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 Post subject: Rebirth and endless time
PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:20 pm 
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I've never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how rebirth is connected with the concept of endless time. If time is endless in both directions, having gone on forever, and presumably will go on forever, and sentient beings are the product of rebirth, having been re-born ”forever” (since there is no beginning to it), how are their existence (or karma, if you will) explained in relation with that?

Since there have never been a beginning to time (according to this trail of thought), sentient beings cannot have begun to be sentient beings, either. And since sentient beings are, by their very nature (or concept), sentient, there are no other beings other than beings, to have become the very beings that they are (today), i.e. us - be it from some sort of primordial soup or a metaphysical what-have-you.

If we could see temporally and look back a couple of billions of aeons, and never see anything but different kinds of beings, how do you explain them?

I'm not asking for an explanation as to ”how it all began”, I simply fail to see what justifies the concept, since it is suggested as an objective explanation of the constant becoming of beings.
______________________________________

second add:

If there is no beginning to time, there's no beginning to karma, either. We could only trace the path it creates, so to speak, through the past.

The notion that we can be freed from our suffering, by somehow working with our karma, is absurd. We see that we are suffering, and consider how we could be freed from our tormentor. Now go back five hundred thousand billion maha-kalpas, and we realise that our karmic ”past” still stretches on endlessly. There has been no moment in time when our karmic weight has been easier, since it's influence is endless.

In theory you should be able to quantify the number of beings in the world, since the beings, having forever been re-born endlessly, must be definite, since their (karmic) ”pasts” are endless. If each being existing now is the manifestation of their endless karma, and the number of beings existing in this present moment, in every conceivable realm, is countable (and why shouldn't it be?), let us say, for convience sake, ten thousand - there couldn't possibly exist any more beings than that specific number. Where could they come from?


Last edited by norman on Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:02 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:10 pm 
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I've never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how rebirth is connected with the concept of endless time. If time is endless in both directions, having gone on forever, and presumably will go on forever, and sentient beings are the product of rebirth, having been re-born ”forever” (since there is no beginning to it), how are their existence (or karma, if you will) explained in relation with that?


From a conventional perspective, time has to be infinite because if it is not then it logically follows that time has to have had some beginning which requires a first cause. The question then arises by what did that first cause arise? From nothing? From another cause? A causeless cause is fallacious. The first cause arising from another cause refutes the original premise.

A sentient being, which we might otherwise call a "mind stream", likewise has to have an infinite past.

Why? Because a sentient being, being defiled, would have to arise from non-sentient causes and conditions which are undefiled. To say that something defiled can arise from the undefiled is fallacious and contrary to what the Buddha taught. If this were truly the case then Buddhas could become defiled sentient beings again. However, this is not so.

On the reverse, a sentient being, being a defiled mind stream, can indeed end. The defiled can become undefiled.

If a sentient being in the distant past arouse from undefiled causes and conditions, it would follow that permanent liberation is impossible. It would mean that though you become liberated and free from all defilements, there is still the potential for rebirth and samsara.

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If we could see temporally and look back a couple of billions of aeons, and never see anything but different kinds of beings, how do you explain them?

I'm not asking for an explanation as to ”how it all began”, I simply fail to see what justifies the concept, since it is suggested as an objective explanation of the constant becoming of beings.


It is a matter of consequentiality which allows us to infer that time has no beginning. This rule of causality also would mean that defilements have to have existed infinitely in the past.

A defiled sentient being has to have an infinite past because of two reasons:

1) A sentient being does not arise (or re-arise) from undefiled dharmas.

2) If so, at some point in the past if the sentient being became free from all defilements it would no longer exist. However, by virtue of it existing now we know that at no point in the past did it become completely undefiled. Defilements conditioning further rebirths or "rebecoming" would stretch back into the infinite past. Just as above with time, you cannot say that the causes for defilements either had a first cause or were causeless.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:44 am 
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Here's my speculation:

Huseng's argument is valid if we confined ourselves to just to the realm of experience of the five senses.

