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Buddhism Without Rebirth

2

Comments

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    Everyone,

    This predominately Western idea that our modern-day approach to this practice is some how superior to those that have been tried and tested for thousands of years is partially due to the people who do not take the time to read the teachings carefully enough, as well as the time and effort to seriously practice—especially meditation. We do not necessarily need to believe in these teachings to practice the Noble Eightfold Path, nevertheless, ignoring these teachings altogether due to some conceited belief that we are far more intelligent today than the Buddha was, or that most of what he taught is simply a fairy tale, is exactly why the teachings deteriorate in the first place.

    I hate to take the more conservative stance here, but I feel that it is important not to judge something without at least taking the time to try to explore the possibilities. I believe that this approach is completely inline with the scientific method in that nothing is ruled out simply because of personal biases. Theories and ideas are tested, in whatever ways applicable, before conclusions are reached. The only real difference here is that most of the experimentation is done with the mind instead of physical matter, and as of yet, modern science has not developed anything near to being able to objectively observe the results beyond measuring bodily fluctuations and brain activity.

    The whole foundation of Buddhism rests upon the conviction that the Buddha really did attain Awakening, and subsequently, that there really is an end to suffering. If we take this aspect of Buddhism seriously, then we should take the rest of his teachings seriously as well. I think that what confuses me the most about modern-day interpretations of what the Buddha taught is the idea that these teachings are “abstract”; however, they are not abstract by any means because they can easily be proven if one merely takes the time to put these teachings into practice. I think we should do our best to verify these teachings through practice instead of simply dismissing them.

    Sincerely,

    Jason
  • edited September 2006
    The Buddha was merely a man who was enlightened, not a burning bush, a prohet of or son of god, and he warned us not to take everything he said as the "Gospel Truth," perhaps because he never meant for dogma and supernaturalism to supercede his message.

    The teachings of the Buddha are honored in Vietnam, Japan, Tibet, India, Mongolia, Canada, Sri Lanka and the USA. We are supposed to have respect for the Dalai Lama, the clergy, the metaphysical realms and deities and demons of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, yet be horrified when Buddhists in the West want to downplay certain pre-rational aspects of Buddhism? That's seems awfully ironic.

    Buddhism has survived the influence of Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto, and various other tribal belief systems over the ages and is still going strong, what makes it so incompatible with our culture? Feminism, Free Speech, Empiricism, Egalitarianism, these are not bad things. Also, I really think a "Buddhism Without Beliefs," if it were to sprout in America strongly, while horrifying to the more conservative among us, would be vastly preferable to this volcano-god Jehovah that most people here pay lip service to. You know, the one who tells you the earth was made in six days and who it's safe to hate? That one.

    I will say that the worst part of the marriage between Buddhism and the West has been the commodification of a beautiful tradition. Look in the back of every Buddhism magazine and you'll see what I'm talking about-expensive yuppie retreats, expensive statues, etc. One would think you could buy enlightenment. I think this is far more tragic than a thousand afterlives being supplanted by none. :downhand:
  • edited September 2006
    Knowing that anger makes me ugly,
    I smile.
    Returning to myself and guarding my mind,
    I give full attention to the meditation on compassion.

    When the meeting gets loud and contentious,
    I vow with all beings
    to hold fast to my breath as a tiller
    and take each wave as it comes.

    When people argue the Dharma,
    I vow with all beings
    to show how they started with truth
    and then wrecked it with extrapolation.

    When I offer critical comments,
    I vow with all beings
    to be clear there's no one I'm blaming
    for the error that somehow crept in.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Excellent articles, Jason. Thanks.

    _/\_
    metta
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    I just spent hours writing a post for this thread, contemplating how best to put into words what I wanted to say, going from book to book to come up with relevant quotations in a feverish attempt express how integral the teachings of rebirth are, not only to Buddhism but to any understanding of the reality of what we're all going through.

    Then I deleted the whole thing.

    The way I see it is that Buddhism without rebirth is like physical beauty: it's only skin deep. If you deny the Buddha's teachings of rebirth you're not getting the whole picture. You're getting the bun without the burger, the veneer without the wood. Which is fine, if that's what you want. But you should be aware that it's not the whole story.
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Ditto to what Not1 said. Keepers for sure. Thanks Jason.
  • edited September 2006
    The way I see it is that Buddhism without rebirth is like physical beauty: it's only skin deep. If you deny the Buddha's teachings of rebirth you're not getting the whole picture.

    I agree, but I also think that one has to come to this understanding in their own way. If you force feed beliefs to people, it doesn't work. They tend to dig in their heels defiantly, to enclose the belief into some sort of category and refuse to look at it in any other way.

