To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Yes
36
58%
No
20
32%
Not Sure
6
10%
 
Total votes: 62

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pink_trike
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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by pink_trike » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:01 am

Peter wrote:
pink_trike wrote:I haven't heard anyone say that here
That is precicely what you said.
What I said is "I don't know" in reference to literal rebirth. I also said that imo, manufacturing a story about whether literal rebirth is fact or not is a distraction for ordinary human beings who don't have the wisdom vision needed to see past and future lives. I don't know how you arrived at "Right View is a distraction" from that. Has Right View been boiled down to a belief in literal rebirth?

I don't think we're offering much to the thread at this point... :anjali:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

Dan74
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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:00 am

Tex wrote:I suppose one could call oneself a "student of physics" while not believing in gravity, but I don't know how much progress s/he would make.

If you take gravity out of the study of physics a lot of the rest of physics falls apart.

It is the same with kamma and rebirth with regards to Buddhism, as far as I can see. Pull out a few bricks you don't like and the whole wall falls apart.

Regarding taking refuge in the Dhamma -- I don't know how one could truly take refuge in something that one believed incomplete or erroneous in certain places. I'm not trying to be judgmental, and as Cooran noted it's surely okay to be agnostic on some things and put them aside for the moment -- but I can't imagine really, truly taking refuge in any set of teachings if one rejects some of those teachings. What would be the point? It might be a bit like calling myself a Christian because I like a lot of the brotherly love teachings but I don't quite believe in the whole virgin birth and resurrection crap.
Kamma, as the law of cause and effect, does not really need faith or "accepting". It is self-evident. With practice we see its workings deeper and take a lot more care and responsibility.

Personally I don't see why rebirth is a corner stone of Buddhism. Certainly in the Zen tradition while it is mentioned sometimes in the stories, it is not fundamental at all. I know my teacher believes in rebirth having had certain experiences to that effect, but she never insisted on it being fundamental.

It seems to me that there is plenty right here right now to motivate oneself to practice. Sure if believing in hells helps you practice harder - great!

As for being "Buddhist", "Buddhist" to me means turning to the teachings of the Buddha and his enlightened followers for guidance in attaining liberation and fulfilling my other vows (overcoming defilements, living guided by compassion for all beings, mastering the teachings). This is a practice and an experiential path, personal and intimate, as I understand it, not a dogmatic, chest-thumping, I-am-right-you-are-wrong, card-carrying member of the True Buddhist Party sort of thing.

So for me (and as I understand in the Zen/Seon (Korean Zen) Buddhist tradition) it is not essential. It comes with experience.

In fact if one takes on too many beliefs and opinions, this may hamper true inquiry which is unbiased and open and create obstacles on the path. Stephen Batchelor makes this point very well.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:11 am

...there is much disagreement between teachers and traditions regarding the details of meditation practice and yet there is no disagreement regarding rebirth.
True :anjali:

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Tex
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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Tex » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:23 am

Hi, Dan. You said:
Dan74 wrote:Personally I don't see why rebirth is a corner stone of Buddhism.
And:
Dan74 wrote:As for being "Buddhist", "Buddhist" to me means turning to the teachings of the Buddha and his enlightened followers for guidance in attaining liberation and fulfilling my other vows
I don't mean to be contentious, but I don't understand how someone can "turn to the teachings of the Buddha" and at the same time not understand "why rebirth is a cornerstone of Buddhism".

The Buddha, in his teachings, seemed pretty serious about the literal rebirth part, right?
"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:31 am

Kamma, as the law of cause and effect, does not really need faith or "accepting". It is self-evident. With practice we see its workings deeper and take a lot more care and responsibility.
I like this point from Dan. Many things in Buddhism are self-evident and having "faith" in them is just a matter of giving it a chance.
This has been true in my humble, small experience.

:anjali:

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Dan74 » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:55 am

How does the belief in rebirth aid your practice, Tex? And do you think that this aid is essential in practicing the path as outlined by the Buddha?

The example you use, Tex, of gravity, is like kamma - it doesn't need to be taken on faith. My 8-month-old daughter believes in gravity (mind, you she is enlightened).

To continue to your physics analogy, yes, Einstein was also pretty serious about Relativity, but it doesn't need to be believed, but investigated, when one is ready. If I am doing high school physics, I am not going to be ready for this investigation. So if you come and tell me that an astronaut comes back to Earth younger than her identical twin, I will think you are kidding or get very confused. When the time comes, one investigates, and may indeed find that Einstein was right.

