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 Indrajala » Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:10 am

Loka wrote: But on that score, my reading is "fallacious" only relatively, from your point of view.


Not really because Buddhist traditions for the last twenty-five centuries, Mahāyāna included, have all regarded rebirth as a phenomenon that sentient beings all undergo as a result of their afflictions.

We don't really need to debate that fact. If you want to argue otherwise, you're just advocating a revisionist opinion not based on tradition or canon.





But there is no difference between samsara and nirvana, absolutely none. But teach me, what are these implications you say I don't understand?


If you haven't actualized such a profound principle, then you're an ordinary common being like the rest of us and the horrors and pains of saṃsāra are real enough to cause extreme mental agony.

There is a difference between noble and common beings. The former don't suffer. The latter do.

So, in principle saṃsāra and nirvāṇa might be non-dual, but for common people on the ground such a principle is only abstract and intellectually understood at best. That means if someone accuses you on false charges or physically harms you, you still continue to suffer mentally regardless of how much intellectual understanding of emptiness you have.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Loka » Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:56 am

Huseng wrote:Not really because Buddhist traditions for the last twenty-five centuries, Mahāyāna included, have all regarded rebirth as a phenomenon that sentient beings all undergo as a result of their afflictions.

We don't really need to debate that fact. If you want to argue otherwise, you're just advocating a revisionist opinion not based on tradition or canon.


Hi again. No I don’t want to argue. I was only stating our differing takes on the evidence. As long as we hold to different “facts” there’s really no argument to be made.

But is what I’m saying not based on the canon or the tradition? Certainly, you’re representing majority opinion, but can you really be so categorical, considering the long and varied history of Buddhist writings and practice? And what about the Kalama Sutta? The Buddha affirms the duty of everyone who hears the dharma to form their own judgements based on their own experience, and on the good opinion of the wise. That good opinion, as I read it, was not touching on doctrinal points but on what was wholesome and of benefit.

Just a point of clarification: I hope I didn’t mix up “provisional” and “conventional”; by provisional I meant provisional as opposed to ultimate teachings, for example, Hinayana/Mahayana. “Conventional” refers to empirical reality, which as you say dissolves under analysis. For you rebirth is part of that empirical reality, conventionally real; for me it’s a useful metaphor, which I myself use quite readily but don’t take literally. That’s why I call it upaya or pious fraud: it’s neither ultimately real, conventionally real or simply unreal (like the son of a barren women). It has its own category. But then I’m a fan of literature and metaphor carries more weight with me than with most.


If you haven't actualized such a profound principle, then you're an ordinary common being like the rest of us and the horrors and pains of saṃsāra are real enough to cause extreme mental agony.

There is a difference between noble and common beings. The former don't suffer. The latter do.

So, in principle saṃsāra and nirvāṇa might be non-dual, but for common people on the ground such a principle is only abstract and intellectually understood at best. That means if someone accuses you on false charges or physically harms you, you still continue to suffer mentally regardless of how much intellectual understanding of emptiness you have.



But this is a whole Buddhist can of worms, isn’t it? Gradual verses sudden enlightenment, etc. If I’m already there, why should I bother, etc. And all those pompous non-dualists running around pretending they’re not really there! There’s no way I want to enter into that discussion. It’s almost a question of spiritual tact, isn’t it? And no doubt I’m a bit tactless. And far far far from actualizing anything. So point taken.

With metta, Michael.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:13 am

Loka wrote:Hi again. No I don’t want to argue. I was only stating our differing takes on the evidence. As long as we hold to different “facts” there’s really no argument to be made.


There is no basis in the canon for what you're advocating. From the start it was said a bodhisattva's career as such took three incalculable aeons of time. That means, literally, being reborn immeasurable times in order to achieve buddhahood, all the while gaining supermundane abilities and multiple emanations. That all assumes rebirth as conventionally real.

What you're suggesting is just your own opinion and has little to do with Mahāyāna scriptures.


Certainly, you’re representing majority opinion, but can you really be so categorical, considering the long and varied history of Buddhist writings and practice? And what about the Kalama Sutta? The Buddha affirms the duty of everyone who hears the dharma to form their own judgements based on their own experience, and on the good opinion of the wise. That good opinion, as I read it, was not touching on doctrinal points but on what was wholesome and of benefit.


You missed the Pubbakotthaka Sutta:

    "Lord, it's not that I take it on conviction in the Blessed One that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; whereas those who have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment would have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation. And as for me, I have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment. I have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation."

    "Excellent, Sariputta. Excellent. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; whereas those who have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment would have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Unless you're enlightened, you gotta take a lot on faith and base your own opinions on those of wiser folks. Deference to superiors is necessary for beginners. Normally that means deference to scripture or beings with some level of extraordinary attainment.




For you rebirth is part of that empirical reality, conventionally real; for me it’s a useful metaphor, which I myself use quite readily but don’t take literally. That’s why I call it upaya or pious fraud: it’s neither ultimately real, conventionally real or simply unreal (like the son of a barren women). It has its own category. But then I’m a fan of literature and metaphor carries more weight with me than with most.


