Rebirth of whom?

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Rebirth of whom?

Postby cyndilydia » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:50 pm

Hi. I'm studying 'The Noble Eightfold Path The Way to the End of Suffering' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I understand the 3 universal marks of existence, in essence - impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata) - My confusion is with rebirth. If there is no self, what is the entity that is uniquely identified as whomever/whatever returns for another lifetime?
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Jikan » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:56 pm

Here's a useful thread on just that topic.

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=5678
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:03 pm

cyndilydia wrote:Hi. I'm studying 'The Noble Eightfold Path The Way to the End of Suffering' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I understand the 3 universal marks of existence, in essence - impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata) - My confusion is with rebirth. If there is no self, what is the entity that is uniquely identified as whomever/whatever returns for another lifetime?


There is continuity of psycho-physical aggregates (skandhas), but no inherent identity.

You are a process. A continuity. There is no self, but a continuous reaction that perpetuates itself.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby cyndilydia » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:39 pm

Thank you. The discussions are really helpful.
The problem is I wanted a definition of what is reborn, and there isn't really one other than the dialogic constructs around reincarnation. I'm so grateful to be living in a time of physics advanced enough to shed light on obscure realities Buddhism has intuited for so long.
Following is my interpretation for now:
I believe in rebirth, but "birth" and "carnation" imply an organic sentient creature with a maturation process - thereby implying something that distinguishes it from others. It is the organic/sentient being that gives the reborn entity its "self", which, when it dies, leaves the entity "selfless". While the organic host has died, it has left the entity charged with properties priming it for the next "rebirth".
I hope this makes sense.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby AdmiralJim » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:17 pm

I am still undecided about this issue. Most of the time the answers just degenerate into ontological sophistry. If anything my views about this are almost in accord with the old celtic traditions that there is no afterlife and rebirth is merely a cycle of us coming into being and disintegrating then through circumstances the atoms form something else not necessarily a new being
I don't know where we are going but it will be nice when we get there
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:04 am

cyndilydia wrote:While the organic host has died, it has left the entity charged with properties priming it for the next "rebirth".
I hope this makes sense.

What is hosted by the entity? What is their relationship? What is leaving, where does it go, and what is left behind?
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby catmoon » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:11 am

@Cindy Have you considered the candle flame analogy? The flame may pass from one candle to another, but there is no "thing" the goes from one to the other, the burning process simply continues elsewhere.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:21 am

cyndilydia wrote:Hi. I'm studying 'The Noble Eightfold Path The Way to the End of Suffering' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I understand the 3 universal marks of existence, in essence - impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata) - My confusion is with rebirth. If there is no self, what is the entity that is uniquely identified as whomever/whatever returns for another lifetime?


THis is a very big topic. If you want to know this clearly, you should study Nagarjuna text.

Just for you to contemplate.

If something is permanent, that thing cannot change, because it is permanent. If fire is permanent, when you pour water into fire, that fire cannot off. Because your fire is permanent, it cannot be affected by anything. That is permanent.

If you are permanent, when you are a baby, you cannot become adult, and grow old. Because you are permanent, if you are a baby, you have to be a baby. If you can change, you cannot say you are permanent.

Self is always permanent.

If something is changing and changing, you cannot find any unique entity that can stand still. Whatever entity you have right now, will change to different entity next moment. It keeps changing until at the end you will ask yourself, where is this entity? Where is the actual entity? What is the actual entity?

If you think you have an impermanent self, this is totally absurd. Why is it absurd? Because you cannot have the specific boundary that show you this is it.

Buddhism doesn't accept the notion of impermanent self.

Because everything is changing, it must not have self. If things have self, they cannot change.

Because everything is also changing, it cannot be non-existance.

So, if everything is changing, it must have 2 qualities. One is it must not have self, second is it must have appearances.

Instead of appearances and no-self contradicting each other, it is actually on the other way around. IT HAS TO BE LIKE THAT.

Going back to your question about rebirth, it has to be like that as well.

Because there is no self (or anatta), rebirth is possible and will occur again and again. Your previous rebirth is completely different with your new rebirth. If in your past life we are a crocodile, and in this present life, we are a human, we won't carry our crocodile behaviour. It is a prove we are changing.

Actually, when you are very deep, you will ask this question as well: If anatta is real, rebirth cannot occur as well, because rebirth means something new pop-up.

At the end, you will come to realize actually there is no rebirth, there is no dead, there is also no movement. All of them just because there is no self. And because there is no self, all appearances have to be there as well.

So, rebirth of whom?
Rebirth of no one.

Eventhough there are so many baby born everyday, you will know there are actually no baby born.
You acknowledge baby is born because there is this appearance of baby being born.
You acknowledge there is no baby born, because you know this appearance cannot have and must not have self for it to happen.

