Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39441

    Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

    Hi,

    I wanted to "rebirth" this as its own topic ...

    Originally posted by robert

    I haven't seen a damn shred of anything in the Soto worldview that addresses this need. Saying that a person can experience wonder in the world is great and all, but what about all the people out there who don't get to that point? If you don't believe in some sort of soul that continues beyond death, it means that you have to accept that a lot of people out there just lead sad lives and die.
    This is the crux of the problem, isn't it? I personally am coming from a materialist/skeptical background and for a long time didn't want to hear anything about "afterlife" or "rebirth". But the more I learn about Buddhism, the more I see how such teachings are essential, for the reasons you describe. Whether we take them literally, devotionally, philosophically or figuratively is not so important. I also see that my resistance is a kind of intellectual bigotry, steeped in unexamined assumptions. There are plenty of reasons to doubt a purely materialist explanation for consciousness, whether or not things work exactly to the specifications laid out in ancient Buddhist sutras. You might find Douglas Hofstader' work interesting -- a rational, science-grounded, 21st century argument for the "soul". The choice, to paraphrase your own words, isn't between a) some ultra-literal, empircally testable, neuroscience-friendly view of these questions or b) nihilism.

    Have you read Thurman's "Infinite Life"? What did you think of it?
    ...

    Gassho, Rob
    In my view, teachings of an "afterlife", or very mechanical view of "rebirth" or "reincarnation" (not the same thing, by the way), are not essential (to use your word) to Buddhist practice. That does not mean that there is no "afterlife" etc. (I'll drop you a postcard from the next life if there is one :wink: ), only that such a process is not essential.

    Let me give an analogy:

    Without resort to an afterlife, we can see through suffering in life via the lens of emptiness: ultimately, there is no one to suffer, no victim or victimizer by suffering. Think of this life as something of a stage play in which the actors on stage think it is all real (and it is, in a sense) but do not realize that they are acting, while some of us see it all from the perspective back stage ... where the cardboard scenery, lights and curtains are shown to be what they are. On stage, there is some comedy and much tragedy, and the play is one of greed, anger, jealously, violence and laughter, but it is all a bit of theatre. The actors do not know that they are acting (Stephanie? Hear me? :wink: ).

    (I do not want to get into, by the way, whether there is a playwright for this fiction ... or whether it is just some 'off-off-off Broadway', experimental "theatre of the absurd" in which we make it up as we go along, and the script is not written. In either case, it is just a story, and a play).

    In emptiness (the "good" kind of emptiness, not the emptiness that is just empty), when the lights come up and the actors come to take their bows, all the "suffering" washes away.

    So, no need for life after life during which, hopefully, the actors will get their "act together".

    Now, that being said (and skeptic though I am on the subject of "reincarnation"), I will tell you that there is absolutely, positively one form of "rebirth" that I can attest to, have seen, see and taste, and can describe to you logically. You may not be able to taste it now, but you can understand it. Some forms of "Kensho" involve seeing a corner of this (I do not think that the human brain can really taste all its infinite aspects).

    To wit:

    If you can see through the hard borders and divisions your brain creates between your separate "self" and all the world that you consider "not my self", then you see that all the blades of grass, mountains, other sentient beings, stars and atoms are just "You" ... as much as the hairs on your head, your bones and teeth, the cells of your skin and neurons of your brain are just "you" too ... each and all while also being its own object. Thus, with each sunrise, spring or fall, baby's birth, you are reborn (and I am not speaking figuratively). Even now, when a baby is born while you are still "alive".

    As much as "you" are still "you", though the hairs on your head and cells of your very marrow come and go. Why are your fingers you? Your whole left hand? The thoughts you are having right now that you consider "I am thinking"? So it is with all that is the world! (You are an actor in that play, and the playing is just you). And I am not speaking only of material objects ... your very mind is just the world, the world is precisely your mind.

    That much I taste of "rebirth", that I know. I hope that, if you keep practicing Rob, you will have a glimpse of that too.

    The Buddha was a man of his times, and they were Hindu times. He borrowed that way of seeing the world that was prevalent in his religion and culture. But he also said, time and time again, that the point of his practice was to see through, and be free from, mechanical rebirth. He also said, time and again, that his "ultimate" teachings were much like I have described above.

    Gassho, The mountains, trees ...
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • chicanobudista
    Member
    • Mar 2008
    • 864

    #2
    Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

    My problem with folks that believe in a mechanistic rebirth is that, often when I read their comments in forums, is that they tend to be very selective. Often I'll read that while in meditation, they will "see" their past lives. Of course, they usually talk about past human lives, but never do they say, "Oh, I remember when I was a cricket" or "Yeah. I hated when I was a dung beetle, but...eh...I am back." :mrgreen:
    paz,
    Erik


    Flor de Nopal Sangha

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39441

      #3
      Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

      Gassho, Chugai, Amen and Gassho
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Tb
        Member
        • Jan 2008
        • 3186

        #4
        Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

        Hi.

