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Thread: Different approaches to rebirth beliefs

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism
    I have read Fronsdal's vanilla Buddhism and am under-impressed.
    Fine, I don't regard Gil Fronsdal as my "guru"... and we all have our opinions about one thing or another.

    Personally I have been under-impressed by the explanations for rebirth in the various "Buddhisms" I've encountered both on and off the internet - and sickened by some of the fanatical punishment-system karma and rebirth morality views I heard expressed when involved with Tibetan Buddhism for a number of years. So much so that I became agnostic about it.(I'm happy with the moment-to-moment interpretation across one's present lifetime, though).

    Just because rebirth is written into some texts in the Pali Canon or in other texts from the different "Buddhist traditions"which are said to record material from 2,500 years ago, doesn't make it literally true, any more than it makes walking through walls and touching the sun and moon true. Nor has it ever been relevant to my meditation practice or my daily life.

    There were already rebirth beliefs in the Iron Age culture in India that the Buddha was born into, so it was natural that he would take them on board like everyone else. After all, he wasn't a revolutionary, he was a wandering renunciant pointing out that there was suffering and that there were ways to understand and overcome it - and then he was elevated to deity- like status after his death..

    When a younger human being comes up to me and says:

    " My name was so-and-so and I used to know you earlier in this lifetime and then I died. I remember we went here and there together and you said this and that to me...." ... then I might start thinking that maybe its true.

    (Please don't start quoting Ian Stevenson's so-called "evidence"!)

    May all beings have peace and happiness.



  2. #22
    Forums Member ancientbuddhism's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Personally I have been under-impressed by the explanations for rebirth in the various "Buddhisms" I've encountered both on and off the internet - and sickened by some of the fanatical punishment-system karma and rebirth morality views I heard expressed when involved with Tibetan Buddhism for a number of years. So much so that I became agnostic about it.(I'm happy with the moment-to-moment interpretation across one's present lifetime, though).
    Yes. You know what I have posted on this over the years. I would only add that the notion that without the theme of rebirth there is no moral motivation to practice. As if the idea of 'heaven for good people and hell for bad' is what holds people to ethical responsibility, deference to others or the applied refinements of contemplative praxis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Just because rebirth is written into some texts in the Pali Canon or in other texts from the different "Buddhist traditions"which are said to record material from 2,500 years ago, doesn't make it literally true, any more than it makes walking through walls and touching the sun and moon true. Nor has it even been relevant to my meditation practice or my daily life.
    It was part of the social narrative of that time and place, as it is now to some extent. Fortunately we find no place in the EBTs that indicate rebirth as central to the core aims of Dhamma. It is because it lacks relevance to these that frees us to put the notion of rebirth in its place.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    When a younger human being comes up to me and says:

    "My name was so-and-so and I used to know you earlier in this lifetime and then I died. I remember we went here and there together and you said this and that to me...." ... then I might start thinking that maybe its true.

    (Please don't start quoting Ian Stevenson's so-called "evidence"!)
    Thank you for that. I needed some humor to brighten my day.

  3. #23
    Forums Member srivijaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    Fortunately we find no place in the EBTs that indicate rebirth as central to the core aims of Dhamma. It is because it lacks relevance to these that frees us to put the notion of rebirth in its place.
    There's a possibility that rebirth is a loaded and misleading term. The word itself implies 'something' getting re-born.

    Buddha talks about the stream of becoming which is terminated upon liberation but not upon ordinary death.

    Perhaps there is a distinction to be made between the two?

  4. #24
    Forums Member ancientbuddhism's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srivijaya View Post
    There's a possibility that rebirth is a loaded and misleading term. The word itself implies 'something' getting re-born.

    Buddha talks about the stream of becoming which is terminated upon liberation but not upon ordinary death.

    Perhaps there is a distinction to be made between the two?
    A pāḷi compound that closely reflects what we use in English as ‘rebirth’ is punabbhavaṃ (puna = again + bhava = to become: ‘to come into existence again’) as found in the Suttanipātapāḷi 3.12: 754 – 755

    “Ye ca rūpūpagā sattā,
    Ye ca arūpaṭṭhāyino;
    Nirodhaṃ appajānantā,
    Āgantāro punabbhavaṃ.

