the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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daverupa
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by daverupa » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:58 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
daverupa wrote:It may have been a minority concern, but agnosticism about rebirth is, apparently, no barrier to Dhamma practice....
Practice is not the same as realization. Your reading of the suttas is once again highly selective.
daverupa wrote:At the end of the day, talk of the facticity of supernatural realms can be set aside altogether.
There's nothing any more "supernatural" about any of those realms than there is about the human & animal realms.
If it's not perceptible to the scientific method, it isn't natural, in the sense I'm using the term. Accordingly, the supernatural component is had by definition when referring to deva realms, post-death states, and the like. "Realization" is a comparative supernaturalism quagmire.

As to being highly selective, that's simply a description masquerading as a criticism. I didn't deny a thing, didn't say these were 'more real' or any such. It's simply apparent that there are attested ways around the problem which are amenable to modern sensibilities (the earlier "rub").

I'm not saying it isn't there - I made my comment about people c. 300 BCE having it basically as a matter of course to acknowledge this directly.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

Nyana
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Nyana » Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:41 pm

daverupa wrote:If it's not perceptible to the scientific method, it isn't natural, in the sense I'm using the term. Accordingly, the supernatural component is had by definition when referring to deva realms, post-death states, and the like.
There's reason to think that certain non-ordinary contemplative perceptions are replicable, even though there are difficulties in doing so in a laboratory. For one thing, the subjects would require a high degree of prior contemplative training. But before any scientific analysis can be undertaken, the practice injunctions need to be carried out by suitable subjects and appropriate research projects need to be established.
daverupa wrote:As to being highly selective, that's simply a description masquerading as a criticism. I didn't deny a thing, didn't say these were 'more real' or any such. It's simply apparent that there are attested ways around the problem which are amenable to modern sensibilities (the earlier "rub").
The very sutta you cited (MN 79) goes on to state that disciples can realize the higher knowledges of recollection of past lives and the passing away & reappearance of beings.

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daverupa
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by daverupa » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:24 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:The very sutta you cited (MN 79) goes on to state that disciples can realize the higher knowledges of recollection of past lives and the passing away & reappearance of beings.
And nowhere was this denied or explained away. Yep - there it is; also, the Buddha was apparently able to teach the Dhamma to those who were perplexed about the matter without needing to rely on it, as I said earlier.

You are making a strong point for the presence of these ideas, but that doesn't at all apply to what I've been saying, so I wonder why you're quoting me...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

Nyana
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Nyana » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:42 pm

daverupa wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:The very sutta you cited (MN 79) goes on to state that disciples can realize the higher knowledges of recollection of past lives and the passing away & reappearance of beings.
And nowhere was this denied or explained away. Yep - there it is; also, the Buddha was apparently able to teach the Dhamma to those who were perplexed about the matter without needing to rely on it, as I said earlier.

You are making a strong point for the presence of these ideas, but that doesn't at all apply to what I've been saying, so I wonder why you're quoting me...
Because, among other things, I've yet to see any textual example of an agnostic arahant.

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:48 pm

Aloka wrote:What about this sutta? This can't be about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.

SN 35 -Khana Sutta: The Opportunity

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a hell named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a heaven named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life."

.
The Buddha is saying he's seen a hell realm and heaven realm. In the hell realm all experience is disagreeable, in the heaven realm all experience is agreeable.
It seems quite straightforward.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by beeblebrox » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:49 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
beeblebrox wrote:I think that's quite patronizing.
I don't think it is. Rather, suggesting that a small child can comprehend the first two noble truths is an example of a superficial understanding of the dhamma.
You're probably right... though I think it might be worth considering that if one takes the literal idea of rebirth so seriously, then I don't think that he would be looking down on the children easily.

Even when we consider that a stream-entrant would already be assured of his/her liberation, regardless of how he or she is treated, or spoken to... I still think that kind of talk is bad kamma. Even when it's spoken out of their ear-shot... because that still would be planting the bad seeds, whether within oneself or others.

I think it's better to venerate, the children included, rather than to try to argue so strenuously for one's own particular ideas of rebirth... especially when he/she doesn't seem to have such application within the practice.

:anjali:
Last edited by beeblebrox on Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:51 pm

Aloka wrote:I would find it very helpful if someone could give a clear explanation of where the various realms actually are if they're not mental states, please ? Where are the hell and deva realms for example - under the earth and up in the clouds ?
You might find it helpful to explore the ideas put forward by modern physicists relating to different dimensions, multiverses, etc. There seem to be some parallels.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Nyana » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:54 pm

Aloka wrote:If this ancient world cosmology system doesn't actually exist and we shouldn't interpret it as being symbolic - then please explain how it should be interpreted, Tilt.
It's reasonable to separate (a) first hand contemplative experiences of other realms and/or beings, from (b) how the descriptions of these experiences were eventually formulated and systematized in ancient oral and written traditions. The former doesn't require the narrative and various literary devices found in the latter.

