Soto views on rebirth?

Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Mon May 06, 2013 12:20 pm

Luke wrote:Quite a few modern Soto Zen teachers seem to not believe in the traditional Buddhist idea of rebirth. Are modern Rinzai Zen teachers the same way? Or do most Rinzai Zen teachers have more traditional views about rebirth?


Who among soto teachers denies rebirth? I never herd of any...
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Mon May 06, 2013 12:22 pm

Matylda wrote:
Luke wrote:Quite a few modern Soto Zen teachers seem to not believe in the traditional Buddhist idea of rebirth. Are modern Rinzai Zen teachers the same way? Or do most Rinzai Zen teachers have more traditional views about rebirth?


By the way, could you give any source or quotation of any soto teacher caliming no-rebirth? Thank you :)
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Jikan » Mon May 06, 2013 12:34 pm

Gudo Wafu Nishijima seems to reject the teaching of rebirth as do certain of his students.
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Wayfarer » Mon May 06, 2013 12:47 pm

I've never noticed Nishijima make that statement, and have thoroughly read To Meet the Real Dragon, which is his main book.

As I said in my first response 'rebirth is happening every single moment. Every single moment of life is the wheel of birth and death.' That is a way of understanding it that doesn't deny the idea of re-birth but it also doesn't romanticize it. The middle path is neither that 'there is an existing soul that goes from life' (eternalism) nor that the individual life totally ceases at physical death (nihilism).

If that sounds hard to understand, it's because it is.
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Jikan » Mon May 06, 2013 1:34 pm

Hi jeeprs,

That's why I said he "seems to" take that position. There are many who attribute such a position to him, or take that position themselves by his authority.

By contrast, the position you describe seems much more nuanced and, to my mind, interesting. I'm reminded of the Tendai doctrine of "ichinen sanzen." Three thousand realms in one moment...

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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Luke » Mon May 06, 2013 1:40 pm

Jikan wrote:Gudo Wafu Nishijima seems to reject the teaching of rebirth as do certain of his students.

Yes, that is what I've heard as well, but I'm no expert on the issue.

jeeprs wrote:As I said in my first response 'rebirth is happening every single moment. Every single moment of life is the wheel of birth and death.' That is a way of understanding it that doesn't deny the idea of re-birth but it also doesn't romanticize it. The middle path is neither that 'there is an existing soul that goes from life' (eternalism) nor that the individual life totally ceases at physical death (nihilism).

If that sounds hard to understand, it's because it is.

What your description leaves out is whether this momentary rebirth you describe continues to occur after clinical death or not. Therefore, it is not clear to me if you are really supporting classical Buddhist ideas of rebirth which happen to a mindstream which extends from the beginningless past into the future, or if you simply believe that we physically (according to the standard western medical definitions) are born once and die once, but that in between, we can view the momentary changing of our bodies and minds as "momentary rebirth" using the 6 realms just as metaphors for mental states (which I happen to think is a "romanticized" idea!--"romanticism" is in the eye of the beholder). There is nothing at all "romantic" about being reborn as a dung beetle!
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Mon May 06, 2013 2:03 pm

Jikan wrote:Gudo Wafu Nishijima seems to reject the teaching of rebirth as do certain of his students.



Do you have any of his clear quotation sayong that there is no rebirth? :)
as for his students I do not know tchem.. so it does not help me in any way..
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Re: Rinzai views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Mon May 06, 2013 2:07 pm

Luke wrote:Quite a few modern Soto Zen teachers seem to not believe in the traditional Buddhist idea of rebirth. Are modern Rinzai Zen teachers the same way? Or do most Rinzai Zen teachers have more traditional views about rebirth?



I met more then 10 rinzai teachers I think, and none of them denied idea of rebirth.. well Hakuin never had denied. So I think that it is clear.. I would like to add that I naver met any soto zen teacher who showed any sign of non bilieving in idea of rebirth.. but I would like to point that I am not very familiar with Western zen.. maybe there are some Western teachers who do not believe in it.. who knows...

