A Question about Rebirth

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A Question about Rebirth

Postby Heaviside » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:53 am

As I understand it, "orthodox" Threvada has it that the five khandhas disaggragate at the time of death of the body and more-or-less enter a "khandha pool" from which khandas come together togive existence to another life form.

Am I right in this interpretation? If so, would I be correct to think that this can be interpreted as the fifth century BCE Buddha's equivalent of dna going into the gene pool and recombining with other dna in the birth process?

Any comments? Thanks. :namaste:
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby cooran » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:25 am

Hello Heavside, all,

Maybe have a look at this previous thread in this sub-forum:

Rebirth in Classical Theravada:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1566

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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Heaviside » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:30 pm

Thanks for the link Chris. Can't say that it really satisfied me, though. Probably I really wasn't able to phrase my question really well.

Since the Buddha often spoke in metaphor, it has never been clear to me whether rebirth should be so interpreted or not. The candle flame is clearly a metaphor, but to the extent that it describes rebirth it lends credence to my interpretation of rebirth as transmission of dna (in modern terms) and simply the effects we have on our survivors.

The entire idea of rebirth would seem to contradict the Buddha's oft repeated assertion that anything not leading to enlightenment is useless and a waste of time. My own reaction, therefore, is to simply ignore it.

But I am still interested in the orthodox interpretation because it will assist me in ascertaining the reliability and intended meaning of translated Pali terms.

P.S. As I understand it, the Abhidhamma is entirely interpretation of Buddha's teaching by later commentators, is it not? And some of it seems pretty far out and contradictory to Buddha's warnings about speculation.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby robertk » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:05 pm

mod note:
please check the rules of this forum.
no suggestion that the Abhidhamma is a far out, made up doctrine is permitted here. These ideas will be welcomed in other forums , however.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Heaviside » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:29 pm

:oops:

Please accept my apologies for the comment, which---I readily admit---was not based on any real knowledge of the Abhidhamma. What I have read of it is certainly interesting.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby reflection » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:50 pm

Hi!

There is no such thing as a khandha pool. Khandhas are also not solid things, but just groupings of experiences, used to indicate their nature of being without owner.

I suggest reading some of the suttas when you want to take a stance on how to interpret the Buddha's teachings on rebirth, and to see if they are meant as a metaphor or not.

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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:36 pm

The Buddha, Orthodox Theravada, and other less orthodox or non-orthodox Theravadins are all pretty clear that rebirth is literal post-mortem continuance of experience/existence through different realms of existence based on the results of past intentions and actions. (Note: less orthodox or non-orthodox Theravadins being those who don't consider abhidhamma to be the word of the Buddha or who don't think of the commentaries as being authoritative)

As they were sitting there, the brahman householders of Sala said to the Blessed One, "What is the reason, Master Gotama, what is the condition, whereby some beings here, with the break-up of the body, after death, reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell? And what is the reason, what is the condition, whereby some beings here, with the break-up of the body, after death, reappear in the good destinations, in the heavenly world?"

"Householders, it's by reason of un-Dhamma conduct, dissonant [1] conduct that some beings here, with the break-up of the body, after death, reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. It's by reason of Dhamma conduct, harmonious [1] conduct that some beings here, with the break-up of the body, after death, reappear in the good destinations, in the heavenly world."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


You can read the Visuddhimagga here if you want to understand the orthodox position in more detail: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf

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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Nyorai » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:46 am

Heaviside wrote:As I understand it, "orthodox" Threvada has it that the five khandhas disaggragate at the time of death of the body and more-or-less enter a "khandha pool" from which khandas come together togive existence to another life form.

Am I right in this interpretation? If so, would I be correct to think that this can be interpreted as the fifth century BCE Buddha's equivalent of dna going into the gene pool and recombining with other dna in the birth process?

Any comments? Thanks. :namaste:

The disaggragate at the time of death is the conclusion of this lifespan, and the aggragate and disaggragate happen momentarily. Using body to understand it, is body are formed by cells, and within each cell, there are a lot of cells as well :D
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Heaviside » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:15 pm

Well, let me respectfully clear up any misunderstanding that might have occurred here---undoubtedly due to my clumsy self expression.

I had no intentention of taking a knowiledgeable position on the subject. Furthermore, a couple of you seem to think I had the ridiculous idea that a khandha referred only to material body.

No, by "khanda pool"---and I had no intention for the term to be pejorative---I simply had the concept of psychic energy of some sort. I find it interesting to compare Buddha's teachings of 2500 years ago with today's science, and usually find a remarkable correlation.

So, please, if I have offended anyone I sincerely apologize. Perhaps it was my poor choice of words about the Abhidhamma that has stimulated your reactions, but the moderator caught it, called it to my attention, and I apologized.

