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Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 12:14 am
by rohana
mikenz66 wrote:Perhaps someone could explain what they see as the key difference between "reincarnation" and "rebirth"? I've never been able to figure out what the difference is supposed to be since they are synonyms in normal English usage.
I think it's simply a matter of how one answers the question "what the relationship between 'you' that exist now and the 'you' that existed a few moments ago?". The eternalist(say, one following Vēdānta) would say it's the same "you". Sure, your body may have aged between that moment and the present moment, and your mind may have changed, but the "real" you - the eternal ātma, remains the same, therefore the relationship between the now-you and the past-you is one of equality. Since it is the ātma that transmigrates from life to life, if you consider the last moment of this life and the first moment of the next life, it's the same "real you" between the two lives.

But from the Buddhist point of view, the relationship can't be clearly defined: is it the same "you"? No. Is it a different "you"? Not quite, since the present-you is a result of the past-you. So the relationship is, as Venerable Nāgasēna says, "Neither the same, nor another". The same relationship exists between the last-you of this life and first-you of the next life.

(It doesn't necessarily mean that the "you" of one moment is just conditioned by the "you" of the previous moment. In fact there doesn't need to be any talk of 'moments' at all. What one becomes at the present is born out of a complex web of kammic interactions of both past and present - whether "within the same life" or whether "becoming a new life".)

Bhava, or Becoming, is constantly taking place, and it simply doesn't end when at what we call "death" - so, may be, the reason to use the term "punabbhava" is necessary because it is us puthajjanas that fabricate the world in terms of 'this life', and 'the next life'. If one is an āriya, then one understands(similar to mathematical induction), that as long as the process explained by paticcasampuppāda carries on, 'becoming' can't simply end with the break-up of the physical body, so I think that for an āriya, a special designation by the term 'punabbhava' is unnecessary, since they realize it is the same process of 'bhava paccayā jāti' regardless of whether 'within this life' or 'from one life to the next'. Or as Ven. Ñāṇānanda would say, a designation as a "here" and a "there".
retrofuturist wrote:To me, as I understand it, punabbhava has nothing to do with transmigration, whereas patisandhi unambiguously does.
Huh?? May be I've misunderstood, but how does patisandhi-citta suggest a transmigration?

As already quoted from the Ñātilōka dictionary:
  • Neither has this rebirth-consciousness transmigrated from the previous existence to this present existence, nor did it arise without such conditions, as kamma, kammic-constructions, propensity, object, etc. That this consciousness has not come from the previous existence to this present existence, yet that it has come into existence by means of conditions included in the previous existence, such as kamma, etc.
retrofuturist wrote:So, returning to MN 48 for a moment, which refers to speculation... "If a monk is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is enthralled". If one knows from experience things "about the other world" then good for them. But if they don't know it, it is speculation, and if it is speculation, the mind is enthralled.
Well if one is pondering about the future(lives) at the detriment of cultivating the mind, yes. But there are some teachings by the Buddha that would count as 'skillfull speculation about the future' - e.g. contemplating the dangers of saṃsāra. Kamma is speculation too, but certainly the Buddha highly encouraged one to distinguish skillful actions from unskillful actions.
retrofuturist wrote:Which of course isn't to deny "literal post-mortem rebirth" - just to say that it's not a necessary corollary of punabbhava, just like it's not a necessary corollary of paticcasamuppada.
I'm not sure if there's a big difference between "literal post-mortem rebirth" and punabbhava.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 8:40 am
by LonesomeYogurt
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, in this article talks about just this - it seems that the traditional stock set of twelve steps is not the only formulation of paticcasamuppada that the Buddha discussed.

I think we often assume the debate about a one-life or three-life model of paticcasamuppada is an either/or proposition, when it could very well be a formula that applies at both a micro and macro level depending on the situation. Thanissaro compares it to an erosion photograph, where the data is all there but the scale is not immediately knowable.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:57 pm
by danieLion
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:26 pm
by daverupa
danieLion wrote:
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?
Exactly. The Nidanasamyutta (SN 12.*) has quite a few versions; for example, SN 12.65 (p-10), SN 12.52 (p-6), etc.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:50 pm
by LonesomeYogurt
danieLion wrote:As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?
I preferred Paticcasamuppada 3: Judgement Day.

