependent on Rebirth, since clinging and dukkha still occur in the here and now regardless
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:00 pm

clw_uk wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife


I think you mean your Dhamma practice doesn't depend on there being an afterlife. For many Buddhists the rebirth teachings are important.



Maybe for motivation to start the path, but ultimately practice is not dependent on Rebirth, since clinging and dukkha still occur in the here and now regardless


When remembering to pay attention to practice in the here and now, (rather than speculating about rebirth, or no rebirth), I find these verses are inspirational .

You shouldn't chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past is left behind.
The future is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there, right there.

Not taken in,unshaken,
that's how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
death.
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.

Whoever lives thus ardently,
relentlessly both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.131.than.html




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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:35 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:But what does that actually feel like to you in practice? What is it that you actually experience being reborn?

clw_uk wrote:Identification, "I am this, this is mine"

Spiny Norman wrote:I'm still far from clear. Could you give some practical examples of how you experience identification being reborn? I can see it might make sense to talk about desire being continually "reborn", but I don't think that's what you mean?

Followed by:
Spiny Norman wrote:It occurred to me that by "identification" you might be referring to the continual rebirth of self-view, which is something I've considered. But from personal experience and reading the suttas I have the sense that self-view is a deep-seated underlying tendency or condition - this seems to be confirmed by self-view being one of the last fetters to be overcome.

To use an analogy, self-view seems like the ocean, not the wave, so to talk about self-view being born, then ageing and dying doesn't seem to work.

Maybe not self-view but what results from self-view?

I know you weren't asking me, but I'll throw this in anyway: what it feels like to me in practice is that it is not that something is aging and dying, but that what results from self view *experiences* aging and dying (not limited to its own, but experiences impermanence in general) and reacts in a way that results in dukkha. This is usually the first alarm bell. This gets me to look back and ask how the dukkha came into being, and I find that all the upset over whatever was experienced derives from some action of mine in body speech or mind that made how I think about the world visible to the world -- so what got birthed that resulted in (my unsettling experience of) aging and death was *me* -- my assumptions about the world and who I am and who I should be made "real" (in a metaphorical sense - hah!) by the way I act.

This usually (maybe even always) comes down to what I think Craig is saying -- it is usually about how I've made assumptions about who I am, and defined things outside of me as indispensable parts of me.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:04 pm

Sylvester wrote:Perhaps it's really about time to abandon Ven T's translation of paṭigha in the DN 15 and the arūpa pericope as meaning "resistance". That leads to confusion with the latency tendency of aversion. It would be clearer if we adopted BB's several translations, eg sensory impact, sensory impingement. Nevertheless, since my answer to (2) posits that paṭighasamphassa in DN 15 as kammically neutral, you understand me correctly that it is not associated with the anusaya of aversion per se.

Hmmm. Well, I disagree with paṭigha not being used in DN 15 as resistance, but I draw that conclusion from just a quick look at its roots and the way it is used elsewhere, and (more importantly) from the larger context of what's being said in DN 15 via the language of the creation myth that underlies the first five steps of DA (a subject I still need to take up).

...But by and large, for an uninstructed worldling, bodily/impingement contact will be followed by the reactions driven by the respective anusaya.

So, I don't agree with (4). If this will make things clearer, let me make explicit my belief -

- SN 36.6's bodily darts arise from DN 15's paṭighasamphassa (impingement contact)
- SN 36.6's mental darts arise from DN 15's adhivacanasamphassa (designation contact)

Even if paṭighasamphassa in DN 15 is kammically neutral, MN 44 suggests that the reactive sequel driven by the anusayas is almost always inevitable.

So paṭighasamphassa always gets a reaction, but the reaction is not always action (kamma) in the sense that the Buddha was defining it as having the sort of consequences we're trying to stop experiencing. I'm okay with that, since in my understanding an awakened person still experiences the conditions that could result in that sort of kamma -- so the awakened person could experience paṭighasamphassa -- but doesn't go on to cling to it/react to it in the way that is kamma. Maybe a kammically neutral reaction would be to be mindful of what's happening.

