Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Heruka » Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:50 am

scratching head????


rebirth is a view???
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:54 am

Astus wrote:While I have no religious background (family&environment) I've been interested in religions since I was 10 and belief in things beyond came naturally. Science and the physicalist view never really touched me although I was certainly influenced through education and culture. Belief in rebirth came to me before I've met Buddhism, so accepting that was no problem.


My mother was into the New Age stuff, so speculation on past lives was common, albeit a bit unfruitful and baseless in many respects.

That being said, I'm aware of my education and the influences it will have had on me. Even today in academia the base or default view from which you study anything is the norms and preconceived notions of materialist philosophy. As much as they might deny this in the humanities, the reality is that you are expected to analyse things from said perspective. Some challenge this, but they're unusual.

For example in Thurman's translation of the Mahāyāna-sūtrālamkāra-kārikā, he discusses the previous speculation of who this "Maitreya" was who is said to be the author. Some Japanese scholars suggested it was Asanga's teacher, but nobody entertained the idea that a Bodhisattva could actually transmit the text to the yogi Asanga. Why? Because that doesn't compute with the default views of most of academia in our present day. So, as Thurman suggests, by taking the materialist view instead of the Buddhist one (that Maitreya actually did transmit it to Asanga), you're just trading one set of preconceived notions for another (in the case of materialism that Bodhisattvas, Tusita Heaven and so on do not exist).

Funny though that talking about the "Darwinistic value of religion" is perceived as objective and even scientific, but using karma and rebirth as an explanatory apparatus is religious and a "matter of faith", ergo it has no place in most of "objective academia".

I have no issues with rebirth, but I have to say most of the world and society isn't keen on it.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby mindyourmind » Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:47 am

Yes, I suppose the "photos or it didn't happen" approach to life is a better, healthier one than some of the alternatives we in the West have been indulging in these last few centuries, but still, after years of study and practice in Buddhism I cannpt help but feel that the West is impoverished by not sometimes thinking outside of the box, especially when it comes to some of Buddhism's ideas, especially rebirth and karma.

On that topic, I must say that I have expected a bit more of a swing to Buddhism as theism loses its momentum in the West, but for most it seems to be a swing from theism over to the very other end of the spectrum. I hope that a concept such as rebirth does not paint us with the same brush as some of the other religious ideas, at least in the eyes of the general public.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Astus » Fri Jul 02, 2010 10:17 am

Huseng,

Science is about analysing what the five senses may perceive (theoretically). If anyone called karma, God, miracles or psychic powers scientific, well, that's a misuse of the term, just like people calling things Zen which are definitely not. The problem is to think that science is the only form of truth and take unscientific as a synonym for false (positivism).

BTW, if they just agreed that Maitreya bodhisattva inspired Asanga to write it they would have relinquished all attempts to inquire further. Then it wouldn't be science, not even philosophy but religious/superficial acceptance.

Buddhism has its own way of validating things, even has a system for epistemology and yogic analysis. This is something that is a privilege of certain individuals, just like science. If Buddhism wants to be accepted in this secular world it has to prove itself useful for the people in the right position (celebrities, politicians, scientists, etc.). But if that is only meditation, well, it is not connected enough with Buddhism to create a real boom in believers. Dainin Katagiri says in his book (Returning to Silence) that Zen has to become a religion in the eyes of Westerners for temporary fads like therapeutic, stress relief meditation just come and go.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Mon Jul 05, 2010 6:20 pm

Astus wrote:As I've said before on this subject, until people don't realise that there is a mind besides the flesh and blood body it is impossible to comprehend rebirth.

Astus,

It's not clear what you mean when you say that there is a mind "besides" the body. Are you saying that mind and body are not interdependent?
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 05, 2010 10:51 pm

shel wrote:It's not clear what you mean when you say that there is a mind "besides" the body. Are you saying that mind and body are not interdependent?


There are the five sensory perceptions based on the five kinds of physical phenomena. Thus it can be said that the eye-, etc. consciousnesses are dependent on forms, etc. But I can also imagine a form, etc. Isn't that eye-, etc. consciousness?

