Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Proof of Reincarnation/Rebirth?

laughing_statuelaughing_statue Explorer
edited November 2010 in Buddhism Basics
I will put this really simply, when skeptical people ask you what the proof is for reincarnation/rebirth or simply why you believe it exists, what do you tell them? What do you tell them when they throw their beliefs back at you?

I am an atheist and I have been getting into Buddhism lately. But this is honestly an unrelated subject to me. I am trying to prove to myself that reincarnation/rebirth exists, but I haven't been able to be content with my certainty. I thought I would ask you experts on the subject.

Any input would be very appreciated. Thanks! :D

Comments

  • ShiftPlusOneShiftPlusOne Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Hello,
    I am trying to prove to myself that reincarnation/rebirth exists
    Why?
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2010
    I will put this really simply, when skeptical people ask you what the proof is for reincarnation/rebirth or simply why you believe it exists, what do you tell them? What do you tell them when they throw their beliefs back at you?

    I am an atheist and I have been getting into Buddhism lately. But this is honestly an unrelated subject to me. I am trying to prove to myself that reincarnation/rebirth exists, but I haven't been able to be content with my certainty. I thought I would ask you experts on the subject.

    Any input would be very appreciated. Thanks! :D

    Maybe this will help.
  • MountainsMountains Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Prove that it doesn't exist...
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited November 2010
    I will put this really simply, when skeptical people ask you what the proof is for reincarnation/rebirth or simply why you believe it exists, what do you tell them?


    That Dharma is True, with or without there being, in any sense, an Afterlife.

    Some belive the Buddha taught rebirth, others believe he taught rebirth is delusion. We will never have certainty which of those are true, or if it was something else.
    I am trying to prove to myself that reincarnation/rebirth exists, but I haven't been able to be content with my certainty.

    The Buddha doesn't offer certainty, only clarity.

    I thought I would ask you experts on the subject.

    The middle word in expert is...

    Er

    :p

    namaste
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Matthieu Ricard, one of the Dalai Lama translator, also scientist/musician/genius made several points about this in the book "The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life".
    http://www.amazon.com/Monk-Philosopher-Father-Discuss-Meaning/dp/0805211039

    Fascinating book to read no matter why you read it.

    Also perhaps read about Matthieu Ricard or watch him in interviews and talks (youtube, TED) if you are not familiar, he is a brilliant person and very entertaining to listen to. His personal history is also truly fascinating and rare.
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Why?
    I second the why. If you don't believe in reincarnation, don't try to force yourself, it won't work. Plus, believing or not believing in reincarnation won't affect your practice.

    Rebirth is different, you can see it everytime your mood changes, or your train of thought is altered. You can see it with each intake and expulsion of air from your lungs. We're reborn every moment, each time different and unique, but dependant on moments past for our origination.
  • edited November 2010
    I third the why. Believe in nothing. You don't need faith to be happy. And you don't need faith to practice the Dharma. That's the beauty behind it. In my opinion.
  • hermitwinhermitwin Veteran
    edited November 2010
    There is no proof. Science has not been able to prove it yet.
    But you can consider your own consciousness, what happens to it when you die?
    Unless you believe that your consciousness is totally extinguished when you die,
    it will exist in some form or other. As Einstein said energy cannot be destroyed.
  • edited November 2010
    But it transforms Hermit. Consciousness is a system, and like any system it only works if the pieces are aligned and working in a certain way.

    Much like a computer. How can software work if the hardware is not working?
  • laughing_statuelaughing_statue Explorer
    edited November 2010
    Thanks guys! I appreciate it. And to address the WHYS... I am a firm believer in reincarnation (and technically rebirth as well). But I am trying to prove to myself that souls exist to support reincarnation, sort of. It's complicated. I know that I don't need to be certain with this stuff for practice in Buddhism. I need it for myself to be content with the thought of what will happen to me when I die. I know I will never know for sure. But I want to be certain enough that I'm happy or content.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited November 2010
    Souls do not exist. Buddhism does not ascribe to a transmigrating soul.
  • conradcookconradcook Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Thanks guys! I appreciate it. And to address the WHYS... I am a firm believer in reincarnation (and technically rebirth as well). But I am trying to prove to myself that souls exist to support reincarnation, sort of. It's complicated. I know that I don't need to be certain with this stuff for practice in Buddhism. I need it for myself to be content with the thought of what will happen to me when I die. I know I will never know for sure. But I want to be certain enough that I'm happy or content.

    There is reincarnation, yes. Or, properly, there can be. But this makes the doctrine of the soul more problematic, not less: You've had countless prior existences where you were different in every way from who and what you are now -- so what does it mean that they were "you"?