But Norman has a point too because in my view, an argument of infinite regress means that there cannot be a complete explanation. There will always be something missing.

In reading the so-called "Mind Only" sutras, I get the sense that there is an implicate order from which explicate orders of sentience and matter arises. Within that implicate order, past, present and future are not distinct.

Dzogchen seemed to me to be a little more explicit about this implicate order, which it termed as rigpa. From rigpa, our world of phenomena, including both sentience and non-sentience things, arises. Within the sentience that arose is an innate ignorance which the source of all our deluded actions (karma) and which resulted in our endless cycling in existence.

In rigpa (implicate order), the phenomenon of the flow of time is not there. When our world of phenomena (explicate order) arose, past, present and future all arose together.

As for the so-called infinite number of sentient beings, I'll leave that speculation to another time.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:02 am 
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Sherab wrote:
Within the sentience that arose is an innate ignorance which the source of all our deluded actions (karma) and which resulted in our endless cycling in existence.


Keep in mind ignorance precedes consciousness.

Sentience as in conscious awareness is a defiled dharma that arises due to action driven by ignorance.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:22 am 
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Hi Huseng,

I am using the term "sentience" as the opposite of matter which is non-sentience. "Sentience" here then is just a category for all things/phenomena that has awareness, consciousness, etc. And "matter" would be a category for all things non-sentient.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:02 am 
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Norman,

Essentially your post goes to the heart of the Buddha's teachings.

Remembering he taught for something like 50 years before his death. The sutras are voluminous.

In other words he spent 50 years teaching or explaining everything you posted. :smile:

The concept that the universe always existed in Indian in origin. The endless Kalpas. The Buddha came from that tradition.

Essentially he did not explain everything and constantly admonished his followers to get back on track, or back on the important subject.

Your own liberation etc.

So essentially, a lot of the answers you seek may not be available in writing. This is why we meditate.

Things become clearer when we explore the concept of Anatta.

We can talk, debate and rationalise about the concept of Anatta, but we will only absorb it through meditation.

Sometimes these big philosophical questions are best to be 'set aside', in favour of finding peace and mindfulness.

This is my perspective.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:24 am 
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There is the arising of views and questions that according to the Buddha do have just one single cause: clinging to the aggregates.

Kind regards


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:13 am 
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Afflictive activities of mind are not innate, they are by circumstances conditioned, adventitious they come on continuum of mind. If not we should not can purify mind. Noble Truths explain this.

Some words from The Dalai Lama:
" it might occure to some that present mind depends exclusively on the body and that because they do not directly witness former and future lifetimes, they do not exist. Their idea is that if something exists it must be seen directly. Or they think mind is produced in dependence on the body (earth, water, fire, wind) and so easy, former lifetimes don't exist.

About Karma some reflections: "Mistaken logicians say that there is no one who make peas round, sharpens thorns or paint the colors of the peacock. They observe there are uncharitable misers who become wealthy, murderers who live long life and therefore they assert that there is no cause-effect=karma carrying over from one lifetime to another.
There are also some meditative absorptions, by clearvoyance to see if a person who was miserly in a former life is born into wealthy home in next life, and so assert that there is not such cause-effects-actions. Also some achieve a concentration or formless absorption through meditations' stabilization and believe that they have archieved liberation. When then they see they must take rebirth they conclude that liberation doesn't exist".

"To see own defilements is the greatest gift we can offer us, by being there for all."

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:20 am 
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From Garland of Birth stories:

That one just born,
Its mind without strenght,
With senses dull,
Seeks breast to suck and food to eat,
Untaught by anyone,
Is clearly due to being used to
these in other lives.

Cyclic existence = samsaric rebirth.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:19 pm 
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Sherab wrote:
Huseng's argument is valid if we confined ourselves to just to the realm of experience of the five senses.

