the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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stuka
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:25 am

Thanissaro:
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, he directs & inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives (lit: previous homes).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Dhammanando
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:38 pm

Hi Stuka,
stuka wrote:And Sati also held that the Buddha taught that "consciousness" was "that which 'carries karmic imprint'".
No, Sāti didn't say just "consciousness"; he said "this very same consciousness." The qualifier is what places his view outside the Buddha's teaching. To expand...


Sāti’s view:
  • tadevidaṃ viññāṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsarati anaññaṃ

    “It is this very same consciousness that continues and wanders on, not another.”
Classical Theravāda:
  • This present consciousness is dependently arisen, and so is the one after it, and so is the one after that...etc. etc.
  • There is no single consciousness that persists through time, but rather, each consciousness is discreet and to be reckoned in accordance with the sense-base and sense-object upon which it depends (“just as fire is reckoned by the particular condition dependent on which it burns – when fire burns dependent on logs, it is reckoned as a log fire...etc.”).
  • There is, however, a continuity of consciousnesses (in the present life at least, this is evident, for how else could any sense of personal identity be sustained?).
  • For beings who die with ignorance and craving still intact, the continuity of consciousnesses will outlast the present body.
Sāti’s view:
  • katamaṃ taṃ, sāti, viññāṇan ti?

    yvāyaṃ, bhante, vado vedeyyo tatra tatra kalyāṇapāpakānaṃ kammānaṃ vipākaṃ paṭisaṃvedetī ti.

    “What is this consciousness, Sāti?”

    “It is this, bhante, that speaks, that feels, that experiences now here, now there, the ripening of kammas that are virtuous or vicious.”
So, in Sāti's view not only does a single consciousness persist, but while persisting it also performs diverse functions. It speaks and it feels; it experiences both pleasures (the ripening of virtuous kammas) and pains (the ripening of vicious ones).

Classical Theravāda:
  • An arisen eye-consciousness performs the function of seeing, an arisen ear-consciousness the function of hearing etc. No consciousness performs more than one function, and (as mentioned already) each consciousness is discreet and different from those that came before it and those which come after.
  • No single consciousness can experience both pleasure and pain.
Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

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stuka
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:27 pm

We are not in disagreement, Bhante. Sati describes a reified "consciousness" as an entity, as an Atta. The Buddha refutes this and emphasises that each of the six forms of consciousnesses in his schema arise dependent upon a sense organ and sense objects, and that none of them constitute any sort of "entity".

However, the Buddha does not declare a "continuity of consciousness" that "will outlast the present body".
....for how else could any sense of personal identity be sustained?).
Through the mental function (sankhara) of memory, of course.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:25 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings JC,

Oh, go on then! :twisted:

I believe the Buddha taught conventional rebirth, but I think it's more important to realise that there's nothing to 're' and nothing to be 'born'. There are the five aggregates, interconnected, and nama-rupa and consciousness have a mutual dependency as explained in suttas such as the wonderful DN 15 - Mahanidana Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ... .than.html). As I understand it, conventional death is not the end of this process. One moment of consciousness is the condition for the next, and so it is over conventional 'lives'. I also believe that the Buddha was more intent on removing the 'self' or 'atman' from people's perceptions, and thereby removing eternalist and annihilationist views than he was about convincing people about 'rebirth'.

I'll leave it at that for now until we see some other responses to your challenge.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Dear Retro,

Your explanations of post-mortem continuance have provided me the final pieces of the puzzle, and I've finally been able make sense of "rebirth" without eternalism. You've written it a couple of times times in a couple of places so your view had time to sink into my head. It's been a very big benefit to me, and I want to thank you.

Best,
Drolma
Last edited by Ngawang Drolma. on Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:27 pm

Dhammanando wrote:There is, however, a continuity of consciousnesses (in the present life at least, this is evident, for how else could any sense of personal identity be sustained?).
The sense of personal identity occurs due to sankhara khanda & sanna khanda (memory). It is a formation, as described in the Parileyyaka Sutta.
Well then — knowing in what way, seeing in what way, does one without delay put an end to the effluents? There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self. That assumption is a fabrication. Now what is the cause, what is the origination, what is the birth, what is the coming-into-existence of that fabrication? To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance, craving arises. That fabrication is born of that. And that fabrication is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. That craving... That feeling... That contact... That ignorance is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. It is by knowing & seeing in this way that one without delay puts an end to the effluents.
"This, monks, is the path of practice leading to self-identification. One assumes about the eye that 'This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.' One assumes about forms... One assumes about consciousness at the eye... One assumes about contact at the eye... One assumes about feeling... One assumes about craving that 'This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.'

"One assumes about the ear...

"One assumes about the nose...

