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the great rebirth debate - Page 10 - Dhamma Wheel

the great rebirth debate

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:10 pm

Last edited by Lazy_eye on Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:25 pm



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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:08 pm

I think its very important to remember that rebirth is not a doctrine to be grasped at, just like anatta and anicca and dukkha are not to be grasped at, they are skillfull means to use for awakening



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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:15 pm



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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:20 pm

Hi Drolma

I think it depends on different traditions, for example if one has taken bodhisattva vows rebirth will be more important since the practice is about staying in rebirth to help others

For ones who havent taken bodhisattva vows and are intent on nibbana here and now rebirth isnt as important if at all, at least thats how i see it


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:22 pm



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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:40 pm


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby nathan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:47 pm

This is going to be a whopper. There is a very short version at the bottom. Rejoice!

[I apologize if my suggestion that we do not need to meditate on rebirth and that it will not liberate us was offensive to those who have a practice concerned with rebirth, (likely those who follow other traditions) my comments were restricted to this tradition. I am not opposed to contemplating it or meditating on it at all. I meant to say it was not connected with the primary aims of followers or disciples in the limited sense we typically refer to in Theravada discussions. If we are required to exercise all of these sensitivities here then there is probably little use for a Theravada-ish bboard.]

You may not want or need a fuller response from me but I did say I would reply so here goes. I promise everyone I will before long disappear for a long while so that I can go off, learn Pali, learn Abhidhamma, study the entire Tipitaka and commentaries and learn it well. Don't worry about me picking up useless superstitions as well, I've been vaccinated for it. If at all possible I will then return and answer all questions in precisely the manner we would most like to hear, entirely by the book. Until then I can't do much more than anyone else that way and set to seeking out what bits and pieces I can find and toss them into the discussion.

We have seen over and over again how one well versed, well referenced and deeply contextualized answer from the Dhamma as presented in the Tipitaka can pretty much put a complete end to a question. So until then you get mostly my own thoughts and feelings, insights and understanding partly from life and partly from learning Dhamma. More or less what most of us bring to the discussion. I can add a hundred links to this and if that is what you want just ask. Until then, here is my take on it. After this, I retire again from rebirthing seminars as do I think there are better approaches than I can muster, the one I plan to take someday if I can, or none.

I posit neither a mind body dualism nor a mind body non-duality. I see the whole question of what is mind and what is matter quite differently. The problem I have with my perceptions is that they do not fit entirely into any models because models are just that and not representative of what is observable in my mind and body. It is just like the difference between your life and your personal details. You can list your age, weight, sex, height, and any number of other physical attributes and marks. You can detail the things you have done or jobs you have held or qualifications you have and so on. But none of this picture or any picture of you is actually you.

While consciousness is linked to this body it is not bound by it. I do not think it conceivable that mind arises from the body as an epiphenomena if the nature of mind is known or that the body arises from the mind as a metaphysical extension if the body is known. There is a mutual dependence by ongoing association for the duration of that body but the body is not a limit in many ways for the mind. The mind I would not view as I do the body and so here is where I think regarding everything as only momentary breaks down. Forms persist. Both in the mind and in the body and not in the same ways. The forms exist momentarily. They persist across the three times.

You are right in some ways at some times. Trying to take the Buddha always literally is often a disaster. Our notion of what literal speech is is actually more recent by far than the time of the Buddha so of all the ways to take him, it is probably one of the last to try. You see what happens when you take my figures of speech literally. Instead of laughing you are fearful. Sorry again. Even when I am trying to straight talk I am never trying to be taken entirely literally. I try to write well and keep difficult to understand wordings and imagery to a minimum but a strictly literal read of me would be pretty crazy making.

I do not think I could make an accurate model of living and being nor do I think it is worth it and I am inclined to think that the Buddha thought more along these lines. But there are various perspectives on life and being that are valuable and these have many different frames of reference. Some mesh entirely and some do not. Still, in the moment one can not take several perspectives on at once just as one cannot view a sculpture that is actually four dimensional in space, another dimension can only be represented in some other way, even if there were a valid dimension of the same kind in that same space the body is not equipped to organically perceive it.

I have four main experiential kinds of reasons for my not having a model about rebirth which perhaps you can tackle with yours or some other.

1)Physical Death - I've tried it. For all practical intents and purposes consciousness continues to arise and cease without a living body.

2)The timescales in the mind apart from contact with the body can be almost meaningless in many ways.

3)Conscious contact with mind and form objects external to the body and internal contacts both inside the body and inside the mind that are not caused by this mind but another individuated beings mind.

4)Complete cessation of consciousness in a living body.