Sorry, sorry, back on topic :jumping:

I think what the many different forms of dependent origination point to is a shifting, dynamic understanding of paticcasamuppada that is not nearly as rigid as we sometimes assume. It could very well be, as Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu argues, that all models of paticcasamuppada were only formulated into their twelve-, six-, four-, or eight-link versions after the Buddha's death.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:21 am
by danieLion
daverupa wrote:
danieLion wrote:
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?
Exactly. The Nidanasamyutta (SN 12.*) has quite a few versions; for example, SN 12.65 (p-10), SN 12.52 (p-6), etc.
IMO, it boils down to cognitive distortion.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:47 am
by Dinsdale
daverupa wrote:
danieLion wrote:
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?
Exactly. The Nidanasamyutta (SN 12.*) has quite a few versions; for example, SN 12.65 (p-10), SN 12.52 (p-6), etc.
But aren't all these variations subject to the stock definitions of the nidanas given in MN9 and SN12.2?

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:58 am
by daverupa
porpoise wrote:But aren't all these variations subject to the stock definitions of the nidanas given in MN9 and SN12.2?
I think this misses the forest for the trees; the different resolutions which can be brought to bear on paticcasamuppada indicate a fluidly superimposed process. The terms have meanings, certainly, but p-12 is simply comprehensive of parts, not the single way it can and must be seen in action. Awareness can encompass varying scales of resolution here.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:49 am
by danieLion
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
danieLion wrote:As opposed to paticcasamuppada-6, paticcasamuppada-8, paticcasamuppada-10, etc...?
daverupa wrote:Exactly. The Nidanasamyutta (SN 12.*) has quite a few versions; for example, SN 12.65 (p-10), SN 12.52 (p-6), etc.
porpoise wrote:But aren't all these variations subject to the stock definitions of the nidanas given in MN9 and SN12.2?
Quite the opposite, porpoise. Stock definitions imply systematic imposition whereas variations imply we are closer to Buddhavacana. The Buddha was clearly senstive to set (unique individuals and their perceptions) and settings (the unique environments those unique individuals lived in). For instance, if we assume the Buddha gave a stock definition of papanca, we run into more trouble than letting the differences speak to us for themselves. Look at the variations Thanissaro highlights among the ways the Buddha spoke of papanca in relation to conflict in his introduction to MN 18 (Madhupindika Sutta: The Ball of Honey).
Thanissaro wrote:This discourse plays a central role in the early Buddhist analysis of conflict. As might be expected, the blame for conflict lies within, in the unskillful habits of the mind, rather than without. The culprit in this case is a habit called papañca. Unfortunately, none of the early texts give a clear definition of what the word papañca means, so it's hard to find a precise English equivalent for the term. However, they do give a clear analysis of how papañca arises, how it leads to conflict, and how it can be ended. In the final analysis, these are the questions that matter — more than the precise definition of terms — so we will deal with them first before proposing a few possible translation equivalents for the word.

Three passages in the discourses — DN 21, MN 18, and Sn 4.11 — map the causal processes that give rise to papañca and lead from papañca to conflict. Because the Buddhist analysis of causality is generally non-linear, with plenty of room for feedback loops, the maps vary in some of their details. In DN 21, the map reads like this:

-the perceptions & categories of papañca > thinking > desire > dear-&-not-dear > envy & stinginess > rivalry & hostility

In Sn 4.11, the map is less linear and can be diagrammed like this:
-perception > the categories of papañca

-perception > name & form > contact > appealing & unappealing > desire > dear-&-not-dear > stinginess/divisiveness/quarrels/disputes

In MN 18, the map is this:
-contact > feeling > perception > thinking > the perceptions & categories of papañca

In this last case, however, the bare outline misses some of the important implications of the way this process is phrased. In the full passage, the analysis starts out in an impersonal tone:

-Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises [similarly with the rest of the six senses]. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling.

