the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Lazy_eye
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:41 pm

dxm_dxm wrote:If one does not believe in rebirth and karma, then one does not believe in justice. If one does not believe in some form of justice, then he does not believe in the notions of good/skillful an bad/unskillful actions.


That sounds like a version of the argument one hears from various religions: "if you don't follow this set of beliefs, you won't be a moral person." Christians make similar claims: without God, there can be no justice, morality, etc.

Regardless if he is right or wrong, this is an attitude that is not going to be conductive to following the path.


Okay, but my question is: what is the purpose of the path? Some people say that the purpose of the path is to end rebirth (i.e. "rebirth is the problem which the Dhamma is designed to solve."). In that case, rebirth should be a premise that one accepts prior to taking refuge. Otherwise one is taking a cure while not being convinced there is actually a disease.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:16 pm

dxm_dxm


I used to be quite a convinced christian before. The reason why I moved away from christianity was the fact that there can be no justice in that system of belief. The only way justice can exist is if rebirth is real


I doubt your claim that rebirth gives us justice. Firstly, if rebirth is true, then it's a natural phenomena, like lightening. A description of nature doesn't give us morality or justice. Such an appeal to nature is a fallacy. What is natural doesn't necessarily equal good or evil. It just is.

Any appeal to kamma-vipaka would merely describe a force of nature, so it seems that we can't find justice or morality in the theory of kamma.

Also, if I grant your point, how can it be just for a man to experience suffering because he lied to save the life of another?
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:26 pm

dxm_dxm

This is a very good point and I am surprised nobody made it before. If a person believes suffering will end at natural death then there is no need to practice any path.


There seems to be a false dichotomy here. It's not the case that someone either believes in rebirth, or totally disbelieves it. There is the third option of remaining skeptical, in the sense of withholding assent to any non-evident propositions.
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 05, 2016 7:21 pm

clw_uk wrote:There seems to be a false dichotomy here. It's not the case that someone either believes in rebirth, or totally disbelieves it. There is the third option of remaining skeptical, in the sense of withholding assent to any non-evident propositions.


I don't see it really as a matter of making a dichotomy. It's a matter of assessing probabilities. Is rebirth (or any other sort of post-mortem continuance) certain, probable, possible, impossible?

We make decisions, I think, based on these kinds of assessments. If I determine that rebirth is a likelihood, I'll make decisions that are different from those that I would make if I'm fairly certain that this life is it. There are also implications for some Buddhist doctrines. If conscious life comes to a halt at death, it's not really accurate to say that all experiences are painful -- as long as our endorphins are still kicking in, quite a lot of things may go on being delightful until our brain activity stops.

Also, if rebirth is merely possible (rather than probable or certain), then we have to weigh it against other possibilities, notably the claims of other religions. God might be real too.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 05, 2016 8:11 pm

Lazy_eye

I don't see it really as a matter of making a dichotomy. It's a matter of assessing probabilities. Is rebirth (or any other sort of post-mortem continuance) certain, probable, possible, impossible?

We make decisions, I think, based on these kinds of assessments. If I determine that rebirth is a likelihood, I'll make decisions that are different from those that I would make if I'm fairly certain that this life is it. There are also implications for some Buddhist doctrines. If conscious life comes to a halt at death, it's not really accurate to say that all experiences are painful -- as long as our endorphins are still kicking in, quite a lot of things may go on being delightful until our brain activity stops.

Also, if rebirth is merely possible (rather than probable or certain), then we have to weigh it against other possibilities, notably the claims of other religions. God might be real too.


The original post to which I replied seemed to be making a false dichotomy between acceptance or denial. In relation to your other point, I don't even know how we would begin to asses the probability of there being some form of life after death, although I'm not a mathematician. Certainly I can make assumptions, such as death being oblivion due to our minds being in someway dependent upon, or perhaps identical to, physical brain states (in whatever form). This, however, would be merely speculation on my part as I cannot actually know, which means that I may be deceiving myself, or I may be deceived by the data.

