I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

I Believe in Literal Rebirth

Yes
44
57%
No
7
9%
Indifferent
8
10%
Undecided
11
14%
Meaning of Topic Unclear
7
9%
 
Total votes: 77

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mikenz66
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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:14 am

Sunrise wrote:Sheesh Mike, I cannot believe you read BB and doesn't know he refers to birth and death as a mental process :juggling:
Well, as JC's post illustrates, I'm not the only one who sees his teaching as multi-faceted.

From my point of view, I don't see how you can read the last few chapters of Heartwood of Bodhi Tree and not see references to a literal samsara.

Of course, I don't claim that my view is right, and all others are wrong. And I'm not actually clear exactly what my view is. I'm still working on trying to understand the Dhamma with an open mind...

Mike

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by PeterB » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:21 am

Me too Mike. I think that a big part pf what Buddhadasa is saying is...." dont be too quick to seek consolation in belief. Do the work on the cushion. Let the truth of things come to meet you. As soon as you rush after them they retreat and one is tempted to make cases beyond a strict adherence to self honesty."
We can trust the Buddha, but we need to know what he knew, as Genkaku always says.
Not believe we know what he knew.
What he knew is beyond logic and deduction. And beyond what we want to be true. Or fear might be true.
Even the most profound of Suttas in the end is a means a road map. Not the thing in itself. That has to found on the cushion.
Last edited by PeterB on Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:25 am

Thanks Peter,

By the way, newer members may not have seen the posts by (formerly Venerable) Santikaro here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 260#p24562" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Here is just one of the posts:
Santikaro wrote:
Ben wrote:I actually think whether one person believes rebirth is literal (as I do) or whether someone doesn't - is irrelevant. Practice is the engine that generates wisdom.
For what it's worth, Ajahn Buddhadasa was not all that into denying 'literal rebirth.' There were times he provocatively seemed to do so but that is not his main issue by any means. Yes, he got into it at times, as much to challenge pervasive stuck-in-the-mud dogmatism as the specific issue. And there were plenty of times he talked in conventional/literal rebirth terms. As someone pointed out a couple days ago, most of his teachings were in Thai and for Thai audiences. And he was often being roundly abused by the "conservatives" in Siam. Actually most of the debate was driven by the vociferous defenders of literal rebirth who took Tan Ajahn's emphasis on 'ego rebirth' as an attack on their beliefs & the tradition as they understood it. Their dogmatism was (still is?) somewhat like that of the NRA (Natl Rifle Assoc) in the USA who oppose even the most innocuous & sane forms of gun control because they fear it is a slippery slope to the "government taking our guns away."

It would be interesting if, perhaps, in the West it's the rebirth deniers who are more dogmatic & polarizing. I don't know if that's the case. Maybe it's both sides. That may say more about Buddhism in the West or Western/Modern educated Buddhists in Asia than it does about Buddhism of the Suttas and Commentaries.

Btw, recent research on fundamentalism is pretty clear in pointing out how Biblical & other textual literalism are modern phenomena. We moderns may read early Buddhist texts more literally than the compilers, such as Ven Buddhaghosa, intended. That may be hard to prove, of course. But it's possible. Or are we really supposed to believe that the Buddha literally made heads split open?
Mike

PeterB
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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by PeterB » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:27 am

Excellent post...

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:33 am

LP Buddhadasa seems to have 2 faces, a western one and a Thai one. I've seen on this board and others claims that LP Buddhadasa never had any disciples like say, ajahn chah or ajaan mun, who carried one his "lineage" and this is true, if you're talking about western students. however there are Thai monks that were his students and who continue to teach in a "lineage" descended from him, one of my main ajahns is from this line. and coincidentally an older student of LP Buddhadasa is spending vassa in Fairbanks alone right now (a Thai family brought him up, i wish i could meet him, visit with him, but that's too far away and he's alone for the retreat.). so what one gets is a Thai version of LP Buddhadasa which is pretty mainstream (yet had its controversial moments) and a secularized western version of his teachings as well, especially if you're reading the santikaro translations. remember this is a man who has a room of texts in Thai, it would be not only a shame but odd if he was a one trick pony.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by PeterB » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:47 am

There is a parallel in Ajahn Chah JC...some people love to quote him apparently dismissing Sutta study and the like. But he knew enormous amounts of Sutta and commentary by heart...

