the great rebirth debate

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

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:57 am

santa100 wrote:From Ven. Thanissaro: ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... birth.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; )
...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 [beings born without the need for parents in heaven or hell]; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves...
Two remarks regarding "no spontaneously reborn beings [beings born without the need for parents in heaven or hell]"

1. Although 'spontaneously born' is the usual meaning of opapaatika, in the context of mundane right view the commentaries understand it to denote rebirth in general, no matter which of the four modes of generation is involved.

2. When opapaatika is used in the sense of 'spontaneously-born', the range of beings thus born is not confined to those in heaven and hell:
"What is spontaneous generation? There are devas and denizens of hell and certain human beings and some beings in the lower worlds; this is called spontaneous generation. These are the four kinds of generation." (MN.i.73)

Spontaneously-born humans are those that arise at the start of a world-cycle through the decadence and increasingly coarse appetites of the Abhassara Brahmas.

The "beings in the lower worlds" are petas and suchlike.

santa100
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by santa100 » Sun Dec 16, 2012 3:25 am

Thank you for the detailed explanation.. :anjali:

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:21 pm

BlueLotus wrote: So, irrespective of what the suttas say of "cessation of suffering", they think the "only way out of suffering" is to end existing. So the whole "cycle of rebirth and samsara" come in to play.
You're correct in saying that some suttas talk about ending suffering here and now, but I wonder whether this is referring to the cessation of mental suffering - as opposed to the cessation of both mental and physical suffering? Maybe looking at the Pali would help to clarify this.

An obvious example is the Arrow Sutta where one is ( still ) struck by the first arrow ( physical pain ) but not by the second arrow ( associated mental pain ). Bearing in mind that in the ancient world being struck by an arrow would have been a traumatic life-threatening injury, analogous to a gun-shot wound today.
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equilibrium
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by equilibrium » Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:49 pm

It must be "mental" as one cannot end suffering by simply ending this very life.....the root cause (mental) has not been resolved.....therefore there will be an effect.....future life of suffering.

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:53 pm

There seems to be a wide range of views in debates like this. Is this a fair summary?

1. The Buddha didn't teach rebirth and the realms, it was added in later.
2. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms, but only as skillful means or metaphor.
3. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - but these teachings are redundant to Buddhist practice.
4. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - and these teachings are important for Buddhist practice.
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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:37 pm

One can say that the rebirth talk in the Nikayas is present, and leave it at that. An opinion on the facticity of the matter, prior to direct knowledge, is simply unwarranted: literal, metaphorical, some of both, neither one... nothing of this sort need be chosen. DN 1 showcases how acceptance of even one's own experience on the matter can lead to wrong view. There, the focus is on the arising of contact in and of itself, rather than on the content of the contact - resultant views are where problems start. Indeed, the hell of six sense contact and the heaven of six sense contact bear this out.

I see that the Buddha taught using rebirth, and taught without using rebirth, depending on the audience. Nana's earlier "recognize they are integral" isn't obvious to me; Pāṭaliya wasn't asked to acquiesce in this way, for example.

But Pāṭaliya also didn't dismiss rebirth as wrong, nor was it suggested that he see it metaphorically - important points, to be sure, since they were possible answers the Buddha could have chosen, yet did not. The perplexing issue was simply set aside with Buddha's Wager; an attested approach which seems wholly sufficient for getting beyond these metaphysical distractions, and back to practical concerns.
Last edited by daverupa on Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • "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]

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nyana » Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:47 pm

daverupa wrote:I see that the Buddha taught using rebirth, and taught without using rebirth, depending on the audience. Nana's earlier "recognize they are integral" isn't obvious to me; Pāṭaliya wasn't asked to acquiesce in this way, for example.

But Pāṭaliya also didn't dismiss rebirth as wrong, nor was it suggested that he see it metaphorically - important points, to be sure, since they were possible answers the Buddha could have chosen, yet did not. The perplexing issue was simply set aside with Buddha's Wager; an attested approach which seems wholly sufficient for getting beyond these metaphysical distractions, and back to practical concerns.
SN 42.13 doesn't exist in isolation, it exists embedded in the rest of the sutta corpus. And in this larger context rebirth is repeatedly affirmed. Moreover, in this larger context the view affirming the next world isn't qualified as a distraction, but as a practical concern.

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:54 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:SN 42.13 doesn't exist in isolation, it exists embedded in the rest of the sutta corpus. And in this larger context rebirth is repeatedly affirmed. Moreover, in this larger context the view affirming the next world isn't qualified as a distraction, but as a practical concern.
It's described as effluential, siding with acquisition and becoming, but wholesomely motivating. When that view is part of a listeners' perplexity, the Buddha found other ways of engendering motivation. Once there is motivation, one ought (I paraphrase MN 2) stop thinking about a personal past and future; this is the approach which sides with dispassion and cessation, and which matures in release.

This is the larger context I see in the Nikayas.

