the great rebirth debate

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chownah
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by chownah » Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:25 am

Lyndon taylor,
I think what the quote is saying is that the Buddha used narrative and cosmology as an introduction for people who were not ready to understand his more important teachings on phenomenology. In plain English the Buddha was wanting to teach how through understanding how our experience of the world comes about we can find a way to end suffering, but there were many people who were so used to learning in other ways so he used some of the ways they were used to thinking about things as an introduction to what he thought was more important to learn.....but he did not present the introduction as a complete essay but only some pieces of things because he did not want people to stay focused on the introduction but to move on to thinking about how our experience of the world comes about and how understanding that could end suffering.
It is just my understanding of what was written.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by lyndon taylor » Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:39 am

Your comments are not representative of how Thanissaro Bhikkhu views rebirth, at all, so I have to assume there is some kind of misunderstanding if you think this quote applies to rebirth.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Sylvester » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:14 am

Hi nowheat
nowheat wrote: A big assignment, still, I will gladly work on it. But since my sister is arriving tomorrow from halfway across the country for a three-week stay, I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to put it together.
Pls take your time.

Since your thesis is an interpretation of how the Buddha intended to communicate DA to his brahmin auditors and "influence" them, we would also need a fair amount of citation of the Buddha's exposition of DA that we can see actually corresponding to the Vedic received wisdom or Vedic method or whatever it is you believe was the problem. I would be satisfied with a number of sutta citations that address specifically the nidanas traditionally interpreted to mean "birth" and "rebirth"; if you can give even more DA expositions on the other nidanas that are probative of your supposed correspondence, so much the better. Note that I ask for "a number of sutta citations"; I need quantity to see a trend and pattern, rather than to let one singular pronouncement colour the rest of the expositions.
Is that really a reasonable expectation? I'm not sure there is such a great quantity of discussions of the separate pieces in the canon to draw from,


I don't think it's unreasonable, especially since we are asking nothing more than what would be expected of a text-critical approach. Numericals are not everything, to be sure, since appropriate weightage is another consideration. But one cannot give the weightage without actually having a fuller picture of the population and the significance (statistical or otherwise) of a textual proposition within the general context provided by the rest of the textual propositions.

... plus evidence from the suttas that the Buddha responded in such-&-such a way with the intent to lay bare a "field" and "what" structure.


There you go again. You want me to prove he was being obvious and overt, when I am saying he very carefully built a structure that allowed him to apply the subtle use of language on multiple levels at once with the expectation that the bright students would understand they had to work at understanding what was being said, while, simultaneously, he could do what "A monk whose mind is thus released" does and "not take sides with anyone, ... not dispute with anyone" by wording things "by means of what is said in the world but without grasping at it." (MN 74) This is not even mentioning that had he ever sat down and laid bare the way he spoke and what his intent was, it would not have survived an editorial process of putting together suttas done by editors who believe he was being literal -- any such overt statement that undermined the view that he was teaching rebirth would be tossed out as a corruption. We are not going to find, anywhere in the suttas, any statements he ever might have made that would make it clear -- the only such statements that can have survived have to be able to be read two ways: once as consistent with "he teaches rebirth" and once with what I am saying would be the alternate reading, so they would be quite rare and quite subtle.
I think you misunderstood my request. What I asked for does not entail that AB and I were necessarily looking for an obvious and overt pronouncement by the Buddha. The intent to lay bare a "field" and "what" structure can easily suggest itself from a brahmin auditor's subconscious identification with or resonance with a familiar super-structure. It is that super-structure which forms the first part of our request (ie the antecedents) while the 2nd part of our request would be those Buddhist textual sources that are suggestive or even explicit in recalling the antecedent super-structure.