I wonder if the problem you and BB have with the word being translated as "resistance" is that it tends to carry a connotation of something that is necessarily negative, not neutral?


If the Buddhist texts record this teaching as being given with a grammatical construction that is apparently commonly understood, what evidence is there that the brahmins would have understood it differently from the Theravada Commentators?


And I suspect there may be a misunderstanding in there, because I don't have the impression that the *grammatical structure* (or even the statement's structures) of the field/set/where was "commonly understood" by people in the Buddha's day. In fact, I seriously doubt anyone had ever done what he did in the precise way he did it ever before -- what he did was brilliant but not simple.


Well, I did give the example of the grammatical construction from DN 16 that was used in a non-DA context.

As I understand this, you still have the impression that somehow DA's very factual-sounding descriptions of a life in a world in which rebirth is the order of the day undermines my thesis that DA isn't describing rebirth, even though I've tried to detail how the Buddha uses the factual to (1) show the pattern of how things happen in a "as in this large literal context it happens, so it happens in what I'm trying to point out to you" sort of way while simultaneously (2) providing the object of meditation we should be looking at to see what is going on -- look in the large field to find the weeds we need to pull.

When he is doing this, he is going to sound *perfectly* literal. That he uses literal-sounding language in DN 16 to be literal in a non-DA context, doesn't, as I see it, make his use of literal language in DA mean anything other than what I'm saying it should mean. If I'm missing some other point you're trying to make, I apologize; please let me know.

He's using literal sounding language in DA because he wants it to sound literal, because he is discussing the literal. It is not meant to hint at anything else. He is describing literal consciousness as being the condition for literal name-and-form because the way people perceive name-and-form and consciousness supporting each other in this larger, literal context is *exactly* the same relationship as they have in the smaller subset of things he's trying to get us to see. (In the case of name-and-form and consciousness, the exactness of the relationship, necessary complete set as compared to the critical subset -- is really, really important.)

So when he says -"if there was no birth of any being, in any form, anywhere, would there be aging-and-death?"- he is saying a couple of things at once: One is what seems fairly obvious: that birth is a condition for aging and death to happen (we can all agree with that), but he's also saying that without literal birth, the more specific thing he's describing in birth could not happen, and neither would what he's describing in aging-and-death because there would be no birth of the subset sort. AND he's saying that what he is describing as going on in birth that leads to what he's describing as going on in aging-and-death has the exact same relationship as the literal relationship. So what he really wants us to see going on in birth happens because literal birth happens, same with aging and death: if there were no aging and death we wouldn't experience impermanence and dukkha.

I wish I could get this across so that you could see how elegantly he constructed this argument, and how useful it is to practice with. Once you see it, it provides a really rich environment for insight in daily life, as well as into the suttas.

Are we to suppose that the Buddha's auditors would not have understood it in a manner that did not require an exposition? Yes, the DA chain was novel, but the grammar underlying each nidana within the chain was not.

Removing the double-negatives, I'm going to rephrase the question above as: "Are we to suppose that the Buddha's auditors would have understood DN 15 in a manner that required an exposition?"

We are to suppose that the Buddha's auditors would have understood DN 15 in a manner which required thought and investigation. The method used of a multi-layered structure in DA set the student up to recognize, first, that the language of rebirth used in the later versions was not making a positive statement about rebirth. No exposition was required to make that point: the names of links #2 through #11 talk to us about what people believed about the conditions that bring us into the world and our condition on arrival; about the rituals we perform throughout a life; about transitioning to whatever comes after death and what we'll experience there. Links #1 and #12 tell us this is not a nice commentary about those beliefs: instead of being all about knowledge and ending in bliss or a better life, it starts with ignorance and ends with (see it as you like) dukkha or the Same Old Stuff (aging and death).

No further exposition is needed to let the Upanisadic student know that DA discusses rebirth but not in a positive light: it denies that all the knowledge everyone thinks they possess about rebirth is in their possession (starts with ignorance) and denies that it leads where they think it leads (ends with dukkha). From there, the student has only to recognize what you, Sylvester, see yourself: that the detail on key elements describes something else, something other than what those students (and everyone else in the area) believe about the world. Not only is namarupa very different, the rituals we perform in the middle section are way different -- they are all about how we form opinions (largely about how we form opinions about rebirth) and the results are definitely different, going after death not into a happier place but to the S.O.S.

