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 for real?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:35 pm

zangskar wrote:In my opinion it's not a very big issue to accept the teachings of rebirth. I don't find the idea in any way harder to accept than the competing ideas of a) we go to heaven or hell after one life only, or b) we die and it's all gone, there is nothing that goes on, etc. All that is really needed is to accept that we don't know, and neither are we likely to be able to know - well not until we actually die. So it is not a big issue and we can simply give it the benefit of the doubt.

To you who have no predilection for a certain system of competing beliefs it isn't. :smile:
However, there are many reasons why some people resist to the idea of rebirth. Some, even without noticing, have been indoctrinated to think in a certain way by their education or the media. Others are more prone to resist because they fear being looked at as gullible by others who consider everything beyond metaphysical naturalism superstition. A certain mentality has developed which states that among educated people, publicly one should reject the belief in anything that has the faintest smell of supernatural (a definition I don't like, since I find rebirth as natural as gravity). There are many reasons, but you can't really find them in the data itself. The fact that technology is a great success and derives from a science that has been operating under materialistic assumptions blinds us to the fact that it still has produced no answers to the explanation, definition, origin or fate of consciousness and this is not a problem due to the lack of technology, but results from a deficient paradigm. I could go on and on discussing this, but I find no use to continue as it is a bit off topic.

It seems that we can find out through meditation if there is a rebirth or not, so we don't necessarily have to die. The idea that meditation doesn't give us any insight regarding the nature of reality is not correct, at least according to the Buddhist teachings. :smile:

But it's a very different issue once it gets down to actual claims of previous lives. This is where something that was a relatively abstract notion all of a sudden becomes very concrete, for everyone to see, if claims are made public.
If an empirical claim is made, it is only reasonable that people will want to scrutinize and investigate. If some "fault" appears here then it is not difficult to see that it may feed the fire of doubt, and not just the teaching of rebirth but the entire teaching possibly brought in question. So I think it is important that people do not stretch claims to concrete knowledge, and do not confuse knowledge with some subjective feeling, or with having faith in the teaching.

Best wishes
Lars

There seems to be the case that some claims were investigated and only with extremely far fetched theories could the possibility of rebirth be dismissed. It's not that there is no investigation. There has been and the data is there, but then comes the interpretation of data and that's where we find different explanations. In some cases, simply admitting that the current paradigm doesn't allow a plausible explanation seems the most intellectually honest behavior. Instead, now and then we see incredible justifications just to sustain a certain metaphysical paradigm. It's not that most scientists think this way, but those who militantly do make a lot of noise. These areas aren't profitable, so funds for research aren't easily available. Why things are like this is neither a mystery nor it comes from the data gathered, but has more to do with history of science and sociology than anything else.

All in all, I think proving rebirth would mess with the world in such a way that we would see a change happening from economics to philosophy. There are many people to whom the definitive proof of rebirth would become their worst nightmare. If people started acting fully aware that their negative actions would bare inescapable negative consequences, even when others didn't find out, the world would suffer a hell of a change. For the better, I think. If we knew, as clear as dropping an object and see it falling, that we can't escape the consequences of our actions (because we are tired of knowing about crooks who end up never being caught for their crimes, and some actions by people in power that send entire countries to starvation are not even considered criminal and so on and so forth) we would watch a whole new kind of behavior being adopted. Most people, even religious people, think that they can get away with it somehow. Knowing they can't, they would think twice before acting immorally.

All the best,

DN
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:40 pm

How could we prove rebirth when after analysis we can't even prove causation exists on an ordinary level?
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:48 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:How could we prove rebirth when after analysis we can't even prove causation exists on an ordinary level?

We can prove causation. If I grab a fork and poke you hard, it will cause you pain. So there's a causal relation between poking you with a sharp object and you experiencing pain. So what do you mean?
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Kyosan » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:49 pm

edearl wrote:This discussion has been interesting to follow, and demonstrates several awesome characteristics of Buddhists, including tolerance and mindfulness.


From the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra
While like Mount Sumeru you are unmoved by both praise and censure. Your compassion is extended to both good and evil men, like space thy mind remains impartial. Does not anyone revere this human Buddha after hearing about Him?

