I've entitled this thread what it is, fully aware that the vast majority of responses will constitute a resounding 'Yes'. As most everyone here knows (or should know), the issue of rebirth is something that Westerners and those influenced by Western culture have special difficulty accepting. The reason for this is threefold: first, the idea has no foothold in our culture. It hasn't held a place in our thinking, at least for a couple thousand years. The second reason is because of the rise of scientific materialism. Philosophically, it is a priori ruled out by many. I regard these first two reasons as rather inessential. I'm not committed to materialism or to Western metaphysics in general.
But the last reason is a bit more problematic for me. It is actually another trinity of factors:
1) I have no direct experience with it.
2) I have not known anyone personally who does.
3) I have not encountered any phenomena in life that requires rebirth or karma as an explanation (i.e. rebirth and karma seem to be superfluous in giving an account of things). I cannot deny the possibility of rebirth, but it doesn't seem needed. From my perspective, the behavior of phenomena go on just the same whether I think in terms of karma or rebirth or not. This is a negative evidence against rebirth and karma, because one would expect such phenomena, if they were real, to demand our attention. Therefore, rebirth and karma would have to present themselves as evidenced in a strong, unambiguous way in order to justify my acceptance.
Even so, I recognize that there are some intuitive reasons for accepting a karmic perspective on things, based on philosophy of mind. But from my vantage point, at the same time some of it seems utterly fantastic.
Perhaps I've been a bit long winded in setting up my question, but I like people to get an understanding of where I'm coming from. I'm going to ask, then, Is rebirth (and karma, of course) real? If you answer 'yes', then the second question would naturally be: 'How do you know?'
I THINK the answers should fall somewhere into the three points I articulated. In other words,
1) You have direct experience with it (if you do, I'd like to know how you're able to verify that you're not misinterpreting your experience?)
2) You know others who do.
3) You have encountered phenomena which demand rebirth and karma as an explanation (i.e. rebirth, or whatever phenomena needs explaining in terms of such, is a positive reality that demands accounting for, and not just a tacked-on, metaphysical appendix to the empirical world).
These of course, are very demanding questions. But the claims of Buddhism on karma and rebirth seem at least as demanding, so I think it only fair to ask.
Thanks in advance.
1) Yes, I have direct experience with them. The kinds of things I have experienced fall within a standard line of pattern for such experiences, that other people have experienced as well, as well as falling in line with historic and otherwise accounts of other people's such experiences, in Buddhism and otherwise. I have also discussed my experiences in spiritual counseling with Monks and and other qualified Dharma Teachers, as well as other experienced Laypeople, who also confirmed that they too had experienced these kinds of things, and that for some people this is a normal, if not necessarily every day, part of practice.
2)Yes, I know many other people personally who have had these experiences as well. In a variety of age groups, geographic locations, and years of practice.
3)Yes, I've seen this to be apparent in certain circumstances.
I posted on one such experience here:http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=69&t=9012&p=128819#p128819
I'd be happy to talk about this with anyone further.
And I'll do my best to answer any questions they might have.