As long as you cannot see the harmony between no-self and appearances, you will confuse about it.
Last edited by DarwidHalim on Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby cyndilydia » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:35 am

duckfiasco wrote:
cyndilydia wrote:While the organic host has died, it has left the entity charged with properties priming it for the next "rebirth".
I hope this makes sense.

What is hosted by the entity? What is their relationship? What is leaving, where does it go, and what is left behind?


Good questions. In talking things out, I can identify and address holes in reasoning. Let me take a stab..
The entity is that which lives the multiple lifetimes working to nirvana

The host is the organism whose life force is the entity. The host is born, lives and dies. Upon death, the entity is ready to be reborn to another host.

Leaving is death of the host, I don't know where the entity goes - am working on a couple of theories
What is left behind is a carcass

These answers aren't really satisfying. Hopefully it's like writing code for me - I don't know what I'm doing, but when the errors are all fixed, the program works.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby cyndilydia » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:42 am

catmoon wrote:@Cindy Have you considered the candle flame analogy? The flame may pass from one candle to another, but there is no "thing" the goes from one to the other, the burning process simply continues elsewhere.


I love this analogy, but not necessarily because it can resolve my quandary. It gives insight to other things, like the existence of a living being requires the incarnation of a life force...
I need to take a break, finish this thought later.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby ground » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:46 am

cyndilydia wrote:Hi. I'm studying 'The Noble Eightfold Path The Way to the End of Suffering' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I understand the 3 universal marks of existence, in essence - impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata) - My confusion is with rebirth. If there is no self, what is the entity that is uniquely identified as whomever/whatever returns for another lifetime?


You should try here http://www.dhammawheel.com/index.php

There is already a rather long thread about rebirth (138 pages):
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41

Do not re-invent the wheel of questions :smile:

Kind regards
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Will » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:56 am

Consider the way that Buddha explained rebirth in the Mahayana Sutra of Consciousness Revealed:

The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “The process and transference of [ālaya] consciousness are like the wind, which is formless, shapeless, and unidentifiable. However, the wind can activate myriad things and display myriad conditions, whether making loud sounds as it shakes the forest or breaks off branches, or causing pleasure or pain as it touches with cold or hot the bodies of sentient beings. The wind does not have hands, feet, face, or shape. Nor does it have various colors, such as black, white, red, or yellow. Worthy Protector, the same is true for the domain of consciousness. It is formless, shapeless, not revealed by light. However, through causes and conditions, it can manifest various kinds of functions. Know that the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception are also formless and shapeless. Through causes and conditions, various functions manifest.
“Worthy Protector, after the death of a sentient being, the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception and the domain of [ālaya] consciousness abandon the body. The way [ālaya] consciousness carries the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception to accept another body is like a gust of wind sweeping across wonderful flowers. The flowers stay put, but their fragrance will flow far. The wind in essence does not grasp the fragrance of the flowers. Fragrance and the wind in essence are both formless and shapeless. However, without the power of the wind, fragrance will not travel far. Worthy Protector, after a person’s death, his [ālaya] consciousness carries the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception to the next rebirth, which is conditioned upon his parents entrusted by his [ālaya] consciousness. In this way the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception accompany [ālaya] consciousness. Because of the quality of the flowers, one’s nose can detect their scent. Because of one’s olfactory power, one smells fragrance, a sense object. The wind touches the flowers because of its power. Because of the power of the wind, fragrance can flow far. Likewise, from consciousness, sensory reception arises; from sensory reception, perception arises; and by perception, mental objects are differentiated. Then one knows good and evil.


Here is the rest of the sutra: http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra18.html

The glossary defines:
ālaya-vijñāna (阿賴耶識). The store consciousness (藏識), also known as the eighth consciousness, which stores the pure, impure, and neutral seeds of one’s experience since time without a beginning. These seeds manifest as causes and conditions that lead to karmic events in one’s life, which in turn become seeds. Maintaining the physical and mental life of a sentient being, ālaya is neither different from nor the same as the physical body. As the base of the other seven consciousnesses (see eighteen spheres), ālaya is the root consciousness (mūla-vijñāna). After one’s death, ālaya may either immediately manifest a rebirth according to karmic forces and conditions or first produce an ethereal interim body, which can last up to forty-nine days, pending the right karmic conditions for a rebirth. Ālaya is also identified with the thus-come store (tathāgata-garbha) as well as Buddha nature (see true suchness). The seeds in a Buddha’s mind are all pure seeds which no longer change, and the name ālaya-vijñāna is then changed to amala-vijñāna, the stainless consciousness.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:06 pm

I'm not asking oodles of questions to be cantankerous, but to get you thinking :twothumbsup:

The entity is that which lives the multiple lifetimes working to nirvana

Where in the body/mind does this entity reside? Is it the physiological components of the body, such as the breathing, heartbeat, brain activity? Is it the mental components, such as thought, memory, volition, consciousness? Is it a combination of all of these? What happens when one or more of these faculties is absent?