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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:55 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:How could we prove rebirth when after analysis we can't even prove causation exists on an ordinary level?

We can prove causation. If I grab a fork and poke you hard, it will cause you pain. So there's a causal relation between poking you with a sharp object and you experiencing pain. So what do you mean?


Oh, after analysis we can't say that causation has any meaning ultimately. Is this what you were aiming at? But in this case I wasn't referring to that. I'm speaking conventionally. Otherwise there's no fork nor you, nor poking nor me and we get stuck in Nagarjuna's tetralemma, not existent, not non existent, not both, not neither, which isn't really useful when we are investigating phenomena under the realm of loka samvriti satya, relative truth or asatya, not true. Rebirth falls under loka samvritti satya, so it's conventional, relative, not paramartha satya, absolute. As rebirth has only conventional existence, it's better not to mix unskillfully the relative and the absolute. If you run towards a wall and bump your head, you will see how functional it is, even if after analysis it lacks inherent existence. ;)
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby ground » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:56 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Realize emptiness.


... of the term "rebirth" I guess :D


Of anything. If we realize emptiness we'll be free of rebirth, of resurrection, of heaven or hell, of earth-mommy or sky-daddy, of Democrat or Republican, of every systematic system-y system that ever system-ed a system.


Literal rebirth, metaphorical rebirth, re-birth as non-birth or what have you ... important is to embrace death when it arrives ... without worry and regret :)

kind regards
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:07 pm

If there's nothing beyond death, TM, it doesn't really matter whether one embraces it or not. It happens and that's pretty much the end of the story. :lol:
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Thug4lyfe » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:38 pm

Attacking the 5 poisons and all the minute attachment requires way more work than accepting rebirth!!! Come on dawgz!!! The sooner you get past these obstructions the sooner you can work on some proper cultivation thats beyond intellectual debates!

"Too smart for your own good" is very common in Buddhist history!
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:42 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:Is this what you were aiming at?

Yeah.

Dechen Norbu wrote:... rebirth has only conventional existence, it's better not to mix unskillfully the relative and the absolute. If you run towards a wall and bump your head, you will see how functional it is, even if after analysis it lacks inherent existence. ;)

OK. But I'm starting to think the two truths are just something to get stuck in. Rebirth doesn't have any conventional existence it has no existence. Otherwise what are we trying to realize emptiness for, to stop ourselves from bumping our heads on walls? You stick your fork into my hand. Empty fork, empty hand, empty pain. When we realize emptiness do we "escape from" causation, like something else rises from the mist to take its place? I don't think so. Confusion, wisdom, same. Fork in hand, remove fork from hand, it isn't heaven, hell, freedom, prison, it just is what it is what it is what it is what it is.

So now rebirth. What use is it? A motivation for renunciation? I would think eternal hell is just as motivating to renounce.

Just trying to think this out.
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:13 pm

Rebirth is a phenomenon, like death or sickness. It has conventional existence and that's it. What you do when facing that idea is up to you. :smile:
You're a student of ChNN, right? So I would say, just do your best. :lol:
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:41 am

catmoon wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:
TMingyur wrote:Why are you so attached to "rebirth"?


It is a core Buddhist tenet. A tremendous amount of new-age psychobabble has infiltrated, and is now being passed off as dharma. I agree with Bhikkhu Bodhi that certain conceptual underpinnings are necessary for taken up the path of nonconceptual wisdom. I don't buy into your brand of solipsism, and I certainly don't agree that Buddhism is solipsistic. Utter nonsense.


There's a lot to agree with here. Psychobabble is everywhere, as North American psychology influences the movement at large, and a belief in rebirth might well be necessary for the path you mention. But there are other North American influences at work. From the fundamentalist churches comes the idea that unquestioning faith is some kind of virtue. From the football field comes the idea that there is Our Team and Their Team, and thus a battle must ensue. There is an endemic tendency to disrespect logic, reason and education. And as you may have noticed, there are some people who are pursuing Buddhism for fun and profit! Buddhism has to contend with all of that, plus a cultural disbelief in rebirth. To make things worse, this core doctrine has only a handful of anecdotal stories to support it, plus some my-Bible-told-me-so types of reasoning. It's hardly the sort of thing you can readily demonstrate to someone in a month of lessons.