Until then one can happily study physics. Indeed one can even be a physicist (researching Quantum Mechanics or Particle Physics) and never need to verify this fact. But maybe rebirth is more central that this. I don't know.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Rui Sousa » Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:37 am

I like to look at the beginning of a live and try to see what there is to be seen. You only have to take a deep look at the children on maternity and see how different those beings are. Some newborns smile a lot, some cry a lot, some are struggling, some are accepting, some are afraid, some are confident.

And if you can observe their growth, then you can see how they develop differently, but also how many tendencies are always there. That mind-body happening is conditioned, and some latencies last for the whole existence of that being. Not just bodily characteristics, which are inherited from the parents, but also mind characteristics. Accepting that the mind precedes all phenomena, that conditioning of the mind doesn't came from the body, it has to come from the mind.

But if the mind is already born conditioned at birth, from where is that conditioning coming from? God? A mystical aleatory mind formation out of thin air?

The only satisfactory answer I got from my quest on religious books, is that of rebirth, kamma and anatta.

In my understanding the conditioned nature of the mind implies that there is a mind-continuum, on which the laws of conditioning take effect. The only meaningful explanation I know for the existence of different planes of existence (on which I believe for many reasons), and for the logic behind the birth of a being on this or that plane, is kamma and rebirth.

Those of you who don't accept kamma and rebirth, or think that their acceptance is not mandatory to be a Buddhist, have a better explanation for the different mind states, and latencies, of newborns?
With Metta

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by zavk » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:03 pm

tiltbillings wrote: One of the other claims is that rebirth talk of any sort is at best figurative. In these three discourses from the Pali which describe the Buddha’s awakening, rebirth plays an important role, which are not easily explained away as some sort of figurative speech.
I think you wrote a great post, Tilt. It would have been nice to share those ideas at ZFI. Reading your post got me thinking further about what I see as an unexamined assumption underlying such debates about rebirth--the assumption about 'figurativeness' (<-- This is an awkward word but I'll use since it has been raised.)

On the one hand, it seems to me that the argument that rebirth must be understood literally turns on an assumption about 'figurativeness'. This is the assumption that figurativeness somehow compromises the 'truth' of rebirth (and by implications the 'truth' of the Buddha's teaching). It is assumed that the doctrine of rebirth is somehow rendered less 'efficacious', less 'real', when people attempt to understand it figuratively.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the argument that rebirth is merely a rhetorical strategy also turns on the same assumption about 'figurativeness'. This is the assumption that figurativeness somehow allows us to sidestep (and even debunk) rebirth. It is assumed that the doctrine of rebirth is somehow rendered less 'challenging', less 'real', when it is construed as merely a clever play with words.

But as I have suggested in my previous post, what if figurativeness is in fact a fundamental part of our perceptual process? What if figurativeness is what makes it possible for us to make sense of anything at all? I have suggested that we cannot step outside the workings of language--not until we attain some level of awakening anyway (and IMO I don't think Awakening obliterates language but rather allows us to have a new, non-grasping relationship with language). If figurativeness is how language works, then thought and understanding also works through figurativeness.

To give an example, if you were to ask a number of people to note down the first impressions that come to them when you mention the words 'dog', 'car', or 'tree', I'm sure you will get a variety of responses. I've done this exercise with students many times and the responses to a word like 'tree' include: wood, green, leaves, bark, oxygen, fuel, nature, mother earth, recycling, life, peace, etc. Or with a word like 'dog' the responses were: woof, tail, fur, Spot the family dog, German Shepard (or some other breed), happiness, man's best friend, fear (because of a bad experience), warm fuzzy feelings, loyalty, poop, stinky, walk in the park, etc.

What becomes evident in this simple example is that language functions figuratively. Meaning or 'truth' isn't established through direct correspondence but through figurativeness. Without this ever-present figurativeness, language wouldn't be possible, and hence, thought and understanding wouldn't be possible. If meaning and truth were established through direct correspondence, then everyone would have the same impressions when they hear or read the words 'tree' or 'dog'. But what we see is that for some people the words 'tree' or 'dog' didn't even remind them of an actual plant or a canine but of various concepts or emotions. Even though such concepts and emotions do not directly correspond to the words 'tree' or 'dog', they are 'truths' about 'trees' and 'dogs', and these 'truths' would shape and influence the way those people behave (i.e. a person who understands 'trees' only as so much raw material would behave in a different way from another who understands 'tree' as life or mother earth). Which is to say that to accept the figurativeness of language is not to slide in relativism for the question of ethics is ever-present.