    The whole thing about karma and rebirth being "logically unsound" is rather absurd to me, because I feel the opposite is true... I feel that life without karma and rebirth is logically unsound. But I didn't always feel this way, and it took a bit of practice to see how things are connected in such a way that these are practical realities, rather than concepts or ideas.

    And, you know, if I can come to that through practice, others can, too. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm totally wrong. The point is that we must practice in order to find out, for ourselves, how things really work, how things really are.
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Yes, I agree, SWW.
    The point is that we must practice in order to find out, for ourselves, how things really work, how things really are.
    But there is also an element of faith in the Buddha's teachings which is required before one can prove or disprove any of his teachings through practice and experiential understanding. I understand that the faith required in following The Path should be neither exaggerated nor understated, but it's needed nonetheless.
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    The way I see it is that Buddhism without rebirth is like physical beauty: it's only skin deep. If you deny the Buddha's teachings of rebirth you're not getting the whole picture.

    I agree, but I also think that one has to come to this understanding in their own way. If you force feed beliefs to people, it doesn't work. They tend to dig in their heels defiantly, to enclose the belief into some sort of category and refuse to look at it in any other way.

    The whole thing about karma and rebirth being "logically unsound" is rather absurd to me, because I feel the opposite is true... I feel that life without karma and rebirth is logically unsound. But I didn't always feel this way, and it took a bit of practice to see how things are connected in such a way that these are practical realities, rather than concepts or ideas.

    And, you know, if I can come to that through practice, others can, too. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm totally wrong. The point is that we must practice in order to find out, for ourselves, how things really work, how things really are.

    Yes, I think you're correct & raise a very important point for both sides of this issue. My only problem is when people outright reject the doctrine of rebirth without any admission of uncertainty. I especially don't like the dismissive attitude. Statements that these teachings are faerie tales or cultural biproducts are actually a bit condescending, though I imagine that was not conciously intended.

    _/\_
    metta
  • edited September 2006
    Brigid wrote:
    I just spent hours writing a post for this thread...
    Then I deleted the whole thing.
    You too, huh? :type:
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    Everyone,

    Of course you cannot force people to believe in something that they are adamantly against, and they are certainly free to make of the Buddha's teachings what they will, but that does not mean than sincere practitioners cannot do their best to help others understand the extraordinarily important place that these teachings hold—especially when they are already interested in some of them.

    People often what to shape these teachings to fit their own preconceived notions of reality, but this only serves pokes holes in the raft of Dhamma. They can believe that the Buddha was “enlightened”, but they disbelieve half of what he taught. The problem is, if they cut and paste whatever they feel is worthwhile while discarding whatever they feel is unnecessary, the raft might simply sink.

    Sincerely,

    Jason
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Yes, that is exactly the problem, Jason. When you start picking and choosing what you're going to believe in, then you're creating your own religion. What are the odds that that will produce the desired result?

    I think you have to back up from arguments over rebirth or karma or whatever and return to the first teachings of the Buddha. His first teachings are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. It is from those teachings that all the rest follows, so if you don't get those simple, basic teachings, there is no path, at least not the Buddha's. The Eightfold Path begins with Right View. Right View means that you understand the Four Noble Truths and believe them. It means that you understand that all things are impermanent and have no separate reality apart from everything else. It means that you understand the Law of Karma and how the karma you yourself create determines your own destiny. Without this first basic step, there is no path, and the other seven elements of the Eightfold Path have no meaning and no basis.

    Let me make an analogy. Let's say you're an alcoholic and you join AA. In order to make it to sobriety, you learn not to trust your own mind because it has always led you astray. Despite boatloads of pledges to stop drinking, it has never worked. You always go right back to the bottle. So you come to AA and depend on the group and in particular your sponsor to guide you through. You learn to trust your sponsor's judgement as reliable because he/she has been through it and can see the pitfalls you can't. By putting your trust in others who have already traveled the road you're on, it becomes possible for you also to succeed.

    It is very much like this in Buddhism. Yes, it's fine to question the path and see if it's right for you, it's what the Buddha himself counseled, but you have to realize from the get-go that you can't understand everything at first because you are a deluded sentient being that has been wandering in samsara from time out of mind. You're just like the alcoholic. Nothing you have ever done or tried has ever worked to get you out of this endless cycle of suffering. So finally you have to admit that you can't do it alone. You need the guidance of one who has already made the journey to liberation. So you enter the path without knowing all the answers in a posture of humility in which you can learn from those who have made the journey and can guide you on it.

