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Nikaya
04 Aug 14, 18:09
I'm atheist interested in the dharma but I can't subscribe to the karma and rebirth teachings without evidence. Some secular buddhists claim that karma and rebirth aren't part of the Buddha teachings.

I have read the anguttara nikaya , samyutta nikaya and majjhima nikaya bhikkhu bodhi translations. They are a tons of sutras about karma and rebirth ( especially in the anguttara nikaya ). The question is : did the Buddha included karma and rebirth as a teaching tool ?

In other words : did the Buddha used this ideas in a symbolic way ? I want to understand the dharma better and I want to understand the secular buddhist interpretation.

Aloka
04 Aug 14, 18:37
I don't know much about the practices of secular buddhists myself, other than that they follow some of the basic teachings of the Buddha without the superstition and religious aspects.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_Buddhism

They also seem to like what Stephen Batchelor has to say. I once tried to read one of his books called: "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" but unfortunately got too bored to finish it.

Perhaps someone else can answer your questions because we have a few members who are interested in these matters.

:hands:

McKmike
05 Aug 14, 17:07
I'm atheist interested in the dharma but I can't subscribe to the karma and rebirth teachings without evidence. Some secular buddhists claim that karma and rebirth aren't part of the Buddha teachings.

I have read the anguttara nikaya , samyutta nikaya and majjhima nikaya bhikkhu bodhi translations. They are a tons of sutras about karma and rebirth ( especially in the anguttara nikaya ). The question is : did the Buddha included karma and rebirth as a teaching tool ?

In other words : did the Buddha used this ideas in a symbolic way ? I want to understand the dharma better and I want to understand the secular buddhist interpretation.

Hi

I think what secular Buddhism is has yet to be properly defined, for some of my friends it is Buddhism with out the religious rites such as puja and monks , for some it is the M B S R or M B C B T. Type courses that do not mention Buddhism at all as the two extremes

some Monastics think the lay movements such as the vipassana movement in America is secular Buddhism

The Buddha was quite a radical secularist himself, if you look at the Brahmajala sutta DN1 he pretty well dismisses much of what I would call religiousity of today
So I think buddhist practice,particularly vipassana is in itself a secularist practice if followed as it was laid out in the Satipatthana sutta just the bare attention with out concept

The idea of karma and rebirth are actually concepts for a lot of people, concepts are useful in directing an enquiry but as an act of faith have no place in my understanding of Buddhism, the understanding I have developed so far is that rebirth happens all the time, events arise peak and fade away setting of the next event in a cycle,that is rebirth the cycle of arising and ceasing as part of the normal process of life

Karma is action,so the normal cycle of events has an impetus (karma) which gives direction to the event, karma has consequences which create the next event

For me none of the above requires anything more than observations for verification

Granted there are a lot of references in the Suttas to devas gods people being born in other world's etc, which I don't find surprising given the Suttas were given in the context of the understanding of iron age people they made sense of their lives by reference to the iconography of the time

The Buddha was a great communicator who used appropriate imagery to put over the message and was famed for hijacking the religious concepts of the time and giving them new meaning

Even so the dharma has but one taste that of freedom and personally I find that my understanding develops with practice and time

Is this a secular stance I have no idea, I hope that whatever secular Buddhism becomes it doesn't become sectarian in the Abrahamic religious sense

Nikaya
06 Aug 14, 04:34
Mckmike thanks for your reply.

Puccha
07 Aug 14, 23:23
Hello Nikaya,

I think karma can be put as how there are always consequences (good or bad) for any action (including inaction) that we do. If we are unkind to someone, how likely is it that they will help us when we are in need? Or perhaps that they may be unkind to us in return? Cause and effect.

I like to think of the six realms of rebirth as states of mind. We can create our own heaven and the other place in this life. Just look to someone who is angry. It is a torturous place they are in, and they often inflict or wish to inflict their suffering upon others in some form. Is that not the Naraka/Niraya realm?

I cannot be certain, but this sort of thinking seems rather secular to me. I hope it is helpful in some way.

