If there is no self how can we reincarnate

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devaloka
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If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by devaloka »

If our body and mind is nothing but rupa and nama rising and falling and there is no I or self, how can 'I' reincarnate if one dies non-enlightened?

Thanks in advance

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there;
Nibbàna is, but not the man who enters it;
The path is, but no traveler on it is seen
practitioner
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by practitioner »

There is a huge difference in the two terms - reincarnate and rebirth.

Reincarnation is the concept that there is a soul that is doing body hopping.

Rebirth is the reality that as long as there is potential in mental energy then mental energy will flow. When you scream in a cave, the echo of your scream that you hear is neither your original voice nor it is not you. Clearly, without your screaming, there would be no echo of your voice. The echo you hear is neither your original voice nor it is not your voice. It is you and it is not you.

If the rebirth is human again, clearly the new being will have different DNA but consciousness formation that came from yours at the moment of your parting. This new being will begin with your mental and habitual tendency but as the new being goes through aging process the new being may create new mental and habitual tendency as well. Since the mental formation evolves in the new being, that mental formation is always going through changes just as your body goes through changes. Your consciousness leaves a legacy for the next being, and the next being leaves a legacy for the follow on being as well.

Height difference is the potential difference that causes water to flow in rivers.
Voltage difference is the potential difference that causes electricity to flow in circuits.
Craving difference is the potential difference that causes mental energy to flow.

When a burned out light bulb is replaced, electricity continues to flow through the new light bulb. This is a simile for re-birth. Electricity is the mental flow. Light bulb is the being.
Caodemarte
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by Caodemarte »

"I" can't reincarnate. As the expression goes, it is like asking what happens to a rabbit's horns after it died.
Reductor
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by Reductor »

'You' don't reincarnate. Nor are 'you' reborn. To use a famous simile: suppose you took a lit candle and with it lit another candle. Would the second flame be the reincarnation of the first? No. But the first caused the second. Likewise, your life and your actions will be the collective cause for the existence of another being later, and your delusion that you a 'self', that you have a concrete identity, will be the cause for the same delusion occurring in this later being.

Look around the universe. It is a very complex place with many weird and surprising things occurring that we can experience without understanding. I mean, we can feel the heat of the sun on our skin even as very young children, long before taking classes on astrophysics. Likewise, the mechanics of how rebirth occurs can be beyond a human's understanding, yet the subjective experience of it will still be compelling.
Caodemarte
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by Caodemarte »

Rising and falling etc., can and will most likely re-occur.
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

This is one of the FAQs

3. If there is no soul, what is reborn?

The idea of a self, person, me, or you is a misperception or illusion. There is a continuous chain of cause and effect throughout life, and this process does not come to an abrupt halt after death. Because the process is continuous, we perceive it as a fixed reality — as a person or soul. However, not one thought or one atom is permanent; everything is in a constant flux. The self is not destroyed by realising nibbāna, because the self is a non-existent thing. What is destroyed is the illusion of self. When the illusion is shattered, all doubts will disappear. See The Nature of Illusion and An Explanation of Rebirth.
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practitioner
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by practitioner »

Remember, there is no "you". A being is composed of 5 aggregates - 1 is of materiality and 4 are of mental nature.

All rebirth is mental flow that binds with materiality.

The ignorance of the ultimate reality gives you the sense of "I", so you start thinking in concept that somehow you are being reborn.

A being is simply manifestation of consciousness embodied in that mental formation. The mental formation keeps changing. Body is the light bulb. Replace the light bulb and there is light again. The new being is not the old being since the bodies are different. The new being is not entirely different from the old being since it is receiving the mental formation from the old being. Mental formation continues to evolve in the new being.
davidbrainerd
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by davidbrainerd »

practitioner wrote:There is a huge difference in the two terms - reincarnate and rebirth.
There really isn't. Both of them imply something being reborn. Neither of them can be taken entirely literally. A lot of people who say reincarnate actually believe the soul is extra-corporeal (i.e. doesn't really enter the body), so technically they should be saying relinking, but nobody does. This semantics is beside the point.
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retrofuturist
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
devaloka wrote:If our body and mind is nothing but rupa and nama rising and falling and there is no I or self, how can 'I' reincarnate if one dies non-enlightened?
You've probably noticed already a diversity of opinions on the matter, and this is reflective of the fact that the Buddha himself never actually went into any great deal on the mechanics of all of this in his discourses.