What I assume is that, when your Upanisadic student was listening to the Buddha talk about consciousness and name-and-form, he had already heard the short version -- ignorance to sankhara to consciousness to name and form to the six senses... up to aging-and-death -- and recognized that this was about rebirth but was saying something negative, so when he was listening to the Buddha talk about consciousness and name-and-form he will have already been cued to try to understand that there was something very different being said throughout.

A lot of the Buddha's sermons talk about how clinging to *things* gets us into trouble -- how possessions (sometimes undetailed, sometimes detailed as material wealth: cows, pigs, wives) get made into "mine" and this leads to grief. I say he is doing the same thing with those lessons as he does with everything else. He is stating what everyone knows to be true -- the obvious -- and it may be true, but it isn't really what he's talking about, or at least it isn't *all* that he's talking about. He is also talking about self, possessions as in "bits that we make into self", and how clinging to those leads to dukkha. He talks about how the impermanence of our possessions will ultimately cause us to suffer, but the same is true of every element we possess as self -- when we come to discover they are not self, it hurts, at least it does in the context of ignorance. When we, in life, lose some cherished belief we have held for a long time, lose it in an encounter with a reality that doesn't match the stories we have told ourselves, that's very painful. It's less painful to do this (maybe even joyful) through a conscious practice, that looks for those things/beliefs we are holding onto as self, and know we can let go of them because we know where that holding leads.

Anyway, what I'm saying is he is doing the same thing -- it's the same pattern -- all over the suttas.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:44 am

nowheat wrote:Hmmm. Well, I disagree with paṭigha not being used in DN 15 as resistance, but I draw that conclusion from just a quick look at its roots and the way it is used elsewhere, and (more importantly) from the larger context of what's being said in DN 15 via the language of the creation myth that underlies the first five steps of DA (a subject I still need to take up).


If it's OK with you, could you pls furnish a citation of the pre-Buddhist text(s) that furnishes this Creation myth? I get the impression that there was not only one Creation myth (whether from the sacrifice or the food myths) and I would appreciate your thoughts on the weightage you ascribe to the "one" which you think the Buddha was responding to.

If it's also OK with you, I'd like to steer our discussion away from the issue of paṭigha as being 2 sememes (unless it is relevant in the context of pre-Buddhist pedagody and how you think the Buddha was responding to it) and come back instead to these -

As I understand this, you still have the impression that somehow DA's very factual-sounding descriptions of a life in a world in which rebirth is the order of the day undermines my thesis that DA isn't describing rebirth, even though I've tried to detail how the Buddha uses the factual to (1) show the pattern of how things happen in a "as in this large literal context it happens, so it happens in what I'm trying to point out to you" sort of way while simultaneously (2) providing the object of meditation we should be looking at to see what is going on -- look in the large field to find the weeds we need to pull.


He's using literal sounding language in DA because he wants it to sound literal, because he is discussing the literal. It is not meant to hint at anything else. He is describing literal consciousness as being the condition for literal name-and-form because the way people perceive name-and-form and consciousness supporting each other in this larger, literal context is *exactly* the same relationship as they have in the smaller subset of things he's trying to get us to see. (In the case of name-and-form and consciousness, the exactness of the relationship, necessary complete set as compared to the critical subset -- is really, really important.)

So when he says -"if there was no birth of any being, in any form, anywhere, would there be aging-and-death?"- he is saying a couple of things at once: One is what seems fairly obvious: that birth is a condition for aging and death to happen (we can all agree with that), but he's also saying that without literal birth, the more specific thing he's describing in birth could not happen, and neither would what he's describing in aging-and-death because there would be no birth of the subset sort. AND he's saying that what he is describing as going on in birth that leads to what he's describing as going on in aging-and-death has the exact same relationship as the literal relationship. So what he really wants us to see going on in birth happens because literal birth happens, same with aging and death: if there were no aging and death we wouldn't experience impermanence and dukkha.


