Rebirth and morality.

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

Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:45 am

Shel,

Buddhism, including all the Buddhist traditions, is a path, a system of teachings meant to be used for attaining liberation from suffering. To make a statement requires taking a viewpoint. From the Buddhist point it is of course a universal teaching. From a materialist point Buddhism is a superstition. From a Nietzschean point it is nihilism. And depending on whom you ask, from a Christian point it can be anything between idolatry to ignorant people with good intention.

It is easy to make the mistake of taking an "outsider point", a third party which belongs to none. Objective observation. This is what doesn't exist. It doesn't exist in a sense of independent view, although it exists as a dependent view itself. Of course, this is again a view among other views.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 07, 2010 1:40 pm

Huseng wrote:
Aemilius wrote:I have thought about this matter in terms of investment and in terms of the society at large. Our societies have invested in the study of genetics, chromosomes etc 100 millions of Euros/$/yen annually, this means that we invest our money into a study that explains the true nature of our selves to be derived from genes, and not from karma and rebirth. If the society invested an equal amount of money to the research of karma and rebirth, our worldview would, as a consequence be very different !! Our heart is where our money is, says the proverb!


I think ideas like "darwinistic value" and "Evolutionary Psychology" and so on will be seen in the future as we now see craniology: theories based on less than complete facts. Some thinkers try to explain everything in terms of evolutionary value. It is far too shallow as even from the perspective of materialist biology humans have exceeded their genetic programming with the development of intelligence.

As you pointed out, a lot of capital is invested in genetics and so on which means people think they are quite valid and the people behind such theories are reliable.

Unfortunately almost no money is put into Abhidharma. :shrug:

Well at least not anymore. In ancient India they invested money into it.


I think it is worthwhile for a buddhist to devote some time to the study of genetics. You must have some grasp at the enormous possibilities that the genetic research has opened up for humanity. Science is really thrilled about this mass of knowledge and unthinkable new possibilities. We are at the beginning of a vast development, this is how it feels.
I think it will take a long time before science has run into a culdesac and they will have to reconsider the value of genetic knowledge.

Incidentally I found in the Avatamsaka Sutra a passage that says that inside each atom there are vast encyclopedias of worldly knowledge, this in each atom, in the future this knowledge will be taken out because it is beneficial to the mankind, (!!!???), thus says the Avatamsaka, in the Cleary translation, I'm sorry, can't remember the page number, but it certainly is there.,
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:58 pm

Astus wrote:Shel,

Buddhism, including all the Buddhist traditions, is a path, a system of teachings meant to be used for attaining liberation from suffering. To make a statement requires taking a viewpoint. From the Buddhist point it is of course a universal teaching.

Yes, I would think so.

From a materialist point Buddhism is a superstition.

Why would it be superstitious from a materialist point of view? Are you saying that the NEP is not experiential?

From a Nietzschean point it is nihilism.

From a Nietzschean point of view any belief system is exactly NOT nihilism. Nihilism is a loss of meaning. Obviously Buddhism is meaningful to many people.

And depending on whom you ask, from a Christian point it can be anything between idolatry to ignorant people with good intention.

    "I read the Gospel from a different perspective and saw the truth of Zen in much of the Gospel. Buddhism is a very advanced religion. Roshi Sasaki, who is still functioning at 89 in Mount Baldy in Los Angeles, thought that Zen could help Christians become better Christians. He saw-and I would certainly adhere to his insight-that there is a certain Zen quality in all religions. It is a fundamental religious attitude. Centering prayer is very rich but quite diffuse and tends to put the emphasis on grace in a way that perhaps needs to be balanced by the Zen attitude, which is that we have to do something, too. Actually, St. Ignatius expressed it well when he said, "Act as if everything depended on you, and trust as if everything depended on God." Well, how do you do that? That is a koan. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to do that. What the world religions all have in common is [the fact that] transcendence is the name of the game. This means first having a self and then surrendering it, opening oneself to union with God, which is a gift." ~ Fr. Thomas Keating, OSCO

Christian views of Buddhism have a much fuller spectrum than you suggest.

