What is the true cause of rebirth?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Santi253
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What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Santi253 » Fri May 12, 2017 6:09 pm

From the perspective of the Pali canon, what is the cause of our destination after death, whether it be a heaven, a hell realm, a human birth, etc.?

Is our destination after death conditioned by our thoughts, our actions, or a combination of both?

Also, can others offer merit on our behalf in order to help insure us a positive rebirth?
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Freddie
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Freddie » Fri May 12, 2017 6:37 pm

The conditions of births are the fruit of intentional action (kamma).

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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 12, 2017 6:46 pm

Santi253 wrote:From the perspective of the Pali canon, what is the cause of our destination after death, whether it be a heaven, a hell realm, a human birth, etc.?

Is our destination after death conditioned by our thoughts, our actions, or a combination of both?

Also, can others offer merit on our behalf in order to help insure us a positive rebirth?
The shortest answer is that it is our kamma - intentional actions. These are traditionally divided into three types: through bodily actions, through speech, and through thought.
I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

As for your final question, yes, it is possible for others to offer merit on our behalf, and that is beneficial to them. Whether it is beneficial for us is more a matter of faith and opinion.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri May 12, 2017 7:56 pm

According to the priority of giving results there are also four kinds of kamma:
  1. Heavy kamma, which produces its resultant in this very life or in the next. The absorptions are heavy wholesome kammas. Crimes such as matricide, patricide, the murder of an Arahant, wounding a Buddha, and causing a schism in the Saṅgha are heavy unwholesome kammas.
  2. Death-proximate kamma, which one does just before death. If there is no heavy kamma then this determines the next rebirth.
  3. Habitual kamma is any action that one does very often. In the absence of death-proximate kamma this determines the next rebirth.
  4. Residual kamma is the last in the priority of giving results. This determines the next birth in the absence of habitual kamma.
Source: An Introduction to Kamma
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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 12, 2017 8:02 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: [*]Residual kamma is the last in the priority of giving results. This determines the next birth in the absence of habitual kamma.[/list]

Source: An Introduction to Kamma
Bhante, what is "residual kamma" in this context? Is it that which is carried over from a previous life? That which is left from one's life once one has taken account of the other three types? Or something else?

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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri May 12, 2017 9:12 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Bhante, what is "residual kamma" in this context? Is it that which is carried over from a previous life? That which is left from one's life once one has taken account of the other three types? Or something else?
I found this article by Dr. Mehm Tin Mon, which explains more fully. The diacritics are not Unicode - they probably use a CSX font so be aware of that.

4 Katattā-kamma

Unspecified kamma which is done once and soon forgotten. Now if we have any garuka-kamma, it will produce its result when we die and condition our next life. If we do not have any garuka-kamma, which is often the case, then we must rely on asannā-kamma (death proximate kamma) to condition our next life. To get a good asannā-kamma, sons and daughters or relatives and friends should arrange wholesome deeds such as offering robes to monks or listening to Dhamma-preaching for the person on his or her death-bed. The dying person should also be reminded of his past good deeds.

I like the simile of the Cattle-Shed

The Simile of a Cattle-shed

Suppose that many cattle are kept in a big shed for the night. In the morning the door of the shed is opened to let the cattle go out to the pasture. Now which one will come out first? All the cattle wait to get out as soon as possible. If there is a leader among them whom everyone respects, this one will walk majestically to the door and come out first. This one is like a garuka-kamma which is uncontested to bear its result in the next life. Now, if there is no leader, the one nearest the door may come out first. This is similar to the āssanna-kamma bearing its fruit in the next life. Sometimes a vigilant one, which has regularly noticed the time when the shed is opened, may walk to the door just before it is opened and come out first when the door is opened. This is like the ācinna-kamma producing its result in the next life. Sometimes an unexpected frail one, by being pushed by stronger ones, may come out of the shed first. This is similar to the case when an unexpected katattā-kamma has the chance to condition the next life. Queen Mallikā led a righteous life, but she remembered a lie, which she had told King Kosala long ago, at her death moment. So this had katattā-kamma cast her down to a woeful state for seven days.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Sun May 14, 2017 6:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 12, 2017 9:28 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:...
Many thanks, Bhante.