That being said I agree that we have to assess the likelihood of a theory being true, based on probability, all the time in everyday life. Political persuasions are the best example of this, I think. For example the up and coming European Union referendum in the UK is a decision that will be made on probability, since the outcome is unknown. This will also be partly (or in some cases completely) informed by a previously held belief in a certain political ideology. Of course in these cases we can claim to know which political position was "correct" based on previous experience, or after the fact via reflection. Sadly, with any discussion of life or no life after death we are not afforded the same luxury, which means that any position we take in terms of affirmation or negation is more likely to be based on personal persuasions than any demonstrable fact. As I mentioned previously, the only hope we may have of addressing the question is through the philosophy of mind and science. If it can be demonstrated that mental phenomena depend on brain states, or are independent of them, then we might be able to address the question of post mortem existence. Until then it seems that either position, that of acceptance or denial, is on rather shaky ground which is why I remain a skeptic in regards to such matters.


There are also implications for some Buddhist doctrines. If conscious life comes to a halt at death, it's not really accurate to say that all experiences are painful -- as long as our endorphins are still kicking in, quite a lot of things may go on being delightful until our brain activity stops.


I'm not so sure. To me the Dhamma has great value in any scenario.
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby dxm_dxm » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:18 pm

Of course in these cases we can claim to know which political position was "correct" based on previous experience, or after the fact via reflection.

That is why intention is the thing that karma depends on, not the outcomes. "Kamma is intention"
I doubt your claim that rebirth gives us justice. Firstly, if rebirth is true, then it's a natural phenomena, like lightening. A description of nature doesn't give us morality or justice. Such an appeal to nature is a fallacy. What is natural doesn't necessarily equal good or evil. It just is.
Any appeal to kamma-vipaka would merely describe a force of nature, so it seems that we can't find justice or morality in the theory of kamma.

But that is rebirth you are talking about not kamma. The law of kamma says that there is justice and that this justice is a natural phenomena, not something enforced by a judge.
Also, if I grant your point, how can it be just for a man to experience suffering because he lied to save the life of another?

Who said that is so ? There is how christians view justice, not buddhist. There is no supreme judge with a fixed set of rules like real world judges. If you break the civil law for good intentions and you get caught, you will probably get punished because that's what the law says. But even here in the worldly justice sistem, the punishments are not fixed and are dependent on the judge opinion and circumstances for the exact reason that you have a problem with. Only christians believe there is a specific set of golden rules that can not be broken for no matter what reason.

In buddhism, there is no such judge and such rules. The outcome are also not important. Remember "kamma is intention" . That is why it's the only system that I consider just.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:55 pm

dxm_dxm

That is why intention is the thing that karma depends on, not the outcomes. "Kamma is intention"


I don't see your point here?

But that is rebirth you are talking about not kamma. The law of kamma says that there is justice and that this justice is a natural phenomena, not something enforced by a judge.


Rebirth and kamma are two doctrines that are closely linked so my discussion was of both, but let's separate the two. The theory of kamma states that intentional action Y will have X as a consequence. It is, in essence, describing a natural feature of this universe. A description of nature doesn't give us "justice", as it only describes what is. Your insistence that kamma is a form of justice is another way of saying that kamma is "good", which is the appeal to nature fallacy (that which is natural is good).

Personally I don't see how kamma is good or bad and neither do I view it as a moral theory, since it doesn't provide me with a rational argument to act in one way or another, as it merely states what is. You can say that lying is bad kamma, but it's quite another thing to tell me why I shouldn't lie. By the same token I don't see how it is "just". Can forces of nature be "just" or encapsulate "justice"?


Who said that is so ? There is how christians view justice, not buddhist. There is no supreme judge with a fixed set of rules like real world judges. If you break the civil law for good intentions and you get caught, you will probably get punished because that's what the law says. But even here in the worldly justice sistem, the punishments are not fixed and are dependent on the judge opinion and circumstances for the exact reason that you have a problem with. Only christians believe there is a specific set of golden rules that can not be broken for no matter what reason.

In buddhism, there is no such judge and such rules. The outcome are also not important. Remember "kamma is intention" . That is why it's the only system that I consider just.


