Past Lives?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:38 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: See Edgar Casey, for instance.

Edgar Cayce.
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: Past Lives?

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:48 am

I wonder if this is how past lives appear to us: in the form of images during meditation. I have, on a couple of occaisions, had images of people flash out of the darkness, in quite good clarity - people I had never seen before, who seemed somehow connected but also strangely alien. If these are images from past lives then I am not reaching back more than a century or so. The clothing is too modern. The gender has always so far been male and the images from late in life. And they both looked like manual laborers, one I thought was a railway worker of some kind. They looked like they had lived hard lives. Sorry, no Napoleon Bonaparte.
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:50 am

pink_trike wrote:I agree with Ben. The mind is a funny thing...we can't pretend that we understand the "extraordinary " things that appear in the mind stream. I once ingested a substance that caused the mind to serve up the experience of flying my house above the town I lived in for about an hour, with Gumby and Pokey as my co-pilots. . . .

Sure; on the other hand, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the mind stream may also, in some cases, deliver what very well may be actual "memories" of a past life.

I've wondered why nobody remembers being an aging salesman in Bismark, South Dakota, a factory worker in Barcelona, or a janitor in Kiev. Always the exotic past lives, never the excruciatingly mundane.
Always? Not in the OP accounting and certainly not many other accountings.
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: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:51 am

JoanOfArc wrote:Dearest faithful,

In my past life, I was Helen of Troy.

And this is helpful how?
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: Past Lives?

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:59 am

tiltbillings wrote:
JoanOfArc wrote:Dearest faithful,

In my past life, I was Helen of Troy.

And this is helpful how?


By being funny, it raises spirits and fosters a sense of community. Maybe?
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:10 am

catmoon wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
JoanOfArc wrote:Dearest faithful,

In my past life, I was Helen of Troy.

And this is helpful how?


By being funny, it raises spirits and fosters a sense of community. Maybe?

Maybe.
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: Past Lives?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:14 am

JoanOfArc wrote:In my past life, I was Helen of Troy.


Helen? I would have thought Joan of Arc?
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:17 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
JoanOfArc wrote:In my past life, I was Helen of Troy.


Helen? I would have thought Joan of Arc?

As long as it is not Joan of Snark.
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: Past Lives?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:27 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: See Edgar Casey, for instance.

Edgar Cayce.


Ah! Thank you! It's been a while since I looked into him, and I do confess, that as I was typing that post, I had to think for a couple of minutes - to still get the wrong spelling! (I knew something didn't look right.) :P
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:20 am

tiltbillings wrote:Sure; on the other hand, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the mind stream may also, in some cases, deliver what very well may be actual "memories" of a past life.


Perhaps. But we have no way of knowing. Why build stories about them? These memories could very well be preverbal mental constructions serving any number of purposes or no purposes at all. All memories are slippery - I base this opinion partly on having witnessed psychotherapy clients endlessly and sincerely tell different versions of memories at different times in the psychotherapeutic process, and having seem intelligent, sane clients realize that things they clearly "remembered" actually never took place. No point in speculating whether mental constructions that play out in the theater of "before this life" are reflections of actual "past lives" or not, or using them to prop up a faith-determined belief. Imo, we do best to note them and let em go...they're just more fireworks in the present mind stream. That's not to say that these mental constructions that are taking place in the moment of now can't be useful...they can sometimes be reflective of all kinds of mental/emotional patterns taking place in this life that we aren't conscious of...they may reflect our shadow territory, things we don't know about how we are operating in the world. Being aware of these mental constructions that are forming and arising in the present can beneficially cast light on this life.

tiltbillings wrote:Always? Not in the OP accounting and certainly not many other accountings.


