the great rebirth debate

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

Post by daverupa » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:00 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
The answer is, it depends. For some, he did (though whether this teaching and a given understanding of 'rebirth' are the same is another matter. In any event, it seems the Materialist thesis is rejected, so too bad for the modern thinker who wants consciousness to be solely an emergent property of matter).

Anyway, for others, he offered the Wager.
What "depends" is what one does with -- how one responds to -- what the Buddha taught -- that is, rebirth. It is not matter of "if he taught rebirth."
I thought the Buddha taught the Dhamma. Setting aside the occasions (or is it just the one?) of the later 'right view with effluents' shoehorning, I don't see rebirth as a teaching. Sila, Samadhi, Panna - these are essential teachings.

Rebirth? Saying it's false is too far one way while saying it's true solely on the basis of what one has heard & read is too far the other way.

Saying it's in the texts in this manner or that manner is just right; saying it's a teaching is a little fuzzy due to the next point, which is; saying it's essential seems mistaken.

---

Let's ask the question a different way: Does a belief in rebirth form a necessary prerequisite to any aspect of the ennobling eightfold path?
  • "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 Aug 28, 2013 8:19 pm

Let me try it one more time succinctly. And *then* I can get to the library.

I am not saying that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth as useful to practice. It is clear to me that he found that belief in rebirth was effective in moving people forward in his dhamma. But I am suggesting that he designed his lessons in a way that would lead followers who were ready for it past belief in rebirth, and that he was conveying that perceiving the world in terms of rebirth, while helpful to many, limits practice if taken in the direction that causes people to go looking for evidence of rebirth, working hard on finding the evidence, and perhaps even bending experience in support, to prove it to themselves rather than being able to work with just what is readily visible, and let go of views of the operation of self-and-cosmos, and the drive to find evidence to support those views.

So as far as my understanding of the first goal, everyone is, in my estimation, correct that he taught rebirth, but it was as a tool, not as something one should believe in. So far as my understanding of the second goal: whatever moves you forward in the dhamma is good.

:namaste:

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:36 pm

nowheat wrote: . . .
I am not unappreciative of the effort you put into this response, but I think you could make your point a little better with a lot more concision. One can get all too easily lost in your prolixity, which is my complaint about your previous msgs, and that is why I asked that you give us a point by point -- and I would add, a concise propositional point by point -- statement of the twilight language argument you are making. And of course, tying this up with actual textual citations is a must. As of yet, I do not see an actual argument here coming from you. At best what you have presented here is a proposal for an argument, for a thesis, not the actual thesis itself.
You do me a favor if you can show me that the way I see it will block my ability to move forward in my practice
That is not an argument I have made, ever.
But no one has been able to show me that yet, and that may be in part because no one has yet actually understood what I'm saying enough to build any kind of useful argument against it. Everyone's so busy shouting "You're wrong!" without finding within themselves a willingness to show me how I'm wrong, or thinking that the argument rests more on academic proofs than on practice (when for me, it is all about practice -- can I understand what's in the suttas in a way that adds to the effectiveness of my practice) and asking me for proof before they'll even listen to the essential core of what I'm saying, or saying I'm wrong because they've misunderstood what I'm saying, and I don't find anyone actually understanding the utility of what I'm saying -- how it fits the texts as well as life -- and being able to show me that it is a less useful way of understanding what the Buddha meant (goalpost one) as a way of practicing (goalpost two) than the traditional view. But I will persist in asking as long as folks here are willing to try to understand what I'm saying.
The emphasized is a 141 word sentence. You write like this, and you wonder why no one, as you complain, understands your point. Your point, whatever it might be, gets lost in amorphous verbiage, which is almost impossible to untangle, and making a considered response to what you are saying more difficult than it is worth.

Read some Bertrand Russell or Edward Conze.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:54 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
The answer is, it depends. For some, he did (though whether this teaching and a given understanding of 'rebirth' are the same is another matter. In any event, it seems the Materialist thesis is rejected, so too bad for the modern thinker who wants consciousness to be solely an emergent property of matter).

Anyway, for others, he offered the Wager.
What "depends" is what one does with -- how one responds to -- what the Buddha taught -- that is, rebirth. It is not matter of "if he taught rebirth."
I thought the Buddha taught the Dhamma.
Rebirth is an aspect of the Dhamma he realized and taught, if one is to believe the suttas.