My point is that proclaiming "lying is bad kamma" is quite different from from saying that "lying is bad" or that the result is "just", but if kamma is justice then can we square an act of lying to save another, which results in negative kamma-vipaka, with a concept of justice?
The dogmatists have claimed to have found the truth, others say that it cannot be apprehended; the Sceptics continue the search.
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:28 pm

clw_uk wrote:The only hope we may have of addressing the question is through the philosophy of mind and science. If it can be demonstrated that mental phenomena depend on brain states, or are independent of them, then we might be able to address the question of post mortem existence. Until then it seems that either position, that of acceptance or denial, is on rather shaky ground which is why I remain a skeptic in regards to such matters.


Agree with your broad point about philosophy of mind and science -- but allow me to offer a slightly contrasting view on the specifics. I'm not sure the separability of mental phenomena from the physical brain is the key issue. It might even be something of a red herring. In Dhamma the five aggregates are mutually conditioning, so it would not be unexpected for consciousness to be linked to a physical base (the brain). The only situation where the form aggregate is absent is in the formless states -- and it doesn't seem to me these states are a particularly essential part of the Dhamma. They might just be an extension of an pre-existing template for jhana stages. But in any case, I don't think the Dhamma would be harmed irreparably if they were shown not to exist.

What really has to be demonstrated is whether or not the laws governing consciousness (what Chalmers terms "psychophysical laws") operate in a way that allows one being's consciousness, after death, to condition another being's consciousness -- at a spatial remove. Now, there are weird things in physics, e.g. "spooky action at a distance," so perhaps the idea shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. However, as far as I know, nobody in science of mind has put forward a mechanism that would explain it. And none of the theories of consciousness I've come across really support it.

They could all be seriously off track in some way, of course. In any case, my point is that it's the causal link between different, physically separated manifestations of consciousness that has to be demonstrated -- this is the real problem, not the mind-brain relationship. I don't know which of these problems is harder though!

I'm not so sure. To me the Dhamma has great value in any scenario.


Yes. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise -- just that our view of rebirth influences what we look for in the Dhamma and how we understand its purpose. I noticed after a few years of immersion in Buddhism that there were stumbling blocks I couldn't resolve -- such as the desirability of seeking nibbana (defined as cessation and abandonment of existence) -- and these stumbling blocks, I feel, are tied directly to the rebirth problem.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby dhammacoustic » Wed Apr 06, 2016 12:09 pm

dxm_dxm wrote:The law of kamma says that there is justice and that this justice is a natural phenomena, not something enforced by a judge.


The law of kamma doesn't necessarily mean "justice", and it is not a phenomenon, because we don't perceive it. The word 'phenomenon' means, a thing that manifests itself, so without a mind to perceive them, phenomena don't exist. If anything, kamma is a conceptual noumenon, and for the time being it virtually means 'action and consequence'. Justice is a human concept that is abstracted from dual perception :yingyang: which has no basis in material reality,

subject > object ↔ concept
concept > subject ↔ object
object > subject ↔ concept

it belongs to one's subjective mental world of ideas, so, for any type of justice to be brought into existence, you have impose it on the natural world.

:anjali:
Taṃ tathāgato abhisam­buj­jhati abhisameti. Abhisam­bujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti paññāpeti paṭṭhapeti vivarati vibhajati uttānīkaroti. ‘Passathā’ti cāha; ‘avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā’. Iti kho, bhikkhave, yā tatra tathatā avitathatā anaññathatā idappaccayatā-ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamup­pādo.

I am taking the risk of not meaning anything I say. Derrida

ex nihilo nihil fit.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 06, 2016 12:55 pm

dhammacoustic wrote:it belongs to one's subjective mental world of ideas, so, for any type of justice to be brought into existence, you have impose it on the natural world.


I don't quite follow you. Why shouldn't we just impose it on those domains where it is applicable -- i.e. human society?

Extending it to the natural world seems, to me, like a category error. If John steals Elizabeth's car and neither returns it nor suffers any consequences for the theft, then I would say there is an injustice.

