the great rebirth debate

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

Post by PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 12:09 pm

Yes Pannapetar it is a rejection of debate...or rather the gameplay ( In Berne's sense ) that passes for debate on Buddhist websites when this particular topic rears its head...Reason.whether penetrable or not has nothing to do with it. :lol:
The Buddha himself would not be drawn on such issues. Possibly because he was more interested in ending suffering than in debating that which only be approached experientially rather than through finding an acceptable verbal formula.

But dont mind me...debate away.. :popcorn:

nathan
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nathan » Mon May 10, 2010 12:13 pm

Pannapetar wrote:
Yes, we get the point. There are limits to what we can know. However, you must acknowledge that these limits can be pushed. Furthermore, there are collective ways of pushing such limits (i.e. science) and individual ways (e.g. dhamma practice). Ultimately, dhamma practice is meant to reduce ignorance.
My point is, more specifically, that there are no apparent limits to what we don't know. As such the admission that there are limits to what we know minimizes what appears to be the more significant facts of those considerable unknowns. I do agree that study and practice of the dhamma can do something to reduce that ignorance in some significant ways.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Pannapetar
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Pannapetar » Mon May 10, 2010 12:25 pm

PeterB wrote:Yes Pannapetar it is a rejection of debate...or rather the gameplay ( In Berne's sense ) that passes for debate on Buddhist websites when this particular topic rears its head...Reason.whether penetrable or not has nothing to do with it. :lol:
In this case I am wondering why you chose to answer at all. What is the point of posting priceless phrases when you are not willing to enter the debate? With "entering" the debate, I mean addressing the individual cases shown in the mentioned video clips, discuss the existing studies, and so on...

I am aware that people have their opinions and that it pains them to question the same. However, I don't see much value in merely stating them. What is possibly gained by saying "I am of this and that opinion and everything else is utter nonsense"? If you do not engage in debate to support your views, it is better not to state them.
PeterB wrote:The Buddha himself would not be drawn on such issues.
Now you are speaking for the Buddha?

I am afraid neither you nor I can possibly know what the Buddha would be drawn into. And for this reason, we have to use our own judgement and intelligence.

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 12:32 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i guess someone needs to get this ball rolling :twisted:

personally i believe in literal rebirth. it's just i don't care that much about it. and i don't think it's a necessity. i feel the non literal moment to moment view of rebirth is far more important to focus on in terms of one's daily practice.

what's your take?
This is the op . I posted to support its general thrust.
The debate about the nature of rebirth took the thread away from the posters intent...which was " to focus ...on ones daily practice " instead of engaging in speculation and proliferation.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by nathan » Mon May 10, 2010 12:44 pm

Pannapetar wrote: With "entering" the debate, I mean addressing the individual cases shown in the mentioned video clips, discuss the existing studies, and so on...
I'm willing to participate in the thread in the way that it seems interesting to me at the moment and that continues to be stressing the significance of the predominance of most people not knowing, to the extent that the whole idea of past life seems unreal to most people. Anecdotal accounts of past lives, even if everyone had such things to say, would not do anything to reduce my own ignorance about the nature of rebirth if I continue to have no insight into it of my own. In the same way, to the extent that I have my own insights into rebirth, my insights play no role in reducing ignorance about it for anyone else. I don't see any evidence of debating other people's accounts of past lives ever having any effect on anyone's ignorance about rebirth.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Pannapetar
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Pannapetar » Mon May 10, 2010 1:26 pm

PeterB wrote:This is the op . I posted to support its general thrust.
The debate about the nature of rebirth took the thread away from the posters intent...which was " to focus ...on ones daily practice " instead of engaging in speculation and proliferation.
Are you saying the debate should reiterate the original posters point of view? As far as debate goes... wouldn't that be slightly self-defeating? It's my impression that the "great rebirth debate" has been established in order to... well, debate rebirth.

Daily practice and rebirth are quite different topics, wouldn't you agree? Perhaps we can find out whether rebirth does or does not have importance for daily practice. That might be one of the benefits of this discussion. And it might touch upon the point that the original poster made. This does require that we clarify what we mean by rebirth. My understanding in this regard coincides with the traditional view of Buddhism. It means that there is a continuance of what you and I perceive as "self" beyond this physical existence and beyond this lifetime, although there is actually no self. This is in accordance with Buddhist teaching as I understand it. Furthermore, I believe that it has very important implications for practice, because practice begins with and ends with "right view". If there is no right view, then practice cannot be "right" either. It is likely misguided. Is that a point we can agree on?