Setting aside the occasions (or is it just the one?) of the later 'right view with effluents' shoehorning, I don't see rebirth as a teaching. Sila, Samadhi, Panna - these are essential teachings.
Rebirth is a context, it is an expression of an aspect of samsara into which the Buddha has awakening insight.
Rebirth? Saying it's false is too far one way while saying it's true solely on the basis of what one has heard & read is too far the other way.
I am not arguing, and have not argued, that rebirth is either true or false; rather, I am arguing that literal rebirth is part of the Buddha's teachings.
Saying it's in the texts in this manner or that manner is just right; saying it's a teaching is a little fuzzy due to the next point, which is; saying it's essential seems mistaken.
Maybe it is mistaken, but it also may be that we are approaching things a bit differently from each other.
Let's ask the question a different way: Does a belief in rebirth form a necessary prerequisite to any aspect of the ennobling eightfold path?
As I said, rebirth is an aspect of samsara. Rebirth plays an important role in the description of the Buddha's awakening. Rebirth has a significant role to play in motivation, which has an impact on Right Effort and Right Action. Also, as with the Buddha, the meditative remembrance of rebirth can lead to insight and awakening.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:01 pm

nowheat wrote:Let me try it one more time succinctly.
Thank you.
I am not saying that the Buddha didn't teach rebirth as useful to practice. It is clear to me that he found that belief in rebirth was effective in moving people forward in his dhamma. But I am suggesting that he designed his lessons in a way that would lead followers who were ready for it past belief in rebirth, and that he was conveying that perceiving the world in terms of rebirth, while helpful to many, limits practice if taken in the direction that causes people to go looking for evidence of rebirth, working hard on finding the evidence, and perhaps even bending experience in support, to prove it to themselves rather than being able to work with just what is readily visible, and let go of views of the operation of self-and-cosmos, and the drive to find evidence to support those views.
Only 109 words in that sentence. What you say here is not without validity, but misusing a teaching can cut both ways. But what I would like to see is the textual evidence to support the points you made in your 109 word sentence.

So as far as my understanding of the first goal, everyone is, in my estimation, correct that he taught rebirth, but it was as a tool, not as something one should believe in. So far as my understanding of the second goal: whatever moves you forward in the dhamma is good.
Both nibbana and rebirth are tools, as is anatta. We may believe in these things. The issue, with tools, is how are they used.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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clw_uk
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by clw_uk » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:03 pm

Rebirth plays an important role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.


Why does it play an "important" role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.?
Rebirth has a significant role to play in motivation, which has an impact on Right Effort and Right Action.
It can do, however by saying "significant" you seem to suggest that someone who holds rebirth view has significantly more motivation than someone who doesn't, or did I misread you?
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:03 pm

clw_uk wrote:
Rebirth plays an important role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.


Why does it play an "important" role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.?
Why? Damdifino, but there it is, playing an important role.
Rebirth has a significant role to play in motivation, which has an impact on Right Effort and Right Action.
It can do, however by saying "significant" you seem to suggest that someone who holds rebirth view has significantly more motivation than someone who doesn't, or did I misread you?
Misread, big time.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:34 pm

daverupa wrote:Setting aside the occasions (or is it just the one?) of the later 'right view with effluents' shoehorning, I don't see rebirth as a teaching.
Though you set it aside for your purposes in the moment, I did want to respond to "or is it just the one". Presumably "the one" is MN 117, and you're referring to the tripled division of Wrong View, sorta-right view, and The Real Right View. I have found a couple of suttas that indicate to me that it is not just the one, but though they indicate the use of the same model, they don't use exactly the same language.

In MN 78 the Buddha talks about the unwholesome and wholesome (Bodhi's translation) aka the unskillful/skillful (Thanissaro's), and while it is probably obvious to all of us that one needs to replace the unwholesome with the wholesome, he goes on to talk about how practice leads to the end of the wholesome, too, which might seem a bit odd if we didn't have the context of the divided classification of Right View:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"And what are skillful habits? Skillful bodily actions, skillful verbal actions, purity of livelihood. These are called skillful habits. What is the cause of skillful habits? Their cause, too, has been stated, and they are said to be mind-caused. Which mind? — for the mind has many modes & permutations. Any mind without passion, without aversion, without delusion: That is the cause of skillful habits. Now where do skillful habits cease without trace? Their cessation, too, has been stated: There is the case where a monk is virtuous, but not fashioned of virtue. He discerns, as it actually is, the awareness-release & discernment-release where those skillful habits cease without trace. And what sort of practice is the practice leading to the cessation of skillful habits? There is the case where a monk generates desire...for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen...for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen...for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen...(and) for the...development & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. This sort of practice is the practice leading to the cessation of skillful habits.
When he says, "...a monk is virtuous, but not fashioned of virtue..." I read this as talking about an attitude of being virtuous (to use a modern phrase:) "for virtue's sake" or (to use my own phrasing:) "applying the rules from the outside to the inside, rather than having an understanding on the inside that leads to good behavior without a need for rules". Certainly. But also including trying to "bank virtue" or "bank merit" towards one's own advantage (whether that's for the esteem of one's peers and gain one's own followers, or toward a good rebirth in the future), and in this last I think we find the Tainted Right View.