If a cat eats another cat's food, this is not injustice -- just observable behavior of cats. It would be silly and pointless to tell the cat it was behaving unjustly, or take it to cat court to be tried by a jury of its peers.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby clw_uk » Wed Apr 06, 2016 2:56 pm

Lazy_eye


Extending it to the natural world seems, to me, like a category error. If John steals Elizabeth's car and neither returns it nor suffers any consequences for the theft, then I would say there is an injustice.

If a cat eats another cat's food, this is not injustice -- just observable behavior of cats. It would be silly and pointless to tell the cat it was behaving unjustly, or take it to cat court to be tried by a jury of its peers.


Why do you make a distinction between the behaviour of cats and the behaviour of humans. Perhaps stealing is just the behaviour of humans, or some of them? We are animals after all.

It seems to me that humans invented justice in order to organise effectively in social groups, being the apes that we are.

I'm reminded of that line from Hamlet "for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
The dogmatists have claimed to have found the truth, others say that it cannot be apprehended; the Sceptics continue the search.
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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:10 pm

clw_uk wrote:Lazy_eye


Extending it to the natural world seems, to me, like a category error. If John steals Elizabeth's car and neither returns it nor suffers any consequences for the theft, then I would say there is an injustice.

If a cat eats another cat's food, this is not injustice -- just observable behavior of cats. It would be silly and pointless to tell the cat it was behaving unjustly, or take it to cat court to be tried by a jury of its peers.


Why do you make a distinction between the behaviour of cats and the behaviour of humans. Perhaps stealing is just the behaviour of humans, or some of them? We are animals after all.

It seems to me that humans invented justice in order to organise effectively in social groups, being the apes that we are.


Yes, exactly. That's how it seems to me also. It's a human construct that brings survival benefits -- for example, being able to co-operate in the hunting of large beasts. You've noticed, I'm sure, that when we decide someone is unjust we also have a tendency to regard them as monstrous and beast-like -- to me, this is a clue to the origins of this concept.

Since I'm a human and not a cat, justice is important to me. I also understand that we have a need to extend the concept beyond ourselves, so that we can feel nature and the universe are on our side...however, this is a delusion.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby dhammacoustic » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:49 pm

Dear Lazy_eye,

Lazy_eye wrote:
dhammacoustic wrote:it belongs to one's subjective mental world of ideas, so, for any type of justice to be brought into existence, you have impose it on the natural world.


I don't quite follow you. Why shouldn't we just impose it on those domains where it is applicable -- i.e. human society?


That's basically what I said.

The concept of justice arose due to evolutionary dynamics, and evolution is dialectical. So, justice is an attribute of nature, it is not nature itself. It can exist, and it can also not exist. For all we know, it exists with us, through us, like mathematics. Therefore, the only way 'justice' works is if it is imposed and applied on society.

If John steals Elizabeth's car and neither returns it nor suffers any consequences for the theft, then I would say there is an injustice.


Well, nothing can change the fact that Elizabeth's car was stolen, and she suffered it. From Elizabeth's perspective, it doesn't matter whether John suffers a consequence or not. And even if John suffers a consequence for it in a later life, say, as Billy, or as an insect, or whatever entity, he won't know. So the law of kamma, is a noumenon (at least for us worldlings).

If a cat eats another cat's food, this is not injustice -- just observable behavior of cats. It would be silly and pointless to tell the cat it was behaving unjustly


It is the same with humans. The difference is, we generate human concepts. But all our concepts are subjective.

On a side note, I guess it would be more realistic to say 'observable behavior of a cat' instead of 'observable behavior of cats'.

:anjali:
Taṃ tathāgato abhisam­buj­jhati abhisameti. Abhisam­bujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti paññāpeti paṭṭhapeti vivarati vibhajati uttānīkaroti. ‘Passathā’ti cāha; ‘avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā’. Iti kho, bhikkhave, yā tatra tathatā avitathatā anaññathatā idappaccayatā-ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamup­pādo.

I am taking the risk of not meaning anything I say. Derrida

ex nihilo nihil fit.

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Re: Poll: Belief in rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 06, 2016 4:11 pm

Dear Dhammacoustic,

It seems like we're all more or less in agreement here, then. :) Thank you for clarifying your point.

