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On immortality

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited January 22 in General Banter

If we are immortal, will be reborn, are not lost in death
Then so much of the struggle to survive becomes pointless
And can be allowed to drop away.

So much suffering, desire, avoidance
Are left behind in the belief in an eternal life
It seems a basic foundation of happiness.

Westerners often come from a presumption of one lifetime
A span between birth and perhaps death or afterlife
It takes time to sink in, that this may not be so.

But perhaps acceptance of immortality
May be necessary and useful to one’s certainty
Before treading on the path to cessation.

Shoshin

Comments

  • 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

    Did you write this...? :)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Yes I did... I thought why not try something a little different. :)

  • 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

    It's nice, but fanciful. There is no 'immortality' in Buddhism, you're aware of this, right...?

    ERoselobster
  • Nothing wrong with being fanciful.

    If we observe that reality is both relative and absolute, we can say there is immortality in the absolute sense. Given our habitual way of seeing the world, people seem to die. Given a wider perspective, nothing dies, nothing is born.

    neither old age and death, nor extinction of old age and death

    http://www.izauk.org/multimedia-archive/hannya-shingyo-the-heart-sutra/

    Right?

    According to Soto Zen (I think...) we need a balance of relative and absolute in our practice.

    KeromeShoshin
  • 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

    Well actually, there's quite a lot wrong with being fanciful, if you're inaccurate and don't realise it.
    There is Deathlessness in the Ultimate sense, but not in the physical sense...

    I think it would be helpful for @Kerome to elaborate on his intention...?
    I'm not trying to be difficult.
    I'm just not sure what he means...

    ERoselobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited January 22

    @federica said:
    It's nice, but fanciful. There is no 'immortality' in Buddhism, you're aware of this, right...?

    It has reincarnation and karma, which is a kind of eternal life, wouldn’t you agree? Not quite everything comes along, there is an element of transformation, but it wouldn’t be a “reincarnation” if part of the ‘old you’ didn’t transfer across. It’s debated, but it seems likely even with the various arguments of “not self”.

    I did come across a list of elements in the sutra’s that do come along from one rebirth to the next not long ago, perhaps someone else will know the exact sutra. Also, the Buddha and others were supposedly able to recall their past lives, which would imply some kind of cross-rebirth store for memories.

    I'm just not sure what he means...

    I was merely trying to point to the way a belief in rebirth and a kind of immortality supports happiness, even before you embark on the journey to nirvana. Among westerners there is I think a temptation to tend towards more secular views, but you might be losing a certain effect of the teaching by doing so.

    rocala
  • 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

    It has reincarnation and karma, which is a kind of eternal life, wouldn’t you agree?

    No. Reincarnation is a Tibetan Buddhist premise and it's confined to Lamas and Specific Gurus. Everyone else is subject to re-birth. That is not a continuation of anything recognisable as ourselves in this life, at all.
    Theravada does not subscribe to reincarnation at all, as far as I am aware, and therefore this 'immortality' you try to persuade with, isn't applicable.

    I was merely trying to point to the way a belief in rebirth and a kind of immortality supports happiness, even before you embark on the journey to nirvana.

    I'm quite happy now, without needing those premises' support.
    I think you're trying to imply certain factors to satisfy your own yearnings, but it's not Buddhism...

    lobster
  • ERoseERose Earth, North America, west. Explorer

    IMO this particular view does not lead towards liberation, but to confusion, and suffering.

    lobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited January 22

    I suppose I can see where you’re coming from, @Kerome. It reminds me of something Tenzin Palmo said:

    We need to encourage ourselves and our fellow practitioners to lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously. Sometimes I think the seventh paramita should be a sense of humor! It is very unlikely that we will really accomplish full enlightenment in this lifetime. So what? We have countless future lives to continue the work. In this life, we can allow ourselves to relax a bit and enjoy the flowers, even as we keep walking onward.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/lighten-up/

    Does that express something of your feeling? (She even uses flower imagery, as you have.)