        I know this isn't a "zenbuddhist book", but in the swedish buddhist forum we have a bookclub currently reading Wisdom Energy.
        http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Energy-Lam ... 184&sr=8-3

        In which they state that because of "the twelvefoldchain" we need at least two/three lives we can't complete the "rebirthprocess".

        This is somewhat true, but as stated earlier people tend to "misinterpret" the meaning of it.
        A lot if you liste to some people...

        May the force be with you
        Tb
        Life is our temple and its all good practice
        Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

        Comment

        • Tb
          Member
          • Jan 2008
          • 3186

          #5
          Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

          Hi.

          And just a question, where does it mention reincarnation in the sutras?

          May the force be with you
          Tb
          Life is our temple and its all good practice
          Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

          Comment

          • will
            Member
            • Jun 2007
            • 2331

            #6
            Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

            And just a question, where does it mention reincarnation in the sutras?
            It depends what part of the Pali Canon you look at. If you have a look, rebirth is mentioned frequently.

            I can't think of anything specific off the top of my head except the talk with the soldier and actor. Buddha said that they would be reborn in the animal womb if they pursue this field.

            Jundo posted a bunch of references in a thread earlier. Can't remember which one.

            Gassho Will
            [size=85:z6oilzbt]
            To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
            To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
            To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
            To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
            [/size:z6oilzbt]

            Comment

            • robert
              Member
              • Aug 2008
              • 88

              #7
              Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

              Hi again,

              I've noticed that discussions of karmic rebirth tend to harden into a familiar pattern: yes, no, partial yes, partial no. It could be a little unproductive because people aren't going to deviate much from the basic set of lenses they use to view the cosmos, and the discussion thus ends up being a exhausting battle among sensitivities and worldviews.

              Maybe another approach would be to ask: what is the function of rebirth teaching within Buddhism. What does it do, what does it provide practitioners? And what if anything is lost if it's dropped or reinterpreted?

              Also on a more practical level, what percentage of Buddhists see it as important? For example, in Japan?

              Best regards,
              Rob

              Originally posted by Jundo
              If you can see through the hard borders and divisions your brain creates between your separate "self" and all the world that you consider "not my self", then you see that all the blades of grass, mountains, other sentient beings, stars and atoms are just "You" ... as much as the hairs on your head, your bones and teeth, the cells of your skin and neurons of your brain are just "you" too ... each and all while also being its own object. Thus, with each sunrise, spring or fall, baby's birth, you are reborn (and I am not speaking figuratively). Even now, when a baby is born while you are still "alive".

              As much as "you" are still "you", though the hairs on your head and cells of your very marrow come and go. Why are your fingers you? Your whole left hand? The thoughts you are having right now that you consider "I am thinking"? So it is with all that is the world! (You are an actor in that play, and the playing is just you). And I am not speaking only of material objects ... your very mind is just the world, the world is precisely your mind.

              That much I taste of "rebirth", that I know. I hope that, if you keep practicing Rob, you will have a glimpse of that too.
              Thank you, this is useful. I'm reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "No Death, No Fear" right now, and his overall take seems to be along those lines.

              Gassho,
              Rob
              Robert's website

              Comment

              • Tb
                Member
                • Jan 2008
                • 3186

                #8
                Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                Hi.

                Originally posted by will
                I can't think of anything specific off the top of my head except the talk with the soldier and actor. Buddha said that they would be reborn in the animal womb if they pursue this field.
                Reference?

                Originally posted by will
                Jundo posted a bunch of references in a thread earlier. Can't remember which one.
                Ehrm... does anyone?

                May the force be with you
                Tb
                Life is our temple and its all good practice
                Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

                Comment

                • robert
                  Member
                  • Aug 2008
                  • 88

                  #9
                  Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                  Hi all,

                  Here is Jundo's post from awhile back -- he gives examples and links. Gassho, Rob

                  Gautama Buddha, at least through the Suttas attributed to him, could be quite specific about the effects of our Karma (volitional actions) "after death, upon dissolution of the body". Some have tried to explain this away as just his teaching method employing expedient means, as a teaching tool (for speaking to students coming from a Hindu background). Others have tried to take it as pure metaphor for the states we encounter (my words) "at each moment, here and now and through all time, a constant process of birth and death". Some have said the Buddha did not really say such things (these Sutta were first written down many generations after Buddha died in this life ... and were preserved as an oral tradition until then).