    This is where you start on the path, not coming in all full of yourself saying, "I don't believe this, I don't believe that, I know better." That's not a posture that will work on this path. If you are willing to swallow your ego, shut up and learn, then you'll get results. If not, then all you'll end up with is another round in samsara. So if you don't believe in rebirth or even in karma, that's OK, but keep an open mind about it. You start where you're at. With practice and study it will all become clear, or at least clearer. For myself, it took me years to really get the basic view that what I do affects others and myself, not some outside force, but what I do. So it takes time. It takes patience. And most of all, it takes humility.

    That's my advice, from one who's been there.

    Palzang
    ele
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    I actually wrote the following for the circumcision thread but it is better here.

    Palzang-la,

    Reflecting on our brief exchanges above, some thoughts and clarifications occur.

    Each of us has arrived at our present convictions and opinions as a result of our own experience and work. And that is the point: we have put in the work.

    It is one of the hardest points to get across to some fellow-pilgrims: that discipline, perseverance and hard work are real parts of a genuine spiritual life. Perhaps it is a result of the 'primary'/'grade school' attitude to religious education that produces the prevailing attitude of laziness. In every other discipline taught at school, there is progression to more advanced theory and practice. In religious education, questioning is discouraged or reference made to authority rather than providing students with hermeneutical tools. It is therefore far from surprising that debate with and within the faith families happens more and more at the margins, eclipsed by the simplifiers and literalists.

    The views that I hold today anent the spiritual life are, I clearly understand, the result of several decades of study, reflection, debate and praxis. They also arise from encounters that I have had. I remember the public audience with His Holiness the Karmapa at which he taught about the need to follow our teacher. In his wonderful way, this astonishing young man seemed to speak to each of us individually. Others at the audience to whom I spoke had the same experience: that he looked us straight in the eye and spoke one-to-one to each. And I went away and wondered, "Who is my teacher?" It was only a couple of days before that HHDL had said "Lord Jesus is your door" and I realised a truth. The stories and reported words of the long-dead Jewish hero were woven into the fabric of my daily thought and action.

    At the same time - and at the same moment, standing on the steps of the Gyuto Monastery - there seemed a single centre to all my various studies: psychological, scientific, mystical, magical or horticultural. An Anglican vicar friend often compares the religious life with gardening, an apt comparison I find. In a garden, there is a lot of spadework to be done, at first and then season by season. The more one does the work, the more one learns and the more one learns, the more one wants to do the work. That is the 'discipline' of the garden or of the spiritual life.

    I have to admit that I use the word 'discipline' from time to time in my pilgrimage work because I believe that therein lies the key to our transformation. The secret is to come to a discipline that works with the material that we are. Just like a garden, again: no point in planting in the wrong soil or the wrong climate.

    A book that made a great impression on me was, unsurprisingly perhaps, by a Quaker: Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline (1978. Hodder & Stoughton, London) without which I doubt whether I should have been in any position to undertake the mind-bending task of reconciling, in and for myself, the various faith maps that I have studied. Nor could I have attempted to constructe a way of life which attempts that impossible: being in the world as it is but not of it.

    That so much of the above should arise from my years of trying to understand the Jesus message of liberation should not be taken to mean that I still hold to my outdated adolescent view of extra ecclesia nulla salus. It is cited to demonstrate that, without the work to learn enough to study Christianity closely and questioningly (is there such a word?), the hours of prayer and meditation, and all the other exercises, the very real demands of the Noble Eighfold Path would have appeared impossible. And yet, when I first read the Buddha Shakyamuni's Turning of the Wheel, it was with a sense of familiarity: "I have heard this before, in different words, from a different culture, but calling to the same freedom."

    There was an expression that was used in the British Army to silence young, raw recruits. They were told to "get their kneees brown" (i.e. get some years of overseas service in before voicing their opinions.) In the same way, we need to get some calluses on our backsides before we can move away from dogma and certainty into the rocky lands of speculation.

    I join you, Palzang-la, in stressing that we need to study, study, study and practice, practice, practice before we can begin to improvise. Only because he was a master draughtsman could Picasso take us beyond the representation and into the very soul of his models by breaking all the rules of drawing.


    *******************

    I should like to add that the example of many hundreds of practitioners over many hundreds of years is nowhere near good enough "evidence" of the scientifically unverifiable. We may choose to believe in rebirth or in souls: each has many supporters who have given us personal testimony. We may believe stories of miracles performed by gurus but the saints did the same. Even Jesus' miracles (including raising the dead) are repeats of OT events and can be found in all other faith legends.

    It is literalism that kills the spirit. These are stories for us to "break" like a Kinder egg, to find the gift inside.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Yeah, Simon, I think that's an essential point. Lord Buddha was a revolutionary of the first magnitude. We have to break through the bonds of mental conditioning that we have created for ourselves and into something completely unexpected. As Trungpa Rinpoche said, we have to make a leap into the unknown with no point of reference or assurance. If you want to play it safe, become a Presbyterian!

