can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Nyana
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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:52 am

Goofaholix wrote:I'm afraid in english "pointless" and "no benefit" are pretty much synonyms. so yes this is what you said.
Again, you're missing the point: There is no possibility of practicing the noble eightfold path with wrong view, i.e. denying rebirth. It isn't possible. There's no noble path without right view.

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Goofaholix
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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Goofaholix » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:57 am

Ñāṇa wrote: Again, you're missing the point: There is no possibility of practicing the noble eightfold path with wrong view, i.e. denying rebirth. It isn't possible. There's no noble path without right view.
Still waiting for the quote that supplies the smoking gun.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

Nyana
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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:05 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote: Again, you're missing the point: There is no possibility of practicing the noble eightfold path with wrong view, i.e. denying rebirth. It isn't possible. There's no noble path without right view.
Still waiting for the quote that supplies the smoking gun.
Already addressed. Rebirth is taught throughout the Tipiṭaka, and denying rebirth is a wrong view:
Ñāṇa wrote:But let there be no mistake about it, denying rebirth is indeed a wrong view. MN 117:
  • And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.
Again, it's utterly impossible to engage in the noble eightfold path while holding a wrong view. This means that it's utterly impossible to attain the path of stream-entry if one denies rebirth. It's utterly impossible to attain the fruition of stream-entry if one denies rebirth. The same goes for the higher paths and fruitions.

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Goofaholix
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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Goofaholix » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:08 am

Ñāṇa wrote:But let there be no mistake about it, denying rebirth is indeed a wrong view. MN 117:
  • And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.
On the flip side here is evidence how dwelling on past or future lives is wrong view, I belive such a view is equally as dangerous as the annhialationist;

"There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person... does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends instead to ideas unfit for attention... 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?'

"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

"The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... discerns what ideas are fit for attention, and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention, and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention... He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices."


— MN 2

The problem in both cases is the fixedness of the views, something the path would have us abandon.

The eightfold path would have us dismantle the sense of self by seeing the anicca and anatta nature of the aggregates, to me it's seems counterproductive to take the view that these aggregates somehow re-aggregate at death to create a new improved me. The point is not whether or not such a thing does or does not happen the point is whether holding such a view helps or hinders the process of the eightfold path.

I think it's much more skilful to not fixate on either extreme but admit you don't know, this has been my experience, but alas a subtlety lost on the true believers.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by admiraljim » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:09 am

Sorry, but modern science does not and cannot refute rebirth. Empirical science has nothing meaningful to say on the subject.
Modern science cannot refute the existence of fairies or santa, yet should I believe these things?

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Goofaholix
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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Goofaholix » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:12 am

Ñāṇa wrote:and denying rebirth is a wrong view:
Yes denying rebirth is wrong view, as is blindly believing it.

There is no evidence that you have presented that the middle way between these two views renders one utterly impossible to engage in the noble eightfold path.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:18 am

Goofaholix wrote:The eightfold path would have us dismantle the sense of self by seeing the anicca and anatta nature of the aggregates....
Yes, and this doesn't negate the passage from MN 117 in any way.
Goofaholix wrote:to me it's seems counterproductive to take the view that these aggregates somehow re-aggregate at death to create a new improved me.
This is not only counterproductive, it's another type of wrong view, i.e. holding a self-view.
Goofaholix wrote:The point is not whether or not such a thing does or does not happen the point is whether holding such a view helps or hinders the process of the eightfold path.
One of the purposes of right view with mental outflows is to ensure that one doesn't dismiss the teachings on kamma and engage in unskillful conduct that would result in birth in the lower realms.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:27 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:and denying rebirth is a wrong view:
Yes denying rebirth is wrong view, as is blindly believing it.
This has already been addressed as well:
Ñāṇa wrote:Fortunately, Theravādins who have gone for refuge in the three jewels have a number of reliable sources for ascertaining valid knowledge:

1. the Pāli Tipiṭaka;
2. the written & verbal testimony of noble persons;
3. inferential perception;
4. direct perception.