    I guess my question would be—to her or to you—how do I square that with Dogen’s instructions to practice with real urgency, remembering that life is fleeting, days and nights are flying by?

    Fearing the swift passage of the sunlight, practice the way as though saving your head from fire. Reflecting on this ephemeral life, make endeavor in the manner of Buddha raising his foot.

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Guidelines_for_Studying.htm

    P.S. @federica, I have more to say about the value of being fanciful :p

  • 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

    I guess my question would be—to her or to you—how do I square that with Dogen’s instructions to practice with real urgency, remembering that life is fleeting, days and nights are flying by?

    Are they mutually exclusive?

    P.S. @federica, I have more to say about the value of being fanciful

    And that's ok.... ;)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I like Alan Watts's take on ....(I guess one could say).....
    "MMORTALITY"

    "I" think he makes a lot of sense...but then "I" would say that... :)

    Kerome
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    Immortality, rebirth after death - these are beliefs, metaphysical speculations. They can be tools, or they can be obstacles, but in either case it is unwise to cling to them or attach to them. We can use them where they are needed, then lay them aside for next time.

    On some occasions, I have found the belief in rebirth to be very energizing, and very useful on days when things are looking grim and hopeless. Other days it is enough to focus on that which is now. The raft is there when you need it, don't have to carry it around all the time.

    ShoshinKerome
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Fosdick said:
    Immortality, rebirth after death - these are beliefs, metaphysical speculations. They can be tools, or they can be obstacles, but in either case it is unwise to cling to them or attach to them. We can use them where they are needed, then lay them aside for next time.

    Disagree about rebirth being metaphysical. Reincarnation yes. But rebirth aligns with annatta.

    On some occasions, I have found the belief in rebirth to be very energizing, and very useful on days when things are looking grim and hopeless. Other days it is enough to focus on that which is now. The raft is there when you need it, don't have to carry it around all the time.

    ??

    Shoshin
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited January 23

    I withdraw the M word, it was a bad idea to include it anyway. Rebirth can be clearly seen in our everyday lives, but cannot be seen by most of us, or me, anyway, as applied to what might be beyond this present lifetime. It is in accord with the teachings, but is still a belief until we can see it for ourselves.

    On another day, the emperor asked Gudo: "where does the enlightened man go when he dies?" Gudo answered: "I know not." "Why don't you know?" asked the emperor.
    "Because I have not died yet," replied Gudo. The emperor hesitated to inquire further about these things his mind could not grasp. So Gudo beat the floor with his hand as though to awaken him, and the emperor was enlightened!

    Kundolobster
  • @federica said:
    It's nice, but fanciful. There is no 'immortality' in Buddhism, you're aware of this, right...?

    Dear friends of the semi immortal cod god realms.

    and now back to the “deathless” in a Real Way ...

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:

    @federica said:
    It's nice, but fanciful. There is no 'immortality' in Buddhism, you're aware of this, right...?

    Dear friends of the semi immortal cod god realms.

    and now back to the “deathless” in a Real Way ...

    But even they are reborn again too...

  • 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

    @Kerome said:

    @lobster said:

    @federica said:
    It's nice, but fanciful. There is no 'immortality' in Buddhism, you're aware of this, right...?

    Dear friends of the semi immortal cod god realms.

    and now back to the “deathless” in a Real Way ...

    But even they are reborn again too...

    Yes, but they're not re-born as Gods, or as anyway an association of their previous existence. it depends upon their actions while they were Gods... And HHthe DL was once asked, if he was a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, why couldn't he remember anything about it?
    To which he replied, "I can't remember everything I did a year ago, can you? So why is it so astounding that even if we are re-born, we cannot remember?"

    Fosdick
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited January 23

    @Kerome wrote

    So much suffering, desire, avoidance
    Are left behind in the belief in an eternal life
    It seems a basic foundation of happiness.