In the centuries that followed, additional details were added by Abhidhammikas and commentators, and more recently by modern bhikkhus who have captured sufficient audience for their views to gain some traction. Many people are willing to fill in what they perceive as a gap in the teaching with all manner of similes and speculation... but is it really a gap in the teaching?

As I'm sure you know, "I" is a form of identification. It is the "I am conceit" known in Pali as asmi-mana. It is only overcome fully with the attainment of arahantship. Asmi-mana is a product of falsely conceiving a "self" in amidst all those elements of phenomenal experience which are "not self". Therefore, whilst it doesn't answer your question as asked, we should not be conceiving of an "I" in the first place, nevermind worrying about the mechanics of its "reincarnation".

To refrain from conceiving the matter in terms of an extant I, self, atman or being, is to move beyond "Right view with effluents" and adopt instead "the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path"
MN 117 wrote:"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
pegembara
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by pegembara »

devaloka wrote:If our body and mind is nothing but rupa and nama rising and falling and there is no I or self, how can 'I' reincarnate if one dies non-enlightened?

Thanks in advance
More to the point, if there is no self how can we grow old? How can the baby grow old when he/she is not the old man/woman? I like the zen teaching.
Firewood becomes ash. Ash cannot turn back into firewood again. However, we should not view ash as after and firewood as before. We should know that firewood dwells in the dharma position of firewood and it has its own before and after. Although there is before and after, past and future are cut off. Ash stays at the position of ash and it has its own before and after. As firewood never becomes firewood again after it is burned and becomes ash, after person dies, there is no return to living. However, in buddha dharma, it is a never-changing tradition not to say that life becomes death. Therefore we call it no-arising. It is the laid-down way of buddha's turning the dharma wheel not to say that death becomes life. Therefore, we call it no-perishing. Life is a position at one time; death is also a position at one time. For instance, this is like winter and spring. We don't think that winter becomes spring, and we don't say that spring becomes summer.

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practitioner
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by practitioner »

Both of them imply something being reborn.
There is a huge difference between reincarnation and reborn.

Reincarnation is a concept that existed long before Buddha was born. Hindu believers believed that there is a soul in every person and that this soul is constantly refining his/her soul to become a better person. Hindu concept of reincarnation is very similar to the reincarnation concept of the early Christians which in 325 AD the Christian authorities called reincarnation a heresy.

Buddha challenged the idea of reincarnation. A fundamental difference between reincarnation and rebirth is that in the former there is a believe in a soul that hops from body to body. In the latter, Buddha described rebirth is a manifestation of mental flow in new materiality. Because mental flow is always changing there is no soul in the mental formation itself.

You cannot find any text that describes reincarnation being the same as rebirth. All Buddha literature that talks about rebirth will delineate this difference.
davidbrainerd
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by davidbrainerd »

