Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

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

Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:39 pm

smcj wrote: Wow. Well thanks for that. I love it when I come to a conclusion on my own that is later verified by an actual authority. It makes me think I'm barking up the right tree at least.


Well, that book really talks a lot about the concepts of emptiness, no-self, and interdependent arising and is an excellent explanation of the Heart Sutra. The subject of rebirth is brought up in that context. When I used the word "suggests" I am not referring to a specific quote. So, I want to clarify that. It is implied by the teaching as a whole. If there was an intrinsic self to one's being, one could not undergo any type of change, let alone rebirth as a result of cause and effect (karma).

The very notion of rebirth is unrealistic an problematic, and it should be, to someone who is still holding on to some concept of a self, because how can a self stop being in one place, and then suddenly start beinga self again someplace else? That doesn't make any sense. Rebirth, seen that way, is completely illogical.

But when the fact that no intrinsically existing self can actually be shown to exist, even though the experience of a self arises, then one gets a different and more accurate understanding of what rebirth actually is, and how cause and effect (karma) contribute to the recurrence of a sequential cognitive experience.

That self that people doubt can take rebirth, in fact, has never actually been real to begin with.
The fact that there is no self does not prevent the experience of a self from arising at this moment, and for the very reasons that it does arise now, it can arise again, even after this body it arises with is gone.

It is the illusory experience of a self, not an actual self
that we experience in this lifetime, and that is reborn.
That's the whole point of Buddha's teaching!
--to cut through and liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of the illusory experience of a self.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby smcj » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:12 pm

Wow. Well thanks for that. I love it when I come to a conclusion on my own that is later verified by an actual authority. It makes me think I'm barking up the right tree at least.

Well, that book really talks a lot about the concepts of emptiness, no-self, and interdependent arising and is an excellent explanation of the Heart Sutra. The subject of rebirth is brought up in that context. When I used the word "suggests" I am not referring to a specific quote. So, I want to clarify that. It is implied by the teaching as a whole.

Oh pooh. I thought I'd got a big validation. Oh well, thanks anyway...
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Dec 07, 2013 1:02 am

smcj wrote:
Wow. Well thanks for that. I love it when I come to a conclusion on my own that is later verified by an actual authority. It makes me think I'm barking up the right tree at least.

Well, that book really talks a lot about the concepts of emptiness, no-self, and interdependent arising and is an excellent explanation of the Heart Sutra. The subject of rebirth is brought up in that context. When I used the word "suggests" I am not referring to a specific quote. So, I want to clarify that. It is implied by the teaching as a whole.

Oh pooh. I thought I'd got a big validation. Oh well, thanks anyway...


I think if you read that book you will find it does validate your position,
better, perhaps, than some random quote I might have cited out of context!
:smile:
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby sukhamanveti » Sat Dec 07, 2013 1:56 am

dharmagoat wrote:
dude wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:If mindstreams are continuous, without beginning or end from rebirth to rebirth, then how do they originate in the first place?

How can something without beginning originate?

Well, exactly.

Physical cosmology has it that everything started with the "big bang".


If the universe is cyclical, a beginningless series of expansions and contractions, "deaths" and "rebirths," then the beginningless rebirth of beings still makes sense. There are a number of ancient Buddhist explanations of something similar to this process. Some physicists have speculated that the universe is indeed an "oscillating universe," a series of Big Bangs and Big Crunches. The idea is not without its difficulties and recent data suggest that it is unlikely, that instead the universe will continue to expand to its death instead of contracting, however the cyclical idea isn't dead yet. Physicists still occasionally explore ways in which it might be possible.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:57 am

dharmagoat wrote:Physical cosmology has it that everything started with the "big bang".

