The Danger of Rebirth

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Virgo » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:38 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
chownah wrote:the laity of today can mostly read and write and have access to a world of knowledge that even the most highly educated person of the Buddha's time could not even imagine......

Lots more views and opinions to get rid of, hence far fewer people are getting enlightened today than did in the Buddha's time.

Well said Bhante!

I hope you are well.

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:14 am

Aloka wrote:Regarding the topic title, please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the suttas say 'reappearance'' and 'birth' and not re -birth.

The Pali texts use the word "punabhavo" — becoming again, rebecoming, or rebirth. Why quibble over the term "rebirth"?

In the Dhammapada verse it says that on the dawn of his Enlightenment the Buddha decared:
Anekajātisaṃsāraṃ, sandhāvissaṃ anibbisaṃ.
Gahakāraṃ gavesanto, dukkhā jāti punappunaṃ.


Dukkhā jāti punappunaṃ = painful is birth again and again.

No matter which way you twist it, being born again and again means rebirth. If one is reborn in celestial realms, as a hungry ghost, or in hell, there is no birth from a womb. "Reappearance" might be more accurate, as birth in those realms is by way of spontaneous arising (opapātika). Rebirth would be more accurate for repeated birth in the animal or human realms.
Opapātika (p. 168) (adj.) [fr. upapatti; the BSk. form is a curious distortion of the P. form, viz. aupapāduka Av. Ś II.89; Divy 300, 627, 649] arisen or reborn without visible cause (i. e. without parents), spontaneous rebirth (Kvu trsl. 2832), apparitional rebirth
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:20 am

I have this conviction that there are Buddhist terms that we should not attempt to translate from the Pali because translating them causes more problems than it solves.
Dhamma, Kamma, Buddha ( which we dont usually translate ) Dukkha etc. High on the list would be Punabhavo. So many of the sometimes emotional discussions about "rebirth " which happen on Buddhist websites are actually to do with poor or uninternalised understanding of the concepts around Punabhavo.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:48 am

I think that the problem is not so much a matter to be solved by "don't translate", but by simply having a deeper and correct understanding of these terms. Any fool can start a website, or even write a book. Many people who have no discernment in their choice of study material will be deceived, almost willingly. We should support those with clear understanding, promote their writings and material. In this way, correct understanding will prevail.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:59 am

Greetings venerable Paññāsikhara,

Do you have any examples in either category (i.e. those to be promoted vs those not) to recommend?

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:39 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that the problem is not so much a matter to be solved by "don't translate", but by simply having a deeper and correct understanding of these terms. Any fool can start a website, or even write a book. Many people who have no discernment in their choice of study material will be deceived, almost willingly. We should support those with clear understanding, promote their writings and material. In this way, correct understanding will prevail.

Take the example of "Dukkha" there simply is no English equivilant is there ? Far better in my book for us to learn key terms by seeing and using them in context, than drift away from the meaning in a never ending game of Chinese whispers. I am not saying that suttas and commentaries should remain untranslated, but that we should be cautious about being too swift to translate key terms. Some of the unpacking work should be ours, because that is the only way to internalise those concepts.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:13 pm

I think we need to translate every Pali word, but the readers need to be reminded that it is a translation. My policy is to give the Pali term in parentheses the first time it is used, but not thereafter. I sometimes add a glossary or index with Pali terms.

I have spent a great deal of my time editing works that had supposedly been translated from Burmese discourses to English, but which were so full of Pali terms as to be unreadable for anyone who was not already well-versed in Buddhism.

When purchasing antiques or precious gems the onus is on the buyer to ensure that what is on offer is genuine.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:50 pm

So Bhante how do you generally translate Dukkha ?
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:44 pm

The translation “suffering” is a very unsatisfactory translation for the Pali term “dukkha.” Although the term does embrace all kinds of obvious suffering like physical pain, mental sorrow, and grief, it means much more. Even pleasure and joy are dukkha, because they are subject to instability, must be striven for, and are the cause of grief when they change. I trasnslate the term “dukkha” as “unsatisfactoriness” in most places, but as suffering when the context demands it.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:10 pm

People don't seem to like Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation to "stress," but he gives a few reasons why he uses it instead of suffering. First, as Bhikkhu Pesala pointed out, dukkha is too specific. Stress can be in any kind of activity, including the most sublime and blissful states of meditation - something which people would hardly describe as "suffering." The other main reason was that "stress" is harder to romanticize than suffering. People claim to suffer for this or that reason (love, art, whatever), or attribute some sort of nobility to their suffering, but you never hear anybody talk about "my noble stress."