I have no idea how I would put this stuff into a model but I have tested it all many times under many conditions. The mind continues on in this life, one moment of contact with an object after the next regardless of the relationship to the body. The body continues to live even in the complete absence of consciousness with no ill effects unless it's functions have been impaired. So life in the body and consciousness are not simultaneously necessary and consciousness can remain in awareness of contact with the body or it can escape that awareness and place it entirely on the mind or make contact with other forms and minds external to the body. I have experienced this many times in both forms, as both "host" and "visitor". It is very odd, I admit, but it does not fit into models very well. Neither does the mind in contact with external objects but it occurs so if there is going to be a suitable model for mind that encompasses my experience it will have to include all of the things necessary for all of the normal functions which everyone commonly experiences but a whole host of very strange functions which most people do not experience but some of us also experience so frequently that we are comfortable with these peculiar phenomena.

I have tried many times to find out how to "model" this stuff so that the whole experience of being will make coherent sense but for the most part one or another aspect of it is a taboo subject for one person or another and most models of this stuff are so speculative that they are mostly useless. The Dhamma eludes all of this model making skillfully and so that is very likely a part of what the Buddha is doing in his presentations. Presenting truth and not presenting more models. I don't think a lot of it can be rationalized. It is sort of like saying suppose people existed who have none of the usual perceptual or functional mental and physical limits. How do you then define what they might be or become? I began by pointing out how hard it is to match some kind of a model of you to the actual you. If you pull the ceiling off of a graph of possibilities for human development you can't put any easily defined limits on it's potential forms of expression.

So, all kinds of forms of being and conditions of being are possible in human beings and all sorts of other beings. The model we have for all of it is the whole universe we are a part of. The only useful model for what a human being is, is being a human being. The models of human beings are only measurements or only snapshots and sound bites of one kind or another.

For all the dryness of some kind of mechanistic outlook on how the universe functions it fails to capture most of the qualities of life and being. For all of the beauty and wonder that a more metaphysical or philosophical outlook has it sometimes falls apart trying to rationalize life and being or to give it meaning. Really all there is as a model for bare unadulterated truth seeking is direct experience, knowledge, realization and any resulting persistent understanding. We have an excellent model for how that functions and develops in Theravada and the potentials for that are hardly tapped. I suspect the reason is that we are using the model to try to accomplish all sorts of other things with it which are not related to it's primary intentions. So it doesn't do what we want. What does it do? Thats what I've tried to do, find out what I can do and what this Buddha outlook can do to my outlook.

I like the image of fire and the materials it consumes as an analogy for being. We can say all the things we say based in Dhamma about mind and form and the image of fire still works very well as our closest analogy.

My perceptions and conceptions could be pretty strange before and so they remain at times. If you have perceptions and conceptions of a given kind they will likely also continue to develop along those lines. The Dhamma as a text can't provide me anything that is the same as the actual experience but it is an excellent guide, I would say the most superior or ultimate guide to wherever I want to take that experience. It is loaded with good advice and helpful warnings about what will improve that experience. I can't say there is much in the texts that I have not encountered in some way and whether what is in the texts is exactly the same as what I am encountering can be pretty difficult to determine at times. If it is possible and beneficial and leads to further development of the experience I make efforts to move in that direction.

It can be frustrating that we don't have all the answers and it is doubtful that we ever will. What is immensely gratifying is having better experiences as a result of having been set on a path that continually improves experience by improving the manner in which experience is encountered. I wouldn't trade this for any model or answer book no matter how comprehensively it presented the whole universe. I have read a few that were quite impressive but none which were satisfying and none which explained anything which ever came close to the satisfaction that comes from a direct experience of the same thing. Having directly known a thing, the mind can go on to examine it until it is satisfactorily understood. Thereby ending it's agitation and anxiety about what it might be entirely which is something that not even a complete and precise explanation can ever do.


This from here:
http://www.mettanet.org/english/punabbhava.htm

Saccàni amma buddhavaradesitàni te bahutarà ajànantà
ye abhinandanti bhavagataü pihanti devesu upapattiü.
Devesu ' pi upapatti asassatà bhavagate aniccamhi
na ca santasanti bàlà punappunaü jàyitabbassa. Therãgàthà vv.454-5

Many, O mother, not understanding the teachings of the Noble Buddha, rejoice continuing in Samsàra. They aspire for birth in the heavenly worlds. Birth even in the heavenly worlds is impermanent, for it is still within the ever-changing samsàra. The foolish dread not at being born again again. [ Translated by the author ]

This sums up my sense of things quite well. Despite the fact that there is all sorts of extensively pleasant forms of being, both in the body and apart from the body, no form of being and becoming is desirable. When the nature of being is directly examined, even in it's optimal conditions being is not ever better than the cessation of being. Only the experience of the cessation of being is convincing and irrefutable evidence that there isn't some set of conditions of some kind that would be more preferable to none at all. Moving experience towards that cessation by training the mind and body in how to experience being and becoming in more skillful ways is all to the good all along the way and all sorts of questions and concerns get dumped in that process and whatever else happens they will no longer trouble you again in this life.