I still do not get from the above how you make the leap to the proposition that DA was -

The reason he needs to put the succinct definition of nutriment in with DA is because the way he's using DA is not succinct. Instead of a few brief sentences to describe "this is what everyone thinks x is" followed by "this is what I mean by x" which leads to the insight that "what everyone thinks x is" still counts as background, as necessary ground for what follows, in DA we have the bulk of the structure of DA describing "this is what everyone thinks life is about": rebirth -- whether cyclical or once and your done (go to bliss, or go to your ancestors). In the bulk of DA he is describing what everyone believes *because it is what everyone believes that is the ground for the problem he's pointing out and the solution he offers is tied up to it*.

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&start=4140#p257400


If I may trouble you to expand on this on how you think the Buddha's audience actually "thought" rebirth was about and furnish some internal (sutta) or external (Vedic) evidence to that effect. I think this is an important point of departure for me, since I accept the SN 12.10 & 11 narratives as being historically informative about how the Bodhisatta himself awoke to DA and DC. The Bodhisatta woke up to a totally novel way of looking at things and there does not seem to be any record that I know of in the suttas that the Buddha was designing the DA exposition in response to a very specific worldview (why Brahmanical only, when DA is supposed to operate at all levels to describe the 2nd Noble Truth?).

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:48 am

I have forgotten how impingement contact and resistance contact relate to rebirth. Can someone please remind me?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Tue Aug 20, 2013 3:25 am

Chownah, it was not directly related, in my view. DN 15 had 3 contexts of name-&-form, ie -

1. the descent of name-&-form into the womb. This is the rebirth dimension.
2. the necessity of the form-group for impingement contact to be seen in the name-group. This is not about rebirth, but is, IMO, about the necessity for appearance/form in impingement contact. Apparently, the name-group also has an "appearance" which can be discerned. "Form-group" here has nothing to do with materiality or physical nature, since that is a late concept that infiltrated from the Sarva Abhidharma into the Theravada Abhidhamma.
3. the necessity of the name-group for designation contact to be seen in (or with reference to, depending on how you interpret the inflection -e) the form-group. This is also not about rebirth, but concerns the necessity of the naming capacity in designation contact.

Does this help?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:13 am

Aloka wrote:When remembering to pay attention to practice in the here and now, (rather than speculating about rebirth, or no rebirth), I find these verses are inspirational .


Thanks, but I don't think anyone here is arguing that it isn't important to pay attention to practice in the here and now. And the debate here is mainly concerned with how the suttas should be interpreted, not about "speculating".
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:17 am

nowheat wrote:...so what got birthed that resulted in (my unsettling experience of) aging and death was *me* -- my assumptions about the world and who I am and who I should be made "real" (in a metaphorical sense - hah!) by the way I act.


I'm not sure I'm following you here. You seem to saying that it's "me" that gets (re)birthed, but isn't that sense of "me" the same as self-view? I tend to experience a sense of "me" most strongly when craving and aversion arise - it feels like craving and aversion are "symptoms" ( expressions? ) of self-view.
I'm quite pragmatic in my approach to practice and will use ideas which seem helpful - but for me, trying to impose ideas of birth, ageing and death onto this experience doesn't feel helpful.
Last edited by Spiny Norman on Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:19 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Aloka wrote:When remembering to pay attention to practice in the here and now, (rather than speculating about rebirth, or no rebirth), I find these verses are inspirational .


Thanks, but I don't think anyone here is arguing that it isn't important to pay attention to practice in the here and now. And the debate here is mainly concerned with how the suttas should be interpreted, not about "speculating".


Thanks, but I don't see any rule which says I'm not allowed to express an opinion here.

So, moving on.... :)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:24 am

Aloka wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
Aloka wrote:When remembering to pay attention to practice in the here and now, (rather than speculating about rebirth, or no rebirth), I find these verses are inspirational .


Thanks, but I don't think anyone here is arguing that it isn't important to pay attention to practice in the here and now. And the debate here is mainly concerned with how the suttas should be interpreted, not about "speculating".


