the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:49 pm

daverupa wrote:
kirk5a wrote:In other words
Were the original words unclear?
Yes. The Buddha did not "refute" himself. So have you known the following for yourself, such that you are in a position to say that Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation is entirely wrong?
Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
There the stars do not shine,
the sun is not visible,
the moon does not appear,
darkness is not found.
And when a sage,
a brahman through sagacity,
has known [this] for himself,
then from form & formless,
from bliss & pain,
he is freed.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Lazy_eye
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:56 pm

Ajahn Thanissaro wrote:Although rebirth is often presented as an unscientific view, the material sciences actually have no way at all of proving the issue one way or the other.... science is in no position to prove or disprove the Buddha's teachings on the range and powers of human action.
This a fallacious argument -- shifting the burden of proof.

The fact that science hasn't proven or disproven rebirth doesn't necessarily mean there is good cause to accept it. The burden of proof is on the person making the assertion.

Suppose I logged on to this board one fine morning and announced "little did you know it, but we are all living in a computer simulation being run by beings in another dimension!" Folks might be intrigued. You might ask me to supply reasons for making the claim. But suppose that instead of providing reasons, I said "well, you can't disprove it, and science has no way at all of settling the issue one way or the other!" Who would be satisfied with that answer?

I'm not saying Ajahn is wrong about rebirth, but I guess this kind of shoddy thinking is a red flag for me. When someone of his intelligence is willing to resort to known fallacies to advance an argument, it's might be because a stronger basis for the argument cannot be found.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:13 pm

kirk5a wrote:So have you known the following for yourself, such that you are in a position to say that Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation is entirely wrong?
"...entirely right?" is my response.
kirk5a wrote:The Buddha did not "refute" himself.
I did not say he did.

:rolleye:
  • "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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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:49 pm

daverupa wrote:
kirk5a wrote:So have you known the following for yourself, such that you are in a position to say that Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation is entirely wrong?
"...entirely right?" is my response.
what?
kirk5a wrote:The Buddha did not "refute" himself.
I did not say he did.

:rolleye:
But can you explain it?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:50 pm

Buckwheat wrote:I have still yet to see anybody offer an alternative explaination for that passage.
"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food... contact... intellectual intention... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or increase. Where consciousness does not land or increase, there is no alighting of name-&-form. Where there is no alighting of name-&-form, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."
~SN 12.64

---

"Abandon desire and lust for consciousness. Thus that consciousness will be abandoned, cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that it is no more subject to future arising."
~SN 22.25

It seems likely that consciousness without feature is of the pancakkhandha, while consciousness in this latter passage is of the pancupadanakkhandha. That's one simple way to look at it.
  • "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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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:51 pm

kirk5a wrote:what?
"So have you known the following for yourself, such that you are in a position to say that Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation is entirely right?"
kirk5a wrote:But can you explain it?
Explain what?
  • "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]

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:54 pm

Buckwheat wrote:
Ajahn Thanissaro wrote: In line with his discussion of rebirth, the Buddha never offered a metaphysical explanation of what this consciousness is or how it might be. After all, it would be a mistake to justify the reality of the unconditioned with reference to the conditioned, as it's not dependent on any thing or any "how" in any way.
The above is an example of a confusion of views. This the reason for the confusion: Dependent Arising (paticca samuppada) describes a particular set of conditions in which a particular set of things happen which result in dukkha. When the Buddha makes reference to that which is conditioned, it is that particular set, described by DA, that he is talking about.

That there is a particular set of conditions and outcomes detailed by the Buddha and talked about extensively does not mean that nothing else in the universe is conditioned. (If your interpretation of DA is that it describes the objective world as well as the subjective world, my argument here is of no use to you -- but if you understand DA as being about how we experience and interpret the world and what we do with that experience that results in dukkha, then this argument holds.) Just because we get rid of conditioned consciousness -- speaking strictly within what the Buddha is talking about in his dhamma -- does not mean consciousness (that is not conditioned by the circumstances in DA) disappears, and in real world terms, it does not mean that whatever remains when the dukkha-producing mechanisms vanish is (in our modern terms) unconditioned. I can say that, "The consciousness that remains after conditioned consciousness is gone is also conditioned" but only if I recognize that the middle phrase "conditioned consciousness" is defined as "what the Buddha was describing in DA" and the one that frames both ends of the sentence as "in real terms, outside of the Buddha's definitions".