Medieval. Blacksmith. Ancient Greece. Marble rooms. Serfs. Slaves. Not so different from Kings. Queens. Handmaidens. Knights. American Indian. India. Egypt. Ireland, Sumer, Mu. I wouldn't be able to count the number of times I've heard these themes over the decades. I was just pointing out that it must be extremely rare for someone to remember dull previous lives that took place in the past 100 years under the most ordinary and mundane circumstances. Uruguay? Toronto? Cleveland, Ohio? Pitcairn Islands? Oddly, I've never heard a single past life memory that took place in these places. Mail clerk in Ludlow, Texas - 1963? nope. Garbage collector - Bemidji, Minnesota - 1957? nope. Waiter in San Francisco, 1976? nope. I've never heard anyone speak of these dull kinds of lives - even here in California where the discussion of past lives is as common as discussion of the weather.

It leads me to wonder what kind of "past lives" people "remembered" before television, history books, historical novels, romance novels, films, and all media forms flooded our lives, and before they were taken for granted? I wonder if a poor Mexican farmer living in abject poverty in a rural Mexican town back in 1751 had memories of being a pretty greek slave girl in a sunlight marble room, having never heard of Greece or marble. Our minds are stuffed with information dust bunnies...every scrap of media we've been exposed to during our entire life is lurking in the depths of mind waiting to be thrown back up in a wave of mental vomit. This inundation of imagery and stories that dominates life needs to be included when making considerations about what these types of appearances might actually represent, if they represent anything at all.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Past Lives?

Postby notself » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:26 am

pink_trike,

Good points.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:43 am

pink_trike wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Sure; on the other hand, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the mind stream may also, in some cases, deliver what very well may be actual "memories" of a past life.


Perhaps. But we have no way of knowing. Why build stories about them? . . .
Why dismiss them out of hand?

Stuff like this that pops up during meditation can be very interesting, but it is just stuff of which to let go.

I've never heard a single past life memory that took place in these places. Mail clerk in Ludlow, Texas - 1963? nope. Garbage collector - Bemidji, Minnesota - 1957? nope. Waiter in San Francisco, 1976? nope. I've never heard anyone speak of these dull kinds of lives - even here in California where the discussion of past lives is as common as discussion of the weather.
I have.

But it all depends upon how the memories are elicted.
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: Past Lives?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Nov 07, 2009 6:57 am

Collective wrote:All I can think of, is that I am not entirely comfortable about my coming death (whenever that may be), but I'm pretty much resigned to it. Helpless to change its course. Tossed about with no purchase to allow escape.

As are we all. Your realization of mortality is no different than the Buddha's, which is what makes it such a universal experience. Birth, existence and physical life for a duration, then impending aging, sickness, and finally death. To be followed by another round of the same cycle.

What separates the Buddha from other contemporaries of his time who realized this is his response to this reality. He formulated the Four Noble Truths and the development of dispassion for clinging to the five aggregates of clinging (e.g. to forms of existence) as an answer for total unbinding.

You may wish to read Thanissaro Bhikkhu's e-book The Paradox of Becoming for a more in-depth discussion of this, especially in the latter two chapters. In it, among other things, he pointed out:
“Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns things
as they have come to be. And what does he discern as it has come to be?
“‘This is stress,’ he discerns as it has come to be. ‘This is the origination
of stress … This is the cessation of stress … This is the path of practice
leading to the cessation of stress,’ he discerns as it has come to be.” — SN 56:1

Stress, its origination, its cessation, and the path to its cessation are the four
noble truths. Thus concentration is what makes the knowledge of Awakening
possible. To see these things as they have come to be means two things: viewing
events under the framework of the four truths as a whole, and focusing on the
content of each truth within that framework.

As a whole, the four noble truths constitute a way of viewing experience that
avoids dealing in the essential terms of becoming: self and the world. Instead, it
focuses simply on the issue of cause and effect, and the way the connections
between cause and effect can be manipulated unskillfully, leading to suffering, or
skillfully, to its end. The imperatives that grow from this framework are different
from those growing from the sense of self and the world. Instead of being
enjoined to use the world to satisfy the craving around which the sense of self is
built, one is enjoined simply to comprehend stress, abandon its cause, realize its
cessation, and develop the path to its cessation.

. . .

“Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns things
as they have come to be. And what does he discern as it has come to be?
The origination and disappearance of form. The origination and
disappearance of feeling … perception … fabrications. The origination and
disappearance of consciousness.