Thanks, but I don't see any rule which says I'm not allowed to express an opinion here.


Did I say there was? I was querying the relevance of your comment to the current debate.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:30 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Did I say there was? I was querying the relevance of your comment to the current debate.


Then I repectfully suggest you return to the current debate, Norman, before your library computer time runs out!

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:23 pm

Aloka wrote:Then I repectfully suggest you return to the current debate, Norman, before your library computer time runs out!


Actually logging in on a library computer is good because it limits the time I spend on the internet....so I have more time for here-and-now practice. :tongue:
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:12 pm

Sylvester wrote:
nowheat wrote:Hmmm. Well, I disagree with paṭigha not being used in DN 15 as resistance, but I draw that conclusion from just a quick look at its roots and the way it is used elsewhere, and (more importantly) from the larger context of what's being said in DN 15 via the language of the creation myth that underlies the first five steps of DA (a subject I still need to take up).


If it's OK with you, could you pls furnish a citation of the pre-Buddhist text(s) that furnishes this Creation myth? I get the impression that there was not only one Creation myth (whether from the sacrifice or the food myths) and I would appreciate your thoughts on the weightage you ascribe to the "one" which you think the Buddha was responding to.

I would love to be able to point you to a particular "citation...that furnishes this Creation myth" but I've never found one neat portrayal of this type of creation myth in any ancient volume -- there are dozens of snippets scattered all over (they are found as far back as the RgVeda, as recent as the Upanisads), discussing various parts, changing up the stories, taking as assumed the particular variant for their time or perhaps lineage -- "worshipping" this or that element with poetry, or building their own theories on the structure, themselves. They seem to never sit down and tell the story neatly, from start to finish, as we would, but assume their audience is already familiar with it, and simply use it as background to their arguments. (Oh, say, that sounds familiar... isn't that what I'm saying the Buddha's doing? It always surprises me when I see another way in which what the Buddha is doing is modeled on what has been done again and again in the literature that came before him -- I think this adds to the evidence that he was a well-educated man.)

Since I speak of gurus of the time being obscure -- and you seem quite well-educated on these ancient texts -- I'm a little surprised you'd think that anyone could provide such a citation. I once asked Wendy Doniger (who wrote "The Hindus") if there is any one good source for the myths -- either in the original texts, or even any scholars who had written a book in which it was laid out (hoping for just such a citation as you've asked for here) and she was unable to give me any. All we have is tiny bits and pieces. But I rely on the scholarship of those who have spent their lives studying those texts to provide me with insight into them.

But these myths have been understood, here in the West, the way I'm describing them, for a while (a short enough history given what a little while ago we were clueless about the Hindus and even about Buddhist beliefs). I can give citations that show *that* if you like, here's one piece:

Vedic Mythology, pp13-14, Arthur Anthony Macdonell, PhD, 1897:
In a similar strain to RV 10,129 a Brahmana passage declares that 'formerly nothing existed, neither heaven nor earth nor atmosphere, which being non-existent resolved to come into being' (TB. 2,2,9.1 ff.). The regular cosmogonic view of the Brahmanas requires the agency of a creator, who is not, however, always the starting point. The creator here is Prajapati, or the personal Brahma, who is not only father of gods, men, and demons, but is the All...


or to show that we're still thinking about these interpretations using the same framework but with our own differing theories, here's Brian K. Smith in "Reflections on Resemblance, Ritual, and Religion" (1989) pp 51

In the beginning, the creative act of "emission" by the Lord of Creatures, Prajapati, is not a cosmogonic paradigm of sacred order but rather what Silburn rightly calls a 'profane act.' Put otherwise, cosmic procreation, in the imaginations of the Brahmins, does not engender a ready-made universal order but results in a problematic metaphysical excess. Similarly, at the level of individual human beginnings, birth and anthropogony are distinct and separate moments, the first being only the necessary precondition for the second. As cosmic creation is not cosmogony, biological reproduction is not the production of a true human being.