:hands:

-Puccha-

Aloka
07 Aug 14, 23:49
I like to think of the six realms of rebirth as states of mind. We can create our own heaven and the other place in this life. Just look to someone who is angry. It is a torturous place they are in, and they often inflict or wish to inflict their suffering upon others in some form. Is that not the Naraka/Niraya realm?



Yes, that's already an alternative approach to the different realms of existence.

Some Buddhist teachers have said that the 'realms' can be interpreted as both physical and psychological states - the lateTibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa was one example - and in more modern times Ajahn Amaro of the Theravada Forest tradition said in his Dhamma talk "Will I be reborn as a worm" that the Wheel of Birth and Death isn't mythical or magical, its right here in everyday events that we visit those realms.

Also discussed in various previous threads such as this one:

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/showthread.php?4492-Literal-Rebirth-and-Other-Realms&highlight=realms+existence

:hands:

Puccha
08 Aug 14, 00:54
Hello Aloka,

Yes, I definitely cannot take credit for that one. I came across it somewhere at some point (probably multiple times) and rather liked it.

:hands:

-Puccha-

clw_uk
08 Aug 14, 04:28
Hello Nikaya,

I think karma can be put as how there are always consequences (good or bad) for any action (including inaction) that we do. If we are unkind to someone, how likely is it that they will help us when we are in need? Or perhaps that they may be unkind to us in return? Cause and effect.

I like to think of the six realms of rebirth as states of mind. We can create our own heaven and the other place in this life. Just look to someone who is angry. It is a torturous place they are in, and they often inflict or wish to inflict their suffering upon others in some form. Is that not the Naraka/Niraya realm?

I cannot be certain, but this sort of thinking seems rather secular to me. I hope it is helpful in some way.

:hands:

-Puccha-


That is my view as well. I would argue it was also the way Buddha meant when teaching, in terms of mental states.

JustMike
08 Aug 14, 16:00
Hi Nikaya,

Like yourself I find rebirth a difficult concept to accept as I have an aversion to relying on "faith". As McKmike said



The Buddha was a great communicator who used appropriate imagery to put over the message and was famed for hijacking the religious concepts of the time and giving them new meaning


and since this concept predates Buddhism it might be considered debatable how important it really is. Having said that I have read in some of Bhikku Bodhi's work that "right view" is essentially a correct understanding of Karma.

In my own practice though I find that I don't really need to consider rebirth to accept Karma. I can see how a lot of the suffering and unfortnate circumstances people experience are the result of their own past actions (myself included). E.g. a heroin addict could be viewed as reaping the fruits of the karma they generated when the first decided to try it. This kind of action/consequence view of Karma doesn't require faith from me, it seems fairly evident.



The idea of karma and rebirth are actually concepts for a lot of people, concepts are useful in directing an enquiry


Just to tack something onto this, one "insight" I had a while back (one of the few I've had) was when reflecting on Karma and rebirth. One of the issues I've had with Karma is the idea that someone born into suffering is supposedly experiencing the consequences of their own actions in a past life. I had a big problem with this as I find it abhorrent to look at a baby born with a debilitating condition, or read about the suffering of people living in warzones and having to think "well it's Karma, what goes around comes around" which seemed to me to remove a lot of the compassion that Buddhism encourages, and I wasn't willing to accept that misfortune is a result of Karma because that would stifle my compassion.

Following this reflection I basically got an insight about the limits and the condionality of my own compassion: my compassion and empathy are very restricted in that I find it difficult to care about people who I see as deserving what they get. If Karma is real and does result in unfortunate rebirths then I would care less about peoples' suffering: I feel awful if I read about someone who gets stabbed, but less so if it was because they were attacking someone for example. Using Karma as a basis for enquiry and reflection, rather than as a teaching to be accepted on faith, I got a very clear picture of how lacking I am in *unconditional* loving kindness and compassion.