    Palzang
  • pineblossompineblossom Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Celebrin wrote:
    I don't understand the entire concept of rebirth or how it fits into buddhism.. Its mere speculation like all the mad christian stuff.

    You and me both - I'm not into this rebirth or reincarnation belief - and that's what it is, a belief. And I agree with you it smacks of Xity. But my main beef is that the doctrine, and it is a doctrine, has the effect of constraining thinking beings - a guilt trip by anther name.

    Having said that - does it matter? For me, No. For others apparently it's a big hurdle - me, I just skirt around the whole idea and nod whenever someone mentions rebirth or reincarnation.

    You have to remember that the Buddha came from a Hindu family and worked within a Hindu culture - the notion or karma and reincarnation was, is, an intergral part of that culture - long time before the idea of science.

    Now for those who will claim that I am picking and choosing they are quite correct - I am - for I am not constrained by dogma or doctrine. The Buddha taught that only after due diligence and testing, if the practices he taught benefit you, you then accept them and live up to them - it's your call.
  • BrigidBrigid Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Simon and Palzang,

    I couldn't agree with you more. It's a funny coincidence that I just finished reading a teaching by Trungpa Rinpoche in which he uses farming as a metaphor for spiritual work and understanding.

    I think that maybe those who wish to reject the Buddha's teaching on rebirth outright might benefit from some other work that they can see actual positive results from; flexibility of mind. To reject out of hand any spiritual understanding for whatever reason is just as dogmatic and inflexible as that which you are trying to escape.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    Everyone,

    To me, the Buddhism in the Modern World sub-forum is not a place to simply throw away teachings that we do not understand, or teachings that we have trouble believing in, but rather it is more of a place to discuss how we can better utilize these teachings in our modern society. In essence, I see absolutely no reason that we should discard teachings such as those on rebirth simply because a scientist today has not yet proved them true. While instant communication, a global community, and high technology provide a whole new context for all religions, the Buddha’s mind is the same as the minds of today.

    In the Pali Canon, literalism is not as much of a problem as it is with other religious texts in that the Buddha was always clear when he was speaking in a metaphorical way using similes, analogies, or stories to illustrate a particular point. This alone gives me little reason to suspect everything as simply being a fairy tale or untrue. Scientific difficulty in proving something does not prove that it is untrue. The underlying core that I often see in these types of discussions is that people want to come to Buddhism from other faiths or with their own set of beliefs, and remove what they are uncomfortable with.

    People might feel that rebirth, for example, was a quaint idea many ancient Indians held, but that we should know better than to believe in it now—the Buddha was either humoring people, simply ignorant of reality, or these teachings were later additions. While I do not see a problem with people wanting to question certain teachings, choosing to ignore them altogether, or just feel uncomfortable with them in their own practice, I do see a problem when they teach others not to take these teachings seriously without exploring them first if they are newcomers who are interested in what the Buddha taught.

    This in itself does not have to become an issue as long as people can believe and practice their own paths while at the same time respecting the paths of others. On this site, we predominately gather to discuss the teachings of the Buddha, and I feel that this is something that should be considered when we decide to contribute here. When I began this path, I doubted everything, but I eventually discovered that entering into this path with such a mind-state limited my own spiritual growth. This does not mean that everyone must approach it this way, but I think people should respect the fact that I trust the Buddha.

    Sincerely,

    Jason
    ele
  • edited September 2006
    Bleh, not worth arguing about, and I've said my piece. I was just curious, how do reincarnation and evolution interact with each other? Any theories? I've always thought of the concept of Darwinian evolution and common descent as being so similar to and intertwined with dependent arising it always surprised me Buddhists didn't come up with evolution first. Perhaps I'm just confused, and cramming square pegs into round holes, though.
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Kris... don't get bleh'd. This is an interesting topic for many Buddhists in the modern world.

    I sometimes think that Westerners just have a hard time with coming to terms with many of the teachings of Buddha. Hell, just look at all the difficulty we have translating terms and phases from Sanskrit or Pali and the disruption it causes!

    These are all good things to think about because it causes us to think. And it's being done in a way where we can reason together or state various opinions. We each get the opportunity to learn something.

    Don't feel like you are being whupped up by anyone.

    As for me - I don't know what to think about rebirth and reincarnation. In fact, it doesn't play into my practice at all.

    To me worrying about rebirth and reincarnation is wondering what the flower of a plant will look like before we've planted the seed. We worry about how big the bloom will be, what color will it be, will it last long, will it endure the heat and whither quickly - and we haven't even given it a chance to germinate or grow.