                  But it is quite likely that, as a man living amid a Hindu world view some 2500 years ago, he said what he meant ... and meant what he said ... (References like the following appear many places in the old Sutta):

                  "So, householders, it is by reason of conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of righteous conduct, that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.

                  15. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the warrior-nobles of great property!' it is possible that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

                  16. "If a householder who observes conduct is accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the brahmans of great property!' it is possible...

                  17. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma,...'... I might reappear in the company of householders of great property!' it is possible...

                  18. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the gods of the Four Kings!' it is possible that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

                  19. ...of the gods of the Realm of the Thirty-three...3
                  20. ...of the gods that have Gone to Bliss...
                  21. ...of the Contented gods...
                  22. ...of the gods that Delight in Creating...
                  23. ...of the gods that Wield Power over others' Creations...
                  24. ...of the gods of Brahma's Retinue...
                  25. ...of the Radiant gods...
                  26. ...of the gods of Limited Radiance...
                  27. ...of the gods of Measureless Radiance...
                  28. ...of the gods of Streaming Radiance...
                  29. ...of the Glorious gods...
                  30. ...of the gods of Limited Glory...
                  31. ...of the gods of Measureless Glory...
                  32. ...of the gods of Refulgent Glory...
                  33. ...of the Very Fruitful gods...
                  34. ...of the gods Bathed in their own Prosperity...
                  35. ...of the Untormenting gods...
                  36. ...of the Fair-to-see gods...
                  37. ...of the Fair-seeing gods...
                  38. ...of the gods who are Junior to None...
                  39. ...of the gods of the base consisting of the infinity of space...
                  40. ...of the gods of the base consisting of the infinity of consciousness...
                  41. ...of the gods of the base consisting of nothingness...

                  42. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the gods of the base consisting of neither-perception-nor-non-perception!' it is possible that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

                  43. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that by realization myself with direct knowledge, I may here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of the heart and the deliverance by wisdom that are taint-free with exhaustion of taints!' it is possible that, by realization himself with direct knowledge, he may here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of the heart and the deliverance by wisdom that are taint-free with exhaustion of taints. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct."

                  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html


                  But, as I have said many times, it is not a big deal to me. I don't demand that the Buddha be correct on every darn thing out of his mouth. Jesus! (Another character, by the way, that folks demand perfection of in every utterance, and then interpret countless different ways). Even Buddha does not need to be right all the time ... just most of the time ...

                  And he might be right. He might be accurately reporting something he saw that really was real. I will try to let you know if reborn in hell, as a snake or (worse) a lawyer (my former life in this life) ...

                  "Now, for one of wrong view, Lohicca, I tell you, there is one of two destinations: either hell or the animal womb.
                  http://www.http://www.accesstoinsight.o ... .than.html
                  Robert's website

                  Comment

                  • Sunshine

                    #10
                    Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                    Sometimes, for me, it is just nice to know that regardless of whether or not I have a soul, or even something that can rebirth, from a scientific vantage, my atoms will continue on. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, whatever I am now will be something else in the future. Maybe a frog? Frog turd? :lol:

                    When I can't believe anything else, at least I know that I will be a good ecologist and be recycled in death.

                    I always hope there is more. :idea:

                    Peace,
                    Sunshine

                    Comment

                    • Tb
                      Member
                      • Jan 2008
                      • 3186

                      #11
                      Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                      Originally posted by Sunshine
                      Sometimes, for me, it is just nice to know that regardless of whether or not I have a soul, or even something that can rebirth, from a scientific vantage, my atoms will continue on. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, whatever I am now will be something else in the future. Maybe a frog? Frog turd? :lol:

                      When I can't believe anything else, at least I know that I will be a good ecologist and be recycled in death.

                      I always hope there is more. :idea:

                      Peace,
                      Sunshine
                      Hi.

                      there's always hope...

                      May the force be with you
                      Tb
                      Life is our temple and its all good practice
                      Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

                      Comment

                      • robert
                        Member
                        • Aug 2008
                        • 88

                        #12
                        Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                        Originally posted by Sunshine
                        Sometimes, for me, it is just nice to know that regardless of whether or not I have a soul, or even something that can rebirth, from a scientific vantage, my atoms will continue on. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, whatever I am now will be something else in the future. Maybe a frog? Frog turd? :lol:

                        When I can't believe anything else, at least I know that I will be a good ecologist and be recycled in death.

                        I always hope there is more. :idea:

                        Peace,
                        Sunshine
                        I can see other elements of the self being recycled too. Ideas, perceptions, sensations, consciousness... we pass these things along to each other all the time. If I dump my anger on someone, isn't something reborn? We could be good ecologists in no end of ways.