First, to answer the OP's question, orthodox Theravada seems to be that there is no soul yet somehow there is rebirth. How? I still have not figured that one out myself. Mahayanans typically posit something called "stream of mind" or "stream of consciousness" which sounds like a soul renamed but they insist is not because its more temporary, whereas Theravadins who consider themselves orthodox seem (in my experience) to simply suggest that the question itself is wrong and therefore not attempt to answer.
practitioner wrote:Buddha challenged the idea of reincarnation.
Not directly. He doesn't say "listen, call it rebirth not reincarnation." To the best of my knowledge, both are translations of the same Pali/Sanskrit term, and it doesn't even literally translate to either one of them, but something more like "re-becoming" or even just "existence" when used as a noun like "in my last rebirth/existence."
practitioner wrote:A fundamental difference between reincarnation and rebirth is that in the former there is a believe in a soul that hops from body to body. In the latter, Buddha described rebirth is a manifestation of mental flow in new materiality. Because mental flow is always changing there is no soul in the mental formation itself.
Your knowledge of Hinduism as described before in what I didn't quote and right here (i.e. a literal transmigration in the body) is at the popular level. At the more philosophical level they hold that the atman does not enter the body but creates a sort of intelligence or merely shines forth consciousness into the body, so that the self/soul is always technically extra-corporeal, and hence untainted by what is done in the body, so technically a "relinking" rather than literal transmigration, yet they still say "reincarnation."
practitioner wrote:You cannot find any text that describes reincarnation being the same as rebirth. All Buddha literature that talks about rebirth will delineate this difference.
I've seen scholarly analyses of Buddhist origins that say there is no real difference. But yes in ENGLISH most Buddhist material, especially intro type books, make a big deal about a difference that does not and could not exist in Pali. Translations of suttas, you'll find different translators using different words. And I think maybe the idea of creating a clear distinction between rebirth and reincarnation is more an orthodox Theravadin preoccupation than in Buddhism generally, because I was wrong in the last comment to say nobody says relinking. I found quite a few hits on google talking about a "relinking consciousness," some of them explaining "reincarnation" in Tibetan Buddhism and actually using the term "reincarnation" too.
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by SDC »

Moved from "Discovering Theravada"
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davidbrainerd
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by davidbrainerd »

Caodemarte wrote:"I" can't reincarnate. As the expression goes, it is like asking what happens to a rabbit's horns after it died.
Its interesting I was reading a commentary on the Samkhya Karika (Samkhya being one of the 6 philosophical schools that Hinduism calls astika or orthodox) and on verse 6 the commentator mentions the objection against primordial matter existing that its like "Skyflower, tortoise hair, hare's horn" (I was surprised to see this argument mentioned), but he counters that the next verse answers this objection: "apprehension even of obviously existing things is hindered by exessive distance, impairment of senses" etc. Which is true. The typical argument "if God exists why can't I see him?" turns back on the atheist: "if sub-atomic particles exist, why can't I see them?" and for the Buddhist using the rabbit horn argument, "if devas exist why can't I see them, if formless realms exist why can't I see them, if anything corresponding to jhanas exist why can't I see them" comes back against "if a soul exists why can't I see it." And what's the answer to how a Buddhist knows devas and jhanas and formless realms to exist? Essentially "These things are known to exist to the enlightened" or for some of them even those of lesser attainment "via meditation", which interestingly enough is Samkhya's answer on how they know souls to exist. So to me, rather than insist that souls categorically cannot exist (even though Buddha himself only puts forth an agnostic face on this) is like insisting that elephants don't exist because you've never been to India, the circus, or a zoo.
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Re: If there is no self how can we reincarnate

Post by Caodemarte »

Likening something to a rabbit's horns in Buddhist texts is typically, AFAIK, used to refer to something that does not exist and cannot exist and often to something that is logically impossible as it contradicts its own terms. In this case, it does not refer at all to an argument that something does not exist because you don't have proof (a good argument, but irrelevant here). If Buddhists agree to the doctrine of no self, then asking how does the self (which Buddhism does not accept as existent) reincarnate in Buddhism is like looking for a rabbit's horns. It is not an argument about an object not existing because you have no proof it does or proof that it does not, but pointing out that you have already stipulated that the object does not exist at all and then are are asked what colors you see in it. So, if you do not accept the not self argument then asking what happens to it may be logically self-consistent, but is not logically self-consistent if you agree there is no self. The answer to the OP (how does a self reincarnate in Buddhism if there is no self in Buddhism) is that the question is like asking about a rabbit's horns. Pointing out that asking "If x does not exist in this religion, how does this religion believe x functions" does not work is not so much an argument about x (or the self) as about the impossibility of answering the question as asked.
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