Starting with feeling, the notion of an "agent" — in this case, the feeler — acting on "objects," is introduced:

-What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one "papañcizes."

Through the process of papañca, the agent then becomes a victim of his/her own patterns of thinking:

-Based on what a person papañcizes, the perceptions & categories of papañca assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye [as with the remaining senses].

What are these perceptions & categories that assail the person who papañcizes? Sn 4.14 states that the root of the categories of papañca is the perception, "I am the thinker." From this self-reflexive thought — in which one conceives a "self," a thing corresponding to the concept of "I" — a number of categories can be derived: being/not-being, me/not-me, mine/not-mine, doer/done-to, signifier/signified. Once one's self becomes a thing under the rubric of these categories, it's impossible not to be assailed by the perceptions & categories derived from these basic distinctions. When there's the sense of identification with something that experiences, then based on the feelings arising from sensory contact, some feelings will seem appealing — worth getting for the self — and others will seem unappealing — worth pushing away. From this there grows desire, which comes into conflict with the desires of others who are also engaging in papañca. This is how inner objectifications breed external contention.

How can this process be ended? Through a shift in perception, caused by the way one attends to feelings, using the categories of appropriate attention [see MN 2]. As the Buddha states in DN 21, rather than viewing a feeling as an appealing or unappealing thing, one should look at it as part of a causal process: when a particular feeling is pursued, do skillful or unskillful qualities increase in the mind? If skillful qualities increase, the feeling may be pursued. If unskillful qualities increase, it shouldn't. When comparing feelings that lead to skillful qualities, notice which are more refined: those accompanied with thinking (directed thought) and evaluation, or those free of thinking and evaluation, as in the higher stages of mental absorption, or jhana. When seeing this, there is a tendency to opt for the more refined feelings, and this cuts through the act of thinking that, according to MN 18, provides the basis for papañca.

In following this program, the notion of agent and victim is avoided, as is self-reflexive thinking in general. There is simply the analysis of cause-effect processes. One is still making use of dualities — distinguishing between unskillful and skillful (and affliction/lack of affliction, the results of unskillful and skillful qualities) — but the distinction is between processes, not things (see Gombrich, above). Thus one's analysis avoids the type of thinking that, according to DN 21, depends on the perceptions and categories of papañca, and in this way the vicious cycle by which thinking and papañca keep feeding each other is cut.

Ultimately, by following this program to greater and greater levels of refinement through the higher levels of mental absorption, one finds less and less to relish and enjoy in the six senses and the mental processes based on them. With this sense of disenchantment, the processes of feeling and thought are stilled, and there is a breakthrough to the cessation of the six sense spheres. When these spheres cease, is there anything else left? Ven. Sariputta, in AN 4.174, warns us not to ask, for to ask if there is, isn't, both-is-and-isn't, neither-is-nor-isn't anything left in that dimension is to papañcize what is free from papañca. However, this dimension is not a total annihilation of experience. It's a type of experience that DN 11 calls consciousness without feature, luminous all around, where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing, where long/short, coarse/fine, fair/foul, name/form are all brought to an end. This is the fruit of the path of arahantship — a path that makes use of dualities but leads to a fruit beyond them.

It may come as cold comfort to realize that conflict can be totally overcome only with the realization of arahantship, but it's important to note that by following the path recommended in DN 21 — learning to avoid references to any notion of "self" and learning to view feelings not as things but as parts of a causal process affecting the qualities in the mind — the basis for papañca is gradually undercut, and there are fewer and fewer occasions for conflict. In following this path, one reaps its increasing benefits all along the way.