Nama (mind) and rupa (body) dharmas are interrelated in many cases but not always. From arupa-dhyanas to phowa practices we can see in this life for ourselves how there can be mind without body. And a body without mind, well, that is a corpse.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby catmoon » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:07 am

Astus wrote:There are the five sensory perceptions based on the five kinds of physical phenomena. Thus it can be said that the eye-, etc. consciousnesses are dependent on forms, etc. But I can also imagine a form, etc. Isn't that eye-, etc. consciousness?

Nama (mind) and rupa (body) dharmas are interrelated in many cases but not always. From arupa-dhyanas to phowa practices we can see in this life for ourselves how there can be mind without body. And a body without mind, well, that is a corpse.



If you imagine a form, a sound, a sight, and so on it's all mind consciousness, the sixth type. Everything I have read on the subject is unanimous on this one.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:25 am

Astus wrote:
shel wrote:It's not clear what you mean when you say that there is a mind "besides" the body. Are you saying that mind and body are not interdependent?


There are the five sensory perceptions based on the five kinds of physical phenomena. Thus it can be said that the eye-, etc. consciousnesses are dependent on forms, etc. But I can also imagine a form, etc. Isn't that eye-, etc. consciousness?

Nama (mind) and rupa (body) dharmas are interrelated in many cases but not always. From arupa-dhyanas to phowa practices we can see in this life for ourselves how there can be mind without body. And a body without mind, well, that is a corpse.

The practices you describe are conditioned phenomena. According to the Buddhist teaching of dependent co-arising everything is dependent on and relates to something else (and, ultimately, everything) else. Claiming that mind and body are not always even related, much less dependent, contradicts this basic Buddhist teaching.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:49 am

shel wrote:
Astus wrote:
shel wrote:It's not clear what you mean when you say that there is a mind "besides" the body. Are you saying that mind and body are not interdependent?


There are the five sensory perceptions based on the five kinds of physical phenomena. Thus it can be said that the eye-, etc. consciousnesses are dependent on forms, etc. But I can also imagine a form, etc. Isn't that eye-, etc. consciousness?

Nama (mind) and rupa (body) dharmas are interrelated in many cases but not always. From arupa-dhyanas to phowa practices we can see in this life for ourselves how there can be mind without body. And a body without mind, well, that is a corpse.


The practices you describe are conditioned phenomena. According to the Buddhist teaching of dependent co-arising everything is dependent on and relates to something else (and, ultimately, everything) else. Claiming that mind and body are not always even related, much less dependent, contradicts this basic Buddhist teaching.


I think Astus is pointing out that is that in the higher realms (arupa-loka) there are beings that are made up entirely of consciousness and that lack physical form.

In Abhidharmic Buddhism there is a definite duality between mind and physical form. However, as I understand it, in some later developments in Indian and then Tibetan Buddhism, they started to posit that mind is embodied in subtle form which remedies a number of problems that arise from the mind-body dualistic model.

You won't find a single unified opinion on this sort of thing even within Tibetan Buddhism, let alone the whole of Buddhist traditions in the world.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Tue Jul 06, 2010 2:26 am

Huseng wrote:I think Astus is pointing out that is that in the higher realms (arupa-loka) there are beings that are made up entirely of consciousness and that lack physical form.

This is no different from pointing out that, for another example, our thoughts lack physical form. Never the less it seems to be the case that form is required to think, just as form is required to practice arupa-dhyanas to phowa.

In Abhidharmic Buddhism there is a definite duality between mind and physical form. However, as I understand it, in some later developments in Indian and then Tibetan Buddhism, they started to posit that mind is embodied in subtle form which remedies a number of problems that arise from the mind-body dualistic model.

You won't find a single unified opinion on this sort of thing even within Tibetan Buddhism, let alone the whole of Buddhist traditions in the world.

No one knows?
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:33 am

shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:I think Astus is pointing out that is that in the higher realms (arupa-loka) there are beings that are made up entirely of consciousness and that lack physical form.

