the great rebirth debate

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rowboat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by rowboat » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:16 am

From Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes that follow the Brahma-nimantanika Sutta: The Brahma Invitation; MN 49
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Consciousness without surface (viññanam anidassanam): This term appears to be related to the following image from SN 12.64:
"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"

"On the western wall, lord."

"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"

"On the ground, lord."

"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"

"On the water, lord."

"And if there is no water, where does it land?"

"It does not land, lord."

"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."

In other words, normal sensory consciousness is experienced because it has a "surface" against which it lands: the sense organs and their objects, which constitute the "all." For instance, we experience visual consciousness because of the eye and forms of which we are conscious. Consciousness without surface, however, is directly known, without intermediary, free from any dependence on conditions at all.

This consciousness thus differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. And, as SN 35.23 notes, the word "all" in the Buddha's teaching covers only the six sense media, which is another reason for not including this consciousness under the aggregates. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud I.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud VIII.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time.

Some have objected to the equation of this consciousness with nibbana, on the grounds that nibbana is no where else in the Canon described as a form of consciousness. Thus they have proposed that consciousness without surface be regarded as an arahant's consciousness of nibbana in meditative experience, and not nibbana itself. This argument, however, contains two flaws: (1) The term viññanam anidassanam also occurs in DN 11, where it is described as where name & form are brought to an end: surely a synonym for nibbana. (2) If nibbana is an object of mental consciousness (as a dhamma), it would come under the all, as an object of the intellect. There are passages in the Canon (such as AN 9.36) that describe meditators experiencing nibbana as a dhamma, but these passages seem to indicate that this description applies up through the level of non-returning. Other passages, however, describe nibbana as the ending of all dhammas. For instance, Sn V.6 quotes the Buddha as calling the attainment of the goal the transcending of all dhammas. Sn IV.6 and Sn IV.10 state that the arahant has transcended dispassion, said to be the highest dhamma. Thus, for the arahant, nibbana is not an object of consciousness. Instead it is directly known without mediation. Because consciousness without feature is directly known without mediation, there seems good reason to equate the two.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
Ud 5.5

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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:28 am

nowheat wrote: I am not talking about having achieved some ... Release From Death.
Well then you can't say you know what the Buddha meant by "Released" then, can you.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:50 am

nowheat wrote:
kirk5a wrote:I am curious to know whether a poster who proclaims views about "the Deathless" actually knows and sees the Deathless for him/herself or whether it's rooted in mere reading, thinking, and reasoning.
Knows and sees, and that this is what is experienced is backed up by "mere reading thinking, and reasoning."
Could you say a little about your experience of seeing the Deathless?
Thanks.

Spiny

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:53 am

nowheat wrote:I am saying The Deathless isn't a great mystical state or Release From (literal) Death. I am saying it is a state of being liberated from the specific circumstances of DA, and that it is release from the Death he defined there, which is, really, just dukkha.
But in DO "death" is defined in straightforward physical terms - so I'm not sure I follow your reasoning here.

Spiny

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:01 am

nowheat wrote:When he talks about the Unborn, Unconditioned, Unaging, Deathless... he is making a specific reference to the mechanism he's describing with paticca samuppada -- it's what's born there, its aging, conditionality, and death(s) that is the issue. When he talks about the opposites, he is just saying that "that which arises" dependently is no longer there to be born, age, and die due to conditions.
Again, I'm not sure I follow your reasoning. Based on how the nidanas are actually described in the suttas, DO describes how physical birth, aging and death arise in dependence on becoming ( bhava ) in the 3 realms - so is it not logical to assume that "unborn" and "deathless" are simply referring to the cessation of becoming, and therefore to the cessation of physical birth, aging and death?

Spiny

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:51 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
nowheat wrote:
kirk5a wrote:I am curious to know whether a poster who proclaims views about "the Deathless" actually knows and sees the Deathless for him/herself or whether it's rooted in mere reading, thinking, and reasoning.
Knows and sees, and that this is what is experienced is backed up by "mere reading thinking, and reasoning."
Could you say a little about your experience of seeing the Deathless?
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
nowheat wrote:I am saying The Deathless isn't a great mystical state or Release From (literal) Death. I am saying it is a state of being liberated from the specific circumstances of DA, and that it is release from the Death he defined there, which is, really, just dukkha.
But in DO "death" is defined in straightforward physical terms - so I'm not sure I follow your reasoning here.
Are you talking about, for example:
"And what is ... death? ... Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Sure does sound pretty straightforward, I admit, but that's because it is layered with meaning, and we need to locate all of them to get to the overall meaning. That quote is actually part of "aging and death" as Sariputta gives it as the final link in dependent origination, and these are the ways we can look at it, along with the "birth" that precedes it:

(1) If there were no birth, no aging, no death at all in the world, anywhere, of any being, there could be no dukkha. We have to exist (be born) and encounter events that trouble us (like the aging and death of those we love, and of ourselves) for there to be any discomfort. The literal understanding of these is the "ground" or the "field" that is required for dukkha to grow. Other things grow in the same field (not just dukkha), but no field, no growth. This is why the description of death sounds so literal: in each and every step Sariputta is describing not what is happening in that step, but the ground for it to happen. I think of this as him telling us where to look to see the thing he is describing growing.