    A belief in some sort of continuation as opposed to annihilation. I've sometimes thought that the dueling concepts of heaven and immortality, rebirth and the primal void have something important in common neurologically even though philosophically and intellectually they would appear to be incompatible.

    lobster
  • GuiGui Veteran

    Life, death, - death, life; the words have led for ages
    Our thought and consciousness and firmly seemed
    Two opposites; but now long-hidden pages
    Are opened, liberating truths undreamed.
    Life only is, or death is life disguised, -
    Life a short death until by Life we are surprised.
    -Sri Aurobindo

    Kerome
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    That's nice, @Kerome. On the one hand, it's an interesting perspective. We tend to live as if this life is our one and only chance, and either we die and disappear forever or we go to some eternal destination based upon this single, relatively short lifetime. On the other, we can see that phenomena arise and cease and condition other phenomena, from moments of mind to the lives of sentient beings, so the idea has merit, I think. The question is, what might this perspective inspire us to do differently?

    I had similar ruminations myself, albeit from a Christian POV and imagery, inspired by my reading of Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. The short version is, I see these ideas, immortality and annihilation, love and death, eros and thanatos, as conflicting forces in the context of a dialectical relationship representing an expression of an ever-evolving consciousness in an ever-evolving universe, a reflection of the psychological contradictions that drive all human endeavors forward.

    But that dialectic relationship causes its fair share of suffering and stress, and the Buddha discovered a middle way between these conflicting forces, a way that relieves the tension between them, which is why he tries to steer our mental ships between these two jagged outcroppings so that we don't crash into them. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that there's no value or validity to these forces and ideas, that there isn't some kind of beautiful symmetry between them that we can use and appreciate.

    Keromeseeker242
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Jason said:
    The question is, what might this perspective inspire us to do differently?

    I certainly think it encourages you to stress less about mortality and the passage of time, and perhaps allows you to let go of some things. It makes me wonder whether this perspective on rebirth, like other ideas, is a device, something to be used until you cross over some hindrance.

    The short version is, I see these ideas, immortality and annihilation, love and death, eros and thanatos, as conflicting forces in the context of a dialectical relationship representing an expression of an ever-evolving consciousness in an ever-evolving universe, a reflection of the psychological contradictions that drive all human endeavors forward.

    It’s very true that these forces are a key part of what drives the evolution of thought, and especially religion when it focuses on the large questions. You come across them whenever you take thinking towards it’s logical extremes.

    That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that there's no value or validity to these forces and ideas, that there isn't some kind of beautiful symmetry between them that we can use and appreciate.

    These large concepts do seem to recur on a number of levels. You could say that death and continuous transformation happen as much for a photon as for a tree, nothing is ever annihilated. Why should things be any different for the elements that make up a human being, and then it just becomes a question of what is a clear view of what those are — skandhas or scientific elements from the periodic table?

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited January 24

    If Samsara is endless, which Buddhism teaches it is for ordinary people, and ordinary peoples life = Samara, then you could easily say ordinary people life is endless, AKA immortal.

    If immortal means "perpetual; lasting; constant" that is true of Samsara, until enlightenment of course. =)

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited January 24

    @Kerome said:
    and then it just becomes a question of what is a clear view of what those are — skandhas or scientific elements from the periodic table?

    Maybe from the point of view of practice, we could ask ourselves: “What would I like to continue after death?” Then perhaps we could discover which aggregates/skandhas we are still attached to.

    Because yes, our atoms will continue. But what about the less definable elements, like awareness, memory, or personality?

    Am I attached to the body in its current form, or am I content to allow it to change and eventually dissolve?

    If the latter, am I then relying on my consciousness as it is now? Or am I content to allow that, too, to dissolve when “I” die?

  • 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

    Immortality is brief.
    According to TCM, we are like trees.

