What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

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What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby shjohnk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:07 am

In 'Pure Land' mahayana Buddhism, the clear goal for practitioners is rebirth in Amitabha Buddha's Western Pureland, so they are taught to chant Amitabha's title whilst dying,and then rebirth in the 'Pureland' is guaranteed. I have heard talks given by Western Theravadan teachers where comments are made that seem to suggest that most people listening to the talk will be reborn as humans, so there doesn't seem to be any real urgency to practice. This is confusing for me because the Buddha described birth in the human realm as being incredibly rare, and talks I have heard by Chinese Mahayana monks also emphasize that the majority of people who do not practice Buddhadhamma are destined for lower realm rebirth. So, my question is, what should be the rebirth aim for a Theravadan? Should we be aiming for rebirth as a human or a Deva? This seems unwise, as these beings will still be trapped in Samsara and we may not meet the Dhamma again in the next life. So is the best aim to become a 'Stream Winner' (Sotapanna) in this life? Sorry for the longwinded question and thanks for any answers! Metta.
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:11 am

shjohnk wrote:In 'Pure Land' mahayana Buddhism, the clear goal for practitioners is rebirth in Amitabha Buddha's Western Pureland, so they are taught to chant Amitabha's title whilst dying,and then rebirth in the 'Pureland' is guaranteed. I have heard talks given by Western Theravadan teachers where comments are made that seem to suggest that most people listening to the talk will be reborn as humans, so there doesn't seem to be any real urgency to practice. This is confusing for me because the Buddha described birth in the human realm as being incredibly rare, and talks I have heard by Chinese Mahayana monks also emphasize that the majority of people who do not practice Buddhadhamma are destined for lower realm rebirth. So, my question is, what should be the rebirth aim for a Theravadan? Should we be aiming for rebirth as a human or a Deva? This seems unwise, as these beings will still be trapped in Samsara and we may not meet the Dhamma again in the next life. So is the best aim to become a 'Stream Winner' (Sotapanna) in this life? Sorry for the longwinded question and thanks for any answers! Metta.


Hi Shjohnk,

As I understand it, human birth is best. In the lower realms there is too much suffering to be able to practice dharma. In the upper realms there is too much bliss to be motivated to practice dharma. The human realm has the right amount of both. To be born a human is very precious.

Best,
Drolma

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Ben » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:32 am

Hi shjohnk
Welcome to Dhamma Wheel!

The Theravadin ambition is a little different to Pureland.
Within Theravada, the aim is to achieve one of the four ariyan states (sottapanna, sakadagami, anagami or arahant) within this life.

sotapanna [sotaapanna]:Stream winner. A person who has abandoned the first three of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see samyojana) and has thus entered the "stream" flowing inexorably to nibbana, ensuring that one will be reborn at most only seven more times, and only into human or higher realms.

sakadagami [sakadaagaamii]:Once-returner. A person who has abandoned the first three of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see samyojana), has weakened the fetters of sensual passion and resistance, and who after death is destined to be reborn in this world only once more.
To become an arahant in this life is best but at the very least, one should aim for sotapanna.

anagami [anaagaamii]:Non-returner. A person who has abandoned the five lower fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see samyojana), and who after death will appear in one of the Brahma worlds called the Pure Abodes, there to attain nibbana, never again to return to this world.

arahant [arahant]:A "worthy one" or "pure one"; a person whose mind is free of defilement (see kilesa), who has abandoned all ten of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see samyojana), whose heart is free of mental effluents (see asava), and who is thus not destined for further rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his noble disciples.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html#s


Contrary to what you may believe about Theravadins, many have attained insight into the dreadful and perilous nature of samsara which propels their samvega (sense of urgency) that inspires their practice.