This is no different from pointing out that, for another example, our thoughts lack physical form. Never the less it seems to be the case that form is required to think, just as form is required to practice arupa-dhyanas to phowa.


Indeed, thoughts do not take up space. They lack physical form.

What is the quality of qualia? What is qualia?

Properties of sensory experiences, or the nebulous concept of "the way things seem to us".


http://www.philosophybasics.com/general_glossary.html

Are qualia essentially a physical substance? The materialists say yes, others say no.

Whether or not it is possible to have thoughts or experience qualia or not without a functioning brain is a subject of great debate.

There are people who have near death experiences despite their brain having been recorded as completely inactive and they report events that actually occurred during that period despite their brain being for all purposes dead.

It would definitely appear that as humans our mental functioning is tied to the physical brain and nervous system. For example taking narcotics or damaging the nervous system in some way can significantly alter the thoughts and abilities of a person. For example no blood to my legs and I can't sense any tactile feeling from there.

However, it would be unwise to immediately assume that the brain or body is responsible for producing consciousness. Right now the widespread assumption in materialist science is that the physical body and specifically the brain is responsible for producing consciousness and thoughts. However, nobody has proven this. This is an assumption based on the fact that you can't observe any consciousness, either on the surface or with machines, in a dead person's brain, ergo they think the brain produces consciousness.

In modern materialist science the brain is generally considered the center of consciousness. They're quite sure of it. However, keep in mind not too long ago the scientists of the west also were sure the planets and sun revolved around the earth which was the center of the universe. However, things changed. The earth is no longer declared by scientists to occupy the center of the universe.

The alternative to their assumption would be a kind of "soul" theory where consciousness and thoughts and so on, while forming an intimate relationship with the physical body survive physical death, and while investigated by a few, smells too much of "religion" and being that secular materialist science can have absolutely nothing to do with "religion", they generally dismiss it as impossible.

arupa-dhyanas to phowa


Just because you achieve the arupa states during meditation doesn't mean your physical body vanishes.

In the Buddhist cosmology there are beings who are reborn in such states and have no physical form.

arupa is made up of the negational prefix "a" + rupa (form/matter): literally it reads not matter.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Tue Jul 06, 2010 6:15 pm

Huseng wrote:
arupa-dhyanas to phowa


Just because you achieve the arupa states during meditation doesn't mean your physical body vanishes.

In the Buddhist cosmology there are beings who are reborn in such states and have no physical form.

arupa is made up of the negational prefix "a" + rupa (form/matter): literally it reads not matter.

They are never the less conditioned beings in a dependent relationship with all things, including that which is considered matter. Or do you disagree with this?
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:05 pm

shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:
arupa-dhyanas to phowa


Just because you achieve the arupa states during meditation doesn't mean your physical body vanishes.

In the Buddhist cosmology there are beings who are reborn in such states and have no physical form.

arupa is made up of the negational prefix "a" + rupa (form/matter): literally it reads not matter.

They are never the less conditioned beings in a dependent relationship with all things, including that which is considered matter. Or do you disagree with this?


There is no matter in the arupa-loka.

That is what I am saying.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:41 pm

Huseng wrote:
It would definitely appear that as humans our mental functioning is tied to the physical brain and nervous system. For example taking narcotics or damaging the nervous system in some way can significantly alter the thoughts and abilities of a person. For example no blood to my legs and I can't sense any tactile feeling from there.


Huseng,

What is the non-materialist/dualist explanation for this?

Given the close connection you describe, what reasons are there to posit some other aspect to consciousness? In other words, what makes it necessary -- given that most of the functions we associate with consciousness have an observably material dimension?

I ask because the case for materialism seems to depend heavily on the observed correlation between brain/nervous system and what we call "mind". Some have even suggested that the term "mind" is simply a philosophical archaism.

On the other hand, I'm sure people in the Buddha's time were also aware that material input (such as intoxicants) can affect conscious functioning. In fact we know they were aware -- since it's in the fifth precept! ;)

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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:09 pm

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:Just because you achieve the arupa states during meditation doesn't mean your physical body vanishes.

