The Danger of Rebirth

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:10 am

I should point out that Ven Paññāsikhara actually takes scholarship seriously. He is, after all, writing a PhD thesis. And he very kindly gave me a copy of a book by one of the famous scholars who he may or may not be referring to. Richard Gombrich's "What the Buddha Thought". :anjali:

It's a very interesting book, and Prof Gombrich's investigation of what the background assumptions of groups that some of the Suttas were aimed at, or addressed to (which are not necessarily the same thing...), notably Brahmins and Jains, are very interesting and I think are actually helpful to those of us who are reading the Suttas for "religious reasons" (perhaps there's a better term), rather than for "scholarly reasons".

On the other hand, his discussion of actual practise is quite sketchy. And, as an example of the sort of thing Ven Paññāsikhara alludes to, he rejects out of hand that Venerable Anuruddha could have known which Jhanas the Buddha was in just before his parinibbana. Putting aside the issue of whether it is possible, there are definitely plenty of stories of teachers who are said to be able to diagnose their student's meditation by just watching them.

It occurs to me that "academic scholars" such as Gombrich serve a very useful role in applying their particular discipline to the available material, and sometimes coming up with interesting insights into how some passages might be read (e.g. as satirizing the Brahmins or the Jains). Whereas the likes of Bhikkhu Bodhi (and his predecessors in Sri Lanka) might be classified as "religious scholar" in the sense that they take as their starting point the received wisdom of the Theravada, and try to clarify it by careful research.

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby chownah » Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:55 pm

meindzai wrote:
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

Can you provide canonical references for this (specifically that there are far less people awakening now) please? You seem to want to focus on what you call "non-dhammic knowledge" and seem to be completely ignoring my statements that the Buddha's teachings are now available to more people than ever before....do you consider the Buddha's teachings to be "non-dhammic knowledge"?

Prefacing a sentence with "It would seem so" does not inspire faith in me that what will follow can be backed with sound reasoning....can you tell us who the Buddha advised against speaking on such matters...and specifically what "such matters" consists of?

It is fine that some follow a monastic life because of their attachment to attaining awakening as fast as possible but I have been discussing the laity of yore with the laity of today....we have not been discussing monks so I think that your comment about the Buddha advising the monastic life does not apply to this discussion.....the overwhelmingly vast majority of lay people have no desire to "fast track" to awakening.

But on the other hand maybe we should start a movement to teach parents of the dangers of "non-dhammic knowledge" and show them that the best thing for their children is to learn the misconceptions and superstitions thought to control all things in the time of the Buddha!! Yes, fear of ghosts should guide our children and not the understanding that by ones own efforts we can guide our own lives. Reading, writing, and arithmetic will only lead our children astray.....ban books and numbers.

hahahhahahhahaha,
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby PeterB » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:00 pm

Chownah your arguement starts reasonably, then becomes reductio ad absurdum and ends with a strawman. largely I suspect because it is conducted with too much emotional attachment to a particular view.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby PeterB » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:31 pm

I have twice Mike come across teachers, one Mahayana and one Theravada who appear convincingly to have the ability to perceive the mental states of those they are instructing. I dont think that this indicated any kind of " supernatural" ability. I think its a phenomenon to do with depth rather than the horizontal.
I think that there is an accomodation to be found between Buddhadasa and more literalist post mortem rebirth teachers. This is hardly an original thought but I think its to do with our understanding of time. With a loosening of our view of time as linear, various possibilities arise and with them various interpretations of the Canon.
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:42 pm

PeterB wrote:I have twice Mike come across teachers, one Mahayana and one Theravada who appear convincingly to have the ability to perceive the mental states of those they are instructing. I dont think that this indicated any kind of " supernatural" ability. I think its a phenomenon to do with depth rather than the horizontal. ....

Thanks Peter. Certainly there are plenty of non-supernatural ways of "reading" people. As I said, I wasn't wanting to derail the thread into a discussion of this issue, but simply to point out that this ability is actually commented on quite often and I was a little surprised, given the research on the ground in Asia that Prof Gombrich has done, that he didn't say something like: "It is often said that meditation masters have this ability", rather than dismiss it as fanciful.

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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby seanpdx » Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:43 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote: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.


It has nothing to do with accepting everything that a scholar says, and more to do with not dismissing everything a scholar says on the basis of their lack of practice or not being a "buddhist".


(ps, my copy of greater magadha arrived last week -- woot!)
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby meindzai » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:27 pm

As I noted in another thread I think we benefit from the contributions of Scholars, buddhist or non Buddhist, as well as "non scholar" teachers, who are more practice oriented. Scholarly knowledge tends to be wider but less deep. This is evident in some of the theories they come up with. But they catch a lot of the cultural and historical background that we tend to miss when we focus on only on "Buddhist" material. IMO we need scholars becuase we weren't "there" when the Buddha was alive teaching and so it's easy to miss the parts of his teaching that may have been implied when delivering to his audience. But the caution against scholarly "theories" I think is that they make a lot of points that are tangential and may be distracting for those who are interested in actually practicing rather than just engage in speculative debate.

-M
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby Annapurna » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:54 pm

nschauer wrote:Great discussion by all - learned lots from following this thread.
However, I'm still inclined to simply dismiss the idea of rebirth - much as I would the idea of Christ being resurrected.
The way I understand rebirth is how it happens in my own life. I was reborn from child to teenager, teenager to young man, young man to adult and now to old geezer. Furthermore, I am reborn each time I reawaken myself from delusion, aversion ect. I am reborn each time I awake to mindfulness. Thus the goal of not being reborn makes sense to me - because it will mean the end of delusion - becoming fully mindful.

Does this make sense?

Nate


I understand how you experience it.

I think we all have our individual ....filters? ...through which we experience things. It could be that objections you have against the resurrection of Christ influence your dismissal of rebirth.

I was reborn from child to teenager, teenager to young man, young man to adult and now to old geezer. Furthermore, I am reborn each time I reawaken myself from delusion, aversion ect. I am reborn each time I awake to mindfulness.


In order to justify a 'rebirth', something would have to die first, right?
But does the child we were die, when we become a teen?
Does the teen die, when we become adult?
... I never thought of the child or teen in me as dead and gone, now that I'm adult. Do you?

Is it not a slow process of developing and changing?

Change is not death. Death is final, change is not.

I think, pardon me, it's using an alienated word here, to say we are reborn, while still alive.

Change would be closer to the process....

what do you think?
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Re: The Danger of Rebirth

Postby BlackBird » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:51 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I was a little surprised, given the research on the ground in Asia that Prof Gombrich has done, that he didn't say something like: "It is often said that meditation masters have this ability", rather than dismiss it as fanciful.


Maybe he couldn't find a good academic citation? ;)
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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