Thread: Do Buddhists have to believe in reincarnation?

  1. #1

    Do Buddhists have to believe in reincarnation?

    Soto Zen teacher Brad Warner talks for approximately 14 minutes




    Any thoughts about the video ?



  2. #2
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    My understanding is that Buddha taught "rebirth" rather than reincarnation. The idea of "belief" was introduced by the author of the video rather than personal experience, or the teachings of The Buddha.

    From my experience, personal experience, validation and verification leads to faith, whereas unverified and unvalidated belief results from imagination, wishing, conjecture and / or speculation.

    The Video Author, Brad Warner, doesn't speak of his personal experience in this video.

    Ron

  3. #3
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    This is one of the problems of Buddhism, that it spread at a time when communication over long distances was difficult, so many forms developed, and so did many different beliefs. The statement, "You can't be a Buddhist if..." is largely irrelevant given the contradictory writings that abound, much like Christianity I guess. An idea develops and becomes the norm, and then becomes the key thing that holds that particular variation of Buddhism together. Once it is a key aspect then it can't be argued against, even if you wanted to. Whether the Buddha taught it depends on which writings you happen to follow, although, as Brad says, the earliest writings don't mention it.

    Does it matter? As Brad says, to some it matters that there is a form of threat to make you lead an ethical life, whether it be the threat of a bad rebirth or the threat of never having enough rebirths to save everyone, to get really good at being a Buddhist. So is that right? Do we need threats to live the 'right' kind of life? Do we need a heaven or hell? A rebirth as a slug or one as a good Buddhist? Personally I think that society makes us what we are and that fundamentally we have ethics as human beings which are twisted by what we come to understand about the world.

    For me we can get back to those fundamental ethics by following the path and meditating, to change how our minds see ourselves and the world. Motivation? The carrot is to get back to the mind we could and should have as a human being. The stick is that the path protects us from regrets about previous actions we undertake before we achieve this, as self-forgiveness is one of the hardest things to achieve in Buddhism. You can guess from this that I don't think that you have to believe in reincarnation or rebirth to be a Buddhist, although believing doesn't stop you being a Buddhist.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon View Post
    My understanding is that Buddha taught "rebirth" rather than reincarnation.
    Its not unusual for Vajrayana Buddhists to speak of and believe in "reincarnation", and they rarely refer to the Pali Canon suttas as often as Theravadins because they have other important texts which are said to be the words of the Buddha too. Its probably the same for Zen/Mahayana practitioners. ...and its not really important, because the meanings of 'rebirth' and 'reincarnation' are similar anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon
    The idea of "belief" was introduced by the author of the video rather than personal experience, or the teachings of The Buddha.
    Brad Warner is an intelligent and experienced Zen Buddhist practitioner and teacher - and I always find his videos refreshingly honest and interesting.


    May all sentient beings have peace and happiness in these difficult times on our planet.



    .

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