Kind regards

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby shjohnk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:50 am

Hi Ben, thanks for the confirmation: i figured the goal was stream entry. It would be good to hear more talks where this is stressed: the urgency of achieving this in THIS life. It seems to me that many talks by popular Western theravadan teachers are too 'touchy feely'. After you listen to them, you think 'Well, that's OK then. I may be full of defilements but i can get rid of those in my next life!'. The catch is if you don't practice with urgency now, the chances are you are going to be spinning through the lower realms for the next few aeons! Sort of like missing a bus and then seeing that the next one is scheduled to arrive in 100 trillion years, and the weather has just turned nasty... I think people need to remember that the Buddha was not a new age hippy! He taught that Samasara is suffering and you need to get out NOW! OK, rant over. :) Thanks again, Ben, and drolma, for your answers! Metta.
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:57 am

Greetings,

shjohnk wrote:I think people need to remember that the Buddha was not a new age hippy!


That made me laugh - thank you.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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


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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby cooran » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:01 am

Hello shjohnk, all,

From the Sutta teachings of the Buddha:

How to recognise a Lay Stream Enterer
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

How to recognise and become a Person of Integrity
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Way to Stream-entry
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream.html

Stream-entry and After
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream2.html


metta
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby shjohnk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:13 am

Cheers Chris! I'll read that info.
Retro: :lol: don't want to come over as a fanatic or something, I'm not - But I think some people, westerners mostly, DO have that idea of Buddhism, that its a philosophy where everything is OK, when actually the Buddha's final words before parinibbana were used to exhort his disciples to strive with urgency on their salvation.
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:45 am

shjohnk wrote:Hi Ben, thanks for the confirmation: i figured the goal was stream entry. It would be good to hear more talks where this is stressed: the urgency of achieving this in THIS life.

Perhaps you're listening to the wrong people... :thinking:

Sayadaw U Pandita's book constructed from Dhamma talks to a Western audience is called "In this very life". An online version (which I think is condensed) is here:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Individual » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:35 pm

Ben summed it up well.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby andrewuk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:05 pm

Chris wrote:Hello shjohnk, all,

From the Sutta teachings of the Buddha:

How to recognise a Lay Stream Enterer
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



Hello Chris,

Thanks for these links from accesstoinsight.

However, when I open the first link, there is no content in it.

Could you repost the link again?

(I got 500 or so results from accesstoinsight's website..)

Thanks in advance.

Andrew
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby cooran » Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:23 pm

Hello Andrew,

It's AN 5.179 Gihi Sutta: The Householder
I'll try again:

How to recognise a Lay Stream Enterer
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

metta
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Guy » Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:53 am

Hi Shjohnk,

shjohnk wrote:I have heard talks given by Western Theravadan teachers where comments are made that seem to suggest that most people listening to the talk will be reborn as humans, so there doesn't seem to be any real urgency to practice. This is confusing for me because the Buddha described birth in the human realm as being incredibly rare, and talks I have heard by Chinese Mahayana monks also emphasize that the majority of people who do not practice Buddhadhamma are destined for lower realm rebirth.


I heard a story about a monkey who was, after being hit by a truck, believed by a group of local monks (one of whom was supposed to have the psychic ability to see how beings are reborn) to have been reborn as a human in a small village in Thailand. Apparently the baby was abnormally hairy.

Also I have heard of a couple of different cases where a family who believe that one of their deceased relatives have been reborn as a dog to be adopted by them. I am yet to hear a story of someone who believes they were a dog in a past life though - perhaps either a) They would rather not admit having been a dog or b) They don't remember.

I have never heard of anyone who claims to have remembered being in hell in one of their past lives, perhaps it is too painful and traumatic to remember or maybe they'd just rather not talk about it. And of course, we will never hear about those who went the other way, from human to hellbeing.

I have heard of a Christian Priest who claims to have visited heaven for a brief period between dying in a car crash and later being resuscitated.

On the other hand I have heard many, many stories of people who claim to have remembered being humans in a past life. Some of whom have even been to war, done some things they would rather not have done and even in some cases died traumatic deaths. The vast majority of these cases are pretty mundane, boring lives though which I think gives these stories a lot of credability - some people might claim to have been cleopatra in their past lives, but why would someone lie about spending most of their life as a farmer doing the same thing every day?

So I personally don't believe that you have to practice Buddhadhamma to be reborn as a human, but it certainly helps!