In the Buddhist cosmology there are beings who are reborn in such states and have no physical form.

arupa is made up of the negational prefix "a" + rupa (form/matter): literally it reads not matter.

They are never the less conditioned beings in a dependent relationship with all things, including that which is considered matter. Or do you disagree with this?

There is no matter in the arupa-loka.

That is what I am saying.

Yes, that's clear, just like there's no matter in thought.

I'm pointing out that what we've talked, the practices that Astus mentioned, are all conditioned and in a dependent relationship with everything, including that which is considered matter. Nama and rupa are in dependent co-arising relation. If there is any argument to the contrary I'd like to hear it.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:24 am

shel wrote:I'm pointing out that what we've talked, the practices that Astus mentioned, are all conditioned and in a dependent relationship with everything, including that which is considered matter. Nama and rupa are in dependent co-arising relation. If there is any argument to the contrary I'd like to hear it.


The twelve links of dependent origination tends to be explained as the sequence where a person is conceived and born from a womb.

In the arupa-loka the sequence would presumably be different.

It is a conditioned and defiled state of existence, but just quite fine and subtle.

You might find this outline of the cosmology useful:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:32 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Huseng,

What is the non-materialist/dualist explanation for this?



I imagine there is no one explanation, but many. I'm not well versed enough in the arguments to outline them all here.

Given the close connection you describe, what reasons are there to posit some other aspect to consciousness? In other words, what makes it necessary -- given that most of the functions we associate with consciousness have an observably material dimension?


Are qualia physical?



I ask because the case for materialism seems to depend heavily on the observed correlation between brain/nervous system and what we call "mind". Some have even suggested that the term "mind" is simply a philosophical archaism.


If we can deduce all mental activity to physical processes and that mind is no different than matter, then why is it than only some matter is consciousness? The logical extension of material reductionist arguments is to panpsychism that posits all matter is "conscious" to some degree. Why does consciousness "emerge" from only some matter, which is fundamentally no different than the rest of matter, and not all of it?

Also, if matter is fundamentally no different than matter, then one might even propose that matter is no different than mind. Matter is just mental activity. Perhaps rather than saying that mind emerges from matter, we might say that matter emerges from mental activity.

I'm aware people could hack and slash me from any direction for that statement, but it is worth considering.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:10 am

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:I'm pointing out that what we've talked, the practices that Astus mentioned, are all conditioned and in a dependent relationship with everything, including that which is considered matter. Nama and rupa are in dependent co-arising relation. If there is any argument to the contrary I'd like to hear it.


The twelve links of dependent origination tends to be explained as the sequence where a person is conceived and born from a womb.

In the arupa-loka the sequence would presumably be different.l

If there is any truth to this at all how exactly would it be different? The sequence would stop after consciousness arose? If that were the case how could these formless beings ever be reborn?
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:55 am

shel wrote:
If there is any truth to this at all how exactly would it be different? The sequence would stop after consciousness arose? If that were the case how could these formless beings ever be reborn?


There is just consciousness, and it isn't connected to any sensory apparatus. Remember consciousness arises after action (samskara). When the conditions cease the consciousness ceases, but the conditions for continued existence are still in effect and avidya or ignorance is also active.

As I understand it, there is just the single perception of whatever state they're in.

For example, in the state corresponding to "nothingness" in the arupa-loka, there is just the perception of nothingness (akiñcaññayatanupaga deva). The being there would have no other perception than nothingness. I would speculate that such a being would have no will or awareness of anything other than "nothingness". They would not know other beings. There would be no memory. No sense of "I am here in this state" -- just singular perception of nothingness. When the conditions for being in the state expire, they "fall" into a lower realm.

Such a state of existence is unfortunate in a sense because one cannot hear the dharma as there is no hearing. It might be the peak of existence, but unfortunately it is impermanent and when the conditions for that state of existence cease, the being is reborn elsewhere.
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Re: Do you really think rebirth is realistic?

Postby shel » Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:43 pm

Huseng wrote:When the conditions for being in the state expire, they "fall" into a lower realm.

Exactly my point. These conditions include what is considered matter.
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