But Norman has a point too because in my view, an argument of infinite regress means that there cannot be a complete explanation. There will always be something missing.

In reading the so-called "Mind Only" sutras, I get the sense that there is an implicate order from which explicate orders of sentience and matter arises. Within that implicate order, past, present and future are not distinct.

Dzogchen seemed to me to be a little more explicit about this implicate order, which it termed as rigpa. From rigpa, our world of phenomena, including both sentience and non-sentience things, arises. Within the sentience that arose is an innate ignorance which the source of all our deluded actions (karma) and which resulted in our endless cycling in existence.

In rigpa (implicate order), the phenomenon of the flow of time is not there. When our world of phenomena (explicate order) arose, past, present and future all arose together.


Huseng's argument applies to the mind-stream too, as the pinpointing of a beginning raises the mentioned problems. Also, if you affirm that defiled beings arose from a pure mind (rigpa) means that either defilement came from nowhere or that the mind wasn't pure. On the other hand, supposing an eternal mind is also problematical, that's why eventually people came up with the concept of the mind-stream, which is an application of the teaching of dependent origination.

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Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:03 pm 
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norman wrote:
I've never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how rebirth is connected with the concept of endless time. If time is endless in both directions, having gone on forever, and presumably will go on forever, and sentient beings are the product of rebirth, having been re-born ”forever” (since there is no beginning to it), how are their existence (or karma, if you will) explained in relation with that?

Since there have never been a beginning to time (according to this trail of thought), sentient beings cannot have begun to be sentient beings, either. And since sentient beings are, by their very nature (or concept), sentient, there are no other beings other than beings, to have become the very beings that they are (today), i.e. us - be it from some sort of primordial soup or a metaphysical what-have-you.

If we could see temporally and look back a couple of billions of aeons, and never see anything but different kinds of beings, how do you explain them?

I'm not asking for an explanation as to ”how it all began”, I simply fail to see what justifies the concept, since it is suggested as an objective explanation of the constant becoming of beings.
______________________________________

second add:

If there is no beginning to time, there's no beginning to karma, either. We could only trace the path it creates, so to speak, through the past.

The notion that we can be freed from our suffering, by somehow working with our karma, is absurd. We see that we are suffering, and consider how we could be freed from our tormentor. Now go back five hundred thousand billion maha-kalpas, and we realise that our karmic ”past” still stretches on endlessly. There has been no moment in time when our karmic weight has been easier, since it's influence is endless.

In theory you should be able to quantify the number of beings in the world, since the beings, having forever been re-born endlessly, must be definite, since their (karmic) ”pasts” are endless. If each being existing now is the manifestation of their endless karma, and the number of beings existing in this present moment, in every conceivable realm, is countable (and why shouldn't it be?), let us say, for convience sake, ten thousand - there couldn't possibly exist any more beings than that specific number. Where could they come from?


Greetings!
Nagarjuna has some good points on this issue, namely by pointing out that time does not exist independently of the perceiver etc... he proves there is no infinite time out side of you, see ?
Mula Madhyamaka Karika http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/verses2.htm
There is no beginning, nor is there no beginning.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:09 pm 
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Tree wrote:
Sometimes these big philosophical questions are best to be 'set aside', in favour of finding peace and mindfulness.


Inasmuch as liberation is on the agenda, I'd agree. However since it is suggested, at least as it has been presented to-day, as a solution to answers concerning rebirth, I'd consider it vital to subject it to analysis, in the sense that rebirth as a concept depends on it. Consider how rebirth as a notion falls apart without it.

It's a kind of a weighing board of our own ignorance.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:27 pm 
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Astus wrote:
Huseng's argument applies to the mind-stream too, as the pinpointing of a beginning raises the mentioned problems. Also, if you affirm that defiled beings arose from a pure mind (rigpa) means that either defilement came from nowhere or that the mind wasn't pure. On the other hand, supposing an eternal mind is also problematical, that's why eventually people came up with the concept of the mind-stream, which is an application of the teaching of dependent origination.