The only thing I might add is that it does matter to Elizabeth whether or not John suffers a consequence -- because we've evolved in a way that causes us to place a strong value on justice (and its underlying principle of reciprocity). To maintain harmony, society must be able to show Elizabeth that the demand for reciprocity has been honored somehow. This is one of the uses of religion -- to offer assurance that the demand will be met, even if society isn't able to take care of it.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:52 am

Alex123 wrote:Hello all,
check out AN6.62 (8) Knowledge sutta.
The Buddha clearly states that what he said about rebirth (in this case about Devadatta) was true and not "figurative".

Then a certain bhikkhu approached the Venerable Ananda and said to him: "Friend Ananda, was it after full consideration that the Blessed One declared of Devadatta: 'Devadatta is bound for the plane of misery, bound for hell, and he will remain there for the eon, unredeemable,' or did he say this only figuratively?"



So hell, is not some figurative description that last for an eon.


I believe you've misunderstood the question. The question was not "Is 'hell for eternity' literal or figurative?" the question was "Did you say of Devadatta that he was going to hell for an eternity after full consideration or were you just speaking off the cuff?" If you look at the lengthy answer the Buddha gives, he is not addressing whether hell is real or not because that wasn't the question he was being asked. He goes into great detail to explain that he had given full consideration to his announcement that Devadatta was bound for bad destinations.

"I do not see even one other person, Ananda, about whom I have made a declaration after giving him such full consideration as Devadatta."

Whether he meant the destination literally or figuratively is still an open question.

metta,

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ECS » Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:11 am

Perhaps one will continue to re-birth as long as there is still will / desire to re-birth as we are the desire , we are the will ....we are the emotion so as long as we still hold on to emotion , we will be the one we choose to be .........

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby justindesilva » Wed Aug 17, 2016 7:22 am

The argument on 're birth arises if there is a rebirth.
But a discussion would be made on 're becoming which is the correct process in samsara .
Conditioned by paticca samuppada the energies controlled by kamma pala beings continue in samsara.
If we concentrate on only the present earthly life we cannot illuminate on this fact.
We beings as a cluster has to survive on this earth and universe for manifestation of universal energy and the complexity of kamma pala can only be realised in how our deeds in common affect the living of others.
It is my realisation from buddhism that we beings are a mutually existing lot for the manifestation of universal energy.
Reading through agganna sutra, vasetta sutra mallika sutra one may find some facts in support of this fact.
A knowledge of modern astronomy in comparison with agganna sutra and rohitassa sutra has prompted me to arrive at such a conclusion along with the fact that the noble eight fold path is the only way we can achieve our way in samsara.
Death is only a change of status of life in rebecoming and hence there Is no rebirth.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby justindesilva » Wed Aug 17, 2016 7:22 am

The argument on 're birth arises if there is a rebirth.
But a discussion would be made on 're becoming which is the correct process in samsara .
Conditioned by paticca samuppada the energies controlled by kamma pala beings continue in samsara.
If we concentrate on only the present earthly life we cannot illuminate on this fact.
We beings as a cluster has to survive on this earth and universe for manifestation of universal energy and the complexity of kamma pala can only be realised in how our deeds in common affect the living of others.
It is my realisation from buddhism that we beings are a mutually existing lot for the manifestation of universal energy.
Reading through agganna sutra, vasetta sutra mallika sutra one may find some facts in support of this fact.
A knowledge of modern astronomy in comparison with agganna sutra and rohitassa sutra has prompted me to arrive at such a conclusion along with the fact that the noble eight fold path is the only way we can achieve our way in samsara.
Death is only a change of status of life in rebecoming and hence there Is no rebirth.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby TRobinson465 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:19 am

I never realized this was actually a big thing that was debated in Theravada Buddhism lol. I assumed most Buddhists believed in literal rebirth haha.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism"

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Monkey Gift of Honey » Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:18 am

Rebirth is all around us.
As a mother watches over her child, willing to risk her own life to protect her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, suffusing the whole world with unobstructed loving kindness. Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all of one's waking hours, one should sustain this heart and this way of living.
- Karaniya Metta Sutta


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