    Since rebirth isn't something I can control or change - I don't worry about it. I have enough to worry about with all the friggin' baggage I currently have.

    -bf
  • edited September 2006
    Maybe my view is too "heretic" ;),

    but my approach to the dhamma is, despite all details i ponder often about, based on the 4 noble truths and the eightfold path. Buddhism to my understanding, has always been flexible to adopt to different local fashion while trying to get what i call the core message thru: "The cessation of dukha (uffering/stress/).Following this thought, using the eightfold path to get rid of dhuka the uncertainty of rebirth causes is much more important than clining to every concept of it, let alone search for scientific evidence.

    I am not propagating ignorance, i am just talking about priorities. if you don`t suffer in seeking such answers, it means you have a clear and free mind neccessary to pursue it, and then, why not go for it. After all, I am no teacher of the dhamma and these are just my personal thoughts.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    buddhafoot wrote:
    Since rebirth isn't something I can control or change - I don't worry about it. I have enough to worry about with all the friggin' baggage I currently have.
    -bf


    The thing is though that it is something you can control and change. You can create the causes for an auspicious human rebirth, or you can create the causes for rebirth in the lower realms, which no one wants.

    I agree with Jason/Elohim completely in his last post. The hardest thing for Westerners who come to Buddhism to do is to get their friggin' egos out of the way so they can actually learn something. It's a real, huge obstacle, and until and unless you become aware that there is such an obstacle, you'll never go anywhere on the path.

    Oh, and happy birthday, Jason! :birthday: May you have many more and many successive human rebirths to enjoy them in!

    Palzang
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    But!

    My point is - if one simply works on the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path - that being a person's main concern - doesn't everything else fall in place? If you are practice "Right" everything - isn't a side effect that you are changing your karma or the conditions that could equate to an auspicious rebirth?

    -bf
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    buddhafoot wrote:
    But!

    My point is - if one simply works on the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path - that being a person's main concern - doesn't everything else fall in place? If you are practice "Right" everything - isn't a side effect that you are changing your karma or the conditions that could equate to an auspicious rebirth?

    -bf


    Yes, that is true to a degree. However, there is, as you said, all that karmic baggage we all carry around with us that could drag us down when the Big One hits us. There are practices, techniques, technologies, whatever you want to call it, specifically designed to purify all that so we can have a better chance for an auspicious rebirth. That's all I meant. And for anyone reading this who may not understand what I mean by an auspicious rebirth, it means rebirth as a human being with all one's faculties complete and who is born in a place and a time where the Buddha's teachings are available and being taught. It is taught that only as a human can we practice the Dharma as beings in the other five realms have their own problems which effectively prevent that.

    Palzang
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Good point, Pally.

    I'm sure you make a very good point. I guess for me - I don't worry about the stuff that I truly cannot grasp in it's entirety - when I've got soooooooo much other crap to work on.

    I'm not a great multi-tasker :)

    -bf
  • edited September 2006
    Hello Buddhafoot,

    imho the question breaks down to this:

    Can the eightfold path be seen as being self-sufficient in the way that a person, who seeks salvation here and now in his current incarnation, benefit from it thru acting according to it, wihtout having him believe in reincarnation?

    Or in other words, is any believe of punishment and reward, or to use more neutral words, downs and ups in one`s progress thru different incarnations, neccessary for right conduct?

    I tend to say no, since I see the eightfold path as a way to go, making gradual progress thru many reincarnations. So, the belief or non-belief in rebirth in Buddhism is not remotely so crucial than (not) believing in heavan or hell in belief systems that propagate "final reward for eternity" after the indivudal person passed away. So, even if he does not believe in kharma and rebirth, he will make progress also from that peoples point of view who believe in it, according to his realisation of the eightfold path.

    Regards
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    fofoo,

    I can't answer your question because that's a question that I have.

    I can honestly say that I don't believe I know enough about Buddhism to state that "if one follows the Eightfold Path, they will reach enlightenment" or " one must follow the Eightfold Path AND believe in reincarnation/rebirth to reach enlightenment".

    So, since it's an area of ignorance for me - I try to do the things that I can comprehend at this moment, this configuration, this formation at the present.

    But I'm always curious about the knowledge of others because it may clarify things for me.

    -bf
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    fofoo wrote:
    Hello Buddhafoot,

    imho the question breaks down to this:

    Can the eightfold path be seen as being self-sufficient in the way that a person, who seeks salvation here and now in his current incarnation, benefit from it thru acting according to it, wihtout having him believe in reincarnation?