A conceptual, abstract ”beginning” is always implied whenever we consider rebirth. It provides the contextual background of our present assumed birth. That is, thinking of ourselves as having been reborn into this period of time is inconceivable unless it is put into relation to what is past – and if you perceive the past as being endless you'd find it hard to motivate the (assumed) karma that we're supposed to suffer from. I say supposed, because when should we begin to measure it (karma) in time, if there is no limit to it? It's like trying to measure the quantity of water in a bottomless well. I'd appreciate it's about 5 litres.


Last edited by norman on Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:35 pm 
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TMingyur wrote:
There is the arising of views and questions that according to the Buddha do have just one single cause: clinging to the aggregates.

Kind regards


Don't make too much of it. This is just me having a go on the stitches of a fine piece of cloth we call doctrine.
Is the fault in the sewing needle or the material (rhetorical question)?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:59 pm 
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More inquiry:

If we accept the current, scientific model we must at the same time accept that there was a time, and will be a time when neither animals nor humans will exist. And since all the Buddhist realms are subject to change (I assume), there must've been a time when the Human and Animal realms, so called, were empty of the very beings that granted them their name (or perhaps the time-scale in work is too vast to be considered from within the realms themselves).

If sentient beings could never have begun to be sentient beings, since sentient beings are by their very nature, sentient, there could never have been any other beings other than the very beings that they are, to be the beings that they are, i.e. sentient beings – since they are all busy being reborn.

Similarly, if we connect this with evolution we'd end up with more confusion. If earth creatures are born from complex processes, a primordial soup, and since there have been no beings earlier in our cosmos up to this point, we'd just have to assume that their sentiency popped up from nowhere (if all creatures are the effects of karma), rather than having been created from the soup that have apparently granted them their life. In short: what caused the first birth or creation of a creature in this universe?

Taken as an objective concept, as something ”out there” going on right now, rebirth as apparently understood, boil down to absurd versions of infinite regresses and end up making little or no sense at all.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:38 am 
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Astus wrote:
Huseng's argument applies to the mind-stream too, as the pinpointing of a beginning raises the mentioned problems. Also, if you affirm that defiled beings arose from a pure mind (rigpa) means that either defilement came from nowhere or that the mind wasn't pure. On the other hand, supposing an eternal mind is also problematical, that's why eventually people came up with the concept of the mind-stream, which is an application of the teaching of dependent origination.

Hi Astus,

I don't equate rigpa with pure mind. Rigpa is merely that from which the phenomena of mind and matter arose.

The phenomenon of mind that arose from rigpa has innate ignorance according to Dzogchen teaching. That innate ignorance as I understand it is a not knowing such that the phenomena of mind and matter are perceived by the mind to be distinct, when in fact they both arose from rigpa. From there comes the sense of internal and external, self and other.

From the standpoint of rigpa, the phenomena of mind and matter are just that and does not represent a real reality. In other words, from the standpoint of rigpa, mind and matter are merely illusions. And from the standpoint of rigpa, there is no real defilements.

That is how I understand it.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:55 am 
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norman wrote:
If we accept the current, scientific model we must at the same time accept that there was a time, and will be a time when neither animals nor humans will exist. And since all the Buddhist realms are subject to change (I assume), there must've been a time when the Human and Animal realms, so called, were empty of the very beings that granted them their name (or perhaps the time-scale in work is too vast to be considered from within the realms themselves).

Hi Norman,

In Buddhist cosmology, there are many universes, each universe having their own realms. When one universe is emptied of beings, it simply means that those beings are either liberated from the cycle of existence or are simply reborn in another universe in the appropriate realm.