“And what is the origination of form … feeling … perception …
fabrications? What is the origination of consciousness?

“There is the case where one enjoys, welcomes, and remains fastened.
And what does one enjoy and welcome, to what does one remain fastened?
One enjoys, welcomes, and remains fastened to form. As one enjoys,
welcomes, and remains fastened to form, there arises delight. Any delight in
form is clinging. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes
becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth
as a requisite condition, then aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain,
distress, and despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire
mass of stress and suffering.


(Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness.)

“And what is the disappearance of form … feeling … perception …
fabrications? What is the disappearance of consciousness?

“There is the case where one doesn’t enjoy, welcome, or remain
fastened. And what does one not enjoy or welcome, to what does one not
remain fastened? One doesn’t enjoy, welcome, or remain fastened to form.
As one doesn’t enjoy, welcome, or remain fastened to form, any delight in
form ceases. From the cessation of delight comes the cessation of clinging.
From the cessation of clinging/sustenance, the cessation of becoming.
From the cessation of becoming, the cessation of birth. From the cessation
of birth, then aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair
all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress and suffering.


(Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness.) —SN 22:5
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:02 am

tiltbillings wrote:Why dismiss them out of hand?



I haven't seen anyone do that here.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:06 am

pink_trike wrote:
Why dismiss them out of hand?


I haven't seen anyone do that here.
Maybe not; however, I have seen some fair amount of effort put forth to explain away experiernces as being other than what they seem.

They, indeed, may often be other than they seem, but in all cases?
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: Past Lives?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:14 am

tiltbillings wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
Why dismiss them out of hand?


I haven't seen anyone do that here.
Maybe not; however, I have seen some fair amount of effort put forth to explain away experiernces as being other than what they seem.

They, indeed, may often be other than they seem, but in all cases?

I don't see anyone "explaining away" or suggesting "in all cases". If you're referring to me...I'm not quantifying or erasing. I'm saying that "what they seem" ("past life") is a very narrow knee-jerk response in our culture, and I'm suggesting that we should look past easy routine pat explanations, no matter what belief system is giving us that explanation because there are more possible explanations for these appearances than we can count or are even aware of.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 7:25 am

pink_trike wrote:I don't see anyone "explaining away" or suggesting "in all cases". If you're referring to me...I'm not quantifying or erasing.

If you say so.
I'm saying that "what they seem" ("past life") is a very narrow knee-jerk response in our culture, and I'm suggesting that we should look past easy routine pat explanations, no matter what belief system is giving us that explanation because there are more possible explanations for these appearances than we can count or are even aware of.

. . .'"what they seem" ("past life") is a very narrow knee-jerk response in our culture' . . .
Maybe, but that does not mean that all the metempsychosis experiences reported can be accounted for by other explanations.
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: Past Lives?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:08 am

tiltbillings wrote:
pink_trike wrote:I don't see anyone "explaining away" or suggesting "in all cases". If you're referring to me...I'm not quantifying or erasing.

If you say so.
I'm saying that "what they seem" ("past life") is a very narrow knee-jerk response in our culture, and I'm suggesting that we should look past easy routine pat explanations, no matter what belief system is giving us that explanation because there are more possible explanations for these appearances than we can count or are even aware of.

. . .'"what they seem" ("past life") is a very narrow knee-jerk response in our culture' . . .
Maybe, but that does not mean that all the metempsychosis experiences reported can be accounted for by other explanations.

You're the only one here saying "all". :tongue:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Past Lives?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:10 am

pink_trike wrote:You're the only one here saying "all".

Then you agree that all such experiences cannot be explained away as being other things.
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: Past Lives?

Postby pink_trike » Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:21 am

tiltbillings wrote:
pink_trike wrote:You're the only one here saying "all".

Then you agree that all such experiences cannot be explained away as being other things.

I don't presume to know...do you? I know that you like to play this game, but I'm not interested, thanks. :smile:
Last edited by pink_trike on Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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