As for the goal of rebirth - the ending of rebirth is the goal.

With Metta,

Guy
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1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:13 am

yes having stream entry as a goal cannot be talked of enough. I think a buddhist must be prepared to go to any part of the world at some point in their lives to seek this out if the cant find a path to it easily nearby..
With Metta

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:33 am

rowyourboat wrote:yes having stream entry as a goal cannot be talked of enough. I think a buddhist must be prepared to go to any part of the world at some point in their lives to seek this out if the cant find a path to it easily nearby..


Indeed

For us today who take to Vipassana Meditation, it would suffice if we can understand Anicca well enough to reach the first stage of an Ariya (a Noble person), that is, a Sotapanna or stream-enterer, who will not take more than Seven lives to come to the end of suffering.

-- Sayagi U Ba Khin, 1969, The Essentials of Buddha Dhamma in Meditative Practice. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el231.html
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby EOD » Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:25 pm

Guy wrote:So I personally don't believe that you have to practice Buddhadhamma to be reborn as a human, but it certainly helps!

In AN 8.36 the Buddha says that the requirements for a human rebirth are a small to medium degree of generosity and virtuousness. A high degree of them will lead to a rebirth as heavenly being. It is not explicitly stated there, but one can conclude from that sutta that the absence of generosity and virtousness will therefore lead to a rebirth in the lower realms which seems to be the normal case (AN 1.33).

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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby pink_trike » Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:36 pm

shjohnk wrote:Hi Ben, thanks for the confirmation: i figured the goal was stream entry. It would be good to hear more talks where this is stressed: the urgency of achieving this in THIS life. It seems to me that many talks by popular Western theravadan teachers are too 'touchy feely'. After you listen to them, you think 'Well, that's OK then. I may be full of defilements but i can get rid of those in my next life!'. The catch is if you don't practice with urgency now, the chances are you are going to be spinning through the lower realms for the next few aeons! Sort of like missing a bus and then seeing that the next one is scheduled to arrive in 100 trillion years, and the weather has just turned nasty... I think people need to remember that the Buddha was not a new age hippy! He taught that Samasara is suffering and you need to get out NOW! OK, rant over. :) Thanks again, Ben, and drolma, for your answers! Metta.

To understand why the Dharma is often presented to Westerners in a less urgent, more "touchy feely" style requires an understanding of the cultural context and historical background of Western society within which this is being done, and to understand that teachers skillfully present the teachings in ways that are best suited for the culture and time. There are many ways of awakening people to the Dharma...there is no "one size fits all" except in that box in our head where we store our preferences.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby kidd » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:58 am

Since the Buddha taught that we have no souls and that nothing is permanent, what do you imagine is 'reborn'?

:juggling:
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby Guy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 8:35 am

Hi Kidd,

My understanding is that it is the "stream of consciousness" which goes from life to life.This is impermanent since even consciousness momentarily comes and goes and can stop altogether. It is the "desire to be" that perpetuates this cycle of rebirth. Both consciousness and desire are empty/impersonal processes dependant on conditions rather than unchanging and independantly existing objects.

Please anyone correct me if I am wrong about any of this.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:36 am

kidd wrote:Since the Buddha taught that we have no souls and that nothing is permanent, what do you imagine is 'reborn'?


Your bad habits, which is my favorite response to that question by Chogyam Trungpa.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: What is the Theravadan Aim for Rebirth?

Postby clw_uk » Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:26 am

Guy wrote:Hi Kidd,

My understanding is that it is the "stream of consciousness" which goes from life to life.This is impermanent since even consciousness momentarily comes and goes and can stop altogether. It is the "desire to be" that perpetuates this cycle of rebirth. Both consciousness and desire are empty/impersonal processes dependant on conditions rather than unchanging and independantly existing objects.

Please anyone correct me if I am wrong about any of this.

With Metta,

Guy



I think you have it "wrong", ive never read the Buddha saying that a "stream of consciousness" gets "reborn". However this has all been said on "great rebirth debate"

metta
“ 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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