What I have seen scattered in the suttas are rather explicit Buddhist pronouncements that can be clearly seen as being directly reactionary to certain pre-Buddhist ideas. Examples -

1. The AN 6.63 proposition that "Intention is kamma" appears to be an explicit rejection of the Vedic idea of karman through sacrifice and rites. Yet, this represents only the tip of the Buddhist iceberg on "formations", leading to the next citation
2. The AN 3.99 proposition that distinguishes the vulgar conception of kamma from the Buddhist one appears to be a stab at Yājñavalkya's revelation of his esoteric doctrine of karma in BAU 3.2.13. A hint of the anusayas begins to peek through.

Then you have those cases where the Buddha seems to have borrowed from Vedic myths (eg the Seven Suns, which Gombrich identifies the pre-Buddhist source, but his paper is in my office PC, so no citation today) but employs it to another end.

Other mythic looking suttas might be yet evidence that the Buddha may have employed allegory or metaphor, as Gethin seems to suggest for DN 17 as a figurative road-map to the Jhanas.

Vedic and Upanisadic borrowings by the Buddha can be easily seen in how the Buddha used nāma-rūpa in the context of rebirth, even though He had additional ideas for it in the context of the 2 types of contact (mere cognitive and the conceptual) as per DN 15.

Other Vedic and Up borrowings show up in the use of "the All", "the world" and "food", which the Buddha then redefined. In the case of the Upanisadic "sarvam", He even explicitly rejected it as an impossibility : SN 35.23.

The suttas record a wide variety of pedagogical approaches adopted by the Buddha to teach. I hope you will be able to fit your thesis about DA in one of 5 scenarios above. If my catalogue is incomplete, by all means, describe this novel one for your understanding.

In your reply to chownah http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p257335, you suggested that other than the "field-what" structure corresponding to set-subset, you also believed it to point to causation. The causal model, if I understand you correctly, pertains to the "nutriment" (another popular Upanisadic imagery which the Buddha borrowed).

And this brings me back to the issue of grammar which I took pains to press - would the brahmin auditor of DA have understood DA in the Vedic/Upanisadic superstructure where self-agency is a requisite for Vedic/Upanisadic causation? I don't think we should dismiss the grammatical structure of idappaccayatā as being irrelevant, since the 1st and 3rd limbs of idappaccayatā are completely incompatible with self-agency and the food imagery that we encounter in the pre-Buddhist material.
I think I might almost be understanding what you're saying here. Are you saying that the grammatical structure removes the self who could be the agent? In a way that is not done outside of Buddhist literature? And if this is what the Buddha does, how would the Vedic student understand this?


Yes, this is what I mean in respect of DA being a denial of self agency. However, simply because I could not find MacDonell describe the "existential" locative absolute in either of his 2 Vedic grammar textbooks does not mean that the this linguistic phenomenon had not already developed by the time of the Buddha. As noted, this grammatical construction is already attested in the "older" parts of the Sutta Nipata.

Please take your time to peruse that hetu-paccaya interpretation I raised. If I am correct in rendering idappaccayatā according to its plain grammatical structure, then it would suggest that literal rebirth/rebecoming is pivotal to DA. We have seen much scholarly opinion alluding to an early model of DA which does not have all 12 factors in 11 links. I would suggest that it is possible that what looks like a very early sutta, AN 3.76, may be the the basis for the addition of the other nidanas that tradition now takes to be the "past life" (although it has an unusual "folded" structure, instead of the common linear order). In rests on the concept of "establishment" of consciousness, which is explained elsewhere in SN 12.38 in very literal terms about rebirth.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:18 am

nowheat wrote: Maybe you haven't read recent posts in this thread? I thought your dismissal was based on reading what I was saying, not skimming and missing the points I was making. The discussion about "the world" relates, for me, to the Buddha's non-literal use of language. So, there you have one example cited of a part of my premise and you agree with it. Yay!
Linda, I wasn't dismissing anything, just querying the relevance of a quote - and no, I haven't been following your posts in detail. As for the substantive point on use of language, I'd say that the meaning of words or phrases is always dependent on context. So in some places "world" might mean "the world", in others it might mean "our world".
An example: imagine in the distant future some historians recover a recorded phone conversation from 20th century America, where one person says "I was in a bad place last week." The historians do some research and find that during this period this was a figure of speech which usually had the meaning being in a bad place emotionally. But then they listen to more of the recording and discover that the two people were travelling salesmen staying regularly in motels...things aren't always what they seem.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:21 am