Conditions still support the body, support mental processes, data still comes in and what we do with that with our mind is still the result of conditions -- it is just not the result of the conditions of DA.

In trying to understand what the Buddha is saying it is just really important to recognize that he seems to make huge, sweeping, cosmic statements, but in every one of them he is actually referring to a sharply delineated set of definitions with reference to Dependent Origination. (DO, DA, do, da, doo-dah, doo-dah). When he talks about the Unborn, Unconditioned, Unaging, Deathless... he is making a specific reference to the mechanism he's describing with paticca samuppada -- it's what's born there, its aging, conditionality, and death(s) that is the issue. When he talks about the opposites, he is just saying that "that which arises" dependently is no longer there to be born, age, and die due to conditions.

:namaste:

Edit added a bit later: This post was actually intended to answer the point below:
Buckwheat wrote: Also in "Truth of Rebirth" is a chapter showing that the Buddha never limited experience to the six sense spheres. What was limited to those spheres is objective descriptions. There is a passage that clearly states there is consciousness without surface (does not rely on the six sense spheres) and I have still yet to see anybody offer an alternative explaination for that passage. Most arguments against rebirth do indeed amount to materialism or annihilationism - a form of wrong view that I subscribe to as well.
Last edited by nowheat on Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:01 pm

daverupa wrote: "So have you known the following for yourself, such that you are in a position to say that Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation is entirely right?"
No. So I don't suppose I am in a position to say he is definitely correct. But I'm not the one saying Ven. Thanissaro is "refuted" - that would be you. So I'm asking you a direct question as to whether you have any basis for that "refutation" other than the understanding derived from reading and thinking.
Explain what?
Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
There the stars do not shine,
the sun is not visible,
the moon does not appear,
darkness is not found.
And when a sage,
a brahman through sagacity,
has known [this] for himself,
then from form & formless,
from bliss & pain,
he is freed.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:11 pm

nowheat wrote: When he talks about the Unborn, Unconditioned, Unaging, Deathless... he is making a specific reference to the mechanism he's describing with paticca samuppada -- it's what's born there, its aging, conditionality, and death(s) that is the issue. When he talks about the opposites, he is just saying that "that which arises" dependently is no longer there to be born, age, and die due to conditions.
Are you another guy who literally does not know what he is talking about?

Whatever I'd say on the matter would have to be taken with a grain of salt, but then, I'm not taking a stance on my current level of understanding, which I am entirely open to further development, or even being entirely overturned.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:16 pm

Buckwheat wrote:
Ajahn Thanissaro wrote:So it is with all of our actions. Given that we have to wager one way or another all the time on how to find happiness, the Buddha stated that it's a safer wager to assume that actions bear results that can affect not only this lifetime but also lifetimes after this than it is to assume the opposite.
Which is exactly what I do, though I am neither a believer in rebirth, nor a disbeliever. I am honest enough to admit that I don't know if there is or isn't rebirth, and that until there is convincing evidence to make one or the other obvious (and not just to me or a few) it is not worth debating and arguing about. (What the Buddha actually taught about rebirth, on the other hand, is worth debate time -- but that's not the same as debating whether there is or is not rebirth.)

I will go beyond "I don't know and it's not worth debating" and say that it makes *no difference* if there is or is not rebirth; my actions would be the same either way, because I have come to realize what the process is that causes my suffering, have come to see that it is the same process that affects others, and I feel compassion for every one of us who keeps on doing our best without enough information to understand why things go wrong. This results in me caring about everyone in the world, now, and in the future. I assume that my actions bear results that can affect not only this lifetime but also lifetimes after this. I care on a far larger scale than the scale Thanissaro Bhikkhu endorses caring about: not my life in the future, but everyone's.

Saying "I don't know" is not the opposite of assuming "that actions bear results in future lifetimes".

I cannot understand how anyone who has gotten far in this practice can not recognize how trivial it is to care about my future rebirths more than my effect on everyone else now and in the future. It just boggles my mind.

:namaste:

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:23 pm

kirk5a wrote:Are you another guy who literally does not know what he is talking about?

Whatever I'd say on the matter would have to be taken with a grain of salt, but then, I'm not taking a stance on my current level of understanding, which I am entirely open to further development, or even being entirely overturned.
To answer your question, no. I'm someone who literally understands the dhamma differently than many folks do, after a lot of study and practice. Why do you ask?

