Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby martian » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:38 am

If what we know as "I" is just a product of the continuous interaction of the 5 Aggregates and the "I" that is reborn is really a different "I" produced again, by the continuous interaction of the aggregates,
then why would the present "I" be concerned about the condition the new "I" will be born into? A typical explanation about rebirth is a flame being transferred from one lamp to another. Even in this example the flame from the first lamp have no connection with the flame that will be produced next. The brightness or dullness of the first flame with not affect the quality of the next flame. If this is the case, then is there any need to be concerned about kamma beyond the present life and furthermore, rebirth? Hoping for some clarity. Thanks.
Last edited by martian on Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
martian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:09 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:59 am

What if you knew that at midnight tonight, someone would knock you with a hammer, erase your memory, and then torture you horribly? Would you be concerned about your relationship with the post-amnesia person or would you realize that, however the connection metaphysically "works," the suffering that person in the future endures will be known to you?

Rebirth is the same way; we may not be the same as the person we become in the next life, but hell, we aren't really "the same" as the person we are now! All that matters is that suffering is here now, and it will be here in the future unless we act in wholesome ways. Does that make sense?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
User avatar
LonesomeYogurt
 
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby martian » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:26 am

Thanks for the reply. So, out of compassion for the next "I", we try to accumulate good kamma in this present "I"? However the separation or distinction from one another of the two "I" is problematic in terms of how kamma and rebirth relate to moral justice. According to Bikkhu Bodhi :

"It is obvious that moral justice cannot be found within the limits of a single life. Immoral people might enjoy happiness and success, while people who lead lives of high integrity are bowed down beneath pain and misery. For the principle of moral equilibrium to work, some type of survival beyond the present life is required. Two different forms of survival are possible: an eternal afterlife in heaven/hell or a sequence of rebirths. Of these two, the hypothesis of rebirth seems far more compatible with moral justice than an eternal afterlife; for any finite good action, it seems, must eventually exhaust its potency, and no finite bad action, no matter how bad, should warrant eternal damnation." from Does Rebirth Make Sense?

Where is moral justice if the present "I" is distinct and different from the "I" to be reborn? An immoral or moral "I" will just breakdown into the aggregates and then the aggregates will then produce another "I". Even if the karmic seeds of morality or immorality gets transmitted in the aggregates, we can still see that the present and reborn "I" are distinct from one another. If this is the case, moral justice and kammic consequence does not or cannot extend beyond one's lifetime. But we still see some bad people being better off relative to some good doers, til their deaths. From what I can infer, rebirth and kamma, as it relates to moral justice can only be significant if the "I" being reborn is literally the same as the present "I". But this is not how rebirth is in Buddhism :cry:
Last edited by martian on Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
martian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:09 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:33 am

Greetings Martian,

martian wrote:According to Bikkhu Bodhi :

"It is obvious that moral justice cannot be found within the limits of a single life. Immoral people might enjoy happiness and success, while people who lead lives of high integrity are bowed down beneath pain and misery. For the principle of moral equilibrium to work, some type of survival beyond the present life is required. Two different forms of survival are possible: an eternal afterlife in heaven/hell or a sequence of rebirths. Of these two, the hypothesis of rebirth seems far more compatible with moral justice than an eternal afterlife; for any finite good action, it seems, must eventually exhaust its potency, and no finite bad action, no matter how bad, should warrant eternal damnation." from Does Rebirth Make Sense?

I wish Bhikkhu Bodhi wouldn't go off on flowery tangents like this... kamma/rebirth has nothing to do with "moral justice" and appealing to the view of moral justice as legitimisation for the necessity of kamma/rebirth is so logically flawed I don't even know where to begin.

Martian ~ for what it's worth, the Buddha taught the Dhamma that gives good results now and in the future. If you try to adopt a life in accord with the Dhamma and come to accept his proposition, then why should you even care about these speculative questions? What will be, will be, regardless of what you speculate about it, yes? But by following the Dhamma you're setting yourself up well for the present and the future. If you find a better way to set yourself up for the present and the future, then by all means do that instead or as well, but until then, what benefit could be obtained by getting entwined in this "thicket of views"?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14623
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby dhammapal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:42 am

Hi, I've been told this is not suitable for beginners but here goes:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In his effort to master kamma in such a way as to bring kamma to an end, the Buddha discovered that he had to abandon the contexts of personal narrative and cosmology in which the issue of kamma first presented itself. Both these forms of understanding deal in categories of being and non-being, self and others, but the Buddha found that it was impossible to bring kamma to an end if one thought in such terms. For example, narrative and cosmological modes of thinking would lead one to ask whether the agent who performed an act of kamma was the same as the person experiencing the result, someone else, both, or neither. If one answered that it was the same person, then the person experiencing the result would have to identify not only with the actor, but also with the mode of action, and thus would not be able to gain release from it. If one answered that it was another person, both oneself and another, or neither, then the person experiencing the result would see no need to heighten the skill or understanding of his/her own kamma in the present, for the experience of pleasure and pain was not his or her own full responsibility. In either case, the development of the fourth type of kamma would be aborted [§§228-229].