(2) The experiences we have in relation to birth, aging, sickness, death are nutriment for dukkha. They aren't dukkha itself, but they are the seeds in the field. If we were simply born, but there was no aging or death, of ourselves or our loved-ones -- if things weren't impermanent -- we wouldn't experience the dukkha that comes from loss. Dukkha isn't the loss itself, but it's what we do with that loss, out of our constructed sense of self. We have to water the seeds in the field for dukkha to grow.

(3) In the overall scheme of dependent arising, the Buddha is simultaneously describing what people think is going on (the way atta arises, and eventually goes to bliss) and what is actually going on (the way anatta arises, and eventually goes in the opposite of the direction folks think all their efforts should take them in: to dukkha instead of bliss). Bhava is the transition point in the normal Vedic way of seeing things, where one goes through the funeral pyre and becomes whatever they will be in one of the three realms they have been aiming all their lives towards. Their expectation would be something like "bhava to bliss" but the Buddha is saying, "Bhava, sure, but not to bliss, just to the experience of life that we all have: birth, sickness, aging, and death: dukkha." This is because the Buddha is not describing something which will survive the transition of bhava and go on to either bliss or a new life, but he is describing anatta which isn't going anywhere.

In the Upanisa Sutta you can see that the Buddha is defining "aging-and-death" as "dukkha":
...feeling is the supporting condition for craving, craving is the supporting condition for clinging, clinging is the supporting condition for existence (bhava), existence is the supporting condition for birth, birth is the supporting condition for suffering (dukkha), suffering is the supporting condition for faith...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This paragraph starts with ignorance, works all the way through DA and takes us into a liberative DA, but what's notable is that "aging-and-death" has been replaced with dukkha. That is the fourth layering of "death" -- it is not just part of the field, it is not just a seed, it is not just the end-result instead of bliss, it is (along with aging) specifically dukkha. Again I will point out, though, that aging and death are not dukkha itself, but they are the food that nourishes the dukkha we ourselves grow, so it's not even that "aging and death are dukkha" it's actually "what we do in response to aging and death results in dukkha".

Actually, the whole of dependent origination simply describes the arising of dukkha. If you look at MN 9 you'll see that Sariputta puts each and every step in the "what it is, where it comes from, how does it cease, what is the way to get it to cease" formulation. Pretty much anything described in that four-part formula (in whatever suttas we encounter it) is the equivalent of dukkha in some sense, so every step of dependent arising is dukkha. This is because what it answers is question #2: what is the origin of dukkha?

Dependent arising simultaneously describes how dukkha arises, and how anatta arises (it is the source of dukkha) ((and, as an aside, that all of this is impermanent, making it a discourse on the three marks of existence, too)) and everything that happens in DA is conditioned by that drive to create and nurture that sense-of-self that becomes anatta. Any time we are engaged in activities that have reference to that sense-of-self, we are in the DA process, engaged in fueling it, adding to our concepts of self, so we are part of what is "born, ages, suffers, dies" (in that we are feeding off of those experiences).

So when any one of us sits quietly in meditation, with the mind settled, and sensory information coming in, being observed and then allowed to pass, without reference to self, we are not engaged in feeding off of those experiences, so for those moments, we are experiencing the world without reference to being born, aging, suffering, dying -- we are experiencing "the deathless".

I think that answers all the questions you posed?

:namaste:

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kirk5a
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:09 pm

nowheat wrote: So when any one of us sits quietly in meditation, with the mind settled, and sensory information coming in, being observed and then allowed to pass, without reference to self, we are not engaged in feeding off of those experiences, so for those moments, we are experiencing the world without reference to being born, aging, suffering, dying -- we are experiencing "the deathless".
Have you presented this, what you say is "experiencing the deathless" to a teacher for review?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:56 pm

kirk5a wrote:
nowheat wrote: So when any one of us sits quietly in meditation, with the mind settled, and sensory information coming in, being observed and then allowed to pass, without reference to self, we are not engaged in feeding off of those experiences, so for those moments, we are experiencing the world without reference to being born, aging, suffering, dying -- we are experiencing "the deathless".
Have you presented this, what you say is "experiencing the deathless" to a teacher for review?
"A teacher"? What sort of teacher do you have in mind? And for what purpose? "Presented" in what way?

