The Buddha, Karma, and Rebirth

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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The Buddha, Karma, and Rebirth

Post by twelph » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:19 am

So, this quote from Gil Fronsdal has been bouncing around in my head for a few months now:
In terms of what the explanation says about rebirth, the best understanding that I have is that it’s kind of like the waves coming across the ocean. You could see the wave but we know that water particles don’t really move. Mostly they move up and down and hit the water particles next to them. So it’s the movement that moves across the ocean, not any thing, no particles that move. And there’s no thing that moves from one life to the next but rather the way that consciousness is agitated or goes up and down somehow or other strikes or creates a spin. The next moment of consciousness – when the person dies – the belief is that the spin then strikes the next moment how. So there’s no person, no thing that moves from life to life but it’s more like a momentum. How we live our life this time, the actions we live now, create that spin. If you are concerned about your rebirth, then you want to be very concerned about the spin you put – the behavior you live by, the intentions you live by, the attitudes you develop – because the spin that you have at the moment of death is very consequential for the next moment.
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The purpose of this thread is not to be another rebirth debate. My attitude towards the subject is that just because I don't completely understand something, doesn't make it impossible. The following synopsis of my current understanding could quite possibly be fully reliant on ignorance, and has at least a couple holes in its logic. I still feel like discussing it here in hopes of filling in gaps or even to scrap the idea and try to start over.

First my understanding of a few key terms:
Karma - intentional action.
Rebirth - no thing is reborn.
Arahant - a person who acts with no intent, thus no karma is created.

When the Buddha viewed his "past lives" directly before his awakening, was he viewing all of the people who had helped create who he was and how he perceived the world? A life that could have possibly had greed, aversion, and delusion coloring every aspect of his world view, causing him to suffer and cause others to suffer in return. Not only did he want to stop his own suffering but realized this would eliminate the suffering he would cause to the world around him, thus ending this cycle that had been created through the actions of an unfathomable amount of beings.

It just makes more sense to me if all of these beings are creating rebirth at the same time instead of sequentially. The way it differs from Gil's quote is that this "spin" is created all the time, and not necessarily mostly upon death. Should I keep thinking in this direction to create a skillful understanding of rebirth?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: The Buddha, Karma, and Rebirth

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:25 pm

The Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta is very helpful on understanding this difficult but central topic, and how to avoid Inappropriate Questions.

See also, the Mahāsi Sayādaw's Discourse on Dependent Origination

I find the wave analogy useful to — kammic energy is transmitted, neither mind nor matter nor any "soul" transmigrate to another existence. The transfer of a flame from one medium to another is also a useful analogy.
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