Anyway it would be more than funny to be a buddhist teacher and to deny rebirth.. then what for to teach dharma? Just as a job or money making? I do not know frankly speaking :)
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Astus » Mon May 06, 2013 3:47 pm

"In Zen we talk about rebirth in this lifetime. ... Karma is a word that expresses the process of how the way you live in this moment affects what happens in the next moment, or the next year, or the next decade."
Dharma Rain Zen Center

Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen: The Myth of Rebirth
Hardcore Zen: LITERAL REBIRTH

"Heaven is a human supposition and Hell is also a human supposition. But when our autonomic nervous system is balanced, it is just Heaven, and when our autonomic nervous system is not balanced, it is just Hell."
Gudo Wafu Nishijima: 30 Questions on Zen Buddhism and Practicing Zazen
"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: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Wayfarer » Mon May 06, 2013 11:10 pm

Luke wrote:What your description leaves out is whether this momentary rebirth you describe continues to occur after clinical death or not. Therefore, it is not clear to me if you are really supporting classical Buddhist ideas of rebirth which happen to a mindstream which extends from the beginningless past into the future, or if you simply believe that we physically (according to the standard western medical definitions) are born once and die once, but that in between, we can view the momentary changing of our bodies and minds as "momentary rebirth" using the 6 realms just as metaphors for mental states (which I happen to think is a "romanticized" idea!--"romanticism" is in the eye of the beholder). There is nothing at all "romantic" about being reborn as a dung beetle!


I am sceptical about anyone who says they have it all worked out. However, one salient point is that at a young age I had a sudden vivid memory that seemed to be from a previous existence. It didn't consist of any kind of recollection of the circumstances or of a previous identity. But there was a definite recollection of having known something - the single thing - of supreme importance, at some time in the distant past. It was a sense that 'if you know this, it is all you need to know'. When this happened, it was, in philosophical language, 'apodictic', impossible to doubt. (There are some passages in Plato's dialogues which allude to this kind of memory, which is called 'anamnesis'.) Around that time I had two awakening experiences. So that has affected my attitude to the question.

Now, I am of the view that the causes we set in motion in this life, ripple forward and assume other forms in the future. It sounds vague, I suppose, but I don't think that the sentient mind is able to conceive of this process. But I am sure that there is something in Rupert Sheldrake's idea of morphic resonance, which provides an underlying medium for such things to be transmitted. Furthermore, I believe mind is real in its own right, that is, it is not dependent on matter in order to exist. So, ideas are just as real as material things, and they can be propogated through the mind-realm.

As for whether there is any 'experience' or 'consciousness' after death, I wouldn't claim to know, however I was given a book called Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, last Christmas. I don't quite know what to make of this book - I haven't actually finished it - but the author doesn't seem deranged or delusional, and he gives vivid accounts of his 'journey' to other realms whilst he was clinically near brain-dead. It is a hard book to simply explain away, although predictably many people will. There are also texts such as the iconic Bardo Thodol (Book of the Dead) which purport to describe the 'bardos' or intermediate realms.

With regards to being 'reborn as an dung-beetle' - I think those kinds of ideas were conventional in traditional Asian societies. I do know that when I told my very Christian in-laws about my interest in Buddhism about 30 years ago, one of their principle objections to it was that 'you could be reborn as a worm'. I don't take anything like that seriously. I can see, poetically, that if you behave like a pig you might be born as one. I can certainly see how a drug addict could become reborn as a hungry ghost. I used not to believe that there were heaven and hell realms, but I am not so sure any more.

So for me, it is an open question. I don't accept the conventional view that the individual life is solely defineable in physical terms. But I think the really key point for dharma practitioners is not to get fascinated by any such ideas. The best approach is always to realize the truth of Dharma in this very life and not to get too caught up in speculation. But - keep an open mind. I don't see that in the 'secular Buddhist' view. They have already made their mind up.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby shel » Tue May 07, 2013 5:44 am

jeeprs wrote:So for me, it is an open question. I don't accept the conventional view that the individual life is solely defineable in physical terms. But I think the really key point for dharma practitioners is not to get fascinated by any such ideas. The best approach is always to realize the truth of Dharma in this very life and not to get too caught up in speculation. But - keep an open mind. I don't see that in the 'secular Buddhist' view. They have already made their mind up.