    If you want to know about the afterlife, read up on various ideas about it, try to separate the wheat from the chaff, and meditate on it.

    To understand karma as consequences, I suggest meditating on cause and effect in this lifetime: how people's present circumstances relate to their past circumstances, their decisions, and luck.

    Buddha bless,

    Conrad.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Thanks guys! I appreciate it. And to address the WHYS... I am a firm believer in reincarnation (and technically rebirth as well). But I am trying to prove to myself that souls exist to support reincarnation, sort of. It's complicated. I know that I don't need to be certain with this stuff for practice in Buddhism. I need it for myself to be content with the thought of what will happen to me when I die. I know I will never know for sure. But I want to be certain enough that I'm happy or content.

    But doesn't practicing Buddhism mean not needing anything to be a particular way in order to be content? ;)
  • edited November 2010
    IMO, the only "proof" there is, is subjective; you may, at some point in your life, experience the memory of a past life experience. Only then can you know. But that's a rare occurence. I don't think belief in rebirth or reincarnation is required, we've been through this on several threads.

    re: Buddhists not believing in transmigration of souls, what then, does the tulku represent? How does he recall which objects were his in the past life? That whole custom is about reincarnation, isn't it?
  • DaltheJigsawDaltheJigsaw Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Epicurus wrote: »
    I third the why. Believe in nothing. You don't need faith to be happy. And you don't need faith to practice the Dharma. That's the beauty behind it. In my opinion.

    I second that!
  • hermitwinhermitwin Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Well, in theory, there are other realms, hungry ghosts etc. Dont think there is hardware there.
  • edited November 2010
    Well, in theory there could be other realms. But my human existence (did I ever know any other kind of existence?not that I'm aware...and if I'm not aware it wasn't me) is the only practicality I know of.
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited November 2010
    hermitwin wrote: »
    Dont think there is hardware there.

    There must be something if there is anything.
  • newtechnewtech Veteran
    edited November 2010
    As an atheist the idea of rebirth its insane.
    But as an atheist the idea of a mundane enlightment its something really factible.
    If enlightment people just cant lie because goes against everything sustain that state, and enlightment people say, there is rebirth...
    That makes me think.....
  • edited November 2010
    Interesting logic, newtech. I think some people accept "rebirth" on faith. Others maintain a healthy scepticism, as the Buddha taught to do. A few others accept rebirth based on whatever mysterious personal insights or experiences they've had. Jung was an interesting guy. He said, "I don't believe in God, I know." It makes you wonder: how did he know? But as far as I know, he never said, never wrote about it. I feel the same way about rebirth. I don't believe, I know. Because I had an experience that triggered the recollection of past life memories. Maybe other members can give their own perspectives.
  • edited November 2010
    How do you know what you felt was a past life happening? How do you know what you saw or felt was in the past and that it was you?

    Dreams are mundane and freaky enough for me to not understand how people immediately make the connection to past life memory. Deja vus too.

    I wonder if a person who has never heard of past life memories or of reincarnation before, would still automatically attribute it to past lifes while experiencing such a vision. It kind of sounds like confirmation bias often times.
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited November 2010
    newtech wrote: »
    As an atheist the idea of rebirth its insane.
    But as an atheist the idea of a mundane enlightment its something really factible.
    If enlightment people just cant lie because goes against everything sustain that state, and enlightment people say, there is rebirth...
    That makes me think.....
    Enlightenment doesn't make you omniscient.

    People tend to believe in the knowledge currently avaliable, in the Buddha's time people had no knowledge of genetics to explain how mind and personality arises in a child, so they assumed (as people still do) somehow the mind of a dying man gives rise to the mind of a new born child.
    Just as he had no knowledge of bacteria or the causes of disease, he used the current knowledge;
    ...diseases arising from bile, from phlegm, from the wind-property, from combinations of bodily humors, from changes in the weather, from uneven care of the body
    .
    The Buddha isn't giving false teachings, he's just attempting to teach the truth he has found through the limited knowledge of the world avaliable to Indians of 2,500 years ago. The concepts of rebirth/reincarnation, karma etc prevalent in his time became vehicles for his teachings, which is why it's more important to live the spirit rather than the letter of the teachings. At least in my opinion.
    AriesMoon72
  • newtechnewtech Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Chrysalid wrote: »
    Enlightenment doesn't make you omniscient.

    People tend to believe in the knowledge currently avaliable, in the Buddha's time people had no knowledge of genetics to explain how mind and personality arises in a child, so they assumed (as people still do) somehow the mind of a dying man gives rise to the mind of a new born child.
    Just as he had no knowledge of bacteria or the causes of disease, he used the current knowledge;
    .