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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by SarathW » Fri May 12, 2017 10:31 pm

Birth is a dependently originated phenomenon.
According to DO Bhava (kama, Rupa, Arupa) is the immediate cause of birth.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Santi253 » Fri May 12, 2017 11:07 pm

Sam Vara wrote: As for your final question, yes, it is possible for others to offer merit on our behalf, and that is beneficial to them. Whether it is beneficial for us is more a matter of faith and opinion.
Thank you for your response. Do the Pali scriptures or the traditional commentaries suggest that we can or should offer merit on behalf of the deceased?
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Santi253
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Santi253 » Fri May 12, 2017 11:12 pm

It's often taught from a Mahayana perspective that our last thought-moment at death conditions where we will go afterward, that the mind can have this power.

For example, if you direct your thoughts at the moment of death to being reborn into a heaven or a Pure Land, that's where you will go, even if you committed many bad deeds in your entire life.

Is there a similar teaching in Theravada? Not all Mahayana Buddhists or sects teach this.
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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 12, 2017 11:17 pm

Santi253 wrote:
Sam Vara wrote: As for your final question, yes, it is possible for others to offer merit on our behalf, and that is beneficial to them. Whether it is beneficial for us is more a matter of faith and opinion.
Thank you for your response. Do the Pali scriptures or the traditional commentaries suggest that we can or should offer merit on behalf of the deceased?
Well, there's this:
As water raining on a hill
flows down to the valley,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.
As rivers full of water
fill the ocean full,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.

"He gave to me, she acted on my behalf,
they were my relatives, companions, friends":
Offerings should be given for the dead
when one reflects thus
on things done in the past.
For no weeping,
no sorrowing
no other lamentation
benefits the dead
whose relatives persist in that way.
But when this offering is given, well-placed in the Sangha,
it works for their long-term benefit
and they profit immediately.

In this way
the proper duty to relatives has been shown,
great honor has been done to the dead,
and monks have been given strength:

The merit you've acquired
isn't small.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Other contributors will be better able than me to find other suttas and commentaries, and to explain their meaning. Certainly, the Thai community that I know seem to take it for granted that their offerings to the Sangha will benefit deceased relatives.

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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by SarathW » Fri May 12, 2017 11:17 pm

Only the Sotapanna has the assurance of not born to an animal womb.
Others can be re-born in any one of the 31 planes of existence.
It is not under your control.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 12, 2017 11:20 pm

Santi253 wrote:It's often taught from a Mahayana perspective that our last thought-moment at death conditions where we will go afterward, that the mind can have this power.

For example, if you direct your thoughts at the moment of death to being reborn into a heaven or a Pure Land, that's where you will go, even if you committed many bad deeds in your entire life.

Is there a similar teaching in Theravada? Not all Mahayana Buddhists or sects teach this.
Please see Bhikkhu Pesala's posts above which deal with this, including the relative potency of different types of kamma.

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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by Santi253 » Fri May 12, 2017 11:40 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Santi253 wrote:It's often taught from a Mahayana perspective that our last thought-moment at death conditions where we will go afterward, that the mind can have this power.

For example, if you direct your thoughts at the moment of death to being reborn into a heaven or a Pure Land, that's where you will go, even if you committed many bad deeds in your entire life.

Is there a similar teaching in Theravada? Not all Mahayana Buddhists or sects teach this.
Please see Bhikkhu Pesala's posts above which deal with this, including the relative potency of different types of kamma.
Thank you for the suggestion. I want to avoid misinterpretations on these things, and I'm thankful for the help I am finding on this forum.

I want to be able to take seriously the karmic consequences of my thoughts and actions, something I've often neglected to do in the past.
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Re: What is the true cause of rebirth?

Post by justindesilva » Sat May 13, 2017 4:51 am

Freddie wrote:The conditions of births are the fruit of intentional action (kamma).
Aggana sutta explains a lot regarding 're birth and how it links with karma and the existence of the earth.
In fact with anicca (impermanence) the necessity of sentient beings are countered with 're birth.

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