View Full Version : Birth is a noose? confused

02 Jan 12, 01:24
Dear Everyone
Happy new year and hope you had a good holiday season.

I have a question regarding a basic element of Buddhism that is troubling me.
I borrowed a book from the Buddhist society of Victoria the other day called 'No Ajahn Chah' - reflections.
In the book, Ajahn Chah is quoted as saying the following.

page 5-

You’d think that people could appreciate what it would be like to live in a person’s belly. How uncomfortable that would be! Just look at how merely staying in a hut for only one day is already hard to take. You shut all the doors and windows and you’re suffocating already. How would it be to live in a person’s belly for nine months? Yet you want to stick your head right in there, to put your neck in the noose once again.

I'm a bit confused about the above quote. I thought that when Buddhists talk about not being 'born again' it relates to not continuing to mentally project a self and continually live as though you are a person. That I can understand.

However, it seems that Theravada buddhists practice with the goal not to be physically born into a belly. That being born into a belly is akin to being born in a noose.

This seems like a very nihilistic view. Does it not?
I've also read quotes that say our chances of being born are like those of the turtle who rises to the surface of the ocean and sticks its head through a hole in some driftwood.

Is the ultimate Goal to be not born? So why then do Suttas like the Mangala sutta seem to promote family life?


02 Jan 12, 05:10
welcome Tofu

the quote from No Ajahn Chah (http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Chah_No_Ajahn_Chah.htm) is not within any context so to comment is difficult

my impression of Ajahn Chah is he taught as follows:

Bhava is the sphere of birth, our birthplace. To put it simply, where are beings born from? Bhava is the preliminary condition for birth. Wherever birth takes place, that's bhava.

For example, suppose we had an orchard of apple trees that we were particularly fond of. That's a bhava for us if we don't reflect with wisdom. How so? Suppose our orchard contained a hundred or a thousand apple trees... it doesn't really matter what kind of trees they are, just so long as we consider them to be "our own" trees... then we are going to be "born" as a "worm" in every single one of those trees. We bore into every one, even though our human body is still back there in the house, we send out "tentacles" into every one of those trees.

Now, how do we know that it's a bhava? It's a bhava (sphere of existence) because of our clinging to the idea that those trees are our own, that that orchard is our own. If someone were to take an ax and cut one of the trees down, the owner over there in the house "dies" along with the tree. He gets furious, and has to go and set things right, to fight and maybe even kill over it. That quarreling is the "birth." The "sphere of birth" is the orchard of trees that we cling to as our own. We are "born" right at the point where we consider them to be our own, born from that bhava. Even if we had a thousand apple trees, if someone were to cut down just one it'd be like cutting the owner down.

Whatever we cling to we are born right there, we exist right there. We are born as soon as we "know." This is knowing through not-knowing: we know that someone has cut down one of our trees. But we don't know that those trees are not really ours. This is called "knowing through not-knowing." We are bound to be born into that bhava.

Vatta the wheel of conditioned existence, operates like this. People cling to bhava, they depend on bhava. If they cherish bhava, this is birth . And if they fall into suffering over that same thing, this is also a birth. As long as we can't let go we are stuck in the rut of samsara, spinning around like a wheel. Look into this, contemplate it. Whatever we cling to as being us or ours, that is a place for birth.

There must be a bhava, a sphere of birth, before birth can take place. Therefore the Buddha said, whatever you have, don't "have" it. Let it be there but don't make it yours. You must understand this "having" and "not having," know the truth of them, don't flounder in suffering.

Food for the Heart (http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_Chah_Food_for_the_Heart.htm)

kind regards

element :peace:

02 Jan 12, 05:27
I've also read quotes that say our chances of being born are like those of the turtle who rises to the surface of the ocean and sticks its head through a hole in some driftwood.
hello again, Tofu

the scripture is as follows:

It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'

Chiggala Sutta: The Hole (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.048.than.html)
in Pali, the word 'human' and 'manussa' means 'high minded'

for example, a common commentarial definition of humans is the phrase: "manaso ussannattā 'manussā' ti" ("They are called 'humans' because of their superiority of mind" MA. ii. 37).

as can be read in the scripture, the Buddha compares obtaining the rarity of the human state to the arising of a Buddha

what it means is it is rare to be born with a mind that takes an interest in the Buddha-Dhamma & realising the Four Noble Truths

kind regards


02 Jan 12, 12:06
We need to understand that the Buddha taught Dhamma in various levels for various people
(e.g. monks, kings, soldiers, merchants, farmers etc).
If we can connect all jigsaws, we will know what level is for Dhamma we are discussing.

It is like teaching maths in kindergarten, primary school, secondary school,
high school, and university which have various and different levels.
In kindergarten, a student may say that the purpose of math is only to count oranges in a busket.
In the university, the purpose of math is more advanced and not the same.

I expect that Ajahn Chah said this quote for people who did not have much/deep knowledge in Buddhism.
They needed something easy to understand. Also Ajahn Chah's quote is correct.
If we 'truly accept' that we are not self and there is no self, then we will not have to be physically born into a belly again.
I personally also agree that being in a belly is not happiness.

Although the ultimate goal is to be not born, there are Dhamms for family lifes.
The Buddha taught Dhamma to not only monks, but also household life people.
(The Buddha did not require that all household life people to be monks because it was impossible anyway.
And, also there would be no household life people to denote foods to monks.)
So, when you read the Buddha's teachings, you need to consider whether such Dhamma is for whom.

For example, a monk needs to hold 227 precepts while a household life person is required to hold only 5 or 8 precepts.
Certain Dhamma for monks and household life persons are different, but many of them are similar.
We need to consider them carefully in details, and then we will not be confused.

02 Jan 12, 12:14
However, it seems that Theravada buddhists practice with the goal not to be physically born into a belly.

Some theravadha schools do. It is no secret that some theravadhic teachers, including some Thai forest monks believe in rebirth. Some of them openly promote it in their talks. I don't think it matters much. They say what they say. Take what appeals to your intellect and what is relevant to your practice.

As for Ajahn Chah, there are so many talks by him which are very relevant and useful to the here and now practice.

Personally, I have not got the impression from my understanding of dhamma so far that the Buddha meant for his disciples to hate life, see that existence is inherently dukkha and to practice wishing never to be born to another womb ever again.