I don't have a better definition of "the gandhabba idea" but I have a good sense of what it is like, a good feel for it. I think most of the views of it are ignorant more or less entirely so what use is one more half baked view, I don't want one, only whatever more direct experience of it is necessary. If, as I suspect, it is much like many parts of this mind as presented to this ongoing sputtering of consciousness then I would not be very surprised.

I could present an endless supply of challenging questions too. Every now and then I toss one out and more often than not it never gets past the first post or two. Either because people have no idea what I am talking about, they have no idea how to talk about it, they know better than to try or they have accepted good reasons or rules prohibiting them from doing so. I would love to know when my whacko questions are or are not acceptable questions to ask even more than I would like answers and often the texts are not clear to me on that either.

If the Buddha were here today I could ask him if that was a deva I met or what and he could probably give me the deva's first and last name and last known address. If I ask the question today I will probably be told, more often than not, that there are no devas and I am delusional. Not very similar at all. So naturally I am not a fan of modifying the texts. The Buddha has much good advice for me while people these days have diagnosis' for me. Not hard to choose. I do dread being born again, simply from having been born this time. And that is all I need to know about rebirth. I do know how difficult it is to stop being and becoming in this life and so I have no basis to doubt it will otherwise continue to occur and indeed it does appear to be internally compelled to continually do so until you compel it to do otherwise. Thankfully it is all happening broken up into arisings and ceasings ongoing or there would be no knowable way to find any interruptions in being to explore and exploit. So even samsara is better the way it is than it would be in an eternalistic or annihilational universe. If it was either or both of those ways we would be screwed coming and going.

The I me mine question is again like a layer cake. On the surface you can call it the I view, and through to the bottom it is simply being and becoming in any and every sense. The moment is what we can use to free ourselves, to pry ourselves out of the ongoing. Imponderable existence is what we have to consider in terms of the past and future. So I do agree that the moment is of primary concern. The longer perspectives are useful but only to limited extents and never directly experienced as anything but the present. Whether or not the mind actually makes contact somehow with objects in the past or future is another interesting question. It would be interesting to hear something 'expert' about this but making efforts to experience anything in that way seems highly unnatural and counterproductive in terms of liberation in the present. So, although it is interesting it is not important and probably a very risky practice, surely so for me, for now anyways. Probably would be the first thing I'd look into when all that need be done is done if being then persists for any significant time.

------------------Short form

None of the six points listed in the OP hold much water for me. If the above leaves any important questions as to why unaddressed, let me know and I will address any one of them as concisely as possible.

My assessment of your Blog presentation, which has many fine thoughts in it, is that you have correctly understood some important points of the teaching. The only error is then applying that understanding to removing a part which you do not understand. I am sure you will have a much better presentation when you find no cause for doing so and can include that part as well.

To fully know and understand being and becoming:

A proof of rebirth is unnecessary. A disproof of rebirth is unnecessary. A long period of examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A momentary examination of being and becoming is insufficient. A long period of examination of being and becoming, in the moment, is sufficient.
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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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:21 pm

Hi Nathan,

That was a fun read. :jumping:

Thanks

Gabriel
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ben » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:30 pm

Thanks Nathan
Your perspective is one that I always welcome.
Metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:46 pm

Last edited by Ngawang Drolma. on Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:57 pm

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:02 am

The best things in life aren't things.


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:11 am


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby DarkDream » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:53 am


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:20 am

Two monks were arguing. One maintained that it was vital to believe in rebirth to be a Buddhist, the other maintained that it was unnecessary, that one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment.

The first went and asked the abbot whether it was essential to believe in rebirth. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.” The second went to the abbot and asked whether one could understand the Dhamma only in the present moment. The abbot replied, “Yes you are right.”

The monks argued again, each saying that the abbot had told him he was right. So they went in together, and each said to the abbot, “You said I was right. We can't both be right.” The abbot thought for a while, and then replied, “Yes, you are right!”
• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:35 am


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:28 pm

- Peter


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:29 pm

The best things in life aren't things.


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Re: Buddhist Rebirth Refuted?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:47 pm

"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332


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