Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

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Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby hgg » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:55 pm

Hello,

A question arose in my mind while reading again some Buddhist texts.
In all the texts that describe the previous births of the last Buddha and all
the previous ones, I noticed that all the rebirths and previous lifes take place
somewhere in the vast region of India or near. Same for all his students as well.

While Buddha talks about world systems and countless aeons it looks like
that they all prefer reappearing in a specific region only.

How is this possible?
Do you have any account of a Buddha that was reborn for example in Europe?

Another strange fact that was mentioned in the texts, is that at any given
time, only one Buddha can exist in any world system. Have you ever thought
about that and the reason behind it?

Thank you.
George.
Last edited by hgg on Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby daverupa » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:10 pm

hgg wrote:How is this possible? Do you have any account of a Buddha that was reborn for example in Europe?


I see little reason to try to get the entire chronological spectrum of Buddhist myth to hang together; the emphasis on rebirth and kamma was a complex cultural environment within which the Buddha taught, so these cosmological descriptions to which you refer look to me like culturally-constrained developments of the framework which conveyed the teachings, as opposed to Dhamma instructions in and of themselves.

That a culture's gods tend to look like the people who describe them is rather revealing...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby santa100 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:05 pm

hgg wrote:While Buddha talks about world systems and countless aeons it looks like
that they all prefer reappearing in a specific region only.
How is this possible?


Maybe common folks back then didn't really have the geographical knowledge and/or concept about India, America, Europe, etc. and so the Buddha simply used whatever terms familiar to his people back then to get the message across..

Another strange fact that was mentioned in the texts, is that at any given
time, only one Buddha can exist in any world system. Have you ever thought
about that and the reason behind it?


Obviously the amount of time it took for one to perfect all the required paramis to become a Samma-SamBuddha (Perfectly Enlightened One) is incredibly long... :smile:
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby hgg » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:11 pm

Maybe common folks back then didn't really have the geographical knowledge and/or concept about India, America, Europe, etc. and so the Buddha simply used whatever terms familiar to his people back then to get the message across..


But how is it possible for the Buddha to know the existence of the 31 planes and not know the continents of the Earth?
Why did he always choose India? It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.
He even mentions in one text that people that were born in times with no Buddha alive, are unlucky.

Obviously the amount of time it took for one to perfect all the required paramis to become a Samma-SamBuddha (Perfectly Enlightened One) is incredibly long... :smile:


It doesn't sound like a small probability, but rather like a rule that in a single world system there can only be one Buddha at a time.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:39 pm

hgg wrote:It doesn't sound like a small probability, but rather like a rule that in a single world system there can only be one Buddha at a time.

It is impossible that two Buddha's could arise together.

If he could not know all of the 31 planes of existence, then he would not be a Buddha.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby hgg » Sun Jun 16, 2013 8:14 pm


I have read the text but the answer that Nagasena gave was that "the Earth could not bear two Buddhas at the same time" which I think
it does not really explain anything. Also, disputes were arisen with a single Buddha as well. It sounds strange that Milinda was so easily
satisfied with that explanation.

If he could not know all of the 31 planes of existence, then he would not be a Buddha.

I agree. But then I would have to ask again the same questions:
"Why did he always choose India? It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.
He even mentions in one text that people that were born in times with no Buddha alive, are unlucky."
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby santa100 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:31 pm

hgg wrote:But how is it possible for the Buddha to know the existence of the 31 planes and not know the continents of the Earth?
Why did he always choose India? It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.
He even mentions in one text that people that were born in times with no Buddha alive, are unlucky.


If you re-read my message, notice the keyword "common folks". The Buddha certainly had evolved way beyond the knowledge level of common folks and so He definitely knew about all the realms of existence and stuff. The problem is how to convey the message to other people. Imagine you're a quantum physicist who's trying to explain quantum mechanic to a mentally-challenged 3 year-old child. Are you gonna use terms like boson, wave function, and elliptical orbits or you have no choice but using the terms the kid can identify with?

