Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Aug 04, 2009 2:17 pm

I think that there are many good reasons for accepting a literal view of post-mortem rebirth. However if you want to undermine your own case then citing hypnotherapy is a pretty good place to start.

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Individual » Tue Aug 04, 2009 4:26 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I think that there are many good reasons for accepting a literal view of post-mortem rebirth. However if you want to undermine your own case then citing hypnotherapy is a pretty good place to start.

:anjali:

Per Ben's warning, to avoid turning this thread into a debate about rebirth, I've responded to your remarks in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&p=26458#p26458
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Pannapetar » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:25 am

The original question was whether modern biology might be helpful in understanding rebirth. I think we have to answer this with: probably not. The reason is that biology is purely concerned with physical processes. Heredity could be seen as an instance of physical rebirth at the gene level. Individual genes clearly span multiple life times in the sense of multiple organisms. In case of mitochondrial DNA -since it is passed down unchanged by the mother- it could even be said that rebirth occurs at the level of chromosomes. But genes and mitochondrial DNA are also subject to impermanence due to mutation; in fact this is what makes evolution possible in the first place. Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene gives a fascinating account of this perspective. According to the selfish gene idea, phenotypes are nothing but "lumbering robots" that perform survival functions for the benefit of genes to help them propagate. It's surely an interesting view, but I doubt it has much to do with the Buddhist idea of rebirth.

Consciousness research is perhaps more likely to shed some light on the Buddhist understanding of rebirth. I already mentioned the investigation of PLEs, but the study of near-death experiences (NDE) is likewise relevant to the topic, because NDEs provide a glimpse on what happens when the physical (human) body dies. During the last 50 years, ambulances and modern medicine made it possible for many people to escape death and live on to tell the story. The first case studies of NDEs were published by E. Kübler-Ross, R. Moody et al in the 1970s. Since then a large amount of reports and studies with thousands of cases have been collected, more recently by B. Greyson, M. Morse, S. Parnia, P. v. Lommel and others. Most people who had an NDE, as well as many doctors came to the conclusion that experience continues after death. NDEs cannot be considered conclusive evidence for continuation, since people did come back after all, and there are a number of complicated neurological issues to consider, but they are at least suggestive of continuation.

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:44 am

Consciousness research is perhaps more likely to shed some light on the Buddhist understanding of rebirth. I already mentioned the investigation of PLEs, but the study of near-death experiences (NDE) is likewise relevant to the topic, because NDEs provide a glimpse on what happens when the physical (human) body dies. During the last 50 years, ambulances and modern medicine made it possible for many people to escape death and live on to tell the story. The first case studies of NDEs were published by E. Kübler-Ross, R. Moody et al in the 1970s. Since then a large amount of reports and studies with thousands of cases have been collected, more recently by B. Greyson, M. Morse, S. Parnia, P. v. Lommel and others. Most people who had an NDE, as well as many doctors came to the conclusion that experience continues after death. NDEs cannot be considered conclusive evidence for continuation, since people did come back after all, and there are a number of complicated neurological issues to consider, but they are at least suggestive of continuation.



I dont see consciousness being the answer either, at least not in Buddhas teachings. Consciousness arises only when there is a sense base (eye), external form (tree) and contact between them. When, say, the eye closes that particular consciousness ceases. Cant see how consciousness can be seperate and "float around" somewhere

There is also some interesting biological explanations for NDE's (cant post it atm). NDE'a are very interesting and mysterious though

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Last edited by clw_uk on Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:14 am

Hi Craig
clw_uk wrote:I dont see consciousness being the answer either, at least not in Buddhas teachings. Consciousness arises only when there is a sense base (eye), external form (tree) and contact between them. When, say, the eye closes that particular consciousness ceases. Cant see how consciousness can be seperate and "float around" somewhere

Actually, Richard Gombrich mentioned that within the Buddhist philosophy of psychology, 'consciousness' as a mental entity or thing doesn't exist. Rather, consciousness is a process of cognizing a sense object. Its in 'How Buddhism Began: the conditioned genesis of the early teachings.' Also, have a look at Bhikkhu Bodhi's 'A comprehensive manual of the Abhidhamma' which gives an atomic-level view of this process.
Kind regards

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Pannapetar » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:05 am

clw_uk wrote:Consciousness arises only when there is a sense base (eye), external form (tree) and contact between them. When, say, the eye closes that particular consciousness ceases.


The phenomenalist view of consciousness is too rigid. It does not describe the whole picture. We experience vision in dreams, for example, and the eyes don't need to be open.

clw_uk wrote:Cant see how consciousness can be seperate and "float around" somewhere.


In case that empirical data contradicts a doctrine (or the philosophical understanding thereof), there are several options:

1. Dismiss the data.
2. Dismiss the conclusion suggested by the data.
3. Dismiss the doctrine.
4. Review the understanding of the doctrine and see whether it can be made compatible.