To avoid the drawbacks of the narrative and cosmological mind-sets, the Buddha pursued an entirely different tack — what he called "entry into emptiness," and what modern philosophy calls radical phenomenology: a focus on the events of present consciousness, in and of themselves, without reference to questions of whether there are any entities underlying those events. In the Buddha's case, he focused simply on the process of kammic cause and result as it played itself out in the immediate present, in the process of developing the skillfulness of the mind, without reference to who or what lay behind those processes. On the most basic level of this mode of awareness, there was no sense even of "existence" or "non-existence" [§186], but simply the events of stress, its origination, its cessation, and the path to its cessation, arising and passing away. It was in this mode that he was able to pursue the fourth type of kamma to its end, at the same time gaining heightened insight into the nature of action itself and its many implications, including questions of rebirth, the relationship of mental to physical events, and the way kamma constructs all experience of the cosmos.
From: Wings to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.
dhammapal
 
Posts: 649
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby martian » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:23 am

Thanks retro and dhammapal. The Thanissaro Bhikkhu part is really illuminating and mirrors the dilemma I have right now. So, Liberation is really to be realized in the here and now. The question of the "I" and how it relates to the next "I", and of kamma and rebirth, only comes up long as one has a concept of self. Once one realizes into the non-self, one stops being an "I", the processes of the aggregates stops and thus obliterating kamma and rebirth. Is this assumption correct?
martian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:09 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:26 am

Pretty much, yes.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14623
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby ground » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:28 am

martian wrote: If this is the case, then is there any need to be concerned about kamma beyond the present life and furthermore, rebirth? Hoping for some clarity.

What cares and hopes? :sage:
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:30 am

As long as one clings to the wrong notion of a self in the present life, one is liable to think in the wrong away — either that this "self" will cease to exist at death or it will continue to exist in future existences. The Sabbasava Sutta
"This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?

There is rebirth, but no self is reborn. There are only causes and effects.

The Milinda Pañha gives a good explanation of how there is rebirth without any self:
6. “What is it, Nāgasena, that is reborn?”
“Mind and matter.”

“Is it this very mind and matter that is reborn?”
“No, it is not, but by this mind and matter deeds are done and because of those deeds another mind and matter is reborn; but that mind and matter is not thereby released from the results of its previous deeds.”

“Give me an illustration.”
“It is like a fire that a man might kindle and, having warmed himself, he might leave it burning and go away. Then if that fire were to set light to another man’s field and the owner were to seize him and accuse him before the king, and he were to say, ‘Your majesty, I did not set this man’s field on fire. The fire that I left burning was different to that which burnt his field. I am not guilty.’ Would he deserve punishment?”

“Indeed, yes, because whatever he might say the latter fire resulted from the former one.”

“Just so, O king, by this mind and matter deeds are done and because of those deeds another mind and matter is reborn; but that mind and matter is not thereby released from the results of its previous deeds.”

Rebirth does not cease even if the illusion of self-view is completely removed — the Stream-winner is still reborn, and even the Non-returner is reborn in the heavenly realms. Only the Arahant destroys rebirth entirely.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
 
Posts: 1956
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby binocular » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:34 am

retrofuturist wrote:I wish Bhikkhu Bodhi wouldn't go off on flowery tangents like this... kamma/rebirth has nothing to do with "moral justice" and appealing to the view of moral justice as legitimisation for the necessity of kamma/rebirth is so logically flawed I don't even know where to begin.


It has everything to do with moral justice! Humans are moral beings, and therefore, moral arguments have a lot of weight in their lives.


But I'd really like you to explain why you think kamma and rebirth have nothing to do with moral justice.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:37 am

Greetings,

binocular wrote:But I'd really like you to explain why you think kamma and rebirth have nothing to do with moral justice.

Because kamma has to do with sankharas (formations) that arise in dependence upon avijja (ignorance).

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14623
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby reflection » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:49 am

Hi!

Ha, good question. This is my understanding:

First of all, it's not another being that is born. It is the same process, the same person. But also, it's not just another "I" at the moment of being reborn, there is no "I" at any moment and that's exactly the same process. So why care about tomorrow? Or about anything at all? I'd say, you are conditioned to care. Or not, if you're not. This goes also without the "I".

I guess you came to this answer and would want another. But there is not. It's all cause and effect. Dissatisfying? Not so much, it just depends on how you look at it. You see.. since there is no self, it also doesn't really matter if you care or not...

But it's not really caring about rebirth that has to lead the way to practice. There can be many other reasons. You can not care about rebirth and still walk the path. In a way, it is not caring that is a natural result. The more you see, the more you understand, but the less you care. One who is blind is afraid of rebirth, but one who is enlightened wouldn't care about being reborn and that's exactly why they aren't.

Be strong!

With metta!
Reflection
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby ground » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:59 am

martian wrote: So, out of compassion for the next "I", we try to accumulate good kamma in this present "I"?