Oh, cool -- that was just the first page in the index under Prajapati, and I see that he is suggesting that *they* were talking about "necessary condition" as a condition for the big condition. (Perhaps I should credit Brian Smith with putting the key to the insight that that's what the Buddha was doing into my head in the first place.) And he is saying they were drawing the parallel between the creation myth and the creation of a human being that I am saying the Buddha was using on *three* levels rather than two: the creation myth, the creation of a human being, and the creation of what we mistake for a self.

The next paragraph begins:
It is characteristic -- and perhaps also close to definitive -- of Vedism that between mere procreation on the one hand and true cosmogony and anthropogony on the other is inserted a set of constructive rituals...

But if I go on quoting I will be abusing his copyright. I suggest reading his book, which is the most excellent on the subject I've read. But the quote above shows that it is understood that rituals were about the kinds of "construction" he was talking about above: this is what sankhara represents in the Buddha's system, both the desire for self and the acts that go into creating it.



Anyway, I think I have said, a couple of times, that I don't see the structure the Buddha used in DA as tying to one specific worldview (much less myth), but to a generalized one, which makes sense because, yes, there was not just one Creation myth. I do see the structure strongly matching the Prajapati myth -- in one or two very generalized versions of the popular variants. <edit/insert:> What I am trying to say is that the Prajapati myth may be one useful example of the type of myth the Buddha was generalizing about -- or it may be the primary one -- but what he is describing is meant to be generally representative of the way most people in his day looked at the world, rather than a direct refutation of that one myth. <end-edit> There's one in which Prajapati divides himself up, gaining senses through the individuality of name-and-form (I associate this with "form" in the canon), and in the other all the "pieces" having such similarity that they stuck together and were in constant contact (which I think of as matching "the formless" in the canon). Perhaps there were other myths out there that used a similar pattern, but the Prajapati myth (which was, earlier, associated with Purusa, and later associated with Brahma) matches up well enough to be used for the purposes of discussion. For references to the (bits and pieces in the) original texts that support the common understanding of those myths, I would point to Professor Jurewicz's paper, "Playing With Fire", which is chock full of citations -- she has far more knowledge of these things than I do. You can find a link to her paper on the same page of this forum as there is a link to mine, cited earlier: viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3167&start=60#p192603

If it's also OK with you, I'd like to steer our discussion away from the issue of paṭigha as being 2 sememes (unless it is relevant in the context of pre-Buddhist pedagody and how you think the Buddha was responding to it) and come back instead to these -

It is relevant (see my mentions of form and formless above) but it is also okay with me to leave details aside since we've discussed it enough to have the needed background when it comes up again.

As I understand this, you still have the impression that somehow DA's very factual-sounding descriptions of a life in a world in which rebirth is the order of the day undermines my thesis that DA isn't describing rebirth, even though I've tried to detail how the Buddha uses the factual to (1) show the pattern of how things happen in a "as in this large literal context it happens, so it happens in what I'm trying to point out to you" sort of way while simultaneously (2) providing the object of meditation we should be looking at to see what is going on -- look in the large field to find the weeds we need to pull...


I still do not get from the above how you make the leap to the proposition that DA was -

The reason he needs to put the succinct definition of nutriment in with DA is because the way he's using DA is not succinct. Instead of a few brief sentences to describe "this is what everyone thinks x is" followed by "this is what I mean by x" which leads to the insight that "what everyone thinks x is" still counts as background, as necessary ground for what follows, in DA we have the bulk of the structure of DA describing "this is what everyone thinks life is about": rebirth -- whether cyclical or once and your done (go to bliss, or go to your ancestors). In the bulk of DA he is describing what everyone believes *because it is what everyone believes that is the ground for the problem he's pointing out and the solution he offers is tied up to it*.


Yes, I can well understand why you'd be confused. Let *me* try to be succinct. In the parts of his talks about DA where he sounds like he is talking about literal rebirth, he is -- talking about literal rebirth, about what people believe about how they came into being. He isn't, at that point, wanting to discuss the overall structure of his argument, but he is lasered in on how people perceive what is happening. This is why it sounds literal. Because he is talking about what people take to be the literal truth of how things work. Consciousness appears in the womb, and in dependence on that, there is the individuality of name-and form, and because of the existence of name-and-form, consciousness can be.