Peace,
Mike

Aloka
08 Aug 14, 16:47
One of the issues I've had with Karma is the idea that someone born into suffering is supposedly experiencing the consequences of their own actions in a past life. I had a big problem with this as I find it abhorrent to look at a baby born with a debilitating condition, or read about the suffering of people living in warzones and having to think "well it's Karma, what goes around comes around"

The "punishment -system karma" idea is an incorrect view which seems to be quite common, and I've noticed it since I first encountered Tibetan Vajrayana.

Ajahn Amaro (Theravada Thai Forest Tradition) explained in this talk I went to at Amaravati Monastery "Who is pulling the strings" (dated 23rd September 2012) that the ideas "I got this illness because of karma" and "karma ripens" are incorrect, and that deterministic views are very common amongst westerners & asians, but that the Buddha tried to counteract the view that our lives are determined, because karma isn't fixed. If it was, then liberation wouldn't be possible.

http://www.amaravati.org/teachings/audio_compilation/2083

Definately worth listening to.


:hands:

JustMike
08 Aug 14, 17:15
Hi Aloka,

I am aware that the concept of Karma as punishment isn't correct, in that there is no independent judge doling out Karma but even with this I still do struggle to reconcile it. After reading this thread though, I did some searching and came across this:


Although Buddhism attributes this variation to Karma, as being the chief cause among a variety, it does not, however, assert that everything is due to Karma ... According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyama) which operate in the physical and mental realms ... Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. Karma as such is only one of these five orders.

Buddhanet


Thank you for the link and the correction of my wrong-view Aloka :hands: I always enjoy Thai Theravada talks, I'll have a listen to it and see if it, along with some more reading, clears things up.

Peace,
Mike

Aloka
08 Aug 14, 17:25
According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyama) which operate in the physical and mental realms

Ajahn Amaro mentions the five niyama in his talk.


:hands:

Aloka
08 Aug 14, 17:35
Important Note

There was a virus on the Buddhanet karma link #11 when I clicked on it - so I would advise people not to use it .

JustMike
08 Aug 14, 17:51
Apologies, I didn't get any virus warning. Thanks for the heads up Aloka, I've removed the link from my post.

Nikaya
10 Aug 14, 19:05
I want to thank everyone for your replies. I visit the site everyday and I always read your posts. I'm getting a better understanding of secular buddhism.

Trilaksana
10 Aug 14, 20:22
I myself have referred to myself as an atheist. I don't identify with that as much as I used to but I still certainly don't believe in a God. My opinion is don't try to believe anything you can't. Study with an open mind and don't get too worried about what you should believe. You'll believe what you will. Just continue your practice to the best of your ability and you'll begin to notice small changes here and there.

With that in mind as Aloka said Stephen Batchelor may be a good author for you. I personally haven't read any of his books but I've watched interviews he seems genuine and has been practicing for quite some time. However I think many Buddhist teachers keep most of the supernatural elements out particularly in Zen and Thai Theravada. Teachers like Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Chah, Shunryu Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hanh teach almost nothing that I consider superstitious or supernatural.

john buddo
30 Nov 14, 19:33
Was the teaching of karma an attempt by the Buddha too awaken our conscientious minds, or an attempt too create beliefs(or laws?) that help towards a more peaceful existence for us all? Certainly karma does detach itself from the here and now teachings I so very much enjoy.

I am new to Buddhism ,it is not my intention too upset anyone,please take my question lightly.

Aloka
30 Nov 14, 20:31
Was the teaching of karma an attempt by the Buddha too awaken our conscientious minds, or an attempt too create beliefs(or laws?) that help towards a more peaceful existence for us all? Certainly karma does detach itself from the here and now teachings I so very much enjoy


The Buddha said "Kamma is intention" - in other words if we act out our intentions then they might have consequences of one kind or another.

Often people have very muddled ideas about the meaning of karma and so I highly recommend that you set aside some time to listen to this excellent, non- superstitious talk by Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Monastery UK. Its called "Who is pulling the strings?" (I already mentioned it & put a link to it in #10, but that link doesn't work now)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA02YDNTmRg&index=61&list=PLBOs5PaVNZP8zfk6xS4M4-F7raGV0hwv3


:hands:

john buddo
30 Nov 14, 20:37
Thank you Aloka, I will do just that in the morning,my son got chicken pox(needs some love right now), and my eyes getting tired,I am grateful for discovering this forum,some marvelous work by yourself and many others. Goodnight and peace be with you.