It is easy to make the mistake of taking an "outsider point", a third party which belongs to none. Objective observation. This is what doesn't exist. It doesn't exist in a sense of independent view, although it exists as a dependent view itself. Of course, this is again a view among other views.

I don't see how this part is relevant.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:07 pm

"Why would it be superstitious from a materialist point of view? Are you saying that the NEP is not experiential?"

Karma, rebirth, realms, ghosts, gods, transference of merit, protective spells, magical abilities - what about these?

"From a Nietzschean point of view any belief system is exactly NOT nihilism. Nihilism is a loss of meaning. Obviously Buddhism is meaningful to many people."

"Both [Christianity and Buddhism] are to be reckoned among the nihilistic religions—they are both décadence religions—but they are separated from each other in a very remarkable way." (The Antichrist, §20)

"Christian views of Buddhism have a much fuller spectrum than you suggest."

Yes, there are some who associate themselves with Zen, I've even mentioned two of them in a post here not long ago. I better correct myself to refer to mainstream Christian churches' (Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, Baptist, etc.) official statements. Then we can see while there are certain monks of the Roman Catholic Church who sympathise with Buddhism, the Vatican has never did so.

"I don't see how this part is relevant."

I was only referring to making Buddhism a universal teaching. Universal to whom?
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:33 am

Astus wrote:"Why would it be superstitious from a materialist point of view? Are you saying that the NEP is not experiential?"

Karma, rebirth, realms, ghosts, gods, transference of merit, protective spells, magical abilities - what about these?

You are suggesting that the NEP may be experiential but Karma, rebirth, realms, ghosts, gods, transference of merit, protective spells and magical abilities are not?

"From a Nietzschean point of view any belief system is exactly NOT nihilism. Nihilism is a loss of meaning. Obviously Buddhism is meaningful to many people."

"Both [Christianity and Buddhism] are to be reckoned among the nihilistic religions—they are both décadence religions—but they are separated from each other in a very remarkable way." (The Antichrist, §20)

Nihilism means the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.

It is a very common tactic among those who wish to promote their own belief system to accuse other belief systems of being meaningless or based on false principles.

I was only referring to making Buddhism a universal teaching. Universal to whom?

I don't know. Maybe this goes back to the question of what is experiential. Maybe Buddhism cannot be true for just anyone. Maybe it is only a viable religion for those who can experience it in full? those who can experience Karma, rebirth, realms, ghosts, gods, transference of merit, protective spells and magical abilities etc etc?
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:55 am

shel,

Just because something is experienced doesn't make it either scientific or objective. In the morning I dreamt of a big storm and there was a Tibetan monk who could transform himself. Should we then state there are such monks? There are people, quite a lot, who claim they saw Jesus, Virgin Mary, angels or God himself. Isn't that experience?

Nihilism in Nietzsche's philosophy has its own meaning(s), should not be confused with other views. But it was just an example.

Buddhism is not true for everyone otherwise it'd be the only religion in the world. Thing is, even in Buddhist countries the majority of the followers know little about the Dharma and don't really care (see this as an example).
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Anders » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:58 am

Well, I do think there is a case to be made for the illusory nature of rebirth. Straight out of the Diamond Sutra:

All phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow,
Like dew and lightning.
Thus should you contemplate them.


And as Nagarjuna said, "Things are not as they appear, nor are the otherwise."

So certainly, there are misconceptions involved in thinking about 'a person' transmigrating from life to life and we should definitely consider the possibility that rebirth does not work quite the way we may imagine it to (perhaps in a definitive sense of it simply being impossible to imagine properly).

Nevertheless, I think this is actually confusing the issue. Because these observations apply not just to rebirth but to life in general. And in fact, are much more pertinent to ordinary life than to rebirth. You will definitely want to understand how your daily 'ego-existence' is illusory and mere appearance well in advance of the time of death, where the illusory nature of transmigration might become relevant.