    Hello:

    I never insinuate that the Buddha was omniscient.
    I insinuate that theorically to the mind of an arahant its impossible to tell conscious lies.
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited November 2010
    newtech wrote: »
    Hello:

    I never insinuate that the Buddha was omniscient.
    I insinuate that theorically to the mind of an arahant its impossible to tell conscious lies.
    I know, but my point was that, just because an enlightened person believes in reincarnation doesn't necessarily mean that reincarnation exists, nor that the enlightened person is lying, only that they believe reincarnation exists.
    The argument that reincarnation is true because an arahant can't lie, and arahants say that reincarnation is true is circular and self-reliant.
  • edited November 2010
    An interesting book that is related but not Buddhist is 'Science and the Near Death Experience' by Chris Carter. He is an Oxford educated philosopher who has written the book as an overview of the existing empirical evidence, subjective reported experiences and the competing explanations for them. It deals with the possibility of personal consciousness existing outside the body for a period during clinical death. It is well researched and very thorough.
  • edited November 2010
    I have no light to shed on the subject really, but I don't think this is such a surface argument. Before we ask these questions, I think we should put into context the cultures from which these beliefs come. Westerners think the way they do because of certain influences, like Greek thought and Hebrew traditions, and the Eastern cultures have their own makeup. I find it very interesting how Buddhism is being integrated into a completely different world. I just think that this discussion, and all of Buddhist integration, warrants a context of historical and social factors.
  • edited November 2010
    I neither believe not disbelieve in rebirth because its speculative and irrelevant to present moment awareness and practice in the here and now.

    This quote from Ajahn Sumedho of the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition nicely sums it up:
    “Rebirth,” like “reincarnation,” is a term that’s used generally referring to having gone through a series of different lives, and then there are various views about whether once you get reincarnated into human form where you can go, become a frog again or something like that. I was teaching a retreat in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com[IMG]http://newbuddhist.com/forum/ /><st1:country-region w:st=[/IMG]Australia </ST1:p</st1:country-region>at the Theosophical Society, where people’s views were split. Some held that once you made it to the human level you can’t slide back into a lesser animal one, whereas others insisted that you could. But the truth of the matter is, nobody really knows.<O:p</O:p
    <O:p</O:p
    The historical Buddha refered to previous lives in the scriptures and things like this, but for me these things are speculative. Maybe you can remember previous lives, but I have no such memory. So all I know is from the here and now. We’re talking about direct knowing rather than Buddhist theory or Buddhist doctrine.<O:p</O:p
    <O:p</O:p
    When Ajahn Chah taught about rebirth, he did so in the context of paticcasumappada, or dependent origination. He was talking about the kind of rebirth you can actually witness in daily life; birth is the beginning, death is the ending. How many rebirths have you gone through today, mentally ? What is born dies; what arises, ceases. Rebirth in this sense is actually provable.<O:p</O:p
    <O:p</O:p
    In the paticcasamuppada, through desire (tanha) comes attachment (upadana), and then attachment leads to becoming (bhava), becoming leads to rebirth, and rebirth leads to suffering. Jati (birth) is the result of grasping desire. I quite like the idea of reincarnation and rebirth, on a theoretical level. I’ve no bias against it, but it is speculative and it’s conceptual.”<O:p</O:p

    _/\_
  • Ficus_religiosaFicus_religiosa Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Well, if you adhere to The Big Bounce Theory and soft determinism (or chaos theory), rebirth is a fact - if the universe erupted and then disappears, then there's no rebirth..

    Personally, from my base understanding of physics, I lean towards The Big Bounce Theory because matter doesn't disappear but transforms, and that warmth makes objects "grow", while cold (and cooling off) means that they come together again.
    On a galactic scale, that means that the universe will expand and cool off, then contract, heat up (due to atoms moving, pushing eachother) and then expand again (a big bang).. Causality causes the same reactions to happen again in roughly the same manner - thus we will "be here" again in a "new life" of some kind..
    Makes sense in my puny head..

    I really look forward to the CERN accelerator casting more light on such questions :)
  • newtechnewtech Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Chrysalid wrote: »
    I know, but my point was that, just because an enlightened person believes in reincarnation doesn't necessarily mean that reincarnation exists, nor that the enlightened person is lying, only that they believe reincarnation exists.
    The argument that reincarnation is true because an arahant can't lie, and arahants say that reincarnation is true is circular and self-reliant.

    Hi.