The importance of the question of rebirth (in the literal sense) is obvious: it defines the larger perspective of our practice. The goal of Buddhist practice is -as you rightly say- the end of suffering. Now if rebirth is true, suffering means not just one life, but endless rounds of existence and endless suffering. For you personally. That sounds a little more dramatic and a little more personal, doesn't it? It implies that there is no escape. Death is not an end to suffering, but merely one link in the chain. It opens up an entirely different understanding of the universe. That's why I think it is an important question and that is why everyone who is interested in Buddhism should endeavour to find out about it.

Cheers, Thomas

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Pannapetar
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Pannapetar » Mon May 10, 2010 1:44 pm

nathan wrote:I'm willing to participate in the thread in the way that it seems interesting to me at the moment and that continues to be stressing the significance of the predominance of most people not knowing, to the extent that the whole idea of past life seems unreal to most people.
It does not seem unreal to me.

It does, however, seem unreal to people with a Western upbringing. Since I grew up in Europe and since I enjoyed a scientific education, I can sympathise with the intellectual difficulty that the traditional account of rebirth presents to Westerner. Personally, I have laid aside a number of culturally conditioned views, such as metaphysical materialism or annihilism, which I came to recognise as very likely false. But that has been a process of many years.
nathan wrote:Anecdotal accounts of past lives, even if everyone had such things to say, would not do anything to reduce my own ignorance about the nature of rebirth if I continue to have no insight into it of my own.
Careful. While you are right in principle, it is still necessary to scrutinise "anecdotal accounts" for their plausibility. PLEs are somewhat rare phenomena, especially PLEs with veridical features that can be substantiated empirically. I suggest to peruse the published cases carefully and come to your own conclusions. In absence of direct knowledge, that is unfortunately the best thing you can do. To dismiss them out of hand is just as inappropriate as believing them blindly.
nathan wrote:In the same way, to the extent that I have my own insights into rebirth, my insights play no role in reducing ignorance about it for anyone else.
:shrug: Why not? We are not isolated beings. We can share our knowledge and insights. We can help others with our own realisations.

Cheers, Thomas

PeterB
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 2:06 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i guess someone needs to get this ball rolling :twisted:

personally i believe in literal rebirth. it's just i don't care that much about it. and i don't think it's a necessity. i feel the non literal moment to moment view of rebirth is far more important to focus on in terms of one's daily practice.

what's your take?
Thats my take too JCSuperstar ( apart from the literal bit )...every Rebirth thread reinforces that view... :smile:

:anjali:

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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by BubbaBuddhist » Mon May 10, 2010 3:25 pm

The continual rebirth of '"rebirth threads" on Buddhist fora is proof in itself of rebirth. There I've settled it. now we can all go home. :P

J
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Sanghamitta » Mon May 10, 2010 3:37 pm

Its true John, and like baby births they mostly end in tears.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Aloka
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Aloka » Mon May 10, 2010 4:43 pm

.

I'd just like to mention that there's a term used in hypnotherapy called 'cryptomnesia' which means 'buried memory'.

This refers to all our stored memories from the present lifetime (including from films and TV) of things felt, seen, heard, read etc from birth onwards, which have then seemingly been forgotten about. This information can reassemble in the mind on occasions such as 'past life regression' which is therefore completely unreliable as actual evidence of past lives.


.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by PeterB » Mon May 10, 2010 4:53 pm

Indeed so Aloka. Any therapist can tell you how frighteningly easy is it to implant false memories even when one is trying hard not to.
The human mind has an apparant need to form gestalts and patterns and narratives where none exist.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Alex123 » Mon May 10, 2010 4:57 pm

notself wrote:I will just back out of this thread if no one wants to discuss what is reborn in his own words but only wants to refer to the teachings and commentaries.
What a shame since we are in the Dhammic free-for-all forum.
Kamma and Kammavipaka is "reborn". We could also say that an impersonal and delusional cause-effect process of "I, me mine," making goes on until all delusion and tendencies completely cease, at which point the process would eventually cease.