Now the sword cuts both ways; rebirth is neither provable nor disprovable. But the answer surely cannot be to arbitrarily decide the issue one way or the other without evidence. The would be yielding to another western influence - the idea that every question must be decideable one way or the other, even if there is no evidence.


Buddhism doesn't have to deal with you, you have to deal it. Buddhism doesn't proselytize. If you want a teaching from a master you have to beg. Those people who are publicizing teachings and teaching openly without checking out the qualities of the vessel aren't teaching dharma. They are just selling tickets. Buddhism is in a degenerate state of affairs.

What you are missing is that Buddhism arose in a social melieu where everyone took rebirth for granted, because there had been yogis for thousands of years who could see their past lives as a siddhi of meditation. Then, there were and still are countless Indian kids born with very clear past life memories. If there is a child who says "I need to go see my children," and gets her folks to take a long trip and then identifies several adults as her children, naming them, telling them their life stories and such, what will you say? Rebirth is unsupported?

But this is for you to investigate. Many yogis Buddhist and other are all saying you can see your past lives. Okay, so you should meditate at least with an open mind, not with a preconception that rebirth has not been proven. Really, Western science is a sort of barbaric thing. It is an obscuration to wisdom if it is seen to be the only engine of truth. Such thinking is no different than turning science into a mindless faith.
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:46 am

Paul wrote:Everyone seems to forget the Gatehouse Sutra in these discussions: http://buddhasutra.com/files/pubbakotthaka_sutta.htm


My sentiments exactly. This sums it up for me.
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Epistemes » Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:27 am

Paul wrote:Everyone seems to forget the Gatehouse Sutra in these discussions: http://buddhasutra.com/files/pubbakotthaka_sutta.htm


I don't get it. Where's the punch line?
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:29 am

If you remove rebirth from Buddhism, then there are no six realms of samsara. A place like heaven, hell and ghosts are only there because of being reborn. So if you take out rebirth we only have Earth, humans and animals. Two realms. Then, there would be no point in performing virtuous deeds. Virtuous deeds and evil deeds would both result in annihilation at death. Hitler and Gandhi would reap the same reward. The path of meditation would have no use, because you could do anything you feel like doing and upon death, you would be annihilated. You might quip that meditation makes you feel better, makes you calm. But if you think that's the case you will have to inquire why. As soon as you do that you will be into the teaching of karma and phala. As soon as you are into that teaching you have to inquire how is it that fruits of actions can arise at all, let alone along a time line. You will have to look where they arise, in the body, the body is without substance, an interdependent melange, composed of food, water and air. How can food water and air feel good? Yet they produce your body and as such are born into (conventional) existence as the firmament where feeling, name and form and volitions meet. You have to look into the situation and see how there is nothing there that can specifically be called living. So being born is an illusion. Death is an illusion. An illusion neither exists nor is nothing, like a childhood memory that you are not sure if it really happened or if it was just a dream. Every passing second is just like that. So you don't believe in rebirth but you do believe in birth? You have to get into the subtleties of this teaching or you will never broach the deep subject of nirvana.

Follow this: Because birth and death (samsara and nirvana) are unreal, they are boundless, limitless and unobstructed. In such a case, how can you possibly NOT be reborn? If birth depends on ignorance, and you gain wisdom, how can you POSSIBLY be born? If in this very instant you were to gain wisdom, how could you possibly realize a fruit of karma, even though sentient beings continue to see you sit, stand, walk and lie down, hear your dharma speech and make offerings of food to you? The Buddha has fully put an end to birth; though he engages in activities, those activities incur no fruit, because fruit would mean a higher rebirth. Why? Because the Buddha does not grasp feeling, good or bad. He has realized emptiness of all phenomena, which means he has seen, this feeling of compassion arises, this feeling is void. Actions are only done with the intention of gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. And every action results in pleasure or pain. So if you have realized an acute nonperception of feeling, that is nirvana. Not having a concept of "I," then any request for teachings is given on the basis of that exact realization, so that the delusion and suffering can be terminated.