    We grow, we flourish, we perpetuate ourselves then we die. But our descendants, our progeny, live on. Genetically, we don't die, but the Mind memory of us fades. The mental imprint we leave, becomes obscured, clouded by time and more fluid.
    But we can leave a construct. We can make ourselves into something wonderful, that people will admire and use as a tool or ornament, an example by which to improve their lives, or we can end up as nothing more than 'firewood' or 'compost'. These too have their uses, but they're not as long-lived.

    So: It's up to me. Do I want to be this...

    Or, this...?

    personKundoVimalajāti
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I seem to remember some past lives ... BUT that experience might be just a trick of the mind, so I cannot take it as proof. I have no other explanation except that these are true memories .. but lack of an alternative explanation is not proof either.
    Are we immortal? I guess we have to die to find an answer to that.

    The Buddhist way is to avoid latching onto a belief. Belief serves the function of reducing anxiety about life's uncertainty, but the Buddhist works at opening to all their emotions, including anxiety ... and then relaxing into it.
    We try to let go of belief, since it is not first-hand knowledge.

    “When presented with a concept difficult to accept, we either reject it or believe it. Neither is better. Either way our mind is distorted, because denying is a form of underestimating, and blind faith is a form of overestimating.”
    From “What Makes you (Not) a Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (the title is a play on the importance of not trying to assume any role but to instead open up to being).

    “Everything is always changing. If you relax into this truth, that is Enlightenment. If you resist, this is samsara (suffering).”
    (same source)

    Shoshin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 24

    As far back as I can remember I've been around and have yet to taste death. In this moment I may as well be immortal.

    It's funny when I think about concepts like rebirth and reincarnation because of non-separation. I could day dream about it for lifetimes and not get sick of it.

    I try not to indulge too much these days but I figure if it's time I've set aside then perhaps I'm being a bit mindful at least.

    Rebirth and/or reincarnation taken to the logical conclusion would really make us all carnations of luminous mind.

    If we let the gods out to play then we could be an infinite amount of avatars for a Vishnu type being. The Trimurti is kind of interesting because when we divide one by three we get a little bit left over and that little bit is an infinite stream.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited January 25

    @federica said:

    It has reincarnation and karma, which is a kind of eternal life, wouldn’t you agree?

    No. Reincarnation is a Tibetan Buddhist premise and it's confined to Lamas and Specific Gurus. Everyone else is subject to re-birth. That is not a continuation of anything recognisable as ourselves in this life, at all.
    Theravada does not subscribe to reincarnation at all, as far as I am aware, and therefore this 'immortality' you try to persuade with, isn't applicable.

    I am very sorry Frederica, but in my opinion you are wrong here. Reincarnation vs rebirth is an English dichotomy with dichotomous English words to accompany it. It's all punarbhāva in Sanskrit.

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited January 25

    You only live once or you live on in one form or another. The basis for this belief is the false idea of a 'self'. There is a 'something' that is somehow annihilated at death or continues on. The 'middle way' is the realisation of anatta that leaves no room for such speculation. In other words, the question is meaningless to those who have fully understood.

    "Now, friend Kotthita, when asked if the Tathagata exists after death, you say, 'That has not been declared by the Blessed One: "The Tathagata exists after death."' When asked if the Tathagata does not exist after death... both exists and does not exist after death... neither exists nor does not exist after death, you say, 'That too has not been declared by the Blessed One: "The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death."' Now, what is the cause, what is the reason, why that has not been declared by the Blessed One?"

    "There would, my friend. "For one who loves becoming, who is fond of becoming, who cherishes becoming, who does not know or see, as it actually is present, the cessation of becoming, there occurs the thought, 'The Tathagata exists after death' or 'The Tathagata does not exist after death' or 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death' or 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death.'

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn44/sn44.006.than.html

    By whom was this living being created?
    Where is the living being's maker?
    Where has the living being originated?
    Where does the living being
    cease?