So, perhaps you could continue to comment with the understanding that---really---I have no ax to grind, but am only interested in learning the Dhamma. I, like all (I think), do have certain items of fairly deep conviction. Among them, for me, is the belief that there is no discernible correlation between my present set of aggregates and those of former lives. But I am open to seeing things differently if presented with a logically convincing argument.

:namaste:

P.S. I have done a fair amount of reading of the suttas, but one thing seems salient to me: the crucial core of Buddhism seems to rest on a number of rather technical terms, and their meaning varies a great deal depending upon the translator. So I find that the opinion of contemporaries means a lot to me.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby James the Giant » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:44 pm

Heaviside wrote:
P.S. As I understand it, the Abhidhamma is entirely interpretation of Buddha's teaching by later commentators, is it not? And some of it seems pretty far out and contradictory to Buddha's warnings about speculation.


:oops:

Please accept my apologies for the comment, which---I readily admit---was not based on any real knowledge of the Abhidhamma. What I have read of it is certainly interesting.


Heaviside, just to clarify it is just these two sub-forums, the Abhidhamma and Classical Theravada sub-forums, that people are asked not to challenge the validity of the texts.
On the rest of Dhammawheel, it is okay to politely raise such questions.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby reflection » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:03 am

Hi!

Just in case, just want to say my reply wasn't intended as being annoyed, because I wasn't. I'm quite sure it's the same for others.

That aside, as far as I'm aware, the vast majority of Theravadan Buddhist teachers interpret rebirth literally. In a lot of suttas we see how the Buddha describes how our actions influence our next lives. Or there are the suttas where the amount of suffering in our previous lives is made clear by various analogies. You have to be quite creative to interpret this as an influence of DNA. You can if you want to, but I'm sure it wasn't meant that way. I think it's a modern movement to either neglect it altogether or neglect it's importance.

The amount of importance rebirth is given is varied. The importance may be different for different people. But in my opinion, depending on whether we take rebirth literal or not, changes a lot in the teachings. So in that sense it is important anyway. For example, it gives reading the 4 noble truths a different meaning. The core of Buddhism is these 4 truths. Say we take the second: "The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is the craving that produces renewal of being"

Renewal of being, if taken literally is quite simply saying craving keeps rebirth going. Now, if one doesn't want to take it literally, a new interpretation has to be found. And yes, terms get technical and complicated quickly then, because there is a lot more terms one can't take literally.

However, if the Buddha meant something as a metaphor, he'd usually announce it and give the teachings that it is analogue to.

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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:18 am

reflection wrote:However, if the Buddha meant something as a metaphor, he'd usually announce it and give the teachings that it is analogue to.


Yes, in the suttas similes are clearly labelled as such.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:43 pm

Heaviside wrote:The entire idea of rebirth would seem to contradict the Buddha's oft repeated assertion that anything not leading to enlightenment is useless and a waste of time. My own reaction, therefore, is to simply ignore it.


Rebirth has a huge impact, if for no other reason than to provide urgency (there are deeper reasons). I personally have a lot of difficulty with rebirth, and tend to see it as a metaphor for moment to moment rebirth. However, I also believe that what the Buddha taught was much more literal rebirth in some form or another. I think trusting that there is some form of rebirth (be if moment to moment, some sort of metaphor, or quite literal rebirth) is important to the practice, as it provides insight into anicca (nothing is permanent, stable, or certain) and the resultant dukkha, anatta.

The relationship between rebirth and anatta is quite interesting... in one sense they seem contradictory, in another sense they seem to validate each other.

Anyway, these are just my opinions, and not particularly "orthodox".
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 09, 2013 5:16 pm

Being a (pretty skeptical) agnostic has made me tend to see rebirth as a key issue -- that is, I can see where problem areas have come up for me as a result of my non-belief. One big problem is the goal of nibbana, i.e. cessation. It seems redundant, since we're going to get there in any case. Likewise, it's not clear why one should pursue a path of renunciation, since all will be renounced anyway at the time of death, whether we want it or not!

I have not resolved these problem areas for myself and am always interested to hear how other non-believers have addressed them. Rebirth, it seems to me, clearly impacts the broader conception of the dhamma as a path leading to a certain goal, what we might call the overarching philosophical/religious framework of Buddhism. But it seems to have less of an impact on specific practices --i.e., there are many Buddhist practices that can be cultivated regardless of one's views on the topic. So perhaps we can say it affects theory more than praxis. Though if we concentrate on the latter only, we may still find ourselves asking "why" -- which leads us back to theory.