"One assumes about the tongue...

"One assumes about the body...

"One assumes about the intellect that 'This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.' One assumes about ideas... One assumes about consciousness at the intellect... One assumes about contact at the intellect... One assumes about feeling... One assumes about craving that 'This is me, this is my self, this is what I am.'

Chachakka Sutta
Therefore, I cannot see why the sense of personal identity would be sustained by or reliant upon a continuity of consciousness? In short, the sense of personal identity is sustained by ignorance.
.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:33 pm

Thanks Drolma,
Drolma wrote:Your explanations of post-mortem continuance have provided me the final pieces of the puzzle, and I've finally been able make sense of "rebirth" without eternalism. You've written it a couple of times times in a couple of places so your view had time to sink into my head. It's been a very big benefit to me, and I want to thank you.
I don't guarantee it to be definitive, but it is how I understand it and it seems consistent with my reading of the suttas.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:56 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I believe the Buddha taught conventional rebirth, but I think it's more important to realise that there's nothing to 're' and nothing to be 'born'. There are the five aggregates, interconnected, and nama-rupa and consciousness have a mutual dependency as explained in suttas such as the wonderful DN 15 - Mahanidana Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ... .than.html). As I understand it, conventional death is not the end of this process. One moment of consciousness is the condition for the next, and so it is over conventional 'lives'. I also believe that the Buddha was more intent on removing the 'self' or 'atman' from people's perceptions, and thereby removing eternalist and annihilationist views than he was about convincing people about 'rebirth'.
For me, in the suttas, the Buddha did not really teach like this.

Moreover, these matters of eternalism & annihilationism the Buddha taught to monks and not laypeople. To laypeople, the Buddha taught eternalism.

In the suttas, the Buddha generally kept the mundane & supramundane distinct.

In the suttas, we always read about an actual person being reborn.

Your view that 'not-self elements' are reborn is something I used to read on E-Sangha by the Tibetans. This is contrary to the Buddha's teaching on rebirth.
It is contrary to the Buddha because the teaching of rebirth has a moral efficacy and when rebirth is made to be voidness the moral efficacy is diminished.
This is mere Mahayana evangelism, wishing to make people feel good.

In the suttas, an actual person is always reborn.
Then, not long after they left, Anathapindika the householder died and reappeared in the Tusita heaven. Then Anathapindika the deva's son, in the far extreme of the night, his extreme radiance lighting up the entirety of Jeta's Grove, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, bowed down to him and stood to one side and said:

"As for Sariputta:
any monk who has gone beyond,
at best can only equal him
in discernment, virtue, & calm."

When this was said, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Lord, that must have been Anathapindika the deva's son. Anathapindika the householder had supreme confidence in Ven. Sariputta."

"Very good, Ananda. Very good, to the extent that you have deduced what can be arrived at through logic. That was Anathapindika the deva's son and no one else."


MN 143

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:06 pm

Greetings Element,

I believe the final moment of consciousness conditions the first moment of consciousness in a subsequent bundle of aggregates.

As I said, nothing is 're' or 'born'... why? Because there is anatta, anicca and idappaccayata... thus everything is forward-moving, dependent on causes and inconstant (i.e. devoid of permanence, devoid of soul). Thus, the subsequent bundle of aggregates conditioned by consciousness is neither totally different, nor the same.

That's consistent with Theravada, isn't it?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:22 pm

Greeting Retro,

I believe there is no arising or existing of consciousness independent of a sense base. I further believe there is no mind sense base (mano) independent of a body (nama-rupa). Thus if mind consciousness (mano vinnana) is the thing that moves on then the mind sense base & its objects must move on with it.

My view is your view is not consistent with the suttas. As I previously suggested, I have not sensed the Buddha taught the doctrine of rebirth in association with aniccata, dukkhata & anattata. To me, the Buddha taught mundane right view that sides with merit & supramundane right view that sides with ending the asava.
"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents [asava], siding with merit, resulting in the acquisitions [of becoming]; and there is noble right view, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

MN 117
Then the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "Enough, Ananda! Do not grieve, do not lament! For have I not taught from the very beginning that with all that is dear and beloved there must be change, separation and severance? Of that which is born, come into being, compounded and subject to decay, how can one say: 'May it not come to dissolution!'? There can be no such state of things. Now for a long time, Ananda, you have served the Tathagata with loving-kindness in deed, word and thought, graciously, pleasantly, with a whole heart and beyond measure. Great good have you gathered, Ananda! Now you should put forth energy and soon you too will be free from the taints [asava]."

DN 16
Last edited by Element on Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:27 pm

Greetings Element,

(to cheat slightly and pilfer a post I made elsewhere... bold added for emphasis relevant to this topic)

I would like to open up a discussion on the following sutta...