If we can look at the whole system of existence like a computer program, it might just be impossible to explain everything within the system based on axioms of the system according to Godel's incompleteness theorems. Perhaps, that was why the Buddha avoided answering certain questions because he had to base his answers on referents within the realm of existence.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:10 am 
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"Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of
beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. There comes
a time, bhikkhus, when the great oceans dry up and evaporates and no longer exists, when the
earth burns up and perishes and no longer exists, but still I say, there is no making an end of
suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by
craving.
"
Samyutta Nikaya 22.99

Note the words, "not discerned" which implies that it is at least not knowable. There probably is no first beginning, but even if there were, it can not be discerned and would be meaningless toward reaching our own goals.

I think it fits in with the imponderables.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:52 am 
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David N. Snyder wrote:
"Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of
beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. There comes
a time, bhikkhus, when the great oceans dry up and evaporates and no longer exists, when the
earth burns up and perishes and no longer exists, but still I say, there is no making an end of
suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by
craving.
"
Samyutta Nikaya 22.99

Note the words, "not discerned" which implies that it is at least not knowable. There probably is no first beginning, but even if there were, it can not be discerned and would be meaningless toward reaching our own goals.

I think it fits in with the imponderables.

Hi David,

I guess I am among the minority who finds such answers unsatisfactory because it leaves behind a lingering doubt. If it is unknowable or not discernable, I would like to have some reasonable explanations as to why it is so. The presence of doubt as far as it applies to me is a hindrance to my practice.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:06 am 
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norman wrote:
More inquiry:
Similarly, if we connect this with evolution we'd end up with more confusion. If earth creatures are born from complex processes, a primordial soup, and since there have been no beings earlier in our cosmos up to this point, we'd just have to assume that their sentiency popped up from nowhere (if all creatures are the effects of karma), rather than having been created from the soup that have apparently granted them their life. In short: what caused the first birth or creation of a creature in this universe?


From what I understand the dharma and buddhist cosmology have no conflict with our 'evolution.' Evolution in the biological sense is external. Consciousness is internal, is not subject to and does not conflict with the external. And, as mentioned before there are many more realms than ours. The scope of our current realm is beyond the human imagination.

Maybe this might be helpful;

Q&A session with Ven. Robina Courtin from FPMT's Presenting the Path

'Student I was just going to say about this comment then that the scientists that come up and say that the human form has come from previous animals, they don’t really look at consciousness at all.

Ven. Robina No precisely, that’s the point. We only see it as an external, that’s exactly right.

Student It’s something that they don’t even look at.

Ven. Robina No. We have mostly. . . we have been taught science. . . they don’t have to contradict, but it’s such a huge view and we in the West believe we have almost found the truth, and all these stories of evolution; it’s quite shocking if you’ve got that view and you’ve seen it as the truth and you’ve taken that assumption for so long to begin to change it. It’s very scary. So it’s very interesting even now, there’s a lot of talk isn’t there, people who are strongly Christian and believe in a creator, they say evolution just can’t fit with that. That’s why there talking about trying to bring the Christian teachings back in, and the God one, and scientists will mostly say that you can’t believe in God if you really believe in science. And in a sense it’s true, because they’re so contradictory. But, if you’re really skillful, there’s no contradiction between this view.

All it is I’m saying as a Buddhist, I don’t deny that there’s so-called evolution, in a sense; there are certain fundamentals that I would disagree with. But if you have a view of karma it’s an added compo- nent, that’s all. It doesn’t contradict the evolution of this realm at all. But it has a few series of very basic assumptions that are quite different. So it takes time for the mind to get around all the stuff, but there’s no fundamental contradiction.

Student Because the scientists are looking mainly at something that’s physical.

Ven. Robina That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And that’s why, it’s so interesting, that many scien- tists see that the world is so amazing and their conclusion is that it must be created by somebody. Many scientists go towards the creator one. But people I think like Einstein go more towards the one, the Buddhist one, which is cause and effect, interdependent arising. It’s very interesting. Yes?'

Shaun :namaste:


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