---

I said this before, elsewhere, but it might bear repeating here:

Future becoming is not, now, a source of dukkha for me - the only possible contact therefrom is actually via the aggregates which I can imagine now as being in the future, but those images I am to renounce (per SN 22.79 - up to and including aspirations that merit generate a heavenly/superior future becoming). It is only the aggregates which I can recall/imagine in the past, but those I am to be indifferent towards, irrespective of whether they appear to be from an earlier life or not. The present aggregates receive the practice of awareness and mindfulness.
  • "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]

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nyana » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:24 pm

daverupa wrote:It's described as effluential, siding with acquisition and becoming, but wholesomely motivating. When that view is part of a listeners' perplexity, the Buddha found other ways of engendering motivation. Once there is motivation, one ought (I paraphrase MN 2) stop thinking about a personal past and future; this is the approach which sides with dispassion and cessation, and which matures in release.
Not thinking in terms of inappropriate attention and the six views arising therefrom doesn't preclude appropriately considering rebirth through inferential cognition. The former is incompatible with paṭiccasamuppāda, while the latter is entirely consistent with paṭiccasamuppāda where a mental continuum continues until craving and ignorance are eliminated, and is not terminated by physical conditions (e.g. brain death).

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:29 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Not thinking in terms of inappropriate attention and the six views arising therefrom... is incompatible with paṭiccasamuppāda
Do I understand you correctly here? Can you rephrase this?
  • "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: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nyana » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:36 pm

daverupa wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Not thinking in terms of inappropriate attention and the six views arising therefrom... is incompatible with paṭiccasamuppāda
Do I understand you correctly here? Can you rephrase this?
Sorry, I should have been clearer. By "the former" was meant "thinking in terms of inappropriate attention and the six views arising therefrom" which is incompatible with paṭiccasamuppāda.

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daverupa
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by daverupa » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:47 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:thinking in terms of inappropriate attention and the six views arising therefrom is incompatible with paṭiccasamuppāda
So, seeing paṭiccasamuppāda is not a result of inappropriate attention or wrong view. Certainly.

You said, then, that considering rebirth through inferential cognition is appropriate. Certainly?
SN 22.79 wrote:"Thus an instructed disciple of the noble ones reflects in this way: 'I am now being chewed up by [aggregates]. But in the past I was also chewed up by [aggregates] in the same way I am now being chewed up by present [aggregates]. And if I delight in future [aggregates], then in the future I will be chewed up by [aggregates] in the same way I am now being chewed up by present [aggregates].' Having reflected in this way, he becomes indifferent to past [aggregates], does not delight in future [aggregates], and is practicing for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, and cessation with regard to present [aggregates]."
Past and future are as now, clinging-aggregate-laden. You're advocating that this analysis extend beyond this life, but this is unnecessary. The past and the future are the same as now, in terms of being chewed up by aggregates. Having reflected in this way, one is called on to practice, not to ruminate.
  • "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]

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Alex123
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Re: Is hell and hungry ghost realm to be taken literally?

Post by Alex123 » Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:56 pm

porpoise wrote:There seems to be a wide range of views in debates like this. Is this a fair summary?
1. The Buddha didn't teach rebirth and the realms, it was added in later.
2. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms, but only as skillful means or metaphor.
3. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - but these teachings are redundant to Buddhist practice.
4. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - and these teachings are important for Buddhist practice.
It is a good summary, though I believe that more accurately would be to state: "what is written in the suttas". We do not know and cannot know what historical Gotama (if he even existed) has actually said, if anything. We don't have time machine.


The suttas, as translated to english, and as they have come to us, do seem to talk about #4.

Of course not everyone believes in literal rebirth as written in the suttas.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Nyana » Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:08 pm

daverupa wrote:Past and future are as now, clinging-aggregate-laden. You're advocating that this analysis extend beyond this life, but this is unnecessary. The past and the future are the same as now, in terms of being chewed up by aggregates. Having reflected in this way, one is called on to practice, not to ruminate.
This concern has already been addressed in the quotations previously offered from Dhammanando & Ṭhānissaro. E.g.: "To reject or doubt rebirth is to suppose that there are some causes that don't yield effects – specifically, that there can be ignorance and craving that will not issue in further becoming."

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

Post by Nyana » Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:12 pm

porpoise wrote:There seems to be a wide range of views in debates like this. Is this a fair summary?

1. The Buddha didn't teach rebirth and the realms, it was added in later.
2. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms, but only as skillful means or metaphor.
3. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - but these teachings are redundant to Buddhist practice.
4. The Buddha taught rebirth and the realms and intended it literally rather than metaphorically - and these teachings are important for Buddhist practice.
To maintain that there is an actual debate within the Buddhadhamma about rebirth is a false assumption. There is no such debate. Every strata of Buddhist dhamma (Sutta, Abhidhamma, Commentary) asserts rebirth.

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