Sorry to cut in during the middle of a discussion, but just found a very interesting article from Johannes Bronkhorst who is quickly becoming my favorite Buddhist scholar for 2010! I'm presently reading his Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India, it rocks!
So, checking out what he has written, he is an incredibly prolific author, literally 5-15 papers and books a year. A lot are available for download, here: https://applicationspub.unil.ch/interpu ... LanCode=37
It even has a whole book or two, eg. and (both of which I just bought on Sunday!
One of them is this:
DID THE BUDDHA BELIEVE IN KARMA AND REBIRTH?*
(published in: Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 21(1), 1998, pp. 1-19)http://my.unil.ch/serval/document/BIB_84209201AE31.pdf
The concluding passages write: Let us return to the subject-matter of this lecture: Did the Buddha believe in
karma and rebirth? The answer, in so far as the texts allow us to reach an answer, seems
to me an unambiguous ‘yes’. The Buddha did believe in rebirth, and he did believe that
one's future destiny is determined by what we may call karma, but which is in some
essential respects different from what his contemporaries meant by it. For the Buddha,
one's future destiny is determined by what passes in one's mind, i.e., by desires and
intentions.27 And there is no reason to think that this future destiny consisted for him
exclusively of heaven and underworld.
27 To be distinguished from mere mental activity, which — being one form of activity — also other
religious movements, such as Jainism, tried to suppress.
If you also read the whole article, you'll get an interesting look into the various academic perspectives on this topic.
He is a very critical scholar, and doesn't seem to take anything at face (or text) value only. He is also extremely familiar with the other non-buddhist systems both before, during and after the Buddha's time. He makes clear distinctions between them, and provides evidence. For this reason, I think that his comments above are well worth noting. Particularly in the light of the "the Buddha just accepted rebirth / reincarnation because everyone else did". There is no way that Bronkhorst would accept such an otherwise cloth-eared claim without very good reason. He obviously feels that there is more to it than that.
Okay, back to the regular show ...