That what's being pointed out has more significance than that comes from the structure of DA, as well as from the way the Buddha speaks in general, as in nutriment.

Let me use the Buddha's method to explain it: a metaphor. Let's say you've signed up for a course on scheduling, and in this part of the seminar, I'm talking about the relationship between the days of the week and why we might want to put different emphasis on different approaches to work on certain days of the week. I'm explaining about Mondays. "Mondays are really bad," I say, "because they follow a day off, Sunday, and they are followed by four more workdays." This statement doesn't mean that *I* believe that Mondays are bad, or even that workdays are bad. It says *nothing* about what I believe. I'm not endorsing the badness of Mondays. And I don't stop and explain that "In general, people believe that Mondays are bad" -- I'm not explicit -- because you already know the context of what I'm talking about. But, shorn of the larger context, you could well take it to mean that I personally believe Mondays are bad, and that I'm explaining *why* they are.

In order for the student to get all the juice out of his explanation of what people understand to be the workings of the literal cycle of life, they need to have already understood that DA is multileveled. They could get this understanding from the way he describes nutriment when he puts it in with his DA lessons, because what he does with it is a microcosm of what he's doing with DA. Or they could get it from hearing the short version of DA and recognizing that he's not endorsing rebirth; he's not even talking about rebirth itself but about our views about rebirth ("ignorance" tells us that). Or they could get it from the way he tends to talk on multiple levels at once, in general, if they are able to recognize how often he does this. Or they could get it the way (I believe -- though it's not instantly clear to the whole world that this is what's going on) Sariputta got it when he was fanning the Buddha while listening to him talk to Longnails, and heard him say, "A monk whose mind is thus released does not take sides with anyone, does not dispute with anyone. He words things by means of what is said in the world but without grasping at it."

In the descriptions the Buddha gives of elements of DA where he sounds like he is describing literal rebirth as if it is-what-is he is describing not what-is but what people "know" (or think they know). He is not, in those portions, detailing his reasons for describing "what everybody knows" because his audience should have already understood from the above what he is doing and why he is doing it. *We* don't get it because we have *not* understood even what he's doing in nutriment, nor have we recognized the structure of DA as three pieces describing a generic version of Vedic life in a way that makes clear to us that "ignorance" and "aging and death" are out of sync with the rest. That's what I meant by "not being succinct" -- I really meant "not being explicit".


If I may trouble you to expand on this on how you think the Buddha's audience actually "thought" rebirth was about and furnish some internal (sutta) or external (Vedic) evidence to that effect. I think this is an important point of departure for me, since I accept the SN 12.10 & 11 narratives as being historically informative about how the Bodhisatta himself awoke to DA and DC. The Bodhisatta woke up to a totally novel way of looking at things and there does not seem to be any record that I know of in the suttas that the Buddha was designing the DA exposition in response to a very specific worldview (why Brahmanical only, when DA is supposed to operate at all levels to describe the 2nd Noble Truth?).


Sorry? I am not sure what you're asking for in the above. Are you asking me to show that the Buddha's audience all thought the same way about rebirth? Or are you asking me to show how the Buddha's audience thought *he* thought about rebirth? Or some sort of proof I could show you of how I know what he thought about rebirth? Or what? I'm only too glad to try to comply with any reasonable request for evidence, but I need to understand the request (and, of course, that it asks me to support what I am actually saying).

:namaste:
Last edited by nowheat on Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:36 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
nowheat wrote:...so what got birthed that resulted in (my unsettling experience of) aging and death was *me* -- my assumptions about the world and who I am and who I should be made "real" (in a metaphorical sense - hah!) by the way I act.


I'm not sure I'm following you here. You seem to saying that it's "me" that gets (re)birthed, but isn't that sense of "me" the same as self-view? I tend to experience a sense of "me" most strongly when craving and aversion arise - it feels like craving and aversion are "symptoms" ( expressions? ) of self-view.
I'm quite pragmatic in my approach to practice and will use ideas which seem helpful - but for me, trying to impose ideas of birth, ageing and death onto this experience doesn't feel helpful.