In light of this, maybe we can re-evaluate the terms of the debate around rebirth. If figurativeness is a fundamental characteristic of our perceptual process, if 'truth' is always to some degree or another established through figurativeness--indeed, made possible by figurativeness--should we still assume that the 'truth' of rebirth is always compromised when people attempt to understand it figuratively? By the same token, when people dismiss rebirth as just a kind of figurative speech, should they assume that is any less 'truthful' and 'real'? Either position fails to be mindful of how figurativeness conditions consciousness. And shouldn't we be mindful of how our minds work in figurative ways? For after all, figurativeness is that which deludes us and also that which might awaken us.

Please excuse the long post. It's kinda long-winded but I wanted to be as clear as I can. I'm not directing this at anyone in particular, whether you are for a literal understanding or rebirth or not. I'm writing this because Tilt's post presented a good opportunity for me to stick my nose in and raise questions about the assumptions upon which such debates have left unexamined. Perhaps a more productive way forward is to sometimes take a step backwards to re-examine hidden assumptions underlying the debate before attempting to move forward again.

I could very well be wrong but I think this is precisely what exploring the path entails.

:anjali:

Metta,
zavk
With metta,
zavk

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Tex
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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Tex » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:03 pm

Dan74 wrote:How does the belief in rebirth aid your practice, Tex? And do you think that this aid is essential in practicing the path as outlined by the Buddha?
I believe literal rebirth is part of Right View.

But it can be put aside while other aspects of the path are studied and practiced. So, no, I don't think it is essential to "practicing the path as outlined by the Buddha", but I do think it's essential to completing the path. Just my opinion, of course, maybe people have reached Nibbana without ever even contemplating what the Buddha meant by all that rebirth stuff, I don't know.
Dan74 wrote:The example you use, Tex, of gravity, is like kamma - it doesn't need to be taken on faith.
Exactly, kamma doesn't need to be taken on faith. We can see it and experience it right here and now. But it also seems quite evident that kamma doesn't settle all accounts by the close of business in this life, so to speak.

Take as an example Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus and then killed himself. When did the kamma of killing all of those people ripen?

We can believe in kamma and we can see it work in this life, but I don't think we can possibly say that all causes yield their appropriate results in this life. To me, kamma necessitates rebirth, unless we're content to say that intentional actions sometimes yield their appropriate fruits and other times do not.
Last edited by Tex on Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Prasadachitta » Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:13 pm

It seems to me it would be a better question to ask "Could you accurately be called a Buddhist if you reject rebirth without knowing and seeing for yourself whether it has validity?". I think it is the lack of rejection of Karma and rebirth which is of critical importance to effective practice not whether one accepts it or not.

Metta


Gabriel
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:54 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:It seems to me it would be a better question to ask "Could you accurately be called a Buddhist if you reject rebirth without knowing and seeing for yourself whether it has validity?". I think it is the lack of rejection of Karma and rebirth which is of critical importance to effective practice not whether one accepts it or not.

Metta


Gabriel
I think that's a more poignant question. Thanks! :clap:

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Ceisiwr » Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:29 pm

Greetings


I think in reguards to kamma and rebirth it is important to have some kind of set view

My reason for this is because, as i think peter said, it will have an impact on how one acts in certain situations, such as euthanasia or some situation where there is a choice of say killing another to save yourself (someone trying to kill you for example)

How you view kamma and rebirth effects these situations greatly i feel and although they are extreme situations, i would say that the general view of kamma and rebirth has an effect on the whole practice even if its not obvious, which is why i feel its always said to be part of Right View


Metta

Form is like a lump of foam;
feeling is like a bubble;
perception seems like a mirage;
volitions like a banana tree;
and consciousness like a magic trick:
so taught the Kinsman of the Sun.

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by Ordinaryperson » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:40 am

I voted yes as I feel that is what Buddha taught.

However, one must still take initiative to investigation in order to understand and to strengthen one's trust in Buddha's teaching.

:anjali:

p/s: I did not read all the thread before answering by the way.
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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by pink_trike » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:16 am

zavk wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: One of the other claims is that rebirth talk of any sort is at best figurative. In these three discourses from the Pali which describe the Buddha’s awakening, rebirth plays an important role, which are not easily explained away as some sort of figurative speech.
I think you wrote a great post, Tilt. It would have been nice to share those ideas at ZFI. Reading your post got me thinking further about what I see as an unexamined assumption underlying such debates about rebirth--the assumption about 'figurativeness' (<-- This is an awkward word but I'll use since it has been raised.)