The great teachers adjust what they are saying to the needs of the listeners.

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by EricJ » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:56 am

Sunrise wrote:He does not explicitly reject comments on it because that's not the point of the discussion. The point of the sutta is that such realizations (either eternalist or nihilist) have an underlying sense of self in them which is wrong view. Remove that and questions of rebirth will be irrelevant. The Buddha said "the eternalist assumes something is born again and again and the nihilist assumes something is annihilated." What the Buddha says is that there is no something. Thus questions of rebirth are irrelevant.
He detailed how these views arise, and, in doing so, he seems to specifically refer to rebirth as if it is a given. Many of these views arise based on the ability to recall rebirths and the process by which people stumble in to these views based on their ability to recall past lives is described in detail. If "questions of rebirth are irrelevant" I don't see why the Buddha would have gone in to such detail describing the experience of past life recollection and how some people, based on misapprehension of the way things are, come to wrong conclusions based on such experiences.

As to the veracity of whether these people were actually recalling past lives, I would merely mention that the Buddha himself refers to his own ability to recall past lives in various suttas.
Sunrise wrote:Kamma and it's effects should not be speculated like "all bad/good deeds of this life should be punished/rewarded or returned. So if it didn't happen in this life it should happen in the next life" etc. This is unskillful and the Buddha himself advised against it.
I haven't claimed that kamma is a system which "punishes" or "rewards," (the Buddha warns against this type of fatalism in the Devadaha Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya) nor was I asking anyone to speculate about the mechanism of kamma. My rhetorical question merely brought to light the implication of actively taking a view against rebirth. There is fruition of kamma. Until one is enlightened, one continues to create kammic tendencies which may come to fruition in the present or far in the future. If there is some kammic tendency which has not come to fruition or been "reversed" by a counteracting action and the inheritor of kamma dies and there is no continued birth/aging/death process, the implication would be that the effect of this kamma would not come to fruition. Thus, explicit denial of rebirth carries denial of kammic fruition.

Sunrise wrote:You can practice for the here and now and leave rebirth aside as undecided right? It is unskillful for complete relinquishment to "believe" in a life after death.
Well, sure. I'm talking about an explicit rejection, either outwardly or within the confines of one's own mind. Rebirth is a truth which is experientially known at a certain level of meditation, from what I know based on my reading of the suttas and discussions on this board. However, I don't think that it is "unskillful" to take the Buddha at face value whenever he speaks of rebirth in the literal sense of a process by which ignorant, aggregated "beings," [quotation to emphasize that I am not claiming that there is a self or soul or eternal substance being the aggregates] bound to kamma, are born, age and die only to give rise to more ignorant, aggregated "beings" who are born, age and die, ad infinitum until enlightenment, the ending of kamma. And I would contend that the suttas are rife with examples of the Buddha speaking about this process in distinctly non-metaphorical terms. For instance, quoting the Saleyyaka Sutta, it seems rather odd for the Buddha to group "the other world and mother and father and spontaneously (born) beings" together if he is not describing a literal process of rebirth. Or, language in the Kutuhalasala Sutta:
Kutuhalasala Sutta wrote:This contemplative Gotama — the leader of a community, the leader of a group, the teacher of a group, honored and famous, esteemed as holy by the mass of people — describes a disciple who has died and passed on in terms of places of rebirth: "That one is reborn there; that one is reborn there." But when the disciple is an ultimate person, a foremost person, attained to the foremost attainment, Gotama the contemplative does not describe him, when he has died and passed on, in terms of places of rebirth: "That one is reborn there; that one is reborn there." Instead, he describes him
thus: "He has cut through craving, severed the fetter, and by rightly breaking through conceit has made an end of suffering & stress."'

So I was simply befuddled. I was uncertain: How is the teaching of Gotama the contemplative to be understood?"

"Of course you are befuddled, Vaccha. Of course you are uncertain. When there is a reason for befuddlement in you, uncertainty arises. I designate the rebirth of one who has sustenance, Vaccha, and not of one without sustenance. Just as a fire burns with sustenance and not without sustenance, even so I designate the rebirth of one who has sustenance and not of one without sustenance."