It doesn't sound like a small probability, but rather like a rule that in a single world system there can only be one Buddha at a time.


I think you already had the answer with your observation: "It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher." If the event of the arising of a Samma-SamBuddha is a very rare event, it won't make sense to have 2 Buddhas to teach in the same world system. It's just not fair for other beings in other world systems.. :smile:
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby hgg » Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:47 am

You seem to bypass my main question:

Why did he always choose India? It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.
He even mentions in one text that people that were born in times with no Buddha alive, are unlucky.

So imagine how unfair it is to those who have never met a Buddha.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:04 am

I don't take the rebirth stories as literal truth. The stories do not agree with what we know of the history of the planet. There was no such thing as India kalpas ago and it is a stretch to imagine in all these ages when the past Buddhas appeared, human kind evolved over and over again in the same manner and developed indian culture with indian names. The Dhamma is for practice, not for belief.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Aloka » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:50 am

pilgrim wrote:
The Dhamma is for practice, not for belief.



Well said, Pilgrim.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby hgg » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:13 am

I don't take the rebirth stories as literal truth. The stories do not agree with what we know of the history of the planet.


Then, how will you be able to decide what is true and what is not in the accounts of Buddha ?
If some of the accounts are not true, then more might be false.
How will you be sure for example that there are 31 planes of existence and not only one?

It is very important for a theory to be sound in order to inspire confidence.
If we cannot account for this possible discrepancy in Buddha's rebirths,
the validity of the theory of rebirths might be shaken.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:18 pm

daverupa wrote:That a culture's gods tend to look like the people who describe them is rather revealing...

+1

Yet one thing that often bothers me is how come the sangha of monks who were responsible for writting the suttas can be so deluded to allow such discrepancy, did they appointed novice monks for the task while the enlightened monks go golfing?
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:01 pm

hgg wrote:
I don't take the rebirth stories as literal truth. The stories do not agree with what we know of the history of the planet.


Then, how will you be able to decide what is true and what is not in the accounts of Buddha ?
If some of the accounts are not true, then more might be false.
How will you be sure for example that there are 31 planes of existence and not only one?

It is very important for a theory to be sound in order to inspire confidence.
If we cannot account for this possible discrepancy in Buddha's rebirths,
the validity of the theory of rebirths might be shaken.


I just need the Four Noble Truths and Eight -fold path to be true. If any part of this is proven to be false, I'll stop being a Buddhist. But if it is proven there are only 30 or 22 planes of existence, it makes little difference to me.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby binocular » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:30 pm

hgg wrote:You seem to bypass my main question:
Why did he always choose India?

One reason could have to do with the fact that this is where he passed away.

If we posit that the the state of one's mind upon death importantly influences the place where one will be reborn, then, if one's thoughts close to death are about India (which is likely, if one is living in India), one will be reborn in India.
If one would be living in, say, Italy, but would have an intense desire to live in Brasil, then, by the above principle, one would be reborn in Brasil.


It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.
He even mentions in one text that people that were born in times with no Buddha alive, are unlucky.
So imagine how unfair it is to those who have never met a Buddha.

Why unfair? Could you explain?
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby daverupa » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:41 pm

barcsimalsi wrote:
daverupa wrote:That a culture's gods tend to look like the people who describe them is rather revealing...

+1

Yet one thing that often bothers me is how come the sangha of monks who were responsible for writting the suttas can be so deluded to allow such discrepancy, did they appointed novice monks for the task while the enlightened monks go golfing?


The underlined portion is probably a mistake, since it judges the centuries-long composition of this oral material according to modern historical values, rather than according to then-standard mythical pedagogies and narratives. The oral tradition was such that the reciters were also encouraged to make inferences and connections with the material, and the nature of the recitations would have been such that a reciter would have easily imputed "obvious" additions - ones which felt readily apparent and valid, but which to our way of thinking were unoriginal.

