Thread: Karma and Rebirth

  1. #1

    Karma and Rebirth

    A text by Jayarava Attwood who has the blog "Jayarava's Raves".

    "Some Problems with believing in Rebirth"

    Any thoughts ?

  2. #2
    Global Moderator Element's Avatar
    The vast majority of Pali words translated as "rebirth" in the Pali suttas have no etymology related to the word "birth". As Canadian monk Yuttadhammo wrote:

    It appears obvious the transformation of Buddhism into a religion of reincarnation, as found in the Jataka, Buddhavaṃsa, Therāpadāna, Therīapadāna, etc, was a later contrivance.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2017
    Jayarava Attwood is the great skeptic of Buddhism who echoes the great Christian scholars of the middle ages who tried to come up with arguments against the existence of God, so that when everything possible was tried then proof of God would emerge. Personally I think that if you did that to Buddhism you would get to the core of what it is, at least for me, changing yourself to see and understand yourself and the world in a different way. Everything else is various attempts to expand on this by various cultures. The Heart Sutra I'm writing about is a much later attempt to convey something and it works for me, whoever wrote it and whenever it was written.

    Rebirth as a concept is like that. If it works for you, fine. If not, then don't take it to be part of the Buddhism you are practicing. And possibly be kind to slugs, just in case.

  4. #4
    This excerpt from Chapter 10 of the book "Peace is a Simple Step" by Ajahn Sumedho is worth reading:

    Kamma and Rebirth

    Kamma is a subject people like to talk about, to speculate about with opinions and views concerning what we were in the past and what might become of us in the future, about how our kamma affects someone else’s and so forth. I try to point out how to use this. Kamma and rebirth are words; they’re only concepts that point to something we can watch. It’s not a matter of believing or disbelieving in kamma,but of knowing what it really is.

    Kamma actually means ‘action’, or the result of action and we can observe it by being aware of what we are conscious of in the moment. Whatever arises – thought, mood or memory, pleasant or unpleasant – it’s bound up with kamma; and it’s something moving from its birth to its death. You can see this directly, but it’s so simple that of course we would like to speculate about it. Why do we have the kamma we do have? What happens if we aren’t enlightened; will we be born in a higher realm if we practise hard, or will the kamma from previous lives overwhelm us? Or we speculate about rebirth: what is it that carries on from one life to the next if there’s no soul? If everything’s anattā, how can ‘I’ have been something in a previous life and have some essence that is born again?

    But if you watch the way things operate independently of yourself, you begin to understand that rebirth is nothing more than desire seeking some object to absorb into, which will allow it to arise again. This is the habit of the heedless mind. When you become hungry, because of the way you’ve been conditioned you go out and get something to eat. That’s an actual rebirth: seeking something, being absorbed into that very thing itself. Rebirth is going on throughout the day and night,because when you grow tired of being reborn you annihilate yourself in sleep. There’s nothing more to it than that. It’s what you can see. It’s not a theory, but a way of examining and observing kamma.

    ‘Do good and you’ll receive good; do evil and you’ll receive evil.’ We worry, ‘I’ve done so many bad things in the past; what kind of result will I get from all that?’ Well, all you can know is that what you’ve done in the past is a memory now. The most awful, disgusting thing you’ve ever done, which you wouldn’t want anyone to know about – the one which, whenever anybody talks about kamma and rebirth, makes you think, ‘I’m really going to get it for having done that’ – that thing is a memory, and the memory is the kammic result. The additions to it, like fear, worrying and speculating, are the kammic results of unenlightened behaviour. What you do, you remember; it’s as simple as that. If you do something kind, generous or compassionate, remembering it makes you feel happy; and if you do something mean and nasty, you have to remember that. If you try to repress it, run away from it, become caught up in all sorts of frantic avoidance behaviour, that’s the kammic result.

    Kamma will cease through recognition. In mindfulness you allow kammic formations to cease rather than recreating them, or annihilating them and recreating them. It’s important to recollect that whatever you create, you destroy, and what you annihilate, you create – one conditions the other, just as the inhalation conditions the exhalation. One is the kammic result of the other. Death is the kammic result of birth, and all we can know about that which is born and dies is that it is a condition and not-self. No matter what the memory might be, it’s not-self.

    Continues on page 71 of the PDF.

  5. #5
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
    Under the Bodhi Tree
    I don't remember which sutta, but there is a sutta where the Buddha warns us about speculating around Kamma. I think we should let Kamma and Rebirth work and do their job; we just have to practice just because. One of the things that a Zen teacher teaches is to do Zazen just because with no profit in mind, no goal in mind.

  6. #6
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.A.
    I have always found this website to be helpful as to this topic.: https://www.accesstoinsightorg/lib/study/kamma.html

  7. #7
    Secular Buddhist Doug Smith talks about karma for approximately 12 minutes:

  8. #8
    ...and here's an excerpt from page 11 of "No Religion" by Ven. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu:

    whenever one encounters the word ‘birth,’ one must be very careful to understand its meaning in each particular context.

    In people language, the word ‘birth’ means to be born from a mother's womb. In Dhamma language, however, the word ‘birth’ means some form of attachment is born. This kind of birth happens every time we allow the arising of a thought or feeling which involves grasping and clinging to something as ‘I’ or ‘mine,’ such as, ‘I am,’ ‘I have,’ ‘I think,’ and ‘I do.’ This is the birth of the ‘I’ or the ego. For example, think like a criminal and one is instantly born as a criminal. A few moments later those thoughts disappear, one thinks like a normal human being again and is born as a human being once more.

  9. #9
    More from secular Buddhist Doug Smith (18 minutes) :

    Buddhist Rebirth, Some Reflections


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