So I don't really understand why this should be brought up in any notable relation to rebirth. Unless those who argue for it, argue with the same persistence bot the illusory nature of relationships, family, growing old, and all the other stuff that happens to 'people' in this life. Which if so, would suggest to being rather stuck on emptiness.

The long and the short of rebirth and anatman in Buddhism is that it makes sense, as a limited model, to think of rebirth in quite conventional terms of 'a person' transmigrating from life to life and reaping the fruits of deeds in former lives to the same extent as it makes sense to think of 'a person' having a job, family, a body and mind, etc without violating the basic causality of the process.

If you're already deeply perceiving the anatman of your present life, then yes, it makes sense also to see the illusory nature of rebirth equally so. If you're not, it doesn't really make any sense to stress it in conversation about rebirth over and above the current life.

As it says in the ratnakuta sutra: "It would be better to have a belief in the existence of a real self as large as Mt Meru than to hold to emptiness as truly existing."
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Luke » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:37 pm

Anders Honore wrote:Well, I do think there is a case to be made for the illusory nature of rebirth. Straight out of the Diamond Sutra:

All phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow,
Like dew and lightning.
Thus should you contemplate them.


Sure, but rebirth is also not more illusory than the other phenomena we experience.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:00 pm

Aemilius wrote:
I think it is worthwhile for a buddhist to devote some time to the study of genetics. You must have some grasp at the enormous possibilities that the genetic research has opened up for humanity. Science is really thrilled about this mass of knowledge and unthinkable new possibilities. We are at the beginning of a vast development, this is how it feels.


The unfortunate reality is that while we might praise the benefits of new scientific knowledge, we are often patching up one hole in the hull with that knowledge while other cracks rapidly appear. We can use new and innovative methods to address the problems humanity faces, but those problems only exist because of previous irresponsible persons misusing scientific knowledge.

The simple idea some Europeans had of putting canons on ships (which again was refined and perfected using chemistry and mathematics) resulted in the catastrophes of imperialism and colonialism which turned places like Africa, India and China, which were the wealthiest places on the planet, into severely poor and destitute regions of the globe. Now we might genetically engineer new strains of rice to feed all those poor masses, but the reason those poor masses even exist in their present wretched condition is because fools in the past misused scientific knowledge.

When you look at a lot of the problems of our present day from a broader picture you can see a rather unfortunate and sad cause and effect relationship. The great scientific knowledges of one day end up creating a massive set of problems and then people suddenly come up with new and innovative methods to solve those problems. We eat so much toxic crap that we need to come up with new and innovative ways to cure all the diseases we're creating for ourselves.

Science needs responsible people otherwise the results will be suffering.

Thurman addresses this issue in the following short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=py_420umlQs
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby catmoon » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:19 pm

From a Nietzschean point it is nihilism.

From a Nietzschean point of view any belief system is exactly NOT nihilism. Nihilism is a loss of meaning. Obviously Buddhism is meaningful to many people.


"Both [Christianity and Buddhism] are to be reckoned among the nihilistic religions—they are both décadence religions—but they are separated from each other in a very remarkable way." (The Antichrist, §20)



Reading the above quotes reinforces my long-held belief - that Neitzsche was a self contradicting idiot.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:26 pm

Astus wrote:shel,

Just because something is experienced doesn't make it either scientific or objective. In the morning I dreamt of a big storm and there was a Tibetan monk who could transform himself. Should we then state there are such monks? There are people, quite a lot, who claim they saw Jesus, Virgin Mary, angels or God himself. Isn't that experience?

Nihilism in Nietzsche's philosophy has its own meaning(s), should not be confused with other views. But it was just an example.

Buddhism is not true for everyone otherwise it'd be the only religion in the world. Thing is, even in Buddhist countries the majority of the followers know little about the Dharma and don't really care (see this as an example).

That's not the point (the bolded portion above), we were discussing whether or not Zen Buddhism is something universally true or something that is "specifically Buddhist." I suppose I'm trying to figure out what you mean when you say that Zen is not universally true but something "specifically Buddhist."

