Canonical Sources - Is Rebirth Immediate?

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Canonical Sources - Is Rebirth Immediate?

Postby cooran » Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:18 am

Hello all,

You may be interested in reading this by the scholar Piya Tan (formerly a Theravada Bhikkhu):

Is Rebirth Immediate? A Study of Canonical Sources (16 pages) ... e.piya.pdf

I would be interested to hear your ponderings.

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Re: Canonical Sources - Is Rebirth Immediate?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:50 am

Greetings Chris,

Re: point 6.3, I think the commentary is right to deny that the following sutta extract...

SN 35.95: Malunkyaputta Sutta ... .than.html

"Then, Malunkyaputta, with regard to phenomena to be seen, heard, sensed, or cognized: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Malunkyaputta, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

... has anything whatsoever to do with an intermediate state. This is simply referring to the absence of I-making.

Or as Walshe translates it...

"Well then, Maalu"nkyaputta, in things seen, heard, sensed,1 cognized: in the seen there will only be the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the sensed only the sensed, in the cognized only the cognized... Then, Maalu"nkyaputta, there will be no 'thereby' for you.2 Having no 'thereby' you have no 'there.'3 Having no 'there,' Maalu"nkyaputta, there is for you neither this world, nor the next, nor anywhere in between.4 That in itself is the end of suffering."

1. Muta: i.e., smelt, tasted or touched.

2. This is almost impossible to translate adequately. There is no agent, i.e., no "seer," "feeler," "knower." "There will be no 'thereby' whereby one will be lustful, hating or deluded (SA [SN commentary])."

3. If there is no agent (i.e., "self"), then there is nowhere such an agent can be located. "You will have no 'there'": you will not be bound "there" or attached "there," i.e., with regard to the seen, heard, sensed and cognized (SA).

4. "You will realize that nothing is really reborn."

Generally speaking, I would be really careful about instances of "becoming" or "existence" being misinterpreted as rebirth... consulting a few different translations is always beneficial.

I do agree though with the thrust of the article, in that the suttas allow much more scope for an intermediate state than do the commentaries and Abhidhamma.

I'm not sure if they were the kind of pondering you were looking for or not.

Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

“One to whom it might occur, ‘I’m a woman’ or ‘I’m a man’. Or ‘I’m anything at all’— Is fit for Mara to address.” (SN 5.2)

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Re: Canonical Sources - Is Rebirth Immediate?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:54 pm

I think the question to ask might be: What are the qualities of an intermediate state which are contradicted by the scriptures? Maybe looking at it this way will open up some possibilities. For example, an intermediate state in which one can act and make decisions is qualitatively different than an intermediate state in which one passively observes and waits. Maybe rebirth is immediate not in the sense of "no time between death-consciousness and conception-consciousness" but rather in the sense of certain cittas not being able to arise. In other words, maybe there can be an intermediate state like this but not like that. Just a thought.

On a related note...

I've always wondered why "intermediate state" couldn't just be an immediate rebirth into a ghost state. Again, this comes down to the qualities of this intermediate state. Are the qualities substantially different than a ghost realm?
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Re: Canonical Sources - Is Rebirth Immediate?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Feb 02, 2009 4:45 pm

If there is an intermediate state, then the obvious question is:
Is there some state after death but before the intermediate state?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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