    Or in other words, is any believe of punishment and reward, or to use more neutral words, downs and ups in one`s progress thru different incarnations, neccessary for right conduct?

    I tend to say no, since I see the eightfold path as a way to go, making gradual progress thru many reincarnations. So, the belief or non-belief in rebirth in Buddhism is not remotely so crucial than (not) believing in heavan or hell in belief systems that propagate "final reward for eternity" after the indivudal person passed away. So, even if he does not believe in kharma and rebirth, he will make progress also from that peoples point of view who believe in it, according to his realisation of the eightfold path.

    Regards

    I believe that the Buddha said somewhere that if all his teachings were lost that the 4 noble truths with its 8-fold path would be sufficient for liberation. I really don't remember where I heard that, so I don't have the source. However, the crux of all of buddhism is the 4NT. That much is certain. Granted, I feel that you have an open mind on this issue that you are at an advantage on the path. Faith (confidence/trust) in the teachings is considered an expedient means towards the fruits of the path. Now, I understand the hesitency we have to agree with such objectively unverifiable things. I think a few of us here have bitten the blind faith hook once or twice.

    So, I would suggest simply studying the models given by the buddha: the 6 sense bases, the 5 khandas & the 12 links of dependent co-arising. Focus on moment-to-moment rebirth. That one is undeniable. Perhaps once you can conceive of the fact that each moment is recreated from the last, then the idea of life to life rebirth won't be as far-fetched.

    I would also like to point out that none of us will be able to verify the reality of rebirth anyway without a tremendous deal of effort & deepening of awareness. Until then, trying to get a grip on the concept of rebirth is largely speculation anyway. I would say getting back to the 8-fold path is the most important thing.
    Bleh, not worth arguing about, and I've said my piece. I was just curious, how do reincarnation and evolution interact with each other? Any theories? I've always thought of the concept of Darwinian evolution and common descent as being so similar to and intertwined with dependent arising it always surprised me Buddhists didn't come up with evolution first. Perhaps I'm just confused, and cramming square pegs into round holes, though.

    Dependent co-arising definitely fits quite well with the ideas of Darwinian evolution, though it does this more on the Macrocosmic level. It simply states that 'when x is present, y arises. When x is no longer present, y ceases'. We can see how natural selection is not so far off here. The main difference is that buddhism would apply this on a much broader & more subtle level. It also places consciousness at a more fundamental level than Western Science.

    _/\_
    metta
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    Everyone,

    Perhaps many of you are simply grasping my last post by the tail, and letting the head bite your hand. I am simply sharing my thoughts on the matter, and reminding people that this is a Buddhist site for beginners. While we can share our own opinions and ideas concerning rebirth, I feel it is wise to be careful not to remove it completely because it is one of the foundations of knowledge that made the Buddha's dispensation possible. If you throw away the teachings on rebirth, you throw away teachings that are critical to the path.

    The teachings on kamma and rebirth are inextricably intertwined, and one does not make any sense without the other. As I said, if you disbelieve such teachings, that is fine; however, try to be considerate of those that do, or those that are trying to learn more about them—that is all. In regards to this particular sub-forum, and this is merely a personally opinion, I feel that it is more a place to discuss how we can integrate these teachings into our lives more than how to remove what we might find difficult to understand or illogical.

    Sincerely,

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    Palzang,

    Thank you for your birthday greeting. Hopefully, I will have many more and many successive human rebirths, and will accumulate enough wholesome kamma to one day be of great help to all sentient beings.

    Regards,

    Jason
  • edited September 2006
    Here is a late happy birthday! Yay!

    Anyway, you are obviously of help in this lifetime. To all of us here. I don't think we have to wait for a specific time to change the world for the better. We can do that now in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

    So back to the subject. As the Dalai Lama said when asked about his previous lives, "I think this life is enough to worry about without worrying about another." His simple statement rang true for me.

    My main focus in this life is happiness. I feel that the Buddha's teachings have truly helped me in this regard and by reducing many of the causes of my suffering. I won't let my lack of belief in rebirth change that. If I act with benevolence and compassion in this life, and have a positive rebirth, than I win. If I act with benevolence and compassion in this life, and nothing happens after death....then I still win for I will have made the world a better place.

    Remember, what is a man that does not make the world a better place.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2006
    KoB,

    Fair enough.

    :)

    Jason
  • edited September 2006
    The gateway to becoming a Buddhist is the taking of refuge in the Triple Jewel of Buddha, Dharma & Sangha. If refuge is not taken - no Buddhist.