No, ouf of compassion for the potentially 5 succeeding aggregates, self-perceiving themselves as "I" and "mine" surrounded by equally ignorant self-perceiving phenomena, no kamma should be accumulated at all. :sage:
Last edited by ground on Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby martian » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:00 am

Since there is no "I", is it right to tell people that Dhamma can be practiced with the lesser aim of a more fortunate rebirth? Isn't that misleading since the "I" that will be reborn will be a totally different "I" only related to the previous "I" through the Aggregates? Or really more on a lie since there is no 'I" to begin with. This make the idea of a Bodhisattva problematic also but that is for another topic and another forum :smile:
martian
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:09 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:31 am

Jumping directly to liberating insight into the aggregates, without a firm foundation, is unlikely, so I don't believe that "a lie" is the correct way to think of it. The Buddha generally taught generosity, virtue, and the results of kamma in conventional terms as a preparation for the liberating teachings.
Then the Blessed One, having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness, asked himself, "Now who here is capable of understanding the Dhamma?" He saw Suppabuddha the leper sitting in the assembly, and on seeing him the thought occurred to him, "This person here is capable of understanding the Dhamma." So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., he proclaimed a talk on generosity, on virtue, on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensuality, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when the Blessed One knew that Suppabuddha the leper's mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elevated, & clear, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby ground » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:38 am

martian wrote:Since there is no "I", is it right to tell people that Dhamma can be practiced with the lesser aim of a more fortunate rebirth? Isn't that misleading since the "I" that will be reborn will be a totally different "I" only related to the previous "I" through the Aggregates?

If in the context of such teachings emphasis is generally put on "compassion with others" and practicing "for the benefit of others" there is no contradiction or lie. Especially if the teachings about (no-)self are not kept secret.

martian wrote:Or really more on a lie since there is no 'I" to begin with. This make the idea of a Bodhisattva problematic also but that is for another topic and another forum :smile:

But all teachings appeal to the sense of "I" and "mine" in the first place. What would want to get rid of dukkha? :sage:
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:00 am

See also:
MN 109 Maha-punnama Sutta: The Great Full-moon Night Discourse
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation and notes:
14. Then, in the mind of a certain bhikkhu this thought arose: “So, it seems, material form is not self, feeling is not self, perception is not self, formations are not self, consciousness is not self. What self, then, will actions done by the not-self affect?”
    [Footnote: It seems that this bhikkhu had difficulty in understanding how kamma can produce results without a self to receive them.]
Then the Blessed One, knowing in his mind the thought in the mind of that bhikkhu, addressed the bhikkhus thus: “It is possible, bhikkhus, that some misguided man here, obtuse and ignorant, with his mind dominated by craving, might think that he can outstrip the Teacher’s Dispensation thus: ‘So, it seems, material form is not self…consciousness is not self. What self, then, will actions done by the not-self affect?’ Now, bhikkhus, you have been trained by me through interrogation on various occasions in regard to various things.

15. “Bhikkhus, what do you think? Is material form permanent or impermanent?”—“Impermanent, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness?”—“Suffering, venerable sir.”—“Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”—“No, venerable sir.”
...

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10130
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby reflection » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:04 pm

martian wrote:Since there is no "I", is it right to tell people that Dhamma can be practiced with the lesser aim of a more fortunate rebirth? Isn't that misleading since the "I" that will be reborn will be a totally different "I" only related to the previous "I" through the Aggregates? Or really more on a lie since there is no 'I" to begin with. This make the idea of a Bodhisattva problematic also but that is for another topic and another forum :smile:

It's not a totally different "I". It's not like one ball stops rolling, hits another, and the other starts rolling. It's the same ball still. Just without anything constant in it. That's what we mean with no-self, as Venerable Pesala and others also tried to show in their replies.

Is a better rebirth a noble aim? I'd say, not always. But there is nothing misleading or lying about it. It's the same as saying, by following the path you can become more focused, remove your anger, connect to people more deeply, etc. All these things are not nibbana itself, but that doesn't mean it's misleading to say they can be a result of the practice.

With metta,
:anjali:
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby polarbuddha101 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:51 pm

When people think about about a being that just died and where it was reborn in a third person perspective they often run into this confusion about how the two beings are related. But if you imagine what rebirth would be like from a first person perspective then there isn't any issue. One experience simply follows another and this continues until one realizes nibbana and passes away out of their final existence. If you go to sleep and wake up, it is the same stream of experience, if you die and are reborn, it is the same stream of experience.

:anjali:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
User avatar
polarbuddha101
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:39 am
Location: California

Re: Why care about kamma & rebirth if there is no "I"

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:04 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:When people think about about a being that just died and where it was reborn in a third person perspective they often run into this confusion about how the two beings are related. But if you imagine what rebirth would be like from a first person perspective then there isn't any issue. One experience simply follows another and this continues until one realizes nibbana and passes away out of their final existence. If you go to sleep and wake up, it is the same stream of experience, if you die and are reborn, it is the same stream of experience.

:anjali:

This is an important point. The reason we act in order to prevent suffering tomorrow is the same reason we should act to prevent suffering in our next life - self or not, "we" are gonna feel it when it hurts.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
User avatar
LonesomeYogurt
 
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Next

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bhikkhu Pesala, Bing [Bot], Unrul3r and 22 guests