Translating papañca: As one writer has noted, the word papañca has had a wide variety of meanings in Indian thought, with only one constant: in Buddhist philosophical discourse it carries negative connotations, usually of falsification and distortion. The word itself is derived from a root that means diffuseness, spreading, proliferating. The Pali Commentaries define papañca as covering three types of thought: craving, conceit, and views. They also note that it functions to slow the mind down in its escape from samsara. Because its categories begin with the objectifying thought, "I am the thinker," I have chosen to render the word as "objectification," although some of the following alternatives might be acceptable as well: self-reflexive thinking, reification, proliferation, complication, elaboration, distortion. The word offers some interesting parallels to the postmodern notion of logocentric thinking, but it's important to note that the Buddha's program of deconstructing this process differs sharply from that of postmodern thought.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:09 pm
by Dinsdale
danieLion wrote:
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
porpoise wrote:But aren't all these variations subject to the stock definitions of the nidanas given in MN9 and SN12.2?
Quite the opposite, porpoise. Stock definitions imply systematic imposition whereas variations imply we are closer to Buddhavacana.
But in the case of the nidanas the only definitions I'm aware of are the ones in MN9 and SN12.2 ( confirmed again in DN15 ).
So not using those definitions doesn't make sense to me. It seems analogous to changing the accepted definitions of individual words in a sentence so that the sentence takes on a whole new meaning.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:01 pm
by danieLion
porpoise wrote:
danieLion wrote:
daverupa wrote:Paticcasamuppada is a fluid dependency teaching, with many possible formulations. Sticking to paticcasamuppada-12 can generate artificial difficulties.
porpoise wrote:But aren't all these variations subject to the stock definitions of the nidanas given in MN9 and SN12.2?
Quite the opposite, porpoise. Stock definitions imply systematic imposition whereas variations imply we are closer to Buddhavacana.
But in the case of the nidanas the only definitions I'm aware of are the ones in MN9 and SN12.2 ( confirmed again in DN15 ).
So not using those definitions doesn't make sense to me. It seems analogous to changing the accepted definitions of individual words in a sentence so that the sentence takes on a whole new meaning.
Do you have an objection to broadening you awareness to the rest of the suttas where the nidana appear? Maybe it'd make sense to you then? The Buddha wasn't a definitionalist. Definitions are never accepted by consensus. Definitions are dynamic. E.g., it is inaccurate to refer to the dictionary definition of a word because there are hundreds of different dictionaries.

“For a large class of cases—though not for all—in which we employ the word ‘meaning’ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (Wittgenstein, PhiIosophical Investigations, p. 43).

So it is not syntactical rearrangements that determine "meaning," but temporary agreements among users of words, sentences and languages about conventional utility at a certain time and certain place.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:32 pm
by ancientbuddhism
danieLion wrote:Definitions are never accepted by consensus. Definitions are dynamic…
And the dynamic of definitions is contextual. Whereas in the case of paṭiccasamupāda we find its working hypothesis relating to present cognitive processes.

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:47 pm
by SDC
porpoise wrote:So not using those definitions doesn't make sense to me. It seems analogous to changing the accepted definitions of individual words in a sentence so that the sentence takes on a whole new meaning.


(I'm only commenting because you and I have a history with this topic, but never got to discuss this point.)

Initially I never felt the need to challenge the accepted western translations of the suttas, despite the occasional vagueness and incoherence that was/is present. However I was exposed to different interpretations that made more sense to me and were more specific. I'm not saying that everyone should do that, but I think the reader's satisfaction with the suttas (in whatever language) should be exclusively based on their clarity and completeness as opposed to satisfaction based on the fact that they are "accepted".

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:03 am
by danieLion
ancientbuddhism wrote:
danieLion wrote:Definitions are never accepted by consensus. Definitions are dynamic…
And the dynamic of definitions is contextual. Whereas in the case of paṭiccasamupāda we find its working hypothesis relating to present cognitive processes.
No matter how many links we work with?

Re: Reincarnation

Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:04 am
by danieLion
SDC wrote:
porpoise wrote:So not using those definitions doesn't make sense to me. It seems analogous to changing the accepted definitions of individual words in a sentence so that the sentence takes on a whole new meaning.


(I'm only commenting because you and I have a history with this topic, but never got to discuss this point.)

Initially I never felt the need to challenge the accepted western translations of the suttas....
Are you equating translations with definitions?