"Everything" can be, generally speaking, put into either of two categories:
Phenomena (physical cosmology)
and awareness of phenomena.
Everything that can perceived through awareness can be said to have started with the big bang.
we can go along with the theory that all the physical material in the universe came into being at that point.
But if we say that awareness is a product of the physical universe,
then what we end up with is basically that at some point the universe begins to see itself,
to witness its own existence.
in other words, an astronomer's awareness is merely a part of the physical universe
looking through a tube-shaped, different part of the physical universe
at a bigger part of the physical universe.
If you are okay with that, fine.
But that's what it boils down to.
And since awareness itself has no physical properties,
how can one call it part of the physical universe?
One could argue that sound coming from a trumpet likewise has no physical properties.
but this is not accurate. "Sound" is composed of two things:
the physical movement of air molecules,
and awareness of that movement against an eardrum.
awareness is how that physical event is experienced as sound.
Without awareness of that event, there is no sound,
only the physical potential for sound to be experienced.
So if we are talking about any sort of continuity of awareness having no beginning nor end,
I think this has to be taken into consideration.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby AJungianIdeal » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:05 am

dharmagoat wrote:
dude wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:If mindstreams are continuous, without beginning or end from rebirth to rebirth, then how do they originate in the first place?

How can something without beginning originate?

Well, exactly.

Physical cosmology has it that everything started with the "big bang".

Hmmm. That's not what I understand. My understanding is that what we can observe began with the Big Bang; not that it was the "beginning of existence" as it were. That's still a sticking point for science.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:18 am

Physical cosmology has it that everything started with the "big bang".

Hmmm. That's not what I understand. My understanding is that what we can observe began with the Big Bang; not that it was the "beginning of existence" as it were. That's still a sticking point for science.

There's a bunch of multi-dimensional and multi-universe theories floating around out there that give a cause to the Big Bang. There's no evidence either for or against those theories, but they more easily makes things have sense, so they are being seriously entertained.

Hey, wait a minute. That kinda sounds like the status of karma and rebirth, doesn't it?
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:18 pm

AJungianIdeal wrote:My understanding is that what we can observe began with the Big Bang; not that it was the "beginning of existence" as it were.


My understanding is that the "Big Bang" refers to the beginning of the (present) universe in terms of time/space as we generally measure them, and that this is derived from two factors, the speed of light, and the expansion of matter.

If you observe two photons moving apart from each other, but in the same general direction,
Like two bugs racing out from the center of a pizza,
Since the speed of the bugs...I mean, the photons, is constant,
you can calculate how long ago they both originated from pretty much the same central point.
If we then assume that everything started at that central point
(and it would have to be at the same "instant" ...time is not a factor yet)
that is what is called the Big Bang.

But my understandingI could be wrong.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby invisiblediamond » Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:56 pm

Once "real" loses relevance to anything, everything loses relevance.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby porpoise » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:05 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:That's the whole point of Buddha's teaching!
--to cut through and liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of the illusory experience of a self.


IMO the whole point of Buddha's teaching is liberation from the suffering of samsara. Realisation of anatta / sunyata are means to an end.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby dude » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:58 pm

I totally agree, porpoise.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:42 pm

porpoise wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:That's the whole point of Buddha's teaching!
--to cut through and liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of the illusory experience of a self.


IMO the whole point of Buddha's teaching is liberation from the suffering of samsara. Realisation of anatta / sunyata are means to an end.


That's what i said: "...liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of..."
"Realisation of anatta / sunyata" = "...cut through...the illusory experience..."

It is the teaching of the method of liberation.

--or are you suggesting an actual self ("BEINGS") that gets liberated?
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby jeeprs » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:36 pm

Here's a question for you. Are we disputing actual things - like chairs, tables, and computers? Because these things too are all 'empty of anything self-existent'. Yet they plainly exist. If you apply the logic of no-self to atoms, they don't exist either, in the sense of being self-existent or imperishable. Yet there is a table of elements, and atomic power stations.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:01 pm

jeeprs wrote:Here's a question for you. Are we disputing actual things - like chairs, tables, and computers? Because these things too are all 'empty of anything self-existent'. Yet they plainly exist. If you apply the logic of no-self to atoms, they don't exist either, in the sense of being self-existent or imperishable. Yet there is a table of elements, and atomic power stations.