    Ye ca rūpe pariññāya,
    Arūpesu asaṇṭhitā;
    Nirodhe ye vimuccanti,
    Te janā maccuhāyinoti.

    754. ‘Whatever beings are possessed of form, and whatever [beings] live in the formless realm, not knowing stopping, will come to renewed existence.

    755. But those people who understand [and renounce] forms, and do not stand firm [1. asaṇṭhītā] in formless things, [and] are completely released in stopping, they leave death behind. [Norman, The Group of Discourses, p. 100]

    See pericope @ Itivuttaka 73

    With reference to the ‘stream of becoming’ there is Bodhi’s ‘Flowing along the stream of existence’ (bhavasotānusārisu):

    71. “Those of great wealth and property,
    Even khattiyas who rule the country,
    Look at each other with greedy eyes,
    Insatiable in sensual pleasures.

    72. Among these who have become so avid,
    Flowing along the stream of existence,
    Who here have abandoned craving?
    Who in the world are no longer avid?” [SN. 1:28 – Bodhi]

    Both cases are with reference to saṃsāra and operative to both is existence (bhava); with reference to what one does to affect renunciation from or the pursuit of it.

    Because the interpretation of these terms are usually preoccupied with metaphysical implications of future life-cycle ‘rebirth’ a direct application of them can be missed.

    One helpful example is found in the questions the brāhmaṇa student Ajita brought to the Bhagavā which not only open up the concept of ‘rebirth’ to a practical approach but also represents the earliest scaffolding of what later became Dependant Arising (paṭiccasamuppāda) in the later Nikāyas, less the metaphysical baggage usually attributed to it.

    Suttanipāta 5.1. (KN. 5.56) – Ajitamāṇavapucchā

    Brāhmaṇa Ajita’s Questions:

    “Kenassu nivuto loko, (iccāyasmā ajito)
    Kenassu nappakāsati;
    Kissābhilepanaṃ brūsi, kiṃsu tassa mahabbhayaṃ”.

    “What is the world enveloped in? – asked Venerable Ajita – why is it not visible?
    By what would you say is it occluded?
    What is its great fear?”

    “Avijjāya nivuto loko, (ajitāti bhagavā)
    Vevicchā pamādā nappakāsati;
    Jappābhilepanaṃ brūmi, dukkhamassa mahabbhayaṃ”.

    “The world is enveloped in ignorance – answered the Sublime One –
    By greed and negligence it is not visible.
    By connivance I say it is occluded.
    dukkha is its great fear.”

    “Savanti sabbadhi sotā, (iccāyasmā ajito)
    Sotānaṃ kiṃ nivāraṇaṃ;
    Sotānaṃ saṃvaraṃ brūhi, kena sotā pidhiyyare”

    “The rivers torrent is everywhere – said venerable Ajita –
    What is the torrents prevention?
    Tell me the restraint for torrents?
    By what are the torrents dammed?”

    “Yāni sotāni lokasmiṃ, (ajitāti bhagavā)
    Sati tesaṃ nivāraṇaṃ;
    Sotānaṃ saṃvaraṃ brūmi, paññāyete pidhiyyare”.

    “Of torrents flowing in the world – answered the Sublime One –
    Mindfulness is their prevention.
    I will tell you the restraint for torrents;
    By wisdom they are dammed.”

    “Paññā ceva sati yañca, (iccāyasmā ajito)
    Nāmarūpañca mārisa;
    Etaṃ me puṭṭho pabrūhi, katthetaṃ uparujjhati.

    “Wisdom and mindfulness – said venerable Ajita –
    And as for nāma-rūpa sir, answer for me this question;
    Where do these cease?”

    “Yametaṃ pañhaṃ apucchi, ajita taṃ vadāmi te;
    Yattha nāmañca rūpañca, asesaṃ uparujjhati;
    Viññāṇassa nirodhena, etthetaṃ uparujjhati”.

    “I will reply to the question you asked, Ajita,
    Where nāma and rūpa have ceased entirely.
    With the cessation of consciousness,
    It is here that these cease.”