Please forgive me for pointing out the apparent hypocrisy but, in the bolded portion quoted you seem to have made up your mind. Perhaps it is the elusive quality of defining physical terms, or conventional views, that leads to such specious profoundments.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Wayfarer » Tue May 07, 2013 5:47 am

How is it 'hypocritical' to declare something is 'an open question'? If it's an open question, it means I am open to various ideas on it. I am not, however, open to the idea that the human individual is a solely material phenomenon, and that the individual life comprises only the lifespan of the physical organism. I do reject that view, which is categorised in Buddhist philosophy as ucchedavada, or nihilistic, so if you regard rejection of that as 'hypocritical', then I guess I'll just have to deal with it.

So - you're forgiven. :smile:
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby shel » Tue May 07, 2013 5:52 am

Indeed you deal with it quite a lot from what I've seen. Not that that's a bad thing. :smile: Grasping, or not being open, is what we deal with...
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Wed May 08, 2013 11:45 am

Astus wrote:"In Zen we talk about rebirth in this lifetime. ... Karma is a word that expresses the process of how the way you live in this moment affects what happens in the next moment, or the next year, or the next decade."
Dharma Rain Zen Center

Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen: The Myth of Rebirth
Hardcore Zen: LITERAL REBIRTH

"Heaven is a human supposition and Hell is also a human supposition. But when our autonomic nervous system is balanced, it is just Heaven, and when our autonomic nervous system is not balanced, it is just Hell."
Gudo Wafu Nishijima: 30 Questions on Zen Buddhism and Practicing Zazen



well I do not clearly see what do you mean, by those quotetions.. I guess it may be a response for my question?

Anyway it does not denny the concept of karma in general, but shows more subtle teaching on karma.. and you find similar things in other traditions, not only in zen. And since they are spoken from a bit higher level one cannot conclude that they denny common teaching on karma.

Basically they show more of practice/experience level point of view. Not commoners level.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Astus » Wed May 08, 2013 1:36 pm

Matylda,

People use the teaching of momentary rebirth as an exchange for life to life rebirth about what they are at least agnostic. You can read Brad Warner's two articles where he is explicit about his position.

"When people questioned Nishijima about this during talks, he always explained that these references were meant metaphorically, not literally."

"Rebirth is a myth that some Buddhists believe in. It might be loosely based on fact. But it might just be a fantasy."
"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: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Wed May 08, 2013 9:55 pm

Astus wrote:Matylda,

People use the teaching of momentary rebirth as an exchange for life to life rebirth about what they are at least agnostic. You can read Brad Warner's two articles where he is explicit about his position.

"When people questioned Nishijima about this during talks, he always explained that these references were meant metaphorically, not literally."

"Rebirth is a myth that some Buddhists believe in. It might be loosely based on fact. But it might just be a fantasy."


Thank you for clarification.. actually quotation you give now are more accurate concerning disbelieve in rebirth. Well I do not know who is Brad Warner. Is he a soto teacher? I guess he is Westerner, right?

In the first place. Rebirth in every moment is not only zen idea. Many traditions teach about it when it comes to deeper view on impermanence etc. Moreover it is a content of zen experience to see it clearly, and depends on genuine samadhi and some sort of insight. So generally it is not easy task, however zen teachers in Japan teach about it.

Then from a point of view of realization there is no birth or death, as you may know.. it is clearly spoken not only in zen teachings. I have no idea what Warner was talking about and from what level. Of course for simple person, who has no experience and realization there is birth, death, rebirth, 6 realms of desire world etc. there is no reason to deny it, and like this it is taught by soto or rinzai teachers for centuries.

Anyway if there are teachers who deny rebirth then all concept of karma etc. is pure nonsense, and there is no reason for them to be Buddhist teachers. But actually I am no judging Warner or Nishijma, since it would need some clearification from their side, what they meant etc.