These are four powerful assets when employed in concert.
There's no need to blindly believe in anything. But if one has actually gone for refuge in the three jewels then it seems prudent to accept what the three jewels teach.
Goofaholix wrote:There is no evidence that you have presented that the middle way between these two views renders one utterly impossible to engage in the noble eightfold path.
Without right view one is, at best, an ethical person who meditates. This isn't a bad thing, but there's nothing specifically Buddhist about being an ethical person who meditates.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by admiraljim » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:27 am

"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:28 am

admiraljim wrote:Modern science cannot refute the existence of fairies or santa, yet should I believe these things?
You're free to believe whatever you want to believe.
admiraljim wrote:"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.
This doesn't negate the right view taught in MN 117.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by admiraljim » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:35 am

This doesn't negate the right view taught in MN 117.
No it doesnt, it does however mean that there is not an absolute requirement for belief for the path to be of benefit

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Nyana » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:49 am

admiraljim wrote:No it doesnt, it does however mean that there is not an absolute requirement for belief for the path to be of benefit
Ven. Bodhi, A Look at the Kalama Sutta:
  • [T]he discourse to the Kalamas offers an acid test for gaining confidence in the Dhamma as a viable doctrine of deliverance. We begin with an immediately verifiable teaching whose validity can be attested by anyone with the moral integrity to follow it through to its conclusions, namely, that the defilements cause harm and suffering both personal and social, that their removal brings peace and happiness, and that the practices taught by the Buddha are effective means for achieving their removal. By putting this teaching to a personal test, with only a provisional trust in the Buddha as one's collateral, one eventually arrives at a firmer, experientially grounded confidence in the liberating and purifying power of the Dhamma. This increased confidence in the teaching brings along a deepened faith in the Buddha as teacher, and thus disposes one to accept on trust those principles he enunciates that are relevant to the quest for awakening, even when they lie beyond one's own capacity for verification. This, in fact, marks the acquisition of right view, in its preliminary role as the forerunner of the entire Noble Eightfold Path.

    Partly in reaction to dogmatic religion, partly in subservience to the reigning paradigm of objective scientific knowledge, it has become fashionable to hold, by appeal to the Kalama Sutta, that the Buddha's teaching dispenses with faith and formulated doctrine and asks us to accept only what we can personally verify. This interpretation of the sutta, however, forgets that the advice the Buddha gave the Kalamas was contingent upon the understanding that they were not yet prepared to place faith in him and his doctrine; it also forgets that the sutta omits, for that very reason, all mention of right view and of the entire perspective that opens up when right view is acquired. It offers instead the most reasonable counsel on wholesome living possible when the issue of ultimate beliefs has been put into brackets.

    What can be justly maintained is that those aspects of the Buddha's teaching that come within the purview of our ordinary experience can be personally confirmed within experience, and that this confirmation provides a sound basis for placing faith in those aspects of the teaching that necessarily transcend ordinary experience.
I understand that it isn't easy for some people to accept the deeper aspects of the Buddhadhamma which aren't easily verifiable via ordinary cognitions. But there's nothing ordinary about entering the stream and aligning all of the path factors of the noble eightfold path. To do so is both extraordinary and supramundane.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 7:37 am

Ñāṇa wrote: I understand that it isn't easy for some people to accept the deeper aspects of the Buddhadhamma which aren't easily verifiable via ordinary cognitions. But there's nothing ordinary about entering the stream and aligning all of the path factors of the noble eightfold path. To do so is both extraordinary and supramundane.
And that's why The Buddha's Challenge in Teaching the Dhamma is so difficult:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=11780" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“This Dhamma that I have discovered is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, not within the sphere of reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in adhesion, takes delight in adhesion, rejoices in adhesion. For such a generation this state is hard to see, that is, specific conditionality, dependent origination. And this state too is hard to see, that is, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna"
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Aloka » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:08 am

In my experience, teachers from two different traditions (Vajrayana and Theravada) have said offline that its not necessary to believe in rebirth and literal 'other realms' in order to progress with one's practice of the Dhamma.

I'm not sure what any of this intense debating to and fro and speculation about other lives actually achieves in terms of the present life and practice in the here and now.

The Buddha said "The Dhamma is visible here and now" (AN 6.47)

My own position remains neutral - and my practice has been going just fine, whatever the opinions of others on the internet might be one way or the other.

with metta ,

Aloka :)
Last edited by Aloka on Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: can i achieve nirvana when i don't believe in Reincarnation

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:41 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Without right view one is, at best, an ethical person who meditates. This isn't a bad thing, but there's nothing specifically Buddhist about being an ethical person who meditates.
This has been addressed earlier. If the person's ethics and meditation practice are reflective of the Buddha's teachings, and if they accept such typically Buddhist formulations as anatta-annica-dukkha and depdendent origination, then of course there is something specifically Buddhist about their practice -- regardless of where they stand on rebirth. One facet of the teachings doesn't settle the question.

Also, "right view" and "rebirth belief" are not synonymous.

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