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:57 pm

Aloka wrote:I agree - and in general, I often think its sad that some Buddhists, certainly when one is reading on the internet, appear to be just as fundamentalist and filled with condescending condemnation towards others, as their extremist 'hellfire' cousins from other religions.
What I see with these debates is an onging tension between traditionalists and revisionists, and both camps are sometimes guilty of fundamentalism and condescension. The revisionist version of fundamentalism is what I'd describe as rabid skepticism, an irrational urge to undermine the traditional approach.

I suspect this tension has always been present within Buddhism, and one only has to look at the arguments within the Church of England to recognise that it isn't peculiar to Buddhism.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:09 pm

daverupa wrote: I'd simply ask a different question than above, to wit: is any of it practical? I think both answers are "not now". It was once very plausible, and thereby quite practical. But it's an old, old scabbard for the Dhamma sword these days...
So are you arguing that the cosmology described in the suttas is redundant for modern Buddhists? And if so, are you arguing a case for Secular Buddhism?
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Aloka » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:20 pm

porpoise wrote:
Aloka wrote:What about this sutta? This can't be about hell and heaven realms in other places somewhere.

SN 35 -Khana Sutta: The Opportunity

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a hell named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is undesirable, never desirable; displeasing, never pleasing; disagreeable, never agreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life. I have seen a heaven named 'Six Spheres of Contact.' Whatever form one sees there with the eye is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable. Whatever sound one hears there with the ear... Whatever aroma one smells there with the nose... Whatever flavor one tastes there with the tongue... Whatever tactile sensation one touches there with the body... Whatever idea one cognizes there with the intellect is desirable, never undesirable; pleasing, never displeasing; agreeable, never disagreeable.

"It's a gain for you, monks, a great gain, that you've gained the opportunity to live the holy life."

.
The Buddha is saying he's seen a hell realm and heaven realm. In the hell realm all experience is disagreeable, in the heaven realm all experience is agreeable.
It seems quite straightforward.

It doesn't seem that way to me, its seems a direct reference to states of being within the human realm. That's the way I read it, I wasn't deliberately trying to 'interpret' anything.

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:28 pm

Aloka wrote:
porpoise wrote:The Buddha is saying he's seen a hell realm and heaven realm. In the hell realm all experience is disagreeable, in the heaven realm all experience is agreeable.
It seems quite straightforward.

It doesn't seem that way to me, its seems a direct reference to states of being within the human realm. That's the way I read it, I wasn't deliberately trying to 'interpret' anything.
My assumption is that the reference to the 6 sense bases is a means of translating human experience to other realms. Obviously this approach wouldn't work with the formless realm because there's no form. ;)
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:34 pm

BlueLotus wrote:If a person interprets suffering as inclusive of physical pain, sickness and old age, to that person ending suffering is ending all forms of existence. According to this line of thinking, there is no way to actually experience cessation of suffering whatsoever because a person's very existence is suffering.
But that is what the suttas seem to describe, and this is underlined by the fact that descriptions of dukkha invariably include physical pain, sickness, aging and death ( and, interestingly, birth ;) ).

So it appears that with a secular interpretation the goal is to end mental suffering, while with a traditional interpretation the goal is to end all suffering.
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by santa100 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:34 pm

Beside the copious explicit descriptions of literal rebirth & realms ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ght.org%2F" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ), there're tons of instances where that common stock phrase about wrong view was repeatedly mentioned:
And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view
( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/search_r ... ng+offered" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; )

If we simply give an un-biased objective look, it just doesn't make sense to see the Buddha went in great length emphasizing the explicitness of rebirth/realms AND the importance of right view over and over again just so it all turns out to be mere speculation or some kind of fanciful yet un-necessary add-on..

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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:39 pm

santa100 wrote:If we simply give an un-biased objective look, it just doesn't make sense to see the Buddha went in great length emphasizing the explicitness of rebirth/realms AND the importance of right view over and over again just so it all turns out to be mere speculation or some kind of fanciful yet un-necessary add-on..
Some argue that this was all just skillful means, ie the Buddha was just using the belief system of the time. But would a teacher of the Buddha's stature basically make up a load of stuff in order to reach a wider audience? It doesn't seem likely to me.
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