    Since the Buddha himself, under the bodhi tree, investigated both rebirth & karma and found them to be true; one cannot take refuge in him if you do not believe he knows what he teaches to be true. Since the Dharma is what he taught and the insights he gained - again there is no refuge in the Dharma if one ignores its seminal truths. Since the Arya Sangha are those whose advancement on the Path is based on living lives (not one life) based on confidence in & understanding of such key truths, there is no refuge taking possible.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    You're correct, Will, but in Vajrayana we have a saying that you start where you're at. It isn't just rebirth that people have problems with. Nearly everyone who comes to the path has no inclination towards practicing compassion, for instance. As someone once told my teacher, "Well, the compassion thing is really great, but I'm just not that way!" Of course you're not. Ordinary sentient beings don't really know how to practice compassion or even what it means. So you start where you're at. One of our khenpos said that if you can't practice generosity by giving something to someone, then practice generosity by having your left hand give something to your right. So you begin with baby steps.

    Taking true refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma and the Sangha is something that virtually none of us really accomplish until we're quite well along in our practice. Even then we break our refuge vows every day by taking refuge in some aspect of samsara or other. If we look at a snazzy new car that drives by and generate some secret wish that we could have one, whoops, there goes our refuge vows! So it's a process. You don't just take refuge vows once and that's it, you're magically safe. While taking refuge vows is important, you really have to take and retake them constantly to make them stick. Otherwise they're gone in a day and it's like we never took them.

    Palzang
  • edited September 2006
    Palzang wrote:

    [....]
    While taking refuge vows is important, you really have to take and retake them constantly to make them stick. Otherwise they're gone in a day and it's like we never took them.

    Palzang

    Refuge is the way, the only entrance, to becoming a Buddhist. If you do not believe in the objects of refuge, then no initial taking or accepting of them is possible. That is my point, not the perfecting of the refuge. To perfect refuge in the Triple Jewel you have to start from imperfection and that requires enough confidence to place your trust in the Buddha, Dharma & Sangha.
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    Yeah, I agree.

    Palzang
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    I got this in my daily Dharma e-mail thingie today, and it seemed appropriate, so here it is:

    What you do for yourself -- any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself -- will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you're doing for others, and what you do for others, you're doing for yourself. When you exchange yourself for others . . . it becomes increasingly uncertain what is out there and what is in here.

    If you have rage and righteously act it out and blame it all on others, it's really you who suffers. The other people and the environment suffer also, but you suffer more because you're being eaten up inside with rage, causing you to hate yourself more and more.

    We act out because, ironically, we think it will bring us some relief. We equate it with happiness. Often there is some relief, for the moment. When you have an addiction and you fulfill that addiction, there is a moment in which you feel some relief. Then the nightmare gets worse. So it is with aggression. When you get to tell someone off, you might feel pretty good for a while, but somehow the sense of righteous indignation and hatred grows, and it hurts you. . . .

    On the other hand, if we begin to surrender to ourselves -- begin to drop the story line and experience what all this messy stuff behind the story line feels like -- we begin to find bodhichitta, the tenderness that's under all that harshness. By being kind to ourselves, we become kind to others. By being kind to others -- if it's done properly, with proper understanding -- we benefit as well. So the first point is that we are completely interrelated. What you do to others, you do to yourself. What you do to yourself, you do to others.

    Start where you are. This is very important. . . . You may be the most violent person in the world -- that's a fine place to start. That's a very rich place to start -- juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are -- that's the place to start.

    Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are
    ele
  • edited September 2006
    you cannot kill what you cannot see.

    you cannot follow what you don't believe in with your heart and head.

    Answers are prisons

    Names mean nothing as i am me and not a stereotype.. i.e buddhist
    without names there is equality.

    Saying i am or am not a buddhist is in both terms incorrect, because i am what you see and i am at base, me.

    until all questions don't exist there will be doubt, so are you saying that only 'enlightened ppl' are buddhists will and palzang?
  • edited September 2006
    Celebrin, All

    I too can't "believe" in rebirth, since I can't get my head round it. I don't greatly "disbelieve" in it, come to that, in the sense that I have no alternative to "believe" in either.

    If that means I can't "be a Buddhist" then, ah well.

    I've just been reading Jan Willem van de Wetering's accounts of his experiences in a Zen Monastery in Japan in "The Empty Mirror" and "Afterzen". In both books he recounts how, at the end of his time in the monastery he asked the Abbot whether the Abbot would perform a ceremony so that Jan could "become a Buddhist". The Abbot told him that there was such a ceremony, a rather impressive one and that the Abbot would wear his heavy robe with the brocade, that the monks would play instruments and chant, and then asked Jan whether he thought that would help him along the path. Jan thought about it and said that he didn't think it would, really, but, surely, the Abbot was a Buddhist wasn't he? The Abbot replied that he had no idea if he was a Buddhist and then put on a voice apparently used by gangsters in Japanese films to growl "Who is this Buddha anyway?" before laughing.