IMHO it is crucial to believe in rebirth. If we all end up freed from one life,then there would be neither much desire nor motivation to really work hard at eradication unwholesome tendencies. Furthermore to hold the idea that "there is no rebirth" IS wrong view.
"Because there actually is the next world, the view of one who thinks, 'There is no next world' is his wrong view.
Sandaka a wise man reflects, this good teacher upholds this view and declares. There are no results for gifts-re--and there is nothing after death. If the words of these teachers are true, I should not do anything. I should not live the holy life. After death my teacher and I become equal in our recluseship. I who do not even believe it. We both get anihilated and destroyed after death. Unnecessarily these good teachers went naked and wore a knot on the head, did austerities yoked to standing and pulling out hairs of the head and beard. As for me, I lived surrounded by wife and children, enjoyed wearing Kashmire clothes, bearing flowers and scents, and earning gold and silver. I become equal with these good teachers after death. Knowing what and seeing what should I lead the holy life under these teachers. He knowing this is not a holy life turns away from it. Sandaka, this is the first holy life the Blessed One who knows and sees, is perfect and rightfully enlightened has declared should not be lived, which the wise man if possible does not live, and even if he lives is not convinced that it is merit.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ka-e1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Samsara is a dangerous place. Until one is a stream-entry (saddhanusarin or dhammanusarin) there is no guarantee that one won't regress or fall into lower worlds from which is extraordinary hard to get out (MN129). Even if one does lots of wholesome activities, at the time of death if one recollects a bad deed, one can be still reborn in hell. Destination of rebirth is like stick thrown into air. Sure good kamma can make good rebirth more likely, but sometimes other factors come into play and can alter the course (SN15.9).
Even if one is reborn in brahmalokas, one can still fall into hell (AN4.123).

Some may think that "oh, I am a good person. With good kamma, I'll be reborn in good circumstances. I'll never hurt anyone". But there can be many tough situations in life. What if one walks in on one's partner cheating? In the heat of the moment one may do a very unwholesome deed. What if someone were to attack you determined to either kill you (or your loved ones) or be killed himself? What if one due to good kamma is reborn as a ruler of a strong nation and *has* to send troops to war (perhaps as a defence, not an attack) and sign execution orders for criminals on death row? That is terrible kamma. What about a kamma of those pilots who dropped nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? They thought that they were doing a good thing, maybe they prevented much greater casualties... However you spin it, they did a mass murder - a terrible kamma. Thus there is no certainty to "always doing good", until one is on the path of stream entry and temptations may arise. According to SN35.235 (8) if one dies thinking about gratification in any of the 6 sense faculties, one can be reborn in hell or animal realm. Only the holy path can close the door to lower rebirth.

This would not make sense if the death would mean the end of all suffering.
"As if smitten by a sword, As if his head were set on fire, A bhikkhu should wander mindfully In order to abandon identity view" - SN1.21(1)

Bhikkhus, one might look on equanimously at one's blazing clothes or head, paying no attention to them, but so long as one has not yet
made the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths as they really are [attain Sotapatti], in order to make the breakthrough one should arouse
extraordinary desire, make an extraodinary effort, stir up zeal and enthusiasm, be unremitting, and exercise mindfulness and clear
comprehension" -SN 56.34 (4) Clothes
It would be better, bhikkhus, for the eye faculty to be lacerated by a red-hot iron pin which is burning, blazing, and glowing, than for one to grasp the sign through the features in a form cognizable by the eye. For if consciousness should stand tied to gratification in the sign or in the features, and if one should die on that occasion, it is possible that one will go to one of two destinations: hell or the animal realm. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.

It would be better, bhikkhus, for the ear faculty to be lacerated by a sharp iron stake which is burning, blazing, and glowing, than for one to grasp the sign through the features in a sound cognizable by the ear. For if consciousness should stand tied to gratification in the sign or in the features … hell or the animal realm. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.

It would be better, bhikkhus, for the nose faculty to be lacerated by a sharp nail cutter which is burning, blazing, and glowing, than for one to grasp the sign through the features in an odour cognizable by the nose. For if consciousness should stand tied to gratification in the sign or in the features … hell or the animal realm. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.