Buddhism is sometimes likened to medicine. If we were to view Zen as medicine and it was proven effective for just about anyone then it would be a pretty much universally effective practice. On the other hand, if Zen were a fiction, like your dream of the transforming monk, it might still be effective as a kind of placebo.

The etymology for placebo is from Latin, literally 'I shall please,' from placere 'to please.'

Is this how you view Zen Buddhism, that it is merely designed to please?
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:29 pm

catmoon wrote:
From a Nietzschean point it is nihilism.

From a Nietzschean point of view any belief system is exactly NOT nihilism. Nihilism is a loss of meaning. Obviously Buddhism is meaningful to many people.


"Both [Christianity and Buddhism] are to be reckoned among the nihilistic religions—they are both décadence religions—but they are separated from each other in a very remarkable way." (The Antichrist, §20)



Reading the above quotes reinforces my long-held belief - that Neitzsche was a self contradicting idiot.

Not at all. Promoting one's own philosophy and declaring all others false and meaningless is will-to-power in action.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:40 pm

shel wrote:
    "I read the Gospel from a different perspective and saw the truth of Zen in much of the Gospel. Buddhism is a very advanced religion. Roshi Sasaki, who is still functioning at 89 in Mount Baldy in Los Angeles, thought that Zen could help Christians become better Christians. He saw-and I would certainly adhere to his insight-that there is a certain Zen quality in all religions. It is a fundamental religious attitude. Centering prayer is very rich but quite diffuse and tends to put the emphasis on grace in a way that perhaps needs to be balanced by the Zen attitude, which is that we have to do something, too. Actually, St. Ignatius expressed it well when he said, "Act as if everything depended on you, and trust as if everything depended on God." Well, how do you do that? That is a koan. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to do that. What the world religions all have in common is [the fact that] transcendence is the name of the game. This means first having a self and then surrendering it, opening oneself to union with God, which is a gift." ~ Fr. Thomas Keating, OSCO

Christian views of Buddhism have a much fuller spectrum than you suggest.


Father Keating's centering prayer is controversial within Catholicism.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:10 pm

catmoon,

There are many things about Nietzsche and his philosophy to think about, even in relationship to Buddhism. I am not his follower, since I follow the Buddha, but among the many European philosophers he is a really special one in my understanding. Also it should be noted that he lived in the 19th century and didn't have much knowledge about Buddhism. More passages from The Antichrist:

"The things necessary to Buddhism are a very mild climate, customs of great gentleness and liberality, and no militarism; moreover, it must get its start among the higher and better educated classes. Cheerfulness, quiet and the absence of desire are the chief desiderata, and they are attained. Buddhism is not a religion in which perfection is merely an object of aspiration: perfection is actually normal. ... Buddhism is a religion for peoples in a further state of development, for races that have become kind, gentle and over-spiritualized (—Europe is not yet ripe for it—): it is a summons that takes them back to peace and cheerfulness, to a careful rationing of the spirit, to a certain hardening of the body. ... Buddhism is a religion for the closing, over-wearied stages of civilization."

Actually, as we can see, these came true. Buddhism spread in Europe and America in a post-modern age of peace and prosperity among the educated people.

Nietzsche's nihilism, as far as I know (which is really not much), is losing to see the values of this life and instead looking for it somewhere else. That's why Christianity eventually made people nihilist after they lost their faith in God, for there's nothing left to believe in, nothing left to live for. Bringing Buddhism into this situation it is understandable that people like the idea of finding the meaning of life "in this present moment" - which is not much a Buddhist idea actually. The down to earth style Zen is what could inspire many, and this is where my criticism lies. That's why it is important to highlight that Zen is part of Buddhism, of a complex religion, full of "supernatural" and "other-worldly" things like rebirth and fox spirits. Steven Heine wrote two books about the presence of magic and mythology in Zen koans: Shifting Shape, Shaping Text and Opening a Mountain.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:41 pm

shel,

There is Buddhism, within Buddhism there is Mahayana, within Mahayana there is East Asian Mahayana, within East Asian Mahayana there is Zen, within Zen there are four main regions, within each of those regions there are major schools, within those schools there are sects, within each sect there are lineages and teachers. Thus we go through eight levels to reach a living representative of all of that. Such a person is only within this system. Perhaps a fifth region could be added to count in Western Zen but that would be a bit problematical to see it within East Asian Mahayana. Also, there is no substantial monastic community to serve the basis of any Western Buddhism, perhaps Theravada is the closest to that.