On the one hand, it seems to me that the argument that rebirth must be understood literally turns on an assumption about 'figurativeness'. This is the assumption that figurativeness somehow compromises the 'truth' of rebirth (and by implications the 'truth' of the Buddha's teaching). It is assumed that the doctrine of rebirth is somehow rendered less 'efficacious', less 'real', when people attempt to understand it figuratively.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the argument that rebirth is merely a rhetorical strategy also turns on the same assumption about 'figurativeness'. This is the assumption that figurativeness somehow allows us to sidestep (and even debunk) rebirth. It is assumed that the doctrine of rebirth is somehow rendered less 'challenging', less 'real', when it is construed as merely a clever play with words.

But as I have suggested in my previous post, what if figurativeness is in fact a fundamental part of our perceptual process? What if figurativeness is what makes it possible for us to make sense of anything at all? I have suggested that we cannot step outside the workings of language--not until we attain some level of awakening anyway (and IMO I don't think Awakening obliterates language but rather allows us to have a new, non-grasping relationship with language). If figurativeness is how language works, then thought and understanding also works through figurativeness.

To give an example, if you were to ask a number of people to note down the first impressions that come to them when you mention the words 'dog', 'car', or 'tree', I'm sure you will get a variety of responses. I've done this exercise with students many times and the responses to a word like 'tree' include: wood, green, leaves, bark, oxygen, fuel, nature, mother earth, recycling, life, peace, etc. Or with a word like 'dog' the responses were: woof, tail, fur, Spot the family dog, German Shepard (or some other breed), happiness, man's best friend, fear (because of a bad experience), warm fuzzy feelings, loyalty, poop, stinky, walk in the park, etc.

What becomes evident in this simple example is that language functions figuratively. Meaning or 'truth' isn't established through direct correspondence but through figurativeness. Without this ever-present figurativeness, language wouldn't be possible, and hence, thought and understanding wouldn't be possible. If meaning and truth were established through direct correspondence, then everyone would have the same impressions when they hear or read the words 'tree' or 'dog'. But what we see is that for some people the words 'tree' or 'dog' didn't even remind them of an actual plant or a canine but of various concepts or emotions. Even though such concepts and emotions do not directly correspond to the words 'tree' or 'dog', they are 'truths' about 'trees' and 'dogs', and these 'truths' would shape and influence the way those people behave (i.e. a person who understands 'trees' only as so much raw material would behave in a different way from another who understands 'tree' as life or mother earth). Which is to say that to accept the figurativeness of language is not to slide in relativism for the question of ethics is ever-present.

In light of this, maybe we can re-evaluate the terms of the debate around rebirth. If figurativeness is a fundamental characteristic of our perceptual process, if 'truth' is always to some degree or another established through figurativeness--indeed, made possible by figurativeness--should we still assume that the 'truth' of rebirth is always compromised when people attempt to understand it figuratively? By the same token, when people dismiss rebirth as just a kind of figurative speech, should they assume that is any less 'truthful' and 'real'? Either position fails to be mindful of how figurativeness conditions consciousness. And shouldn't we be mindful of how our minds work in figurative ways? For after all, figurativeness is that which deludes us and also that which might awaken us.

Please excuse the long post. It's kinda long-winded but I wanted to be as clear as I can. I'm not directing this at anyone in particular, whether you are for a literal understanding or rebirth or not. I'm writing this because Tilt's post presented a good opportunity for me to stick my nose in and raise questions about the assumptions upon which such debates have left unexamined. Perhaps a more productive way forward is to sometimes take a step backwards to re-examine hidden assumptions underlying the debate before attempting to move forward again.

I could very well be wrong but I think this is precisely what exploring the path entails.

:anjali:

Metta,
zavk
Hi Zavk,

Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful post.

---

Here is an article from BuddhaDharma magazine that touches on some of the issues that have arisen in this thread as the panel guests discuss the supernatural elements in Buddhism

http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... /forum.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: To be Buddhist you must accept kamma and rebirth?

Post by kc2dpt » Thu Apr 02, 2009 1:51 am

It seems to me the Kalama Sutta actually illustrate well what it means to have Right View. The Buddha doesn't say "You have to believe in rebirth." What he says is "It is in your best interest to act as if there was rebirth." That's what I think it means to practice Right View. You should censure your actions based on the idea that there might be consequences that will affect you after death.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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