    The problem is that the Buddha talks about rebirth as something he witness throw recollection of past lives experience. Not just as common knowledge.

    I only say that if we believe in enlightment, and u cant lie being enlightmented, then that experience should be true. Thats just logic..as long as we believe in enlightment and as long as he actually said that.

    But of course its just an experience, maybe was just the product of high serotonin levels and quimical imbalance,maybe he didnt even tell that...and of course its a very circular and self-reliant argument, we are talking about rebirth!!
  • edited November 2010
    Well, if you adhere to The Big Bounce Theory and soft determinism (or chaos theory), rebirth is a fact - if the universe erupted and then disappears, then there's no rebirth..

    Personally, from my base understanding of physics, I lean towards The Big Bounce Theory because matter doesn't disappear but transforms, and that warmth makes objects "grow", while cold (and cooling off) means that they come together again.
    On a galactic scale, that means that the universe will expand and cool off, then contract, heat up (due to atoms moving, pushing eachother) and then expand again (a big bang).. Causality causes the same reactions to happen again in roughly the same manner - thus we will "be here" again in a "new life" of some kind..
    Makes sense in my puny head..

    I really look forward to the CERN accelerator casting more light on such questions :)

    We will be here again? Even if we exact same thread of evolution happened, it wouldn't be us. Surely not you and me. Humans, possibly.
  • edited November 2010
    I can't prove rebirth. However, I know that all of the buddha's teachings which I have thoroughly investigated have been true, and he taught rebirth so I believe it. And it makes sense to me, even if I can't prove it.
  • edited November 2010
    I will put this really simply, when skeptical people ask you what the proof is for reincarnation/rebirth or simply why you believe it exists, what do you tell them? What do you tell them when they throw their beliefs back at you?

    I am an atheist and I have been getting into Buddhism lately. But this is honestly an unrelated subject to me. I am trying to prove to myself that reincarnation/rebirth exists, but I haven't been able to be content with my certainty. I thought I would ask you experts on the subject.

    Any input would be very appreciated. Thanks! :D

    First, I am not an expert. But I do have some input.

    I understand it like this; a thing cannot come from nothing, and something can never be made into nothing. We can see this as a fact in the material world. We can apply these principles to consciousness and come to the conclusion that a consciousness cannot come out of nothing and a consciousness cannot be dissolved into nothing. So we may conclude that like all things, the consciousness must continue ever changing. And while this is not proof of rebirth, it is my basis of belief or understanding (which is like all things, subject to change).

    In any case, pondering rebirth and reincarnation may be of little use when we have the current and present life to contend with.
  • edited November 2010
    Reincarnation and rebirth are very different.

    Reincarnation requires a belief in a permanent you to be reincarnated.

    Rebirth is based on no self Anatta. We are not who we think we are. It is the ego that creates the illusion of our self as a separate entity.

    Our normal way is to create an apparently workable self and then spend a lifetime defending it. This is not our true identity although this false perception appears real. Judgements, opinions and other tricks for feeding the ego keep us locked in this dualistic view.

    Through meditation we can learn to allow ourselves to let go of these beliefs and fantasies. In the space between thoughts there is no "I".

    We are reborn moment by moment by moment ...

    There is nothing wrong with being skeptical, find out for yourself.

    Best Wishes
  • patbbpatbb Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Reincarnation and rebirth are very different.

    Reincarnation requires a belief in a permanent you to be reincarnated.

    Rebirth is based on no self Anatta. We are not who we think we are. It is the ego that creates the illusion of our self as a separate entity.

    Our normal way is to create an apparently workable self and then spend a lifetime defending it. This is not our true identity although this false perception appears real. Judgements, opinions and other tricks for feeding the ego keep us locked in this dualistic view.

    Through meditation we can learn to allow ourselves to let go of these beliefs and fantasies. In the space between thoughts there is no "I".

    We are reborn moment by moment by moment ...

    There is nothing wrong with being skeptical, find out for yourself.

    Best Wishes
    indeed.
    Rebirth is based on no self Anatta. We are not who we think we are. It is the ego that creates the illusion of our self as a separate entity.
    Another way to phrase this phenomenon is that we create/imagine this ego which is a delusion, and we keep re-creating it at every moments.

    so the ego is re-created "re-borned" at every moments
  • edited November 2010
    Through meditation we can learn to allow ourselves to let go of these beliefs and fantasies. In the space between thoughts there is no "I".

    We are reborn moment by moment by moment ...


    Absolutely - and a mind spinning around pointless speculation means we have lost our potential for present moment awareness.


    .
Sign In or Register to comment.