In case of NDEs and related phenomena, I see myself drawn to the last option. Bikkhu Bodhi has given a very comprehensive and detailed account of the Buddhist (philosophical) idea of rebirth in this 2-part audio talk:

Rebirth and Kamma part 1
Rebirth and Kamma part 2

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:24 am

Pannapetar wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Consciousness arises only when there is a sense base (eye), external form (tree) and contact between them. When, say, the eye closes that particular consciousness ceases.


The phenomenalist view of consciousness is too rigid. It does not describe the whole picture. We experience vision in dreams, for example, and the eyes don't need to be open.

Of course. That's contact between the mind base and mind objects, which causes mind-conciousness to arise... It's easy to stop at the eye and ignore the other fives sense bases...

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:37 am

The phenomenalist view of consciousness is too rigid. It does not describe the whole picture. We experience vision in dreams, for example, and the eyes don't need to be open.



the eye was an example, dreams are mind, mind ideas and contact



The general idea is that consciousness is always dependent and not independent, if you have it floating around then its independent


MN38 has a good teaching on this


Bhikkhus, founded on whatever, consciousness arises, it is reckoned on that. On account of eye and forms arises consciousness, it’s reckoned eye consciousness. On account of ear and sounds arises consciousness, it’s reckoned ear consciousness. On account of nose and smells arises consciousness, it’s reckoned nose consciousness. On account of tongue and tastes arises consciousness, it’s reckoned tongue consciousness.On account of body and touches arises consciousness, it’s reckoned body consciousness. On account of mind and ideas arises consciousness, it’s reckoned mind consciousness. Bhikkhus, just as based on whatever fire burns, it is reckoned by that. Fire ablaze with sticks is stick fire. Ablaze with twigs is twig fire. Ablaze with grass is grass fire. Ablaze with cowdung is cowdung fire. Ablaze with grain thrash is grain thrash fire. Ablaze with dirt is dirt fire. In the same manner consciousness on account is eye and forms is eye consciousness. Consciousness on account of ear and sounds is ear consciousness. Consciousness on account of nose and smells is nose conscioussness. Consciousness on account of tongue and tastes is taste consciousness. Consciousness on account of body and touches is body consciousness. Consciousness on account of mind and ideas is mind consciousness.



There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma

metta
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:48 am

clw_uk wrote:There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma

How about the immaterial planes? Only nama, no rupa...?

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Pannapetar » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:46 am

clw_uk wrote:There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma


Are you saying that conscious experience requires (physical) form? That's putting the cart before the horse.

Take another look at the codependent origination. "Form" (nama-rupa) comes only into the picture after consciousness: "with Vijñāna as condition, Nāmarūpa arises".

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 6:58 pm

Pannapetar wrote:
clw_uk wrote:There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma


Are you saying that conscious experience requires (physical) form? That's putting the cart before the horse.

Take another look at the codependent origination. "Form" (nama-rupa) comes only into the picture after consciousness: "with Vijñāna as condition, Nāmarūpa arises".

Cheers, Thomas



It seem your thinking of it as there being consciousness on its own and then there is nama-rupa, this isnt dependent co-arising this is just A causes B



Consciousness and nama-rupa are intertwined and you cant have one without the other

'Name-&-form doesn't exist when consciousness doesn't exist. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness doesn't exist when what doesn't exist? From the cessation of what comes the cessation of consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness doesn't exist when name-&-form doesn't exist. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness.'


You dont have one and then the other comes to be since you cannot have one without the other

Then the thought occurred to me, 'This consciousness turns back at name-&-form, and goes no farther. It is to this extent that there is birth, aging, death, falling away, & re-arising, i.e., from name-&-form 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... Thus is the origination of this entire mass of stress. Origination, origination.' Vision arose, clear knowing arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before.



Interms of D.O. and its quenching, its showed again

"The thought occurred to me, 'I have attained this path to Awakening, i.e., from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.



So consciousness doent float aroud somewhere since it cant be without name and form (and the other aspects i already said)

metta
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:41 pm

clw_uk wrote:So consciousness doent float aroud somewhere since it cant be without name and form (and the other aspects i already said)

You still didn't address the formless realms...

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:59 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:So consciousness doent float aroud somewhere since it cant be without name and form (and the other aspects i already said)

You still didn't address the formless realms...

Mike


I havent forgotten it :smile:
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:47 pm

clw_uk wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:You still didn't address the formless realms...

I havent forgotten it :smile:

Good. Here's a Sutta reference if you don't like the Abhidhamma and Commentary on the Planes of Existence: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html

MN 43: Mahavedalla Sutta — The Greater Set of Questions-and-Answers
Ven. Sariputta answers questions dealing with discernment, right view, and the higher meditative attainments.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
[Becoming]

"Friend, how many kinds of becoming are there?"