mikenz66 wrote: The last two chapters of the Sn are often cited as being very early suttas.
Mike, by first 2 chapters, do you mean the first 2 books? That would be the Book with verses, SN1 - SN11, and the Book of causation, SN12 - SN21? SN12 is Nidanavagga, the one relating to DO.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by retrofuturist » Sun Aug 25, 2013 9:25 am

Greetings Spiny,

Sn (as opposed to SN) usually refers to the Sutta Nipata.

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 daverupa » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:30 pm

Also,
Spiny Norman wrote:
mikenz66 wrote: The last two chapters of the Sn are often cited as being very early suttas.
Mike, by first 2 chapters, do you mean the first 2 books? That would be the Book with verses, SN1 - SN11, and the Book of causation, SN12 - SN21? SN12 is Nidanavagga, the one relating to DO.
:shrug:
  • "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 robertk » Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:58 pm

just thought i would popin and say thank you to lyndon and spiny for putting things clearly recently on this thread. :namaste:

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nowheat » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:35 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
nowheat wrote:…but I’m not an academic … and my notes are on tiny bits of kipple scattered all over the house … and my sister is coming for a visit … but I’ll get back to you!
Oh ye of little faith. Fascinated by the amount of prejudging you do. Would you rather I be dishonest about who I am? Or become thin on the ground here without explanation? Sheesh. Instead I am perfectly willing to expose myself to your ridicule by being just exactly who I am without pretensions.

Perhaps you didn't understand that I came here to be put in the position of having to do the work to defend what I'm saying. Why would I bail when we're just getting to the good part?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:18 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
mikenz66 wrote: The last two chapters of the Sn are often cited as being very early suttas.
Mike, by first 2 chapters, do you mean the first 2 books? That would be the Book with verses, SN1 - SN11, and the Book of causation, SN12 - SN21? SN12 is Nidanavagga, the one relating to DO.
Not the Samyutta Nikaya, the last two chapters of the Sutta Nipata:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#vagga-4
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#vagga-5
See the discussions on the last chapter in the Study Group. Here is the last one: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=8302

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by clw_uk » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:45 pm

by tiltbillings » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:40 am

clw_uk/Craig wrote: So ok yeah, there is literal rebirth in the Suttas


Tilt - In the suttas, tied directly to the Four Noble Truths and conditioned co-production, as has been clearly shown above using a number of sutta texts.
Of course, I said that there was :) all I said was that it happens as mind moments and that I dont know if it carries on after death of the aggregates. Also that an argument can be made that Buddhadhamma should be practised even if there is no rebirth and that someone can practice Dhamma without believing or disbelieving in rebirth
Craig wrote:
From what I have read Buddhadasa taught the same (would it shock you to know he does say that "I am" happens after death if there is still ignorance)

Tilt - That was already clearly established above that Buddhadasa did only not deny post mortem rebirth, but accepted it.
Apparently, I read it in the book "Me and mine"

"All creatures possess their own Kamma. Their present lives proceed in response to their old Kamma. .... In the wheel of Kamma, this minute overlaps with the next, this hour with the next and this life with the next. All events are intermeshed until it is difficult to know with certainty which action is the cause of which result."

Chapter One - Buddhism in Brief


In the most fundemental sense, "emptiness" simply means empty of attachment to me-mine. The mind will simply be a mind in its natural state, free of attachment and ignorance because it has seen the emptiness of all things. When me and mine has been extinguished without leaving a trace, we say that it has been extinguished without leaving a trace, we say that it has been extinguished by the nibbana element ...

The normal cessation of the khandha - the mind and body aggregates - has nothing to do with the cessation of the attachement to me-and-mine. The "self" exists as long as there is thought. Even when we think that the body has died, the "self" is unwilling to cease. When this happens, there is endless rebirth - Samsara.