It would be better, bhikkhus, for the tongue faculty to be lacerated by a sharp razor which is burning, blazing, and glowing, than for one to grasp the sign through the features in a taste cognizable by the tongue. For if consciousness should stand tied to gratification in the sign or in the features … hell or the animal realm. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.

It would be better, bhikkhus, for the body faculty to be lacerated by a sharp spear which is burning, blazing, and glowing, than for one to grasp the sign through the features in a tactile object cognizable by the body. For if consciousness should stand tied to gratification inthe sign or in the features, and if one should die on that occasion, it is possible that one will go to one of two destinations: hell or the animal realm. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.

It would be better, bhikkhus, to sleep—for sleep, I say, is barren for the living, fruitless for the living than to think such thoughts as would induce one who has come under their control to bring about a schism in the Sangha. Having seen this danger, I speak thus.
-SN 35.235 (8) The Exposition on Burning
Please read MN129 and MN130 suttas.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ita-e.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... uta-e.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
``Bhikkhus, I say this not hearing from another recluse or brahmin, this is what I have myself known and seen and so I say it.

With metta,

Alex



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... html#stick" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"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 nathan » Mon May 10, 2010 5:46 pm

Pannapetar wrote:
nathan wrote:I'm willing to participate in the thread in the way that it seems interesting to me at the moment and that continues to be stressing the significance of the predominance of most people not knowing, to the extent that the whole idea of past life seems unreal to most people.
It does not seem unreal to me.

It does, however, seem unreal to people with a Western upbringing. Since I grew up in Europe and since I enjoyed a scientific education, I can sympathise with the intellectual difficulty that the traditional account of rebirth presents to Westerner. Personally, I have laid aside a number of culturally conditioned views, such as metaphysical materialism or annihilism, which I came to recognise as very likely false. But that has been a process of many years.
nathan wrote:Anecdotal accounts of past lives, even if everyone had such things to say, would not do anything to reduce my own ignorance about the nature of rebirth if I continue to have no insight into it of my own.
Careful. While you are right in principle, it is still necessary to scrutinise "anecdotal accounts" for their plausibility. PLEs are somewhat rare phenomena, especially PLEs with veridical features that can be substantiated empirically. I suggest to peruse the published cases carefully and come to your own conclusions. In absence of direct knowledge, that is unfortunately the best thing you can do. To dismiss them out of hand is just as inappropriate as believing them blindly.
nathan wrote:In the same way, to the extent that I have my own insights into rebirth, my insights play no role in reducing ignorance about it for anyone else.
:shrug: Why not? We are not isolated beings. We can share our knowledge and insights. We can help others with our own realisations.

Cheers, Thomas
I disagree that it's 'necessary' to scrutinize anecdotal accounts. I've read them and they can be interesting reading but weighed against the complete absence of any personal insight into or experience with the subject that characterizes almost all people, not merely those with a western or otherwise conditioned views, the accounts (all of the accounts ever recorded) continue to be relatively insignificant overall. I again suggest considering the overwhelming absence of accounts in most people's lives.

I think it is far more important to get your own evidence.

I can reflect on some insights into rebirth that have arisen in the course of my meditative practice and life experience and in that context it seems real enough to me to not be something I need to question further. That is not the same as suggesting that my experience serves as any kind of evidence that should suffice to influence what any one else thinks about the subject.

Until I had some insights and experience of my own I was aware that I didn't have any sense of what the truth of this is and so I was able to remain open to having some insights and experiences of my own which might lead me to think about rebirth in one way or another as something directly approachable in some manner.

I didn't arrive at any direct and firsthand knowledge about the subject by taking anyone else's word for it that I should simply accept rebirth as a given in one sense or another on the basis of someone else's experience(s). It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that my insights or experiences should serve as the basis for someone else to either accept or reject rebirth.

It has never served me in any way to believe in anything without supportive insight or understanding into it, rebirth included. It has served me well to examine things directly without preconceptions and to let the first hand evidence lead where it will. It is the way I have approached things all my life. While I concur with the thinking in the Buddha's Dhamma almost entirely (to the extent that I can verify it) I have never taken any of it on faith or found it necessary or useful to believe in anything that I have no knowledge of.