MN 115 - Bahudhatuka Sutta
http://www.mahindarama.com/e-tipitaka/M ... mn-115.htm

I like it because it:

- Highlights consciousness as an element separate and distinct from the four material elements of earth, water, fire and air. Thereby refuting the materialist position and everything that entails.

- Provides several variations on 'elements' by which the illusion of permanence and self can be shattered

- Has a nice dependent origination section

What do you think about it?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:30 pm

Greetings Element,
Element wrote:I believe there is no arising or existing of consciousness independent of a sense base. I further believe there is no mind sense base (mano) independent of a body (nama-rupa). Thus if consciousness is the thing that moves on then the mind sense base and its objects must move on with it.
I think of this in terms of the...

DN 15 - Maha-nidana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"

"No, lord."

"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?"

"No, lord."

"If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-and-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-and-form, i.e., consciousness."

"'From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for consciousness, i.e., name-and-form.

"This is the extent to which there is birth, aging, death, passing away, and re-arising. This is the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation. This is the extent to which the sphere of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting (discernibility) of this world — i.e., name-and-form together with consciousness.
Consciousness needs a sense base... but it needn't be the same one.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:41 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Highlights consciousness as an element separate and distinct from the four material elements of earth, water, fire and air.

What do you think about it?
Dear Retro,

If you want my opinion, I do not see how you have arrived at your view.

Whilst the Buddha has listed many kinds of elements, they are still mutually dependent.

For example, the Buddha lists the sensuality element. It is difficult to imagine a sensuality element independent of physical elements given the natural purpose of the sensuality element is to promote reproduction & the enjoyment of eating.

The Buddha was concerned with the cessation of dukkha. To regard all things as merely elements rather than 'self' ends dukkha.

However, the meta-physics of mental & physical elements, I do not recall the Buddha discussing.

For example, through meditation, I have come to regard defilement, which is a mental element, as something connected to the wind element.

Defilement is like a bad wind or evil spirit.

You are a father. A new born baby has all sorts of wind issues, which cause its mind to become upset. However, one simply burps a baby or using massage unties the knots of wind in its stomach. The baby's mind then becomes happy.

Because a baby has little mental volition, it is easy to manipulate its mind or mood through physical massage that control its wind element.

Similary, when a person reaches puberty, suddenly their mind has different kinds of emotions and defilements.

Thus, in my opinion, to seperate the various elements is difficult.

Kind regards,

Element

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:55 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I think of this in terms of the...DN 15 - Maha-nidana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Dear Retro,

This sutta I do not hold in regard.

First, it is inconsistant with the scores of other suttas on the same subject of dependent origination.

Second, it is from the DN, which many learned Buddhists hold are later additions rather than actual teachings of the Buddha.

Third, it was spoken to Ananda, who was unenlightened and remained unenlightened.

Fourth, it is subject to translation.

Five, it does not accord to the principles of higher dhamma, namely, sandittiko, akaliko, ehipassiko, opanyiko & paccatum veditabo vinnuhi.

Sixth, it espouses a disembodied consciousness, floating in space, without a sense base, which is inconsistant with the scores of other suttas about consciousness.

Thus, we must hold it to be not the actual words of the Buddha or a special teaching given for the unenlightened Ananda who declared he understood dependent origination.

My opinion,

Element

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 10, 2009 12:03 am

Greetings Element,
Element wrote:Sixth, it espouses a disembodied consciousness, floating in space, without a sense base, which is inconsistant with the scores of other suttas about consciousness.
Does it? Remember that Theravada does not have a concept of bardo, nor must a non-physical element necessarily conform to the laws of the physical universe.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Element

Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Element » Sat Jan 10, 2009 12:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:
"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"

"No, lord."

"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-and-form, i.e., consciousness."
Let us examine the unusual words above more closely.

When we look into a mirror and see our body, this is not consciousness or experience of 'the body'. It is merely the seeing of form through the eye sense base using eye consciousness. Similarly, when we get angry at someone and break out in angry speech, this is not the experience of the mind using mind consciousness but rather the experience of manifestations of mental kamma using ear consciousness.

However, when we meditate, namely, practise the satipatthana, the mind begins to experience the body & mind from the inside using body consciousness and mind consciousness. For example, when our mind is aware of the breathing & its affect on the internal flesh body, this awareness or feeling occurs via body consciousness. Similarly, when the mind becomes aware of itself (rather than merely expressing itself outwardly), here the existence of mind arises.

Thus, unless consciousness descends or falls into the body & mind through meditation practise, there is no actual experience of the body & mind itself.

For our consideration.
Last edited by Element on Sat Jan 10, 2009 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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