"But, Master Gotama, at the moment a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a flame is being swept on by the wind and goes a far distance, I designate it as wind-sustained, for the wind is its sustenance at that time."

"And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?"

"Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time."
That is the nature of faith in Buddhism. We take refuge in the Buddha and the truth of his teaches, practice based on what the Buddha claims is true and fruitful, experience the results of his teachings, and then accept the truth of his teachings based on direct experiential understanding. In the case of rebirth, this would occur whenever one gains the ability to recall past lives (fourth jhana, I hear?), or cultivates insight to a certain point, or verifies other teachings of the Buddha experientially to the point where you don't lack faith in his other teachings, or attains sotapatti (thereby eliminating doubt). Verifying the Dhamma in the here and now doesn't mean that, at any given point town, we can directly experience a certain aspect of the Dhamma. Verification takes mental cultivation over time.

Regards,
Eric
Last edited by EricJ on Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3

PeterB
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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by PeterB » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:13 am

And in the meantime ....the cushion is over there. And the off switch to the PC is over here...
There is actually only ONE way to knew the truth of the matter.

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Nyana » Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:05 am

PeterB wrote:And in the meantime ....the cushion is over there. And the off switch to the PC is over here...
There is actually only ONE way to knew the truth of the matter.
Indeed. And if we ever need a bit of help motivating us to get to the cushion and remain there, the sutta-s offer us some skillful contemplations and themes for reflection:
  • There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

    'I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.' This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.' This is the second fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' This is the third fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    'I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.' This is the fourth fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    'I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.' This is the fifth fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. [AN 5.57]


    When this was said, the Blessed One addressed the monks. "Whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, 'O, that I might live for a day & night... for a day... for the interval that it takes to eat a meal... for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up four morsels of food, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal' — they are said to dwell heedlessly. They develop mindfulness of death slowly for the sake of ending the effluents.

    "But whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, 'O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food... for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal' — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents. [AN 6.19]


    This Dhamma is for one who wants little, not for one who wants much.

    This Dhamma is for the contented, not for the discontented.

    This Dhamma is for the secluded, not for one fond of society.

    This Dhamma is for the energetic, not for the lazy.

    This Dhamma is for the mindful, not for the unmindful.

    This Dhamma is for the composed, not for the uncomposed.

    This Dhamma is for the wise, not for the unwise.

    This Dhamma is for one who is free from impediments, not for one who delights in impediments. [AN 8.30]
All the best,

Geoff

Sunrise
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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Sunrise » Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:14 am

As I said Ajhan Buddhadasa is not explicitly denying or accepting PMR. From what I have read of him so far, all he seems to say is "it is irrelevant. Focus on the here and now"

pariyatti
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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by pariyatti » Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:29 am

Nana, are you Geoff, as in Thanissarro Bhikkhu? If so, I sat with you at InsightMeditationCenter, Redwood City :bow:

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Nyana » Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:43 am

pariyatti wrote:Nana, are you Geoff, as in Thanissarro Bhikkhu? If so, I sat with you at InsightMeditationCenter, Redwood City
Hi Pariyatti,

No, different Geoff.

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Sunrise » Sun Aug 15, 2010 12:09 pm

EricJ wrote:He detailed how these views arise, and, in doing so, he seems to specifically refer to rebirth as if it is a given.
Or maybe it is given as if "they say this happens" not as "I know this happens".
EricJ wrote: Many of these views arise based on the ability to recall rebirths and the process by which people stumble in to these views based on their ability to recall past lives is described in detail. If "questions of rebirth are irrelevant" I don't see why the Buddha would have gone in to such detail describing the experience of past life recollection and how some people, based on misapprehension of the way things are, come to wrong conclusions based on such experiences.
Maybe people do recall past lives during meditation. Or maybe they just go through mental perceptions during meditation which seem like real. Whoever knows these things for sure?