And as to your statement about yourself, that's a great place to be; I hope you stay that open-minded. The folks on this forum are some of the most open-minded, well-educated, thoughtful people I've encountered through Buddhism, and I am pretty sure they understand that every poster on here should be taken with a grain of salt, myself included.

But perhaps you were protesting the confidence I have in what I'm saying?

:namaste:

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:28 pm

Greetings Nowheat,

For what it's worth, I found what you said to be totally in accord with the Dhamma of the Buddha.

:buddha1:

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:10 pm

nowheat wrote: To answer your question, no. I'm someone who literally understands the dhamma differently than many folks do, after a lot of study and practice. Why do you ask?
I am curious to know whether a poster who proclaims views about "the Deathless" actually knows and sees the Deathless for him/herself or whether it's rooted in mere reading, thinking, and reasoning.
And as to your statement about yourself, that's a great place to be; I hope you stay that open-minded. The folks on this forum are some of the most open-minded, well-educated, thoughtful people I've encountered through Buddhism, and I am pretty sure they understand that every poster on here should be taken with a grain of salt, myself included.

But perhaps you were protesting the confidence I have in what I'm saying?
I am questioning where your confidence comes from. If it comes from actual experience, then perhaps you are able to explain the following. If you can't, why can't you?
Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
There the stars do not shine,
the sun is not visible,
the moon does not appear,
darkness is not found.
And when a sage,
a brahman through sagacity,
has known [this] for himself,
then from form & formless,
from bliss & pain,
he is freed.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:33 pm

kirk5a wrote:I am curious to know whether a poster who proclaims views about "the Deathless" actually knows and sees the Deathless for him/herself or whether it's rooted in mere reading, thinking, and reasoning.
My understandings are (as with us all?) a constellation resulting from study and practice.

:shrug:
  • "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]

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:06 am

kirk5a wrote:I am curious to know whether a poster who proclaims views about "the Deathless" actually knows and sees the Deathless for him/herself or whether it's rooted in mere reading, thinking, and reasoning.
Knows and sees, and that this is what is experienced is backed up by "mere reading thinking, and reasoning."

But do keep in mind that my understanding of what it is (and what dependent arising is) is somewhat different than the conventional, so I am not talking about having achieved some great mystical state or Release From Death.
I am questioning where your confidence comes from. If it comes from actual experience, then perhaps you are able to explain the following. If you can't, why can't you?
Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
There the stars do not shine,
the sun is not visible,
the moon does not appear,
darkness is not found.
And when a sage,
a brahman through sagacity,
has known [this] for himself,
then from form & formless,
from bliss & pain,
he is freed.
Poetry is not my great strength, and I do not have an answer to every passage or reference in the Pali cannon -- it is big, and so much of it refers to things outside the canon, that it takes a lot to find the outside references that unlock the remaining mysteries in it. But that said...

Yes, I get that. The "elements" are categories of rupa (form) and those categories gain a footing in namarupa and consciousness. Things don't do what we think they normally do (sun doesn't shine etc) because we have let go of definitions (which is the nama in rupa); further, this part is an oblique nod toward some phrasing found in the Upanishads, a play on what they say, here tweaking believers by using their language to say something different.

The last part is easy because form and formless are beliefs about the self after death, and one who has seen and understood dependent origination will no longer be holding onto views about form and formless states after death -- or about any states after death if we've not experienced them (at which point they are not, of course, "views" they are knowledge) -- and when one is no longer holding to those speculative views, one will no longer experience the "bliss" they are supposed to bring, nor will one experience the dukkha that the Buddha says, in dependent arising, we experience instead of bliss.

Does that make sense? The thing is that my understanding of the *wording* of the Pali canon comes in large part through study of the other schools of thought and what they said, and how they expressed things. It has made why the Buddha says things the way he says things much clearer to me, and every insight this process gives, I look for in practice. I am very impressed with the way the whole thing now hangs together -- by which I mean that the more I study, the more awed I am by the Buddha, his ability to see clearly, and to offer a teaching that reaches so many people with so many different beliefs and abilities, and remain that consistent. Though it seems at first glance to be quite contradictory in places, most of the points of confusion I've had have fit perfectly into the internal consistency of the whole, once I understood the references. I still have plenty of mysteries to work on -- I'll never be bored till the day I die -- but will gladly admit them to you when they come up. Then you'll hear me sounding less confident.

:namaste:

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