"Friend, there are these three kinds of becoming: sensual becoming, form becoming, formless becoming."

"And how is further becoming in the future brought about?"

"The delight, now here, now there, of beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving: That's how further becoming in the future is brought about."

"And how is further becoming in the future not brought about?"

"Through the fading of ignorance, the arising of clear knowing, & the cessation of craving: That's how further becoming in the future is not brought about."

Metta
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Individual » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:20 am

Pannapetar wrote:
clw_uk wrote:There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma


Are you saying that conscious experience requires (physical) form? That's putting the cart before the horse.

Take another look at the codependent origination. "Form" (nama-rupa) comes only into the picture after consciousness: "with Vijñāna as condition, Nāmarūpa arises".

Cheers, Thomas

It is a cycle. I'm lacking reference at the moment, but the Buddha categorically rejects idealism and materialism.

i.e., although what you said is true, it is only with birth that consciousness can arise and ignorance is not a "first cause," but merely a link in the chain, conditioned by what we choose to do..
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Individual » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:26 am

mikenz66 wrote:
clw_uk wrote:There is another that states that there are only these six types of consciousness in the Buddhas teachings, and as you see they all arises in dependence on something and cant exist without said support so a consciousness floating around in out of body exp. or NDE's or through lives is a no no in Buddhadhamma

How about the immaterial planes? Only nama, no rupa...?

Mike

How Buddhist cosmology relates to mundane experience is an open question. I started a thread on it in the Classical Theravada forum and didn't get a single response. It is problematic to cite Buddhist cosmology as applying to mundane reality literally in one case, without being willing to admit (without being able to give scientific support) that the cosmology represents literal events as a whole.

But anyway, on the point at hand: In the immaterial planes, beings are lacking what's called a gross body (a physical body made of matter), but they do not lack a mind-made body. And this is not the same thing as a spirit floating around independent of causalty, because they are described as having a locality (i.e. a "deva went from here to there," "a deva was in such and such place", etc.). So, again, even a deva's consciousness arises in dependence on birth.
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Pannapetar » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:56 am

clw_uk wrote:So consciousness doent float aroud somewhere since it cant be without name and form (and the other aspects i already said)


I meant physical form in the sense of having a body plus the luxury of a brain and a nervous system. I essence, I was denying the idea of emergentism which holds that consciousness and the mind "emerges" from a complex physical body with a nervous system, i.e. the view held by most scientists. "Nama-rupa" is generally interpreted as meaning "psycho-physical" describing our incarnate nature. It is important that vijnana comes before nama-rupa. This does not necessarily mean that vijnana can exist on its own, but it means that it is a necessary condition for nama-rupa to arise. If you think this out, you will see that emergentism is incompatible with the Buddhist teaching. Since you don't have a physical body after death or before birth, there must be something else taking the place of nama-rupa, which is not the physical body, i.e. something else that is conditioned by vijnana and its antecedent causes. At least that is my interpretation.

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby Ben » Thu Aug 06, 2009 2:11 am

Hi Individual
Individual wrote:How Buddhist cosmology relates to mundane experience is an open question.

Have a look at my response to Blackbird's thread on 'frying your brain' or some such on the hierarchical structure of Cosmology. I've quoted a fragment of Bhikkhu Bodhi who explains the cosmology as, not only representing the planes and realms of existence, but also corresponding to the gradations of consciousness.

I started a thread on it in the Classical Theravada forum and didn't get a single response.
I'm sorry to hear that. I'm not sure which thread it was but if it happens again, contact someone in the mod team and perhaps a rewording of the question may draw more interest.
Kind regards

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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:52 pm

Hey mike


In answer to the immaterial, Individual touched on some points already. As for myself I see them being different levels of the world that can be entered into via meditation, so i dont see them as an explanation of consciousness with or without matter


metta
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Re: Could modern biology help explain rebirth?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:17 am

Greetings Craig,

clw_uk wrote:Consciousness and nama-rupa are intertwined and you cant have one without the other

'Name-&-form doesn't exist when consciousness doesn't exist. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness doesn't exist when what doesn't exist? From the cessation of what comes the cessation of consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness doesn't exist when name-&-form doesn't exist. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness.'


You dont have one and then the other comes to be since you cannot have one without the other


What you say is true, but it depends on what you're interpreting nama-rupa to be. If you're interpreting nama-rupa simplistically to be an anatta-aware equivalent of a "person" where mentality and materiality exist then such an interpretation will miss the point of this sutta extract altogether. See the present topic on Nama-rupa for a closer look at what nama-rupa is, just to make sure you're not falling into this trap.

Metta,
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