This is a sticky thing that a lot of people get sort of backwards.
Buddhism doesn't say,
"such and such...does not exist"
but rather
"nothing exists (inherently, or outside of dependent origination) that can be called....such and such"

So,
There is no denying that atomic power plants are located in various places. But--
There is no single, inherently self-arising thing or quality that can be called "an atomic power plant".

When referring to base elements, such as hydrogen, it gets more 'philosophical'
because hydrogen is defined by certain characteristics (atomic weight, combustibility, abundance, etc.)
which distinguish it from other elements, such as tin. In this respect, elements too "arise dependent" on certain features, even though, scientifically speaking, hydrogen is 100% just that, and not a composite.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby jeeprs » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:51 pm

I agree it a very sticky problem, that's why I brought it up. Whilst it may be true that self has no inherent existence, the 'inherently non-existing self' can still be re-born in various realms. I think that is why it is important to understand the two levels of truth, conventional and absolute. On the conventional level, people - agents - are quite as real as anything else we encounter. So there's a lot of people who glibly say 'no-self' without actually understanding that on the level of conventional truth, actions and the results of actions are all too real.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:04 pm

"Thus, through the natural working of karma, they undergo immeasurable suffering in the three evil realms. In successive transmigrations they are reborn into different forms; their life-spans are sometimes long and sometimes short. Their transient selves, vital energy and consciousness transmigrate through the natural working of karma. Although each individual is reborn alone, those bound by common karma come to be born together and take revenge upon each other. So this condition persists endlessly and, until the effect of their evil karma is exhausted, there is no possibility of avoiding their enemies. Floundering in Samsara, they have no chance of escape or of attaining emancipation. The pain that they must undergo is indescribable. Since this law naturally obtains everywhere between heaven and earth, even if good or evil acts do not immediately bring about reward or retribution, they will certainly result sooner or later. This I call the first great evil, the first suffering, and the first burning."

Infinite Life Sutra
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby porpoise » Mon Dec 09, 2013 11:09 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
porpoise wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:That's the whole point of Buddha's teaching!
--to cut through and liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of the illusory experience of a self.


IMO the whole point of Buddha's teaching is liberation from the suffering of samsara. Realisation of anatta / sunyata are means to an end.


That's what i said: "...liberate beings from the continuous rebirth of..."
"Realisation of anatta / sunyata" = "...cut through...the illusory experience..."

It is the teaching of the method of liberation.

--or are you suggesting an actual self ("BEINGS") that gets liberated?


No, I'm saying that the goal is liberation from continuous actual rebirth in the realms of samsara. Liberation from the illusion of self is a stepping stone, not the ultimate goal.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:35 pm

porpoise wrote:
No, I'm saying that the goal is liberation from continuous actual rebirth in the realms of samsara.


Please define or explain "actual rebirth"
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby porpoise » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:14 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
porpoise wrote:
No, I'm saying that the goal is liberation from continuous actual rebirth in the realms of samsara.


Please define or explain "actual rebirth"


I mean the cycle of biological birth and death, as described in the suttas. As distinct from the purely psychological rebirth which you seem to be describing.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby duckfiasco » Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:41 am

porpoise wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
porpoise wrote:
No, I'm saying that the goal is liberation from continuous actual rebirth in the realms of samsara.


Please define or explain "actual rebirth"


I mean the cycle of biological birth and death, as described in the suttas. As distinct from the purely psychological rebirth which you seem to be describing.

How could there be a distinction between biological rebirth and "purely" psychological rebirth unless you're making some kind of dichotomy between squishy fleshy matter and some separate mind experience?

If you mean liberation from macroscale rebirth birth/death-to-birth/death, and that you feel PadmaVonSamba is talking about microscale rebirth thought-to-thought, I'm not sure the two operate on completely different terms, or that Padma is omitting the former.
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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