Zen is definitely not effective for everyone. It is one of the myriad expedients. The reason I set up the above categorisation of Zen is because I wanted to show how one one hand Zen is not at all outside of Buddhism, and on the other to point to the fact that even Zen is just a larger category for many different styles and methods.

Then the important task is to define the essentials that make a teaching Buddhism, Mahayana and Zen. Rebirth is an essential part of Buddhism, thus every teaching that claims to be Buddhist must have it. To say that there is Zen without rebirth is to say that there is Zen without Buddhism. Not possible. Therefore those who claim to teach Zen but are not followers of Shakyamuni Buddha are fake. In Zen terms: they didn't receive the transmission, they're not in the family of the ancestors. Without a mind-to-mind transmission how could they have anything to do with Zen? They may have a paper about transmission but that is as good as a painted cake.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:22 pm

Astus wrote:Zen is definitely not effective for everyone.

If you know this to be true can you somehow explain why Zen practice may not be universally effective?

I know it's kind of an odd question, not everyone wants to practice Zen or even care for what it might be effective for, and even if they did care for what it might be effective for they may have some disability, like schizophrenia or something, that would make the practice especially difficult or ill-suited to their most urgent needs.

Rebirth is an essential part of Buddhism, thus every teaching that claims to be Buddhist must have it.

You seemed to suggest in a previous post on this page that rebirth was not experiential and that it would necessarily be perceived as superstition by those not subscribing to Buddhist belief. So it's not clear if experience is essential or if you are claiming that accepting what is "specifically Buddhist" is essential.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby catmoon » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:29 pm

shel wrote:Not at all. Promoting one's own philosophy and declaring all others false and meaningless is will-to-power in action.


While that is true, following the will-to-power is the antithesis of Buddhist thought. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to be a Buddhist to see the flaw in the idea.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:34 pm

catmoon wrote:
shel wrote:Not at all. Promoting one's own philosophy and declaring all others false and meaningless is will-to-power in action.


While that is true, following the will-to-power is the antithesis of Buddhist thought. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to be a Buddhist to see the flaw in the idea.

Funny, the N word seems to get a lot of play in some Buddhist circles.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:49 pm

shel,

There are people who never hear about Zen. There are people who meet Zen but don't care about it. There are people who try to do some Zen and shortly after quit. There are people who do Zen for years, even decades, then quit. And there are those who practice Zen throughout their lives but never realise enlightenment. Zen is not for any of them in a sense that it brought no liberation - even a little liberation - into their lives. And there are others who not just cannot use Zen for good but use it for bad things.

Accepting the essential Buddhist teachings is important, this is called faith, this is called taking refuge. Rebirth is not experiential in an objective, scientific sense, it is not evident for everyone; but it can be confirmed first hand through meditation.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:06 pm

Astus wrote:And there are those who practice Zen throughout their lives but never realise enlightenment. Zen is not for any of them in a sense that it brought no liberation - even a little liberation - into their lives.

It is remarkable that someone could practice Zen Buddhism their entire life with no benefit whatsoever.

Accepting the essential Buddhist teachings is important, this is called faith, this is called taking refuge. Rebirth is not experiential in an objective, scientific sense, it is not evident for everyone; but it can be confirmed first hand through meditation.

In my book even hearing about your transformer monk is an experience. Of course a meditation experience is an experience. Maybe this explains how someone could practice Zen Buddhism their entire life with no benefit, they never had the rebirth experience in meditation?
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