Upon death, the entity is ready to be reborn to another host.

So the entity is permanent? Then did it never come into being and does it never go out of being once reaching nirvana?
Is the entity impermanent? Then what gave rise to this entity needing nirvana, and how is it any different from any other conditioned component of the body/mind? That is to say, how can this entity simultaneously be unconditioned that it persists indefinitely through bodies until nirvana, yet conditioned that it can attain a state of realization, yet unconditioned that it can exist in nirvana, yet conditioned that it can stop being reborn, etc? The problem with an "entity" or "self" idea is this paradoxical waffling.

Conditions for a body come into being, there appears to be a birth. Conditions for a body come apart, there appears to be a death. If birth and death are changes of conditions, what is there for an entity to adhere to, let alone control towards its own ends of enlightenment?

What is left behind is a carcass

Left behind where as opposed to where?

The thrust of me being so annoying with questions is are you taking a basic soul-heaven idea and just substituting Buddhist-ish terms? If you grew up in a culture with a strong Judeo-Christian influence, it is very, very hard to think outside the box. I know I struggle with it greatly. Another metaphor for karma that I found helpful was the momentum transferred between two balls hitting each other. Think of karma as the thrust of your life, the built-up impression things make on your body and mind, and how you continue to add to this with every thought and action. Its web is astonishingly complex.

I hope your line of thinking takes you to strange and wonderful places :twothumbsup:
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:57 pm

cyndilydia wrote:
duckfiasco wrote:
cyndilydia wrote:While the organic host has died, it has left the entity charged with properties priming it for the next "rebirth".
I hope this makes sense.

What is hosted by the entity? What is their relationship? What is leaving, where does it go, and what is left behind?


Good questions. In talking things out, I can identify and address holes in reasoning. Let me take a stab..
The entity is that which lives the multiple lifetimes working to nirvana

The host is the organism whose life force is the entity. The host is born, lives and dies. Upon death, the entity is ready to be reborn to another host.

Leaving is death of the host, I don't know where the entity goes - am working on a couple of theories
What is left behind is a carcass

These answers aren't really satisfying. Hopefully it's like writing code for me - I don't know what I'm doing, but when the errors are all fixed, the program works.


There is no entity that takes rebirth. But there is rebirth.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Megha » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:37 am

cyndilydia wrote:Hi. I'm studying 'The Noble Eightfold Path The Way to the End of Suffering' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I understand the 3 universal marks of existence, in essence - impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata) - My confusion is with rebirth. If there is no self, what is the entity that is uniquely identified as whomever/whatever returns for another lifetime?


It's a problem isn't it? I mean today when you start out , you are hit with the most difficult parts of the teaching right off the bat, and because they aren't verifiable by experience it is difficult to commit to the practice. In any case, I believe that most people who talk about the more advanced teachings are just repeating what they have read. They haven't personally verified it, so it's just a case of the blind leading the blind I'm afraid. I read that no-one really knew what the transmission mechanism was following death, so they just invented a whole bunch of explanations like storehouse consciousness etc. to get round the fact they don't know. I think the Buddha knew what he was talking about (and this is my personal view) but I don't think he wanted people to get fixated on all this speculation about higher self or no higher self, karma, rebirth etc. Unfortunately that's all we seem to do, because people want to know what happens after death, and always will. It's the human condition I'm afraid: welcome to the world!! ;)
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:29 am

"How, venerable Nagasena, is it that one does not transmigrate and one is reborn? Give me an analogy."

"Just as, your majesty, if someone kindled one lamp from another, is it indeed so, your majesty, that the lamp would transmigrate from the other lamp?"

"Certainly not, venerable sir."

"Indeed just so, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn."

"Give me another analogy."

"Do you remember, your majesty, when you were a boy learning some verse from a teacher?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"Your majesty, did this verse transmigrate from the teacher?"

"Certainly not, venerable sir."

"Indeed just so, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn."

"You are clever, venerable Nagasena."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .kell.html
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby LightSeed » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:40 pm

I'm completely ridiculously new at this, but this is how I've interpreted it.

If you've ever played pool/billiards, when you hit one ball with another ball, the second ball moves forward, propelled by the energy of the first ball. Neither ball is the other one, both balls are completely separate in physical terms, but the energy has passed, from one ball to another.

Anywho...that's what I think.
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Re: Rebirth of whom?

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:57 pm

LightSeed wrote:I'm completely ridiculously new at this, but this is how I've interpreted it.

If you've ever played pool/billiards, when you hit one ball with another ball, the second ball moves forward, propelled by the energy of the first ball. Neither ball is the other one, both balls are completely separate in physical terms, but the energy has passed, from one ball to another.

Anywho...that's what I think.
Yeah, pretty much.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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