We also ought to remember that the Sangha existed in a context of other groups who vied for social support, so the narrative formats would have been aligned with lay interests and lay conceptions of the cosmos - indeed, since the Buddha left so much undeclared that puthujjana find enticing, it would have been a matter of course to flesh out the conceptions of worlds and beings and whatnot according to prevailing cultural values.

It pays to remember that the Nikayas were formed over a long period; basically the period between 400 BCE and about 70 BCE, and even then the differences between the Nikayas and the Agamas, small though they be, show that some editing still occurred at the end of that period. The presence of abhidhammic and other scholastic ideas in the Nikayas is an example of this. There may also have been some cross-contamination with ideas from other wanderer groups during this time, especially in terms of meditation methods.

So, as I said earlier, attempts to square the entire chronological span of Buddhist myth is ad hoc and probably not very useful, nor accurate with respect to what the earliest Buddhists probably understood (I am reminded of Ptolemy's epicycles in this connection - the original orbit of the Dhamma is heliocentric ellipsoids, while later scholasticism renders geocentric circles).
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby santa100 » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:18 pm

hgg wrote:Why did he always choose India? It would not be fair for all the other beings not been able to have such a teacher.


It'd be unfair for a college level student to blame his professor for providing "wrong information" to his 3-year-old niece by referring to little pink balls instead of exact terms like atoms or electrons..
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby hgg » Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:43 pm

I just need the Four Noble Truths and Eight -fold path to be true

I guess you are right.

If we posit that the the state of one's mind upon death importantly influences the place where one will be reborn, then, if one's thoughts close to death are about India (which is likely, if one is living in India), one will be reborn in India.
If one would be living in, say, Italy, but would have an intense desire to live in Brasil, then, by the above principle, one would be reborn in Brasil.


That sounds like a plausible explanation. The problem is that there were many Buddhas, not just one.
How is it possible that they were all born and reborn in India? Furthermore, many Buddhas get reborn
on Earth from the Tushita heaven. It looks like there is a direct connection from the Tushita heaven
to India...

Here is the obvious injustice. Buddha's life is devoted in helping all kinds of beings humans included.
If Buddha is only born in India, all the other people of the Earth will not have a chance of knowing and
following the eightfold path directly from an enlightened being. In the texts Buddha can even go to
other realms to teach devas for example, but he never goes to Europe or Australia in order to
instruct these people. This is what looks like a paradox to me.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby binocular » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:12 pm

hgg wrote:Here is the obvious injustice. Buddha's life is devoted in helping all kinds of beings humans included.
If Buddha is only born in India, all the other people of the Earth will not have a chance of knowing and
following the eightfold path directly from an enlightened being. In the texts Buddha can even go to
other realms to teach devas for example, but he never goes to Europe or Australia in order to
instruct these people. This is what looks like a paradox to me.

I suppose one could invest in the experiment of desiring to be reborn in the place where the Buddha is.
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:53 pm

hgg wrote:The problem is that there were many Buddhas, not just one.
How is it possible that they were all born and reborn in India?


If you're really going on this kick, then consider the fact that, if you go back the requisite length of time - remember, eons and eons - then there was no India, there wasn't even the planet Earth. (And if you adhere to a story that says a Buddha arose in India many eons ago, I've got a bridge to sell you.)

Consider the cosmos, whereby some of the existent universe is unobservable because light hasn't had a chance to reach us yet from those places. Nevermind the crummy life on this planet, what about the swarming multitudes of which we literally haven't even the faintest glimmer?

The fact is, these speculations are in an altogether different direction than that of appropriate attention.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Gaoxing » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:57 pm

Space and time? What happens outside of this concept where no clinging occurs? What about the eons and eons that passed just yesterday with the multitudes of births and deaths? Knowing where the Buddha is now could be expressed in the form of a myth but why is there a Buddha in your head? Is the Buddha a messiah? Well, the Buddha appeared in China a few times this morning and that to a multitude of people but something woke from this delusional puff of smoke and it looked like a tooth fairy but the scribes all fled.
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