I would say that this division is also the point of the shaggy dog story he tells in MN 120, in which the body of the sutta describes what is, in the quote above, skillful (skillful aspiring, I guess, in this case), whereas the punchline (which I read as "...or, you could just cut to the chase and go directly to liberative practices...") represents the attitude he is aiming us toward developing, where skillful habits have ceased without a trace.

And for those wondering "what this has to do with rebirth" for one thing, MN 120 is couched in terms of rebirth and to me it says, "skip hoping for a good rebirth, go straight to practicing for liberation here-and-now" but that is just how I interpret it.

:namaste:

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:49 pm

tiltbillings wrote:I am not unappreciative of the effort you put into this response, but I think you could make your point a little better with a lot more concision. One can get all too easily lost in your prolixity, which is my complaint about your previous msgs, and that is why I asked that you give us a point by point -- and I would add, a concise propositional point by point -- statement of the twilight language argument you are making. And of course, tying this up with actual textual citations is a must. As of yet, I do not see an actual argument here coming from you. At best what you have presented here is a proposal for an argument, for a thesis, not the actual thesis itself.
Spot on.
You do me a favor if you can show me that the way I see it will block my ability to move forward in my practice
That is not an argument I have made, ever.
I didn't say you did. But I am saying that, for me, that's the point of the discussion. If you do not find that the understanding I have in any way harms my practice, then what are we debating for? Fun?
nowheat wrote:...Everyone's so busy shouting "You're wrong!" without finding within themselves a willingness to show me how I'm wrong, or thinking that the argument rests more on academic proofs than on practice (when for me, it is all about practice -- can I understand what's in the suttas in a way that adds to the effectiveness of my practice) and asking me for proof before they'll even listen to the essential core of what I'm saying, or saying I'm wrong because they've misunderstood what I'm saying, and I don't find anyone actually understanding the utility of what I'm saying -- how it fits the texts as well as life -- and being able to show me that it is a less useful way of understanding what the Buddha meant (goalpost one) as a way of practicing (goalpost two) than the traditional view....
The emphasized is a 141 word sentence. You write like this, and you wonder why no one, as you complain, understands your point. Your point, whatever it might be, gets lost in amorphous verbiage, which is almost impossible to untangle, and making a considered response to what you are saying more difficult than it is worth.

Read some Bertrand Russell or Edward Conze.
Did you take me ranting as being a failed attempt of mine at being logical and concise? Did you assume I wanted you to pay keen attention to the bit above? Okay, I'm being unfair -- you have a good point, this was just not a good example.

So thanks, good suggestion. Would you care to make a recommendation as to which Conze? I have never read anything of his and it seems there is quite a bit out there.
tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Rebirth plays an important role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.
Why does it play an "important" role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.?
Why? Damdifino, but there it is, playing an important role.
At least, unlike me, you are brief when you are not supporting your statements.

:namaste:

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:12 pm

In the Wager approach which I have in mind (Pāṭaliya III.i-ii, SN 42.13), 'tainted right view' is simply held alongside its opposite, whereupon the headman says:
“I have confidence in the Blessed One thus: ‘The Blessed One is capable of teaching me the Dhamma in such a way that I might abandon this state of perplexity.’”
So the Buddha presents the ten kammapatha, the brahmaviharas, and says to then reflect on the Wager. It's interesting, here, that the final part of kammapatha is to abandon wrong view and sustain right view when tainted right view has already been incorporated as part of the perplexing problem - not the solution.

So pervading the brahmaviharas on the basis of kammapatha is dhammasamadhi in this context, and the headman is satisfied via saddha to work at cittasamadhi in that. It makes no sense for the right view of kammapatha to have tainted right view as a valid formulation at this stage of the conversation with the headman.