If the nibbana element becomes involved, however, feelings of "self" will cease absolutely. As for the body, whether it is still alive or is dead, it is simply seen as something subject to time, arising and passing away.


Chapter 5, Cessation of me and mind, page 106


However, of course, he still teaches D.O. as occurring in moments and still disagrees with the Visuddhimagga's Three lifetimes model in this book
Craig inaccurately wrote:
The main point of contention is that people with a rebirth belief see the psychological teaching of D.O. as undermining rebirth and going against the Suttas. I just don't see how it does though.

Tilt - It would seem, rather, that the psychologicalists often obstinately deny any actual utility to the idea of literal rebirth, setting up a stawman argument in regards to literal rebirth, as we can see with Craig’s numerous missives above.
Well I do see utility in the view, I have said this in a previous post

I dont see how it is an essential view to have though. That is one can say "I dont know if its true or not" and still practice Dhamma

With awareness practice, however, one is not being asked to believe in anything or to operate from any theory - or even to regard ones own preferences for the afterlife - but to recognize the way it actually is at this moment.


..."So this helps me to recognize that I don't have to know what happens after physical death, because I cant know, and it doesn't really matter. I am not asking for some kind of affirmation to make me feel better"
Ajahn Sumedho

Of course this isnt true of everyone, for some rebirth view is important
Craig wrote:
My main issue is when people take the view that one must have a view of rebirth to be a Buddhist, or that the four noble truths and D.O. describe a purely 3 lifetime model.

Tilti - Those who hold that the Buddha did, in fact, teach literal rebirth have been a great deal more flexible on this point than have the psychologicalists in their attempted dismissal of the literalist position.
Maybe, I have seen inflexibility on both sides
Craig wrote:
So this would extend to using Dhamma as a philosophical tool to use for arguments (credo) instead of using it for insight (Buddhadhamma), which leads to freedom from dukkha ... The raft properly used

Tilt - The psychologicalist point of view can, just as easily as the literalist position, be abused by becoming a “credo,” as Craig has shown.
Of course I agree. Holding to concepts without using them can happen regardless of the interpretation.
Last edited by clw_uk on Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:01 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by clw_uk » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:52 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote: From what I have read Buddhadasa taught the same (would it shock you to know he does say that "I am" happens after death if there is still ignorance ;))
So Buddhadasa accepts post-mortem rebirth? I didn't know that.

From my understanding of his books and Dhamma talks he does say that craving will lead to "I am" in another life. However I have only read him discussing this twice in all his works.


"All creatures possess their own Kamma. Their present lives proceed in response to their old Kamma. .... In the wheel of Kamma, this minute overlaps with the next, this hour with the next and this life with the next. All events are intermeshed until it is difficult to know with certainty which action is the cause of which result."

Chapter One - Buddhism in Brief


In the most fundemental sense, "emptiness" simply means empty of attachment to me-mine. The mind will simply be a mind in its natural state, free of attachment and ignorance because it has seen the emptiness of all things. When me and mine has been extinguished without leaving a trace, we say that it has been extinguished without leaving a trace, we say that it has been extinguished by the nibbana element ...

The normal cessation of the khandha - the mind and body aggregates - has nothing to do with the cessation of the attachement to me-and-mine. The "self" exists as long as there is thought. Even when we think that the body has died, the "self" is unwilling to cease. When this happens, there is endless rebirth - Samsara.

If the nibbana element becomes involved, however, feelings of "self" will cease absolutely. As for the body, whether it is still alive or is dead, it is simply seen as something subject to time, arising and passing away.

Chapter 5, Cessation of me and mine, page 106




He does however dismiss any speculation of future lives as a waste of time and argues for D.O. occurring in the present moment, so clinging causing birth of "I am" that can spill over into another life

To call something a foundation of the Buddhist Teachings is only correct if firstly, it is a principle which aims at the extinction of Dukkha [2] and, secondly, it has a logic that one can see for oneself without having to believe others. These are the important constituents of a foundation.