    What? Do you assume a 'living being,' Mara?
    Do you take a position?
    This is purely a pile of fabrications.
    Here no living being
    can be pinned down.

    Just as when, with an assemblage of parts,
    there's the word,
    chariot,
    even so when aggregates are present,
    there's the convention of
    living being.

    For only stress is what comes to be;
    stress, what remains & falls away.
    Nothing but stress comes to be.
    Nothing ceases but stress.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.010.than.html

    The Blessed One said, "Mindfulness of death, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit & great benefit. It gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its final end. Therefore you should develop mindfulness of death."

    "But whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, 'O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food... for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal' — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.019.than.html

    “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

    – Mark Twain

    ShoshinlobsterERoseFosdick
  • We can posit different views on Buddhism and the wheel of life.
    what is important is the what we are doing this moment that may enhance our lives, you, I, we, and enhances the lives of others. We are here to enjoy life. not the nihilistic purposes shallow "pleasure", but life in its full array. Life in its reality. No, life is certainly not easy. But life is sublime. To not merely exist, but to know life is to celebrate life. it is to honor life and appreciate all that it offers. Then we need not fear what may be as we cease to fear what is.

    Peace to all

    ShoshinKundolobster
  • 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

    @Vimalajāti said:

    @federica said:

    It has reincarnation and karma, which is a kind of eternal life, wouldn’t you agree?

    No. Reincarnation is a Tibetan Buddhist premise and it's confined to Lamas and Specific Gurus. Everyone else is subject to re-birth. That is not a continuation of anything recognisable as ourselves in this life, at all.
    Theravada does not subscribe to reincarnation at all, as far as I am aware, and therefore this 'immortality' you try to persuade with, isn't applicable.

    I am very sorry Frederica, but in my opinion you are wrong here. Reincarnation vs rebirth is an English dichotomy with dichotomous English words to accompany it. It's all punarbhāva in Sanskrit.

    I'm merely making a differentiation, because I am ignorant of specific sanskrit or Pali terms. It may be a pedantic dichotomous difference, but it's a question of attempting to explain. Not establish that the two are separate and different.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited January 26

    On immortality

    "I" guess there are a number of ways to look at it.......for example...

    It's possible that "I am" born again and again...however not under the same circumstances (different body, different time)...But the same old dominant selfish "I" nonetheless...

    ...the set of aggregates back up and running... continuing to do their own thing.....

    I may have forgotten what "I" did in my past life, but the karmic bank still wants the debt paid back in full plus with any interest owing ....(its pound of flesh so to speak) :)

    Dharma practice (done diligently ) can throw a spanner in the works (the cycle of birth & death)...

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    @federica said:

    @Vimalajāti said:

    @federica said:

    It has reincarnation and karma, which is a kind of eternal life, wouldn’t you agree?

    No. Reincarnation is a Tibetan Buddhist premise and it's confined to Lamas and Specific Gurus. Everyone else is subject to re-birth. That is not a continuation of anything recognisable as ourselves in this life, at all.
    Theravada does not subscribe to reincarnation at all, as far as I am aware, and therefore this 'immortality' you try to persuade with, isn't applicable.

    I am very sorry Frederica, but in my opinion you are wrong here. Reincarnation vs rebirth is an English dichotomy with dichotomous English words to accompany it. It's all punarbhāva in Sanskrit.

    I'm merely making a differentiation, because I am ignorant of specific sanskrit or Pali terms. It may be a pedantic dichotomous difference, but it's a question of attempting to explain. Not establish that the two are separate and different.

    Oh certainly. I do try to disagree as politely as possible when such a thing happens. Consider the early Buddhist texts, where even the faith-follower is given such lofty abilities as to choose which company of deities or nāgas they wish to be reborn amongst. This is a somewhat extreme example, but there are other more reasonable ones.

    Your earlier post brought to mind the discourse to do with the uncarved block amongst the philosophical Daoists. I suppose that is another point-counter-point!

    Wishing you all the best, though.

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