the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Spiny Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny Norman »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:57 pm Some great minds said something like:
  • Buddha can, at times, be quite figurative in teachings, suiting the audience & circumstances.
:heart:
If you read the suttas you will see that similes are clearly signposted as such. And generally the suttas appear to be written in a straightforward way.

Imposing a metaphorical meaning merely because one doesn't like the literal meaning is disingenious. From what I've seen that is usually what happens - there is aversion involved.
It generally isn't based on an objective assessment, like whether a metaphorical interpretation actually makes more sense in a particular context.
Some people try to fudge the issue by talking about "moment-to-moment rebirth", but there is no really support for that idea in the suttas.

But again, why not just put this stuff to one side if you don't find it helpful or relevant? Why is there this compulsion to secularise the suttas?
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:09 pm .


It's quite amusing to see some western scholars translates "samsara" as "transmigration".

While Bhikkhu Bodhi just used:
  • Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning.
In PTS version (Mrs. Rhys-Davids and Woodward):
  • Incalculable is the beginning, brethren, of this faring on.
  • Even Mrs. Rys-Davids, who later ended up as full-fledged souler, just used "this fairing on" for samsara.
:heart:
:goodpost:
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Spiny Norman wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:04 pm
Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:57 pm Some great minds said something like:
  • Buddha can, at times, be quite figurative in teachings, suiting the audience & circumstances.
:heart:
If you read the suttas you will see that similes are clearly signposted as such. And generally the suttas appear to be written in a straightforward way.

Imposing a metaphorical meaning merely because one doesn't like the literal meaning is disingenious. From what I've seen that is usually what happens - there is aversion involved.
It generally isn't based on an objective assessment, like whether a metaphorical interpretation actually makes more sense in a particular context.
Some people try to fudge the issue by talking about "moment-to-moment rebirth", but there is no really support for that idea in the suttas.

But again, why not just put this stuff to one side if you don't find it helpful or relevant? Why is there this compulsion to secularise the suttas?
The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
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Nicolas
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nicolas »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
What is the inconsistency?

I'm guessing the meaning of SN 15.1 is essentially the same as SN 15.14,
i.e. "the number of mothers you've had [in 'previous lives'] is larger than the number of twigs in India"
and not "the number of your ancestors is larger than the number of twigs in India".
Spiny Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny Norman »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm
Spiny Norman wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:04 pm
Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:57 pm Some great minds said something like:
  • Buddha can, at times, be quite figurative in teachings, suiting the audience & circumstances.
:heart:
If you read the suttas you will see that similes are clearly signposted as such. And generally the suttas appear to be written in a straightforward way.

Imposing a metaphorical meaning merely because one doesn't like the literal meaning is disingenious. From what I've seen that is usually what happens - there is aversion involved.
It generally isn't based on an objective assessment, like whether a metaphorical interpretation actually makes more sense in a particular context.
Some people try to fudge the issue by talking about "moment-to-moment rebirth", but there is no really support for that idea in the suttas.

But again, why not just put this stuff to one side if you don't find it helpful or relevant? Why is there this compulsion to secularise the suttas?
The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
I think the literal meaning is pretty clear, though it may be unpalatable to some.
Personally I'm agnostic about rebirth.
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Nicolas wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:40 pm
AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
What is the inconsistency?

I'm guessing the meaning of SN 15.1 is essentially the same as SN 15.14,
i.e. "the number of mothers you've had [in 'previous lives'] is larger than the number of twigs in India"
and not "the number of your ancestors is larger than the number of twigs in India".
Let's analyze SN 15.14:
It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your mother.
Obviously this doesn't refer to my mother in this life, but to my mother in some previous life. If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives, and the same goes for another sentient being respectively, this means that one of its ancestors was mother of one of my ancestors. In fact this means that we are related, and not only in some past life. This makes sense to me, a lot actually.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
Spiny Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny Norman »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm
Nicolas wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 3:40 pm
AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
What is the inconsistency?

I'm guessing the meaning of SN 15.1 is essentially the same as SN 15.14,
i.e. "the number of mothers you've had [in 'previous lives'] is larger than the number of twigs in India"
and not "the number of your ancestors is larger than the number of twigs in India".
Let's analyze SN 15.14:
It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your mother.
Obviously this doesn't refer to my mother in this life, but to my mother in some previous life. If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives, and the same goes for another sentient being respectively, this means that one of its ancestors was mother of one of my ancestors. In fact this means that we are related, and not only in some past life. This makes sense to me, a lot actually.
Samsara as human history is a possible translation. Like saying the human condition is dukkha.
You'd need to survey all the relevant suttas in order to assess the validity of this interpretation.
https://suttacentral.net/search?query=Transmigration
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Nicolas
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nicolas »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives [...]
This sounds like it is your personal taste, though. I still don't see the inconsistency.
Your point is internally coherent but I don't understand why you favor it over the literal interpretation.
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Nicolas wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:52 pm
AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives [...]
This sounds like it is your personal taste, though. I still don't see the inconsistency.
Your point is internally coherent but I don't understand why you favor it over the literal interpretation.
This is my personal interpretation based on what makes sense to me. In my opinion the inconsistency is the alleged post-death link between two lives, because the aggregates are interdependent and therefore there can be no continuity of consciousness. The only possible continuity, which is consistent with dependent origination (never described as individual by the Buddha), is reproduction.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
Spiny Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny Norman »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:05 pm
Nicolas wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:52 pm
AlexBrains92 wrote: Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:32 pm The literal meaning is inconsistent, that's the problem. My personal taste has nothing to do with that.
AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives [...]
This sounds like it is your personal taste, though. I still don't see the inconsistency.
Your point is internally coherent but I don't understand why you favor it over the literal interpretation.
This is my personal interpretation based on what makes sense to me. In my opinion the inconsistency is the alleged post-death link between two lives, because the aggregates are interdependent and therefore there can be no continuity of consciousness. The only possible continuity, which is consistent with dependent origination (never described as individual by the Buddha), is reproduction.
You'd need to add in concepts like bhavanga from the Abhidhamma in order to flesh out the mechanics of rebirth. The suttas don't really resolve the paradox of anatta and rebirth.