The Buddha refused to have any dealing with those things which don't lead to the extinction of Dukkha. Take the question of whether or not there. is rebirth. What is reborn? How is it reborn? What is its kammic inheritance [3] ? These questions are not aimed at the extinction of Dukkha. That being so they are not Buddhist teaching and they are not connected with it. They do not lie in the sphere of Buddhism. Also, the one who asks about such matters has no choice but to indis­criminately believe the answer he's given, because the one who answers is not going to be able to produce any proofs, he's just going to speak according to his memory and feeling. The listener can't see for himself and so has to blindly believe "the other's words. Little by little the matter strays from Dhamma until it's something else altogether, unconnected with the extinction of Dukkha.
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/books ... o_tree.htm

Its similar, even identical, to the teachings of Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Amaro
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:26 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
clw_uk wrote: From what I have read Buddhadasa taught the same (would it shock you to know he does say that "I am" happens after death if there is still ignorance ;))
So Buddhadasa accepts post-mortem rebirth? I didn't know that.
See these quotes from Vens Buddhadasa and Vens Sumedho that I posted a long time ago:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 660#p97581

In fact, you commented on them at the time: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 660#p97633 :reading:

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Aloka » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:09 pm

mikenz66 wrote:See these quotes from Vens Buddhadasa and Vens Sumedho that I posted a long time ago:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&hilit=mikenz66&start=1660#p97581

In fact, you commented on them at the time: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&hilit=mikenz66&start=1660#p97633
After 227 pages in 4 years, this whole thread is probably destined to just keep going round in circles (Have I said that before I wonder? )




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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:36 pm

clw_uk wrote:
by tiltbillings » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:40 am

clw_uk/Craig wrote: So ok yeah, there is literal rebirth in the Suttas


Tilt - In the suttas, tied directly to the Four Noble Truths and conditioned co-production, as has been clearly shown above using a number of sutta texts.
Of course, I said that there was all I said was that it happens as mind moments and that I dont know if it carries on after death of the aggregates. Also that an argument can be made that Buddhadhamma should be practised even if there is no rebirth and that someone can practice Dhamma without believing or disbelieving in rebirth.
This is why I cannot take anything you say seriously.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p256031
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p256034

As these two msg make clear what was being talked about was not the metaphorical "rebirth, but, rather, the literal rebirth that is plainly apparent in the suttas, and you clearly acknowledged that literal rebirth that is plainly apparent in the suttas, but now, it seems, you are trying to rewrite what you said.

Craig: "I dont know if it carries on after death of the aggregates." You may not know, but the suttas clearly teach it, as you did acknowledge (though you are now trying desperately to back track from your fit of honesty). While you may not believe in literal rebirth, there is no reason to try to rewrite the suttas, nor is there any reason to try to characterize those that do believe in literal rebirth, as taught in the suttas, as folks that just do not really, truly understand the Dhamma.

Sadly, we see, however, in your missives above you continue with your pathetic straw-man characterization of what it means to believe in rebirth literally.

Tilt wrote:It would seem, rather, that the psychologicalists often obstinately deny any actual utility to the idea of literal rebirth, setting up a stawman argument in regards to literal rebirth, as we can see with Craig’s numerous missives above.

Well I do see utility in the view, I have said this in a previous post

I dont see how it is an essential view to have though. That is one can say "I dont know if its true or not" and still practice Dhamma
You do not know if Nibbana is true, either. If you see the utility in believing in literal rebirth, then I am curious as to why you continue to characterize such believe via your strawman argumentation. No one is saying you MUST believe in rebirth to practice the Dhamma, but I think it would be far more honest of you not to characterize those that do believe in literal rebirth in such a prejudicial way as you continue to do.
Craig wrote:Holding to concepts without using them can happen regardless of the interpretation.
Yes, a belief in literal rebirth can be an important motivating aspect of practice, otherwise the Buddha would not have taught it.
>> 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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