    “Ye ca saṅkhātadhammāse, ye ca sekhā puthū idha;
    Tesaṃ me nipako iriyaṃ, puṭṭho pabrūhi mārisa”.

    “Of those students who are in agreement on Dhamma,
    Sir tell me this when asked,
    That of the deportment of the wise.”

    “Kāmesu nābhigijjheyya, manasānāvilo siyā;
    Kusalo sabbadhammānaṃ, sato bhikkhu paribbaje”ti.

    “Not craving for sense-gratification,
    Their mind is not agitated.
    Skillful in all mental conditions,
    The bhikkhu wanders mindfully.”

  5. #25
    Forums Member srivijaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientbuddhism View Post
    A pāḷi compound that closely reflects what we use in English as ‘rebirth’ is punabbhavaṃ (puna = again + bhava = to become: ‘to come into existence again’) as found in the Suttanipātapāḷi 3.12: 754 – 755
    754. ‘Whatever beings are possessed of form, and whatever [beings] live in the formless realm, not knowing stopping, will come to renewed existence.
    Thanks for a thorough reply ancientbuddhism.

    ‘To come into existence again’ and 'will come to renewed existence' are interesting formulations which avoid the necessity of Atman or some such construct. Constructs of self and so on are rather like watching a river and choosing to designate a section of the water flowing past as the 'essence' of the river.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    I've plucked the following from a book review I came across accidentally - because I think its relevant to the discussion here:
    This is extraodrinarily silly, but it does illustrate very well where people get hung up on rebirth/reincarnation, ie. in that take a particular one-lifetime paradigm (as found in mainstream Western culture) and just multiply it/serialize it, apparently thinking that this is what is meant by rebirth/reincarnation.

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    Could rebirth or reincarnation have little to do with our physical death? Are we reborn as we strive for Enlightenment? I sincerely ask as I don't resemble the person I was at 18, 30, 45 or even 50 for that matter. I don't expect to reach it, but sometimes I feel like I may be on the right path.

    Just food for thought... as I don't know what happens when I cease breathing, not sure it matters.

  8. #28
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    I have an open mind about rebirth, though it doesn't seem that relevant to my daily practice.

    The suttas do appear to describe a form of rebirth/reincarnation, with beings being reborn in various realms according to their actions. I'm not convinced by the idea of "moment-to-moment" rebirth, which, while being popular with secularists, actually seems to have very little credible support in the suttas.

    IMO there is no need to believe in rebirth, but equally there is no need to disbelieve in it either, or attempt to airbrush it out of the suttas, or continually try to disprove it, or whatever. It all becomes a pointless exercise in confirmation bias.

    It's all just a thicket of views, and best put to one side.
    Last edited by Whippet; 28 Feb 19 at 11:44.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robtruman View Post
    Could rebirth or reincarnation have little to do with our physical death?
    Not according to the suttas, where birth, aging and death are described in a literal way as those physical events and processes - not as purely mental events or whatever.

    See for example the nidana "definitions" in SN12.2:

    "Now what is aging and death? Whatever aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging. Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death.

    "And what is birth? Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] media of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth."


    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi....002.than.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Just because rebirth is written into some texts in the Pali Canon or in other texts from the different "Buddhist traditions"which are said to record material from 2,500 years ago, doesn't make it literally true, any more than it makes walking through walls and touching the sun and moon true.
    Sure, the fact that something is described in an ancient religious text doesn't make it true. But it doesn't make it untrue either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Nor has it ever been relevant to my meditation practice or my daily life.
    It hasn't been particularly relevant to mine either, but I don't see how that is relevant here. I've known Buddhists to whom it is relevant, and it's not for me to tell them they are wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    There were already rebirth beliefs in the Iron Age culture in India that the Buddha was born into, so it was natural that he would take them on board like everyone else. After all, he wasn't a revolutionary, he was a wandering renunciant pointing out that there was suffering and that there were ways to understand and overcome it - and then he was elevated to deity- like status after his death..
    Rebirth beliefs are common to many ancient traditions - but again that doesn't prove they are untrue.

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