By the way, Nishijima is not considered to be an examplary soto teacher in Japan. None of his writtings is taken seriously by soto monks circle or studied. However maybe he gained some interest among Japanese laymen or so. I do not know. I do not mention it to undermine his views or authority just mention that if his views are controversial or views of any of his students, one has to be aware that by any means he is not represantative of traditinal soto zen in Japan.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby kirtu » Wed May 08, 2013 11:03 pm

really the main declaration that some/many Soto teachers don't believe in rebirth comes from Ven. Indrajala. He noted this during his studies in Japan. All my Zen teachers (Westerners) held rebirth but didn't explicitly teach it (possibly the two Zen Catholic nuns I studied with did not accept rebirth but I don't know - as it turns out the Zen Catholic people were Catholic with them but they were always Buddhist with me). None of my Zen teachers told people what to think. As always they were concerned with liberation in that moment. But I know for a fact that my Kwan Um teacher and Daido Roshi definitely accepted traditional rebirth. The job of a Zen teacher is to get you to enlightenment and they will overturn whatever apple carts they feel they need to - even seemingly decrying traditional teachings in some interactions. Zen is not "belief oriented" in the sense that this question may have been posed in. This can be difficult for people to understand. But it's sort of like when Trungpa Rinpoche asked a person why they wanted to attain enlightenment? After all, they might find it boring.

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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Simon E. » Thu May 09, 2013 2:46 pm

Matylda wrote:
Luke wrote:Quite a few modern Soto Zen teachers seem to not believe in the traditional Buddhist idea of rebirth. Are modern Rinzai Zen teachers the same way? Or do most Rinzai Zen teachers have more traditional views about rebirth?


Who among soto teachers denies rebirth? I never herd of any...

Bump.
So basically you asked your question but when you did not like the answer you received you decided that you would discount it.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Matylda » Fri May 10, 2013 1:55 pm

Simon E. wrote:Bump.
So basically you asked your question but when you did not like the answer you received you decided that you would discount it.


No really... I just read some qoutations, like about moment to moment rebirth, and it is not only zen notion. And it does not contradict basic idea of rebirth, it is only more profound way to present the point which is basically grounded in experience. I think that still quotations are too short and lack context and none cleary denied rebirth.

There was this saying that it is a myth. I do not understand exactly what was meant by the word 'myth', but maybe he meant 'illusion', what is in accordance with dharma teaching. Isn't it?

So what I askek about was, who and where stated that there is NO REBIRTH, and what was the reasoning behind such statement. In fact it would be interesting and then question why such individual is called 'buddhist teacher' would be valid. Don't you think so? So I am not going to defend 'soto teachers'. I accept that there could be individuals who present destorted dharma. And it may apply to any teacher of any traditon.

I heard one story of very famous rinzai lay great practitioner. He once claimed that is free of klesha, what caused immence reaction among riznzai shike, and tough confrontation. However teacher who told me the story was very curious why the other one said so, and went to him to talk in private. The asnwer he got was most profound and absolutely in accordance with dharma and zen teaching. So what may look in the first moment to be wrong may turn to be just uncommon, but very proper.

Look even Daikan Eno, known as the 6th patriarch in China gave very unusual answers, but on explanation disciples could see the deeper meaning, and very much in accordance with dharma, though initially Eno sounded as if he was contradicting dharma.
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Re: Soto views on rebirth?

Postby Simon E. » Fri May 10, 2013 2:07 pm

I know little of Zen, whether Soto or Rinzai but there is debate within the Theravada which I am aware of about the "Three Lifetimes " model and the " One Lifetime" model. The Three Lifetimes are of course the last life, this life, and the next life. The One Lifetime model does not necessarily deny the possibility of the three lifetimes, but says that they are conjectural, and that all Dharma can be found in the present lifetime.
I do not know if the discussion happens in Zen in the same kind of terms but from what I have read of Brad Warner's writings he may hold a similar view..whether his view is typical of modern Soto I also don't know but he has a large following, including in Japan.
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