Tainted right view simply doesn't need to get taken on board at all (I have no comment here on the usefulness of doing so anyway), and can remain neutralized on the outside of the Wager. The formulation of right view as clarity with respect to wholesomeness & unwholesomeness (specifically, analyzing the rest of kammapatha practice with appropriate attention) sustains the consistently epistemological solution which was given to the headman to avoid the quandary of metaphysical perplexity.
  • "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]

chownah
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by chownah » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:35 pm

Did the Buddha ever teach that one must have literal rebirth view in order to obtain a favorable rebirth?
chownah

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:10 pm

nowheat wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I am not unappreciative of the effort you put into this response, but I think you could make your point a little better with a lot more concision. One can get all too easily lost in your prolixity, which is my complaint about your previous msgs, and that is why I asked that you give us a point by point -- and I would add, a concise propositional point by point -- statement of the twilight language argument you are making. And of course, tying this up with actual textual citations is a must. As of yet, I do not see an actual argument here coming from you. At best what you have presented here is a proposal for an argument, for a thesis, not the actual thesis itself.
Spot on.
As of yet, you have not shown us that you are not in over your head.
You do me a favor if you can show me that the way I see it will block my ability to move forward in my practice
That is not an argument I have made, ever.
I didn't say you did. But I am saying that, for me, that's the point of the discussion. If you do not find that the understanding I have in any way harms my practice, then what are we debating for? Fun?
I am simply arguing for the position that the Buddha taught literal rebirth.
nowheat wrote:...Everyone's so busy shouting "You're wrong!" without finding within themselves a willingness to show me how I'm wrong, or thinking that the argument rests more on academic proofs than on practice (when for me, it is all about practice -- can I understand what's in the suttas in a way that adds to the effectiveness of my practice) and asking me for proof before they'll even listen to the essential core of what I'm saying, or saying I'm wrong because they've misunderstood what I'm saying, and I don't find anyone actually understanding the utility of what I'm saying -- how it fits the texts as well as life -- and being able to show me that it is a less useful way of understanding what the Buddha meant (goalpost one) as a way of practicing (goalpost two) than the traditional view....
The emphasized is a 141 word sentence. You write like this, and you wonder why no one, as you complain, understands your point. Your point, whatever it might be, gets lost in amorphous verbiage, which is almost impossible to untangle, and making a considered response to what you are saying more difficult than it is worth.

Read some Bertrand Russell or Edward Conze.
Did you take me ranting as being a failed attempt of mine at being logical and concise? Did you assume I wanted you to pay keen attention to the bit above? Okay, I'm being unfair -- you have a good point, this was just not a good example.
Two things here. You need to be more to the point and you need to tie your argument to actual sutta texts. Secondly, I am suggesting reading Russell and Conze as example of authors who write, who make their points beautifully and concisely.
So thanks, good suggestion. Would you care to make a recommendation as to which Conze? I have never read anything of his and it seems there is quite a bit out there.
Conze is an interesting character who writes English, not his native language, beautifully. Also, he is an interesting writer, whether or not one agrees with his positions.
tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
Rebirth plays an important role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.
Why does it play an "important" role in the description of the Buddha's awakening.?
Why? Damdifino, but there it is, playing an important role.
At least, unlike me, you are brief when you are not supporting your statements.[/quote]Let me briefly textually support this statement of mine: MN 36; SN 12.65 (CDB i 601) and other can be added.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:14 pm

daverupa wrote:
Tainted right view simply doesn't need to get taken on board at all
And, I suppose, rebirth, taken literally, is a "tainted" right view. Interestingly, in reading the accounts of his awakening, "tainted right view" served as a basis for the Buddha's awakening.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:50 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
Tainted right view simply doesn't need to get taken on board at all
And, I suppose, rebirth, taken literally, is a "tainted" right view.
It might be. Depends what's meant by "rebirth" in that sentence and whether that corresponds to what right view with effluents means in the texts.
Interestingly, in reading the accounts of his awakening, "tainted right view" served as a basis for the Buddha's awakening.
Which goes to the point that, even in the Buddha's case, rebirth served no essential function in his motivation to practice; all the way up to fourth jhana it was impossible for such a thing to have made a difference since it was, as yet, undiscovered (sickness, aging, and death were his expressed motivations as a bodhisatta - not re-birth). Additionally, since the first two of the three knowledges are not present for all arahants, rebirth-view is doubly shown up as being altogether inessential.
  • "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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tiltbillings
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:54 pm

daverupa wrote:
Which goes to the point that, even in the Buddha's case, rebirth served no essential function in his motivation to practice; all the way up to fourth jhana it was impossible for such a thing to have made a difference since it was, as yet, undiscovered (sickness, aging, and death were his expressed motivations as a bodhisatta - not re-birth). Additionally, since the first two of the three knowledges are not present for all arahants, rebirth-view is doubly shown up as being altogether inessential.
Rereading his awakening texts might be a good idea for you.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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