While believing in rebirth may constitute right view for some people, believing in things has never contributed to reducing ignorance about anything in my case. That is what I can honestly report. I can't report that believing in right view, by any definition or in any sense, has led to actual right view while undertaking an investigation of my own has continually confirmed that right view, as defined by the dhamma is actually the right view of things as they are. To get to right view, in any sense that right view matters to me, has focused primarily on examining things as they are, for me. As such the skillful means for investigation detailed in the teachings have been far more important than any of the conclusions that can be drawn out by otherwise examining the doctrines.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Alex123
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Post by Alex123 » Tue May 11, 2010 12:40 am

Hello all,


In brief I find 2 points more convincing regarding rebirth.


1st) All the children who were able to recall their previous lives, and some could even talk/chant in ancient languages

For example a 2-3 year old started to chant Buddhist suttas in perfect Pali using a no longer existing chanting style.
Dhammaruwan Story :

Dhammaruwan was born in a small village near Kandy , Sri Lanka in November, 1968. From the age of about two, before he could read or write , he spontaneously started to chant the ancient Buddhist scriptures in the original pali language , known only to a few scholar monks.

Each day, somewhere around two o’clock in the morning, after sitting in meditation with his adopted and devoted Buddhist foster father for about twenty to forty minutes, he would spontaneously start to chant pali suttas. On the Poya or lunar Observance day, he would sometimes chant for two hours.

Dhammaruwan’s foster father started making amateur recording of the chanting and invited prominent scholar monk to listen. The monk verified that it was indeed the ancient pali language and the boy were chanting it in an ancient style which no longer existed in world.

That a young boy shows signs of having been a Buddhist monk in his former live is not that unusual by itself. See related past-life memories captured in these scientific studies.

But this boy remembered a life from the 6th century, during a phase in medieval Sri Lanka where Buddhism florished and pali learning and scholarship reached a peak:

At the age of three in “Kelstan” Kandy he started to chant a certain verse of “Dammacca Sutta” (“Chakkukarani Nayanakarani….”). Ever since that day he has been chanting suttas from the tripitaka (Pali Canon) with little or no mistakes.

The chanting style of these suttas are his own and nowhere else to be found or trace back to. As the child grew in age and was able to speak more, he related where he learnt this particular style of chanting the suttas and how he was able to chant such deep and profound suttas, which even an adult find difficult to chant precisely. He has said that in 6th century A.C. he together with few monks accompanied the scholar Monk, Bhadanthachariya Buddhagosa to Sri Lanka. He has said that including him (Mudithagosa) the others were monks who had by-hearted the tripitaka or part of it. He says it is from this memory that he chants the suttas by recollecting that life. Until the age of 10 he was able to chant the suttas. The earliest recorded chanting was at the age of three.

If you know some pali you will quickly recognize that this young boy’s stress and intonation goes according to the meaning of the texts. Even scholars reading the suttas sometimes will put in stops where – according to the meaning – you need to continue and vice versa. Not so this three year old boy. Chanting the Dhammacakka sutta like he does, in my opinion, could only be done, if you

1. learnt the text by heart
2. know pali very well so as to know the meaning while chanting
3. chanted the text a million times.
http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2008/08 ... h-century/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


2nd) Logical consequences of assumption that mental state (character traits, temperament, habits, wisdom/ignorance) is conditioned, at least partially, by previous intentional mental state. If this is so then the first mental state of a child is not blank slate, ex nihilo. It depends on previous mental state that has happened prior to this birth, from previous life.

If we reject the notion that current complex mental state (including wisdom or ignorance, character traits, temperament, habits, delusive sense of "I", mental suffering or absence of it etc) depends at least partially on previous complex mental state with its intentions, then Buddhist or ANY mental training would be useless. There would be no different mental outcome from doing good or bad intentional deeds - since those intentional mental actions would not condition the mind. Torture, rape and mutilation wouldn't affect later mental states (due
to a wrong belief that one mental state doesn't affect the other) and neither would any sort of positive mental training (meditation, selfless and caring work, development of virtues skills, etc).


And lets not forget that it is wrong view to believe in one life only. With wrong view one cannot attain paths and fruits. So it is important for the path!

With metta,
"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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