Serenity509 wrote:Whether or not you believe in it, why not look at reincarnation as a net positive? Why not appreciate the journey?
As a Westerner, I have trouble believing in any concept of the afterlife without sufficient evidence. The most I can say is that good is somehow rewarded and evil is somehow punished.
If we start with the premise of life and death in the usual way we are taught to think about it, then rebirth does not sound very plausible. But what is death? it is when the body ceases to function and the causes of cognitive awareness are no longer manifesting through the chemistry of the brain.
Usually, we think that the brain causes thoughts to occur. but the brain is merely made of carbons, acids, salts, and other chemicals which do not think. They do not witness their own existence. How can consciousness arise from a collection of things which have no consciousness?
Furthermore, you do not have to die to see rebirth. It is happening constantly. Consider the fact that the body you had as a child is gone. All of those cells died and were replaced by new cells long ago. Little by little, the body of that kid died. Yet, a continuous stream of separate thoughts (experienced falsely as one single string of "self") has continued up to this very moment. This is the 'self' that we doubt can take rebirth. It is logical to doubt that, because the premise of an actual
self or soul is mistaken to begin with(according to Buddhism).
But when we consider the thought process as millions of constantly changing moments, then rebirth is fully plausible, because the causes of cognition exist whether or not the chemistry through which we experience those causes exists or not.
So, for example, a tree exists even if a blind person cannot see it.
The idea that karma is some sort of cosmic legal system is very commonly held.
But if it were true, then there would have to be some kind of objective
reason for why one type of behavior is better than another, and some sort of objective
rationale for why a type of punishment or reward is appropriate.
You may notice that there are no 'sins' in Budhism as there are in God religions. (although the term is often used, especially in some translations of Pure Land commentaries). Why is this? Didn't the Buddha tell people, for example, not to kill living creatures?
The Buddha taught a direct path to freedom from suffering.
He also advised against doing things which cause one to veer off that path. So, he said don't kill.
So, killing is part of our existence. In and of itself, it is not good nor bad. But it can have the effect of causing misery, and of causing all sorts of problems for everyone , including the killer. It can take you miles off the main road.
This 'self' we experience is a figment of the imagination, yet it is experienced as real and solid. So, we experience life and death in that 'real' context, and some people then try to fit the idea of karma into that context, but they do so mistakenly. We experience the negative results of killing because
our experience of this illusory world seems real. You create your own punishment and reward. However, even a killer without remorse experiences the negative results of killing because the very fact of no remorse (which should be there) is evidence of much deeper suffering and any killing would only add to that at some point.
If you gather all the components of cognition and are able to control them, then you can, as you say, take rebirth as you like, and do so with eager anticipation. You can be a tulku
. But most of us don't do that so when our physical bodies quit, our thoughts are scattered the way a a cart loaded with wood is scattered into the water if it drives off a bridge. the wood floats away in all directions.
But if you take mastery of the processes of the mind, this is like taking that same wood and first making a boat from it. Then when it hits the water, it stays together and you can steer it to the other shore.