Really this is the only way. It's like a glitch in the matrix. You have to follow it all the way down the rabbit hole to enter "the real world."
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:31 am

Epistemes wrote:
Paul wrote:Everyone seems to forget the Gatehouse Sutra in these discussions: http://buddhasutra.com/files/pubbakotthaka_sutta.htm


I don't get it. Where's the punch line?


He's saying the uninitiated don't get, they have to take on faith until they can see it for themselves.
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby ground » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:55 am

TMingyur wrote:Literal rebirth, metaphorical rebirth, re-birth as non-birth or what have you ... important is to embrace death when it arrives ... without worry and regret :)

kind regards


Dechen Norbu wrote:If there's nothing beyond death, TM, it doesn't really matter whether one embraces it or not. It happens and that's pretty much the end of the story. :lol:


Nothing? Maybe ... Something? Maybe ...

Be that as it may ... from within the context of the teachings volitional formations manifesting of the kind "there is re-birth" or "there is no rebirth" will lead to further being born.

However there is a difference when there is fear or aversion or being worried about when it happens. This was the meaning intended with the term "embrace".


All this fancy discursive fabrications about "rebirth" won't help ... what is of help however is the eightfold path which entails cessation of speculations and equanimous and/or joyful letting go.


Kind regards
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Kyosan » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:05 am

TMingyur wrote:All this fancy discursive fabrications about "rebirth" won't help ... what is of help however is the eightfold path which entails cessation of speculations and joyful letting go.


Kind regards

When you are no longer sure about anything , I think that is a good sign. But still you have the Way, even though you don't know exactly what the Way is.
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Kyosan » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:35 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Kyosan wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:.......my point is that we should cultivate right view the best we can. This also means not harboring, for instance, competing metaphysical systems of beliefs, like nihilism.....

Are you saying that I harbor competing metaphysical systems of beliefs? If so, how is that so? How would it prevent me from realizing the Buddha way?
:namaste:


Kyosan,

Of all my answer to you this is the only thing you have to say? Gezzz I must be pretty boring then. Listen friend, as I said, I'm not speaking particularly about yourself, so you don't need to get defensive.
DN

No, it's not that you are boring. You must be a prolific writer because you can write a lot of long posts. I'm slow at writing and that's why I just picked out one thing to reply to, the thing that I thought was most important. I don't have time to write several long posts.

I wasn't sure whether your post was a response to me or to everyone but figured that it would probably apply to me. Maybe it gave that impression, but I don't think that my post was defensive. I didn't ask out of defense; I asked because I thought it would be an interesting conversation.
:namaste:
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Acchantika » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:04 am

deepbluehum wrote:If you remove rebirth from Buddhism, then there are no six realms of samsara. A place like heaven, hell and ghosts are only there because of being reborn. So if you take out rebirth we only have Earth, humans and animals. Two realms. Then, there would be no point in performing virtuous deeds.


Behaving compassionately for fear of punishment and want of reward is not morality.

Refusing to question our beliefs for fear of what may be entailed is not wisdom.

deepbluehum wrote:
Epistemes wrote:
Paul wrote:Everyone seems to forget the Gatehouse Sutra in these discussions: http://buddhasutra.com/files/pubbakotthaka_sutta.htm


I don't get it. Where's the punch line?


He's saying the uninitiated don't get, they have to take on faith until they can see it for themselves.


He says they should develop conviction in practice based on trust in their teachers. Not reify arbitrary beliefs and call it virtue.
...
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Re: are karma and rebirth for real?

Postby Kyosan » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:36 am

Acchantika wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:If you remove rebirth from Buddhism, then there are no six realms of samsara. A place like heaven, hell and ghosts are only there because of being reborn. So if you take out rebirth we only have Earth, humans and animals. Two realms. Then, there would be no point in performing virtuous deeds.


Behaving compassionately for fear of punishment and want of reward is not morality.

Refusing to question our beliefs for fear of what may be entailed is not wisdom.


:good:
Assuming that everyone who practices good does so for personal gain only is wrong. Some people practice good because they believe that themselves and others will benefit from it in this life. Some people, even though they might not believe in rebirth, practice good because they believe in that part of the Buddhist doctrine. There are even many people who are non-religious and are for the most part good people.
:namaste:
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