Aloka
30 Nov 14, 20:41
Hope your son gets better soon, John. Thank you for your kind words - goodnight and sweet dreams.

:hands:

dhammarelax
02 Dec 14, 17:17
Hi Nikaya

I think that that is the way that a lot of us westerners get involved with Buddhism, we are looking for something that will deliver results here and now but without the traditional (for us) theistic approaches, I consider myself to be a very devoted Buddhist but I don't take issue with rebirth, as a matter of fact you will only be able to confirm this is you develop the supernormal power of seeing past lives so unless you are practicing in that direction my approach is why to bother, there might be rebirth or there might be not, I have no evidence of neither but I do have strong evidence that generosity matters and I have strong evidence that morality matters, so I try to be generous both with material things and with mental attitude and try to follow the 5 precepts strictly.

Regarding kamma, my understanding is that the Buddha spoke of it in 2 ways, there is the karma that is result from our actions in our past lives or current life and there is the kamma that we are living here and now, this kamma is happening very often to us according to a process called dependent origination, this kamma is the microscopic version of the other kamma and this is the one you need to understand to gain Arahanthip so if you want to leave the other Kamma out is ok as long as you understand that morality matters.

As you will progress on the path you will realize more and more that what the Buddha said is correct regarding so many points so you might be able to accept at least intellectually the rest. My favorite of this rest is the sun-god check this sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn02/sn02.010.piya.html

Smile all the time
dhammarelax

Aloka
02 Dec 14, 18:01
...a process called dependent origination....

An excellent non-superstitious teaching about Dependent Origination (Paticcaamuppada)can be found pinned at the beginning of the topics in our Beyond Belief Forum.


http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/showthread.php?4738-Dependent-Origination(Paticca-Samuppada)

:flower:

dhammarelax
03 Dec 14, 09:07
Hi Aloka

I heard the teaching and liked it a lot, to start with the voice of some monks is so pleasant that is soothing just to hear them, one thing that I noticed is that at the end he says stay with the feeling which makes total sense to me as I practice the Brahmaviharas and then he mentioned that this is the weak link and I have heard a few other teachers saying that craving is the weak link do you have any refferences to this weak link concept?

This is related to another general doubt that I have, I know that Saripputa clearly states that to have right view one can work with any of the links and using the 4 noble truths on any of them hence he is using the 4 noble truths in more general way but I have also heard that the 2nd noble truth is referring exclusively to craving, do you know anything about this?

Smile all the time
dhammarelax

Aloka
03 Dec 14, 17:13
Hi dhammarelax,

I think you might find Ajahn Sumedho's informative booklet "The Four Noble Truths"very helpful and in particular the section on The Second Noble Truth.

http://www.tarabrach.com/mtti/AjahnSumedho-4NobleTruths.pdf

With kind regards,

Aloka :hands:

Maddox
03 Dec 14, 18:45
Hello Nikaya.

I too come to Buddhism from a similar frame of mind, as do many others. I don't really label myself a "Buddhist" but I do practice buddhism as a path to inner peace and a connection to deeper levels of consciousness. If that makes me a Buddhist then so be it. In other words, don't get so caught up with the technicalities. I would simply just paraphrase Buddha by saying, take from it what you have found to be truth and drop what doesn't. That being said though, I would encourage you to practice and investigate thoroughly before taking or dropping anything. When I say investigate I am talking more of a turning within (meditation etc) as opposed to seeking knowledge through books. I also struggled with Karma and Re-birth for a long time until slowly I experience exactly the things that I had heard and read to be a reality. I could tell you how wonderful a rose smells and you can read for years on it but you will only truly know of it's beautiful aroma when you have smelled the rose for yourself - through direct experience.

P.S. - I'd also add, not to think of karma or re-birth as some magical hochus pochus. It really is much more practical than it seems on the surface.

Enjoy the ride!!