In the "Pali Word a Day" from Buddhanet.net (http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/paliwordday.pdf) they break down dukkha as du = difficult / +kha (to endure)

But "du" and "kha" don't seem to translate quite that way when I try it in the online PTS pali dictionary.

Du

Du3 ( -- ˚) (adj. -- suff.) [Sk. druha, druh, see duhana & duhitika] hurting, injuring, acting perfidiously, betraying, only in mitta˚ deceiving one's friends S i.225; Sn 244 expl. as mitta -- dūbhaka SnA 287, v. l. B mittadussaka; cp. mitta -- dubbhika & mitta -- dubbhin.


Kha

Kha syllable & ending, functioning also as root, meaning "void, empty" or as n. meaning "space"; expld. by Bdhgh with ref. to dukkha as "khaŋ saddo pana tucche; tucchaŋ hi ākāsaŋ khan ti vuccati" Vism 494. -- In meaning "space, sky" in cpd. khaga "sky -- goer" (cp. viha -- ga of same meaning), i. e. bird Abhp 624; Bdhd 56
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:46 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that the problem is not so much a matter to be solved by "don't translate", but by simply having a deeper and correct understanding of these terms. Any fool can start a website, or even write a book. Many people who have no discernment in their choice of study material will be deceived, almost willingly. We should support those with clear understanding, promote their writings and material. In this way, correct understanding will prevail.

Take the example of "Dukkha" there simply is no English equivilant is there ? Far better in my book for us to learn key terms by seeing and using them in context, than drift away from the meaning in a never ending game of Chinese whispers. I am not saying that suttas and commentaries should remain untranslated, but that we should be cautious about being too swift to translate key terms. Some of the unpacking work should be ours, because that is the only way to internalise those concepts.


If we don't translate, then Buddhism outside of cultures heavily influenced by Indic languages will forever remain incomprehensible, and only open to those with specialized language skills. The Buddha taught to teach in the language of the people in a given location. This is what we should do.

As for "dukkha", as Bhante Pesala has indicated, "unsatisfactoriness" is very close, those personally I use "dissatisfactoriness", both are from the same roots. I prefer "dis-" because in some ways, the prefix "dis-" in English is a bit like a cognate for Indic "dus-" / "duh-", etc. This is broad enough to include the more specific meaning of "painful / suffering" when in terms of vedana, but also the broader sense of "all formations are dissatisfactory".
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:00 am

meindzai wrote:
In the "Pali Word a Day" from Buddhanet.net (http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/paliwordday.pdf) they break down dukkha as du = difficult / +kha (to endure)

But "du" and "kha" don't seem to translate quite that way when I try it in the online PTS pali dictionary.

Du

Du3 ( -- ˚) (adj. -- suff.) [Sk. druha, druh, see duhana & duhitika] hurting, injuring, acting perfidiously, betraying, only in mitta˚ deceiving one's friends S i.225; Sn 244 expl. as mitta -- dūbhaka SnA 287, v. l. B mittadussaka; cp. mitta -- dubbhika & mitta -- dubbhin.


Kha

Kha syllable & ending, functioning also as root, meaning "void, empty" or as n. meaning "space"; expld. by Bdhgh with ref. to dukkha as "khaŋ saddo pana tucche; tucchaŋ hi ākāsaŋ khan ti vuccati" Vism 494. -- In meaning "space, sky" in cpd. khaga "sky -- goer" (cp. viha -- ga of same meaning), i. e. bird Abhp 624; Bdhd 56


I’d be more inclined to not just read the Pāli “dukkha”, but have a look at other possible terms which may develop into the Pāli term “dukkha”.