Personally, I just go with what I've found to be valid and beneficial in the dhamma, and put aside the rest pending further insights one way or another.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:52 pm

Lazy Eye,
I go through the same things Lazy Eye describes. A few things that help me are: read the Kalama Sutta (link) and pay close attention to the fact that the Buddha says even if rebirth is not accurate, the practice has benefit here and now. I find this to be quite true, and I have found that when my practice slacks, I immediately feel more entangled in dukkha, and less able to deal with it maturely and responsibly.

On the other hand, I do have dark times due to the goal being rendered moot. But I only feel that way when I'm pessimistic, and the best prescription for that is more practice.

Also, this is just my opinion, but I have a suspicion that what the Buddha referred to as rebirth has a middle value, neither the easily acceptable "metaphor" for moment to rebirth, nor the literal rebirth that easy to understand but hard to believe. I have a feeling he is referring to something different altogether, deep, subtle, hard to comprehend. But that's just my opinion.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Heaviside » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:06 pm

However, if the Buddha meant something as a metaphor, he'd usually announce it and give the teachings that it is analogue to.


Yes, he clearly did announce methapors, but it is often a question in my mind whether or not a critical term has been somehow altered in translation. Different interpreters translate a given term differently.

I look upon the Buddha as a supreme scientist who was an expert in experimental psychology---both in his day and ours. But I often wonder what his teaching would be were he a contemporary of ours.

I have been reading and thinking about Buddhism, albeit in sporadic and untutored form, for a half century. At first, all I could find in my university library were books that were old and dusty even then: books by Rhys-Davids and a few others. Often I was even forced to read Theosophical Society tracts (e.g. Madame H. P. Blavatsky) and try to winnow out the chaff from the good kernels of wisdom. Nowdays there are many references, and the teaching seems to have changed enormously since then. Happily!

But, my point is that interpretations change rapidly even within one persons physical lifetime, so I wonder how it might change over several kalapas! Or several rounds of rebirth. So, for me, the practical approach is to merely interpret rebirth as merely a temporal alteration in the aggregates. But, as I said earlier, I am finding this discussion rewarding---and appreciate each and every comment.

By the by, thanks so much for the kalama sutta reference, Buckwheat. I think that is the one that stuck in my mind long ago and influenced my thinking on the subject. I intend to read it again very carefully.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby reflection » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:37 am

Hi!

To me, the Buddha deeply understood the mind, not from an external intellectual point of view, but by looking at it from the inside. And 2500 years passed, but minds are still the same.

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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Alex123 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:40 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I have not resolved these problem areas for myself and am always interested to hear how other non-believers have addressed them. .


I agree with your post. Gotama's search was motivated by seeing aging, sick, and dead person. If there was one life, than mere death would be the end of it. So no need to do anything. Obviously Gotama had to believe in rebirth, because rebirth implies aging, getting sick and dying again and again.

The unfortunate thing is that this seems to be the emphasis of Dhamma. Not merely "peace in this life" which I can see why we would want it in modern stressed out times...

In my case, pain "motivates" me to contemplate the Dhamma to diminish negative psychological states.
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:46 pm

Anekajātisaṃsāraṃ, sandhāvissaṃ anibbisaṃ.
Gahakāraṃ gavesanto, dukkhā jāti punappunaṃ. (Dhp v 153)

Gahakāraka diṭṭhosi, puna gehaṃ na kāhasi.
Sabbā te phāsukā bhaggā, gahakūṭaṃ visaṅkhataṃ.
Visaṅkhāragataṃ cittaṃ, taṇhānaṃ khayamajjhagā. (Dhp v 154)

These two verses were uttered spontaneously by the Buddha on the dawn after his Enlightenment.

Through many births I wandered in saṃsāra,
seeking, but not finding, the builder of this house.
Painful is repeated birth. (Dhp v 153)

O house-builder! You are seen now.
You will build no house again.
All your rafters are broken.
Your ridge-pole is shattered.
My mind has gone to the unconditioned.
Achieved is the destruction of craving. (Dhp v 154)
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Re: A Question about Rebirth

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:30 am

Buckwheat wrote:Also, this is just my opinion, but I have a suspicion that what the Buddha referred to as rebirth has a middle value, neither the easily acceptable "metaphor" for moment to rebirth, nor the literal rebirth that easy to understand but hard to believe. I have a feeling he is referring to something different altogether, deep, subtle, hard to comprehend. But that's just my opinion.


Interesting comment, and something I've wondered about too - could you say more? Personally I don't find literal rebirth easy to understand, partly because there seems to be little explanation in the suttas of the mechanism involved. Though moment-to-moment rebirth feels like a fudge, and I see little support for this interpretation in the suttas.
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