Rebirth isn't a metaphor though. It isn't treated as such in all the Buddhist literature I've read. Conventional reality is as ordinary beings perceive it. That doesn't mean you get out of rebirth.

You can treat it as such, but that's just your opinion and it won't hold any weight in a Buddhist discussion. What you're suggesting here is really a common trend among westerners who can't swallow rebirth and karma, and then go on to revise things to suit themselves. This is why in Asia westerners are not taken too seriously when it comes to Buddhism.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Loka » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:40 am

Huseng wrote:You can treat it as such, but that's just your opinion and it won't hold any weight in a Buddhist discussion. What you're suggesting here is really a common trend among westerners who can't swallow rebirth and karma, and then go on to revise things to suit themselves. This is why in Asia westerners are not taken too seriously when it comes to Buddhism.


Wow. I must have offended, so now you offend me. I’m no longer a fellow sentient being but a “westerner” (actually now that I type it out and say quickly three times in my head it sounds really exotic).

To be fair, you no doubt sense that for my part I can’t take seriously miraculous and really unnecessary notions like literal belief in karma and rebirth, to say nothing of supermundane abilities, multiple emanations and a bodhisattva career through eons of time. For me, these things are no more plausible than the virgin birth of Jesus, the Resurrection and Young Earth Theory.

It’s ironic you call me a “westerner” when in your dogmatism you appear to have far more in common with western religionists than I do.

East or west, I find your whole tribe perplexing. Why make up the miraculous, except in the interests of good fiction, when the miraculous is all around (do you find horror, injustice, stupidity? then do something about it). Your veils of tears, your samsaras are indeed illusions. To paraphrase the gospel of Thomas: the Kingdom of Heaven is spread across the Earth and you do not see it.


Or how about from the Vimalakirti, chapter 7:

Then, the goddess said to the venerable Shariputra, "Reverend Shariputra, why do you shake these flowers?"
Shariputra replied, "Goddess, these flowers are not proper for religious persons and so we are
trying to shake them off."
The goddess said, "Do not say that, reverend Shariputra. Why? These flowers are proper
indeed! Why? Such flowers have neither constructual thought nor discrimination. But the
elder Shariputra has both constructual thought and discrimination.

But anyway I'm done. There will be no further posts from me. Best of luck.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby zamotcr » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:51 pm

If I don't believe in karma nor rebirth, why would I be buddhist?
I mean, it doesn't make sense, this two doctrines are foundations of the teaching. Without rebirth there is no samsara. Without karma there is no rebirth...
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:11 pm

Loka wrote:Hi again. No I don’t want to argue. I was only stating our differing takes on the evidence. As long as we hold to different “facts” there’s really no argument to be made.
Let's say I give you the benefit of the doubt. What then are the "facts", or the evidence, that points to the absence of rebirth. If rebirth does not apply, then what does?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Tue Jun 25, 2013 5:31 am

I don't believe rebirth is literal, in that "I" am born again. But in a way, because there is no self to speak of, and because everything is interdependent, I am not really separate from other beings. Neither from people living right now, nor from people who will be born in the future.

Future generations aren't really separate from us right here, so whatever we do right now is the karma, which we as future generations will have to deal with. Rebirth and karma isn't really about me being born again, it's just about caring for other people as much as you care for yourself, because the distinctions disappear.

I understand that might not be what Buddhism in general is saying, but that's OK.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Nosta » Tue Jun 25, 2013 11:27 am

Rebirth is a matter of faith, because science is not exploring deeply that question. If you want to believe, believe it. If not, dont believe.

Even so, there are some scientists that are collecting evidences of life after death. The problem is that "social status" and "scientific status" will not allow all the other scientists to accept such evidences. But you know, there are more proofs about life after death, than proofs about the existence of other scientific stuff well accepted by everybody.

Lets came back to my first sentence: "Rebirth is a matter of faith..." because of science. Well, let me add something: the existence of atoms, quarks, electrons, blackholes, etc are a matter of Faith too, because I never saw any electron, neither neutrinos and all that stuff.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby jeeprs » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:41 pm

You can't see electrons, but you can conduct experiments which predict results based on their existence, and then get those results. That is empirical proof, that is, you have shown something with relation to physical evidence. It is not a matter of faith, and I think it is a mistake to say that faith and that kind of scientific analysis are simply the same thing. They are very different, they rely on different mind-sets and outlooks and methods.

Incidentally I think that karma and re-birth are real phenomena, but don't loose sight of the fact that from the higher perspective of the Buddha, the whole cycle of life and death is also illusory, insubstantial, empty, and unreal. Given that we are enmeshed in this reality, it takes on a life of its own, within which rebirth is something that occurs. But the point of the Buddhist teaching is to awaken to its non-reality, to be liberated from it altogether.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jun 28, 2013 3:03 am

If thoughts arise now, when conditions are met, they will arise again.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby Seishin » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:21 am

I always feel the Kalama Sutta get's paraphrased to make it seem the Buddha said "only do it if you agree with it!" When in actual fact it deons't say that at all.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Curious that it tells us to not go by pondering or thinking of views, but then goes on to say that if it's praised by the wise, then we should follow it. To me it's almost saying the opposite to how everyone "quotes" it :thinking:

Just something to think about :smile:

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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby tatpurusa » Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:17 am

The question is not only about rebirth, but about consciousness and nature of mind.