Susima sutta explicitly says that such realizations are not relevant to Nibbana.
EricJ wrote:As to the veracity of whether these people were actually recalling past lives, I would merely mention that the Buddha himself refers to his own ability to recall past lives in various suttas.
I am actually not completely convinced that the Buddha taught rebirth for any other purpose than for morality. He taught it in different ways to different audiences. There are also many ways to look at his recollections of past dwellings. If you feel that as valid evidence that rebirth exists please go ahead.
EricJ wrote: There is fruition of kamma. Until one is enlightened, one continues to create kammic tendencies which may come to fruition in the present or far in the future. If there is some kammic tendency which has not come to fruition or been "reversed" by a counteracting action and the inheritor of kamma dies and there is no continued birth/aging/death process, the implication would be that the effect of this kamma would not come to fruition. Thus, explicit denial of rebirth carries denial of kammic fruition.
Isn't this speculation about kamma? I do not see kamma like this (over many lifetimes). I see it moment to moment as that's the way it is verifiable. You will see the results of the way you direct your mind in this very moment or at a later time within this lifetime. For example, if i scold someone I will feel upset or angry or bad mental state now or later, in a few hours or in a few days or in a few years. In a few lifetimes? Well I don't know about that simply because I have no means to verify that. So I'll leave it and deal with this life.

EricJ wrote:Rebirth is a truth which is experientially known at a certain level of meditation
I think it is fine not to jump to conclusions until you have such a realization yourself.
EricJ wrote:rebirth in the literal sense of a process by which ignorant, aggregated "beings," bound to kamma, are born, age and die only to give rise to more ignorant, aggregated "beings" who are born, age and die, ad infinitum until enlightenment, the ending of kamma.
Trust me, if you can explain to me how rebirth happens without indirectly implying the notion of a self in the process I would gladly accept it. Where does it say in the suttas that the aggregates are reborn?
Kutuhalasala Sutta wrote:
"And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body
The text in bold sounds like there is something that leaves one body and goes to another body in everyday language right? What is this something? Consciousness?

Bhikku Buddhadasa explains this as the state where a "self view" has not arisen in the mind. Not as a state where a dead being waits for another birth. It is a state we all go through everyday thus directly verifiable

Code: Select all

We are sentient beings that are “born” and in a “state of seeking birth” at any day. The function of the Four Foods is to continue nourishing the “state of seeking birth,” but their special effect is continually sustaining those that are already “born” (sentient beings that are born).

This example allows everyone to understand that there are two interpretations of the “born” according to everyday language and the Dhamma language. The important thing is for everyone to know which interpretation directly benefits the cultivation of the Buddha Dharma. Only the interpretation according to the Dhamma language can benefit one's cultivation.

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books6/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Paticcasamuppada.htm 
EricJ wrote: That is the nature of faith in Buddhism. We take refuge in the Buddha and the truth of his teaches, practice based on what the Buddha claims is true and fruitful, experience the results of his teachings, and then accept the truth of his teachings based on direct experiential understanding. In the case of rebirth, this would occur whenever one gains the ability to recall past lives (fourth jhana, I hear?)
Hold on there. Such realizations are not part of enlightenment jhanas according to the susima sutta. So it is unlikely that you will see your past lives before you become enlightened.

:anjali:

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Vepacitta » Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:33 pm

PeterB wrote:And in the meantime ....the cushion is over there. And the off switch to the PC is over here...
There is actually only ONE way to knew the truth of the matter.

Exactemundo! You can t-a-l-k about this stuff until you're blue in the face and you won't get an answer.

(Actually, and i'm a crappy meditator, even if you just really really think and ponder about this stuff, you can get a better handle on it. But it's not a discoursive, reductive type of thinking - it's more of a contemplative type of thinking. That's how I study the suttas - I read and re-read paragraphs, sentences, fragments, even, until a dawning hits me. But it's not an argumentation, it's more like contemplative thought.)

However, I believe (snark) that the Buddha was right, there's only so far you can hammer out my reasoning. And I believe this due to my own experience of the limitations of typical thinking, contemplative thinking and actual meditative experience - even though I'm a crappy meditator.

It's an experiential teaching and (not to be to zen about anything) you have to be careful not to mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon.

(I'm really not a zen fan - but I'm not too proud to use something when it's apt)

Cheers,

Trotsky a/k/a Vepacitta
I'm your friendly, neighbourhood Asura

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Re: I Believe in Literal Rebirth - Poll

Post by Sunrise » Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:51 pm

PeterB wrote:And in the meantime ....the cushion is over there. And the off switch to the PC is over here...
But you are still here? :rofl:

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