For a start, the Skt is “duḥkha”. For prefix “duś-”, before a “k-” the “-ś” --> “-ḥ”. For the “-kha” there are several possibilities. “kṣā-” meaning “endure” is certainly one of them.

By Pāli and other Prakrit forms, a Skt “duś-kṣā-” would have the “-śkṣ-” probably --> “-kkh-”. That would make “dukkhā”. But in many Prakrit forms, long vowel endings easily get shortened to short vowels, so “dukkha” would not be out of the question.

There do appear to be passages in the canon which support such a definition, too.

As for deriving it from “kha” as “space”, well it seems that only Buddhaghosa does that. However, the Skt is “khan”, and so it would probably form the same terms, either “dukkha” or “duḥkha”. But, does that meaning make sense to define these terms? It does not appear so to me.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:07 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings venerable Paññāsikhara,

Do you have any examples in either category (i.e. those to be promoted vs those not) to recommend?

Metta,
Retro. :)


People who have no proper training in studying the scriptures, those without study and knowledge of the languages involved, those whose ethical conduct does not even meet the bare minimums of Buddhist practice,* those who have never engaged in any form of Buddhist practice on even the most basic levels.*
Avoid the "teachings" of such people. Even those who have such training, be aware of how much training they have and of what kind. Even 20 yrs of part time hobby practice may not count for much in the end, if one is considering requirements to "teach" others.

Even so, some will be left with strange ideas, but at least they will have something to back them up. One will usually see that those left, who have proper training, etc. are largely in agreement on a wide range of issues.

* These points may be controversial for some, particularly in an environment that says "we must separate personal ethics from knowledge". However, in Buddhist terms, these two are intrinsically intertwined. Those with dubious ethics will have their "understanding" perverted by ego, craving, anger, and so forth.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:07 am

Going back to the meaning of Dukkha for a minute, you see all of the above discussion suggests to me that it is more expeditious to ask interested people to internalise the term, rather than rely only on a translation. We see discussion after discussion concerning whether life really is suffering, clearly this is an extended strawman because that is such an incomplete rendition of The First Noble Truth. Personally I dont see that "there is dissatisfactoriness or unsatisfactoriness " or "there is stress" solves anything. In fact they each throw up new problems.
No culture has sprung into existance already influenced by Indic language and thought, not even Indian culture . We are seeing the influence of Indic culture on the English speaking world even as we write, its ongoing now. "Karma"as a concept has already passed into mainstream western thought, even if not always in ways consistant with Buddhadhamma. I see no reason to suppose that dukkha wouldnt do the same if we didnt insistant on chaperoning it.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby chownah » Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:58 pm

meindzai wrote:
chownah wrote:
Annapurna wrote:3. If you claim that :quote: laity is too silly to grasp the Dhamma, then you would also be too :quote: silly, since you're laity, or not?

I think that many members of the laity today are much more sophisticated in regards to world view than were the run of the mill laity in the Buddha's time.....the laity of today can mostly read and write and have access to a world of knowledge that even the most highly educated person of the Buddha's time could not even imagine......
chownah


Knowledge which has only hindered us when it comes to awakening.

-M

I think it is best if one speaks for ones self only when making determinations like this.....I don't see how you can reasonably make a statement like this about others.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby chownah » Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:09 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
chownah wrote:the laity of today can mostly read and write and have access to a world of knowledge that even the most highly educated person of the Buddha's time could not even imagine......

Lots more views and opinions to get rid of, hence far fewer people are getting enlightened today than did in the Buddha's time.

Just how many people are getting enlightened these days?....I don't think that anyone knows.

I don't think that there are more views and opinions today....just different views and opinions.

The Buddha's teachings are now available to just about everyone in the world....certainly today the Buddha's teachings are available to the largest number of people ever.

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:18 pm

chownah wrote:I think it is best if one speaks for ones self only when making determinations like this.....I don't see how you can reasonably make a statement like this about others.
chownah


It is the truth, If you go by the canon, which I am. Bhikku Pesala pretty much expanded on my point for me. There are far less people awakening now, with all our supposed advanced knowledge. Does spending so much time and effort on non-dhammic knowledge hinder our chances of awakening? It would seem so, or else the Buddha wouldn't have advised against speaking on such matters, and wouldn't have advocated monastic life for those who wanted to reach awakening as quickly as possible.