    In The Empty Mirror Jan records how he went out and asked a Monk he was close to whether he was a Buddhist. The Monk replied that as he had no self, how could he be a Buddhist. Jan told him not to be so clever, and asked simply if he considered himself a Buddhist in a formal sense. The Monk replied "Is a cloud a part of the sky?" Jan ends by saying the subject of him being a Buddhist never came up again.

    Martin.
  • edited September 2006
    lol thank god.. i'm not the only person that understands what being or not being a name is.
  • 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 September 2006
    " lol Thank God"......?? :eek2: :wow: :lol:
  • edited September 2006
    federica wrote:
    " lol Thank God"......?? :eek2: :wow: :lol:

    yeah why not? Only because he is impermanent it does not mean one cannot thank him :rarr:

    But seriously, the whole issue is very interesting. There are often remarks that westeners get too uptight in pursuing the eighthfold path since they do not think in long terms, i.e. over several incarnations. the urge to undestand everything as fast as possible without any questions left defeats the buddhist teachings in a way, in that it causes suffering thru clinging on so many unanswered questions, leads to ignorance since answers are accepted too fast. But again, this is just my personal view.

    regards.
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    The point is not to be "a buddhist." The point is to actually go for refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma & the Sangha. What you call yourself is merely a convention.

    As for whether you accept rebirth or not, you will only benefit from the teachings to the extent which you practice & implement them in your life. I would imagine that the Buddha Path does not require any sort of Blind Faith, though I think we must not blindly disbelieve either. And I imagine you can still sincerely go for refuge without being able to get your head around all of the teachings.

    _/\_
    metta
  • edited September 2006
    not1not2 wrote:

    As for whether you accept rebirth or not, you will only benefit from the teachings to the extent which you practice & implement them in your life. I would imagine that the Buddha Path does not require any sort of Blind Faith, though I think we must not blindly disbelieve either. And I imagine you can still sincerely go for refuge without being able to get your head around all of the teachings.

    _/\_
    metta

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on that. I think when people like Godwin Samararatne said "don`T be a buddhist", they meant something like that.

    Regards
  • edited September 2006
    not1not2 wrote:
    I imagine you can still sincerely go for refuge without being able to get your head around all of the teachings.

    N1N2

    I like that. Thanks.

    Martin.
  • edited September 2006
    twas a metaphor
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran Veteran
    edited September 2006
    I would like to briefly add that 'being a buddhist' can come with a subtle egotism & pride which can be a hindrance on the path. They may also get some sort of impression that 'being a buddhist' is the goal of buddhism. In the twelve links of dependent co-arising we have bhava (being/becoming) as the link before birth which is directly dependent upon clinging, craving, feeling & contact. So, 'being a buddhist' is actually something to be avoided, in this sense.

    On the other hand, 'being a buddhist' can skillfully transform one's kammic tendency of creating a self around some concept ('buddhist' in this case) into a catalyst for practicing the path & eventually achieving liberation. As long as one does not have a superficial idea of what Buddhism is about, then I think this process can occur.

    _/\_
    metta
  • 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 September 2006
    Yes, N1N2, I completely take your point and understand where you're coming from....I feel a small nuance of pride, if and when asked whether I'm a Buddhist, when I say yes.
    (dead give-away at work....small picture of Tara near my desk....2" high metal figurine... White Tara screen saver....keeps me Mindful)

    But....How can I describe it? It's a warm pride of Buddhism itself....I know that sounds odd, but maybe some can see what I mean.... It's a joy that I personally have, for the Refuge it brings me. The delight and happiness I have come to know by being connected with the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

    Does that make sense....?
  • edited September 2006
    Fede, do you mean like an attachment to losing all your other attachments? I,ve heard this is the best sort of attachment.

    When asked my religion sometimes i say buddhist, other times nothing. I really don't know if i am buddhist. A turning pont in my life was when i took refuge in myself and stopped looking to external sources. Be a refuge unto yourself.

    Its hard to relinquish that sort of control which you seem to a bit when you take refuge in the triple gem. Don't know if anyone else finds that bit difficult, but i guess you start where you are
  • 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 September 2006
    twobitbob wrote:
    Fede, do you mean like an attachment to losing all your other attachments? I,ve heard this is the best sort of attachment.


    Yes, I suppose so....I feel an "attachment" to Buddhism - but I'd like to think it's for all the 'right' reasons....! Kind of like being attached to living, because it's a better option to the altenative, even though I fully know I'll have to release that one too....!!
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