You made the same separation, above, that I'm trying to point out: there is self view and then there is its expression.

Or, in a little more complex way of saying of the same thing: there is self view; there is what develops from that: the actual feeling that I have a self; and then there is the expression of that self out there in the world.

Or go it one further and insert between the last two -- there are all the unquestioned assumptions made on an unconscious level about the self and the world and the relationship between them and that leads to the ways we express ourselves in the world (or perhaps the middle two could be reversed).

When self-view stops (on an intellectual level) it can take a while for all its expressions to wind down, I think because it actually is a chain of events. I see the "me" as all the ways I continue to act as though I have a self even if I have thoroughly understood that I have no self.

First there is an innate view of self, then there is the perception that we have a self, then there is a refined view of self, and then there are the ways those perceptions inform our thinking, and then they are expressed in action. I may change my refined view of self (through understanding Buddhism) but amazingly still find myself acting as though I have a self. It seems to me I have to work a long time to find all the ways I hold onto that refined view and get rid of them, and then work further back to find all the ways the innate view manifests. What feels like "self" to me is what comes out of having the views. The views aren't "self" they are the cause of (what passes for) "self". And I don't think I've really gotten rid of self-view until I've experienced all of the ways it manifests "in self". Theoretically at least there should be a moment when I see the expression of that last problematic piece and extinguish it like a candle flame between thumb and forefinger. The last birth of self has then appeared and then died when I observed it, and the view is now finally gone -- what needed to be done has been done. There will be no more such births, all there is now is the deathless.


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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:44 pm

Actually if you don't believe in rebirth, there is no deathless, rather upon death there is only totally dead, not deathless. You can't have it both ways, if there is no rebirth, Nibbana ends completely at death, the end, zippo, are you comfortable with that?
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 nowheat » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:25 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:Actually if you don't believe in rebirth, there is no deathless, rather upon death there is only totally dead, not deathless. You can't have it both ways, if there is no rebirth, Nibbana ends completely at death, the end, zippo, are you comfortable with that?

lyndon, there are two kinds of "don't believe in rebirth". The kind you are referring to is what is loosely called atheism even in Buddhist circles where God has no part to play: an active *disbelief* in rebirth. The other kind is one who *neither believes nor disbelieves". For them, there is the deathless as you are taking it if there is rebirth, and if there is not there is not. But neither case matters (as Craig often argues if I understand him, though he doesn't put it the way I do) because there is the state the Buddha described of living a life with no perception that there is a self that dies -- and that is, in that sense, a deathless state.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:36 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:I'm not sure I'm following you here. You seem to saying that it's "me" that gets (re)birthed, but isn't that sense of "me" the same as self-view?

nowheat wrote:What feels like "self" to me is what comes out of having the views. The views aren't "self" they are the cause of (what passes for) "self". And I don't think I've really gotten rid of self-view until I've experienced all of the ways it manifests "in self". Theoretically at least there should be a moment when I see the expression of that last problematic piece and extinguish it like a candle flame between thumb and forefinger. The last birth of self has then appeared and then died when I observed it, and the view is now finally gone -- what needed to be done has been done. There will be no more such births, all there is now is the deathless.

And I believe this is what the Buddha is describing in DA, when he describes what he means by the fuel (upadana/clinging) as a series of opinions which seem to be catch-phrases for the various schools of thought from his day, which match up pretty well to the step-further-back of thirst (tanha/craving), as well as the worlds one transitions into with bhava: whether it's the kama way of looking at things (I suspect this is karma-rebirth), or the rupa (the world of form -- staying in the world of the fathers?), or arupa (atman-brahman's dissolving into formless union with Brahman), these opinions about the self are what shape the formation of what we think of as the self. That self becomes visible in the world (I say through our actions) and that results in dukkha (the way we experience aging and death/impermanence).

And in practice, we tend to start from noticing the dukkha and then knock it back and back and back. In the middle/ritual portion of DA we are working on the refined views, but we still have to deal, some, with how we perceive self even before we develop views about it -- and that's all back in the first five links.

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