:namaste:

vinasp
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by vinasp » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:00 pm

Hi Spiny, everyone,

Quote:
"But in DO "death" is defined in straightforward physical terms - so I'm not sure I follow your reasoning here."

How can you say that "death" is described in straightforward physical terms?

1. It is clearly said to be the "death" of "a being" (satta).

2. A being is defined in terms of craving.

3. An Arahant has no craving - he is therefore, not a being.

4. So, for an Arahant, the link "death" has already ceased, since there
is no longer "a being" to die.

5. The body will, of course, at some point, stop functioning and will
disintegrate.

Regards, Vincent.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by kirk5a » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:01 am

nowheat wrote: "A teacher"? What sort of teacher do you have in mind? And for what purpose? "Presented" in what way?
A Buddhist meditation teacher of impeccable conduct with long experience in practice and teaching. For the purpose of seeing whether your understanding and experience is actually what you take it to be. Do you allow for any possibility of latching onto a conditioned frame of mind and supposing that is "deathless" when it is not?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

nowheat
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:32 am

kirk5a wrote: A Buddhist meditation teacher of impeccable conduct with long experience in practice and teaching.
Ah. I have not met such a teacher, but then I live in a quite isolated and conservative place, and have been a person of very modest means for many years (aka "I don't get out much"). If you have a teacher with great patience and time on their hands who would like to have, say, an email conversation with me about it, I'd be glad of the contact.
For the purpose of seeing whether your understanding and experience is actually what you take it to be. Do you allow for any possibility of latching onto a conditioned frame of mind and supposing that is "deathless" when it is not?
I do allow for such a thing, but I am not sure that what you propose would be helpful, unless that teacher actually understands what I am saying and why I am saying it. Do you know of a meditation teacher of impeccable conduct with long experience in practice and teaching who does not have dogmatic views about, say, what Dependent Arising describes? If this would just end up being a conversation that results in coming to the conclusion that I am not interpreting the dhamma in accordance with their understanding of it then we can avoid wasting the time of the venerable because I think we all already know that.

:namaste:

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:45 am

Moderator note: A bunch of stuff having to do with the translation of amata has been moved here:

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 57#p178757" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Buckwheat » Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:32 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Ajahn Thanissaro wrote:Although rebirth is often presented as an unscientific view, the material sciences actually have no way at all of proving the issue one way or the other.... science is in no position to prove or disprove the Buddha's teachings on the range and powers of human action.
This a fallacious argument -- shifting the burden of proof.

The fact that science hasn't proven or disproven rebirth doesn't necessarily mean there is good cause to accept it. The burden of proof is on the person making the assertion.

Suppose I logged on to this board one fine morning and announced "little did you know it, but we are all living in a computer simulation being run by beings in another dimension!" Folks might be intrigued. You might ask me to supply reasons for making the claim. But suppose that instead of providing reasons, I said "well, you can't disprove it, and science has no way at all of settling the issue one way or the other!" Who would be satisfied with that answer?

I'm not saying Ajahn is wrong about rebirth, but I guess this kind of shoddy thinking is a red flag for me. When someone of his intelligence is willing to resort to known fallacies to advance an argument, it's might be because a stronger basis for the argument cannot be found.
Ajahn Thanissaro is not using this as a logical argument for rebirth. What he is saying is that logic will never lead to a satisfactory asnwer, so we need another criteria for judegement. What is that criteria? What, when I do it, will lead to long term welfare and happiness? This is the grand question that all skillful discernment is based on. So, if one wagers on no rebirth, they may be able to reduce suffering in this lifetime, but they can not achieve the full liberation of nibbana. How can one pursue liberation from rebirth in the realms of suffering if one denies rebirth to begin with? Without rebirth, one may pursue equinimity and become a relatively wise person compared to the heathen, but they will never achieve liberation from rebirth.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Sarva » Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:12 pm

To just jump in to a long thread...

My stance is that this is the last life.
Rebirth is rather a historic question; what lead to this birth, not what's next.

Through meditational insight I saw a desire (craving) which lead to this birth. The desire was for many years unexplicable and deep rooted and until that moment I had not found a root cause or satisfaction for it. I was not able to distinguish a factor from childhood which would have given rise to the desire, yet it existed and played a large role on forming my character and the choices taken throughout my life. I mention, this rather personal observation, as my practice is alone and I am curious if this is could help others or others might recognise it.

Metta.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Buckwheat » Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:04 am

Sarva wrote:Rebirth is rather a historic question; what lead to this birth, not what's next.
I assume this is your own opinion? From the Buddhist perspective, rebirth is about both past and future. The ongoing result of the causal factors and kamma.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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