Alternatively, just put it to one side. File it under "don't know" or "not currently relevant" or whatever.
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Spiny Norman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:32 pm You'd need to add in concepts like bhavanga from the Abhidhamma in order to flesh out the mechanics of rebirth. The suttas don't really resolve the paradox of anatta and rebirth.
No bhavanga for me, thanks :D
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
Spiny Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

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AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:51 pm
Spiny Norman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:32 pm You'd need to add in concepts like bhavanga from the Abhidhamma in order to flesh out the mechanics of rebirth. The suttas don't really resolve the paradox of anatta and rebirth.
No bhavanga for me, thanks :D
If it's any consolation, rebirth is a paradox even assuming Atman, despite the attempts of some Hindu traditions to square the circle. ;)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Dhammanando »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm Let's analyze SN 15.14:

"It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your mother."

Obviously this doesn't refer to my mother in this life, but to my mother in some previous life. If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives, and the same goes for another sentient being respectively, this means that one of its ancestors was mother of one of my ancestors. In fact this means that we are related, and not only in some past life. This makes sense to me, a lot actually.
The sutta says "sentient being", not "human being". So, when read your way the Buddha's statement would simply be false. It would be as easy as pie to find a sentient being whose ancestors had never interbred with one's own ancestors, e.g., any animal that reproduces asexually.
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
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AlexBrains92
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by AlexBrains92 »

Dhammanando wrote: Tue Nov 24, 2020 6:52 am
AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 4:25 pm Let's analyze SN 15.14:

"It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your mother."

Obviously this doesn't refer to my mother in this life, but to my mother in some previous life. If I take my ancestor's lives as my previous lives, and the same goes for another sentient being respectively, this means that one of its ancestors was mother of one of my ancestors. In fact this means that we are related, and not only in some past life. This makes sense to me, a lot actually.
The sutta says "sentient being", not "human being". So, when read your way the Buddha's statement would simply be false. It would be as easy as pie to find a sentient being whose ancestors had never interbred with one's own ancestors, e.g., any animal that reproduces asexually.
In evolution we haven't always been human.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde Ñāṇananda)
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by SteRo »

AlexBrains92 wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:51 pm
Spiny Norman wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 5:32 pm You'd need to add in concepts like bhavanga from the Abhidhamma in order to flesh out the mechanics of rebirth. The suttas don't really resolve the paradox of anatta and rebirth.
No bhavanga for me, thanks :D
B. Bodhi in A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma wrote: Life-continuum (bhavanga): The word bhavanga means “factor (anga) of
existence (bhava),” that is, “the indispensable condition of existence.” Bhavanga is the
function of consciousness by which the continuity of the individual is preserved through
the duration of any single existence, from conception to death. After the paṭisandhicitta
[rebirth-linking consciousness] has arisen and fallen away, it is then followed by the bhavangacitta, which is a resultant
consciousness of the same type as the paṭisandhicitta but which performs a different
function, namely, the function of preserving the continuity of individual existence.
Bhavangacittas arise and pass away every moment during life whenever there is no
active cognitive process taking place. This type of consciousness is most evident during
deep dreamless sleep, but it also occurs momentarily during waking life countless times
between occasions of active cognition.
When an object impinges on a sense door, the bhavanga is arrested, and an active
cognitive process ensues for the purpose of cognizing the object. Immediately after the
cognitive process is completed, again the bhavanga supervenes and continues until the
next cognitive process arises. Arising and perishing at every moment during this passive
phase of consciousness, the bhavanga flows on like a stream (sota), without remaining
static for two consecutive moments.
.
It's a nice explanatory concept however. "Stream of consciousness" is a common figure also in non-theravadin buddhisms. While the conceptual frame of "stream" or "continuum" appears to be permanent, the consciousnesses are subject to rise and fall and thus impermanent.
It may also be interpreted as "sub-consciousness" or "basic awareness" giving it a more static connotation which more fluently leads over to "soul".
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ It's definitely not science but science may provide guidelines nevertheless.
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