-M
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby seanpdx » Fri Feb 19, 2010 4:48 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings venerable Paññāsikhara,

Do you have any examples in either category (i.e. those to be promoted vs those not) to recommend?

Metta,
Retro. :)


People who have no proper training in studying the scriptures, those without study and knowledge of the languages involved, those whose ethical conduct does not even meet the bare minimums of Buddhist practice,* those who have never engaged in any form of Buddhist practice on even the most basic levels.*
Avoid the "teachings" of such people. Even those who have such training, be aware of how much training they have and of what kind. Even 20 yrs of part time hobby practice may not count for much in the end, if one is considering requirements to "teach" others.

Even so, some will be left with strange ideas, but at least they will have something to back them up. One will usually see that those left, who have proper training, etc. are largely in agreement on a wide range of issues.

* These points may be controversial for some, particularly in an environment that says "we must separate personal ethics from knowledge". However, in Buddhist terms, these two are intrinsically intertwined. Those with dubious ethics will have their "understanding" perverted by ego, craving, anger, and so forth.


Though on ethics v. knowledge, I think our venerable Huifeng may be a bit disingenuous in this regard. A number of the brightest and most respected scholars of buddhist studies are not, or do not consider themselves to be, buddhist. ;)

ObDukkhaTranslation:
I like "disquietude" as a single-word translation for general scope and accuracy, but often fall back on "suffering" because of the visceral response it evokes in people. I've never been a fan of "stress" as a single-word translation. When I use the word satisfaction, I often bounce between "un-" and "dis-" prefixes. However, in any sort of serious discussion, I try to leave it untranslated, and explain its meaning beforehand or as it's being used.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:42 am

Greetings Sean,

seanpdx wrote:Though on ethics v. knowledge, I think our venerable Huifeng may be a bit disingenuous in this regard.


Disingenuous?

Dictionary.com wrote:lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere


Really?

That's quite an accusation to level against a bhikkhu, if that is indeed what you meant.

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: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:22 am

Yes. I have been most direct and frank on my statement. Is that really the word you wish to use?

Just because somebody is a respected scholar is, in my books, insufficient reason to accept what they say in all cases. Scholarship is one thing, and though it overlaps the "Dhamma", the two terms are not synonymous. In some - not all - cases of scholars, though there is an understanding of the word, there is little experience with what it means.

eg. I see time and time again the struggles that some "famous scholars" make about describing basic meditative states, for instance. It is obvious they've never meditated before, or at least no further than the most basic of meditation.

eg. Or, for those who a priori assume that teachings such as rebirth, knowledge of others' minds, and even the elimination of defilements and attainment of nirvana, are ultimately just "myth" and "superstitious belief" - in other words, there is no such thing in truth, these a priori assumptions on their part make them then come to conclusions about the Dhamma that are not in conformity with the tradition. (Not that the tradition is a priori infallible - I wish to point out a priori assumptions.) For instance, they could not accept the content of a sutta wherein a deva speaks to the Buddha, so have to come up with some other explanation, the most basic being "this is a latter invention", "this is an attempt to subvert brahmanic teachings to the Buddhist cause", etc. Or, when the Buddha knows the mind of a prospective disciple and teaches appropriately, they a priori reject this as possible, and so have to come up with some other explanation.

Anecdotally, I recall one "famous scholar" saying that "although the Buddha and buddhist believe in rebirth", he himself did not, because he "had not a shred of evidence" for it. Not a shred? This scholar could benefit from broader reading at least, and spending some serious time with yogins of deep attainments. Even if the evidence does not convince them entirely, it will leave one thinking that there are at least some "shreds", and agnosticism may be more honest than out-right rejection.

Just as those bhikkhus chosen by Mahakassapa to compile the canon at the first convocation were chosen for having both spiritual attainment and knowledge of the teachings, so too should we nowadays first begin with the teachings of those who have both sides.
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