Western science regards energy and matter as two phases of the same thing: they can be transformed from one form to the other, but can never get lost, destroyed or "created" from nothingness.

Buddhism maintains the same about the nature of mind. Neither can it be created out of nothing, nor can it ever be destroyed.
It cannot even ever be born, die, or reborn for that matter. Birth, rebirth and karma are just parts of samsara, results of avidya, illusory and not absolute truth.

Western "scientific" materialism regards consciousness not as an inherent quality of matter, neither as something existing independently from it, but rather as a phenomenon, resulting from a certain kind of organization of matter / energy. A temporary, unstable anomaly, that has to vanish some time, unlike consciousless states of energy-matter.

One could say in Buddhism all forms of energy-matter are illusory, empty phenomena. In science, consciousness is "empty" and illusory.
Fundamentaly incompatible views.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby porpoise » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:16 pm

Seishin wrote:I always feel the Kalama Sutta get's paraphrased to make it seem the Buddha said "only do it if you agree with it!" When in actual fact it deons't say that at all.

...Curious that it tells us to not go by pondering or thinking of views, but then goes on to say that if it's praised by the wise, then we should follow it. To me it's almost saying the opposite to how everyone "quotes" it :thinking:


I agree. The Kalama Sutta is often misquoted, and often used as an excuse to reify personal opinion or to justify skepticism, both of which are completely missing the point.

And of course the main function of the Kalama Sutta is an encouragement to develop Right Intention, though that is rarely mentioned.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby smcj » Sun Nov 17, 2013 3:01 pm

I have a somewhat different spin on the Kalama Sutra. There's a back story to it that changes things--a lot.

The Kalama people knew Sakyamuni very well. Before his enlightenment he lived with them. He was a student of their guru, Alara Kalama, and had 150 students of his own. But he abandoned them to go look for his own full enlightenment. So after attaining Buddhahood he comes back to the Kalama people. Since he had previously turned his back on them, they would understandably have some reservations about accepting him back, so as Desi would say to Lucy, he "had some 'splaining to do".

So my take on the Kalama Sutra is not so much Sakyamuni's advice to the Kalama people, but his explanation as to why he left and what he found. Notice at the end of the Sutra all the Kalama people take Refuge with him, which either means they didn't understand or chose to ignore our modern interpretation of what he said, or else, as per my interpretation, they became convinced of his realization and accepted him back.

I'm not a scholar, but that's my opinion, FWIW.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby undefineable » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:04 pm

tatpurusa wrote:One could say in Buddhism all forms of energy-matter are illusory, empty phenomena. In science, consciousness is "empty" and illusory.
Fundamentaly incompatible views.
In Buddhism, all forms of consciousness are also seen as illusory, empty phenomena. Although I've not heard a scientist go as far as to claim that all forms of energy-matter are in fact illusory, there is uncertainty over whether the physical world rests on a fundamental substance (i.e. a fundamental particle) of the kind Buddhism rejected within the mental sphere, although from most popular science (and popular understanding of science) you wouldn't know this.

So the incompatibility may be little more than skin-deep :)
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby tatpurusa » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:28 pm

undefineable wrote:In Buddhism, all forms of consciousness are also seen as illusory, empty phenomena.

Yes, but not the nature-of-mind, rigpa, buddha-nature, nirvana etc. This is not a phenomenon, but the non-duality of emptiness and clarity, out of which all (mental...&...) phenomena arise.
Although I've not heard a scientist go as far as to claim that all forms of energy-matter are in fact illusory, there is uncertainty over whether the physical world rests on a fundamental substance (i.e. a fundamental particle) of the kind Buddhism rejected within the mental sphere, although from most popular science (and popular understanding of science) you wouldn't know this.

So the incompatibility may be little more than skin-deep :)


I agree. This is why I find scientifically sanitized Buddhism (viewtopic.php?f=66&t=14636&start=80#p196670) pretty pointless.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby dharmagoat » Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:24 pm

tatpurusa wrote:This is why I find scientifically sanitized Buddhism (http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 80#p196670) pretty pointless.

Some find it pointless, some find it essential. To each 84,000 their own.

The Dharma belongs to no-one and everyone.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby tatpurusa » Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:44 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
tatpurusa wrote:This is why I find scientifically sanitized Buddhism (viewtopic.php?f=66&t=14636&start=80#p196670) pretty pointless.

Some find it pointless, some find it essential. To each 84,000 their own.

The Dharma belongs to no-one and everyone.


Sure. This is just "my" unenlightened finding ... ;)
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby dude » Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:46 pm

If you believe in karma, it only follows logically that rebirth is real.
If you don't believe in karma, you have not accepted the Buddha's teaching.
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Re: Are Karma and Rebirth Real?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:51 pm

dude wrote:If you believe in karma, it only follows logically that rebirth is real.
If you don't believe in karma, you have not accepted the Buddha's teaching.

The Buddha taught many things, to many people.
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