                        Hard to identify much in anyone's consciousness that originates separately from others.

                        I don't know either what does or doesn't happen as the wheel of existence turns. But compassion extended through action should arrive somewhere. Hope so at least!

                        See ya in the frog pond/compost heap/next life/Buddha world/wherever


                        Metta,
                        Rob
                        Robert's website

                        Comment

                        • Sunshine

                          #13
                          Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                          Rob, I agree.
                          can see other elements of the self being recycled too. Ideas, perceptions, sensations, consciousness... we pass these things along to each other all the time. If I dump my anger on someone, isn't something reborn? We could be good ecologists in no end of ways.

                          Hard to identify much in anyone's consciousness that originates separately from others.

                          I don't know either what does or doesn't happen as the wheel of existence turns. But compassion extended through action should arrive somewhere. Hope so at least!

                          See ya in the frog pond/compost heap/next life/Buddha world/wherever
                          If I open a door for someone (a nice act), that may help make their day better and more likely to open the next door for someone else. Anger, too, will probably perpetuated. But, I've always wondered and hoped, although don't believe, that I will come back (whether rebirth, reincarnated, whatever). And yet, it seems useless or pointless to worry about something I cannot prove nor change. Whatever life I live now, whether I come back in some way or not, is what I have "now". Since "now" is the endless instant, I should live in that now for my sanity and not worry about what happens. If I live my life fully and well, I will become a better person for now and for the future. Of course, this is easy for me to say, and extremely difficult for me to do.

                          In the end, all I can say is . . . Ribbit

                          Sunshine

                          Comment

                          • Taigu
                            Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                            • Aug 2008
                            • 2710

                            #14
                            Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                            We love big daddies, big teachers gurus or super heroes. We treasure they promises, prophecies. We would like to believe in a better life, a better world for a transformed and better self. Hope. Don t we get all caught sometimes in its dazzling web? We often go from hope to despair and distress. The anger kicks in then. Well, you know really well how it works, don t you?

                            Why? If I may say, hope is as poisonous as fear. It is insane. It just takes us away from the taste as-it-is of each moment. As Jundo said, we don t mind about after life after death, we mind about life before death, life and death seen as one, now.
                            Life and death vanishing into this, just this.Dogen wrote a very beautiful chapter of Shobogenzo about it, Shoji, life and death and he says that there is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else. or Life-and-death is Buddha s life, which means that there is no need to seek anything else that what you are now. Shikantaza is the practice that gives up any hope, goal, Buddha-land, disney-land etc. In doing so, in being so, one just comes back home, instantly. Maybe there is a life after death. Just don t wait for it. We ll see in due time.

                            Now, can we also look at the way we kill our life, we slaughter people s joy, we bring death into this. The precept ' do not kill also means refrain from killing suchness.

                            Life after death? Just another toy. Like heaven or hell. Something we choose to play with. Something we are the only one to be able to drop.

                            Gassho

                            Taigu

                            Comment

                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39441

                              #15
                              Re: Split Thread: Afterlife/Rebirth

                              Originally posted by Sunshine
                              But, I've always wondered and hoped, although don't believe, that I will come back (whether rebirth, reincarnated, whatever).
                              It is worth mentioning that historically, the founder of this enterprise, Guatama Buddha, saw "coming back/rebirth" as a bad thing, this world to be escaped ... and the whole point of his teachings was to be free from the "cycle of rebirth". For example ...

                              "(In Nibbana) where neither the element of cohesion, nor the element of extension, nor the element of heat, nor the element of motion has any footing, there the cycle of rebirth is halted; there the round of dukkha stops; there mental and physical phenomena cease without any remainder. (Sara Sutta)
                              Or, at least, that is how his message came to be interpreted ...

                              In the later Mahayana, and especially in the Zen teachings, "freedom from rebirth" came to be tasted as something which can occur even right amid birth and death ... nirvana (nibbana) is samsara, samsara precisely nirvana. When viewed in this way, "birth and death" are originally free of "birth and death" ... and birth is birthless death, death just deathless birth.

                              Personally, I could use another go around ... although I will first focus on this "go 'round" right before me, here and now. And if there is no other go around, I will still focus on this "go around" right before me, here and now. As Taigu reminded us, "there is no need to seek anything else than what you are now."

                              Gassho, Jundo

                              PS- And (not to put in requests or demands on the universe, as if asking for an aisle seat on a long flight) it would not be a bad thing if, on any future go 'round, I could taste there too that nirvana (nibbana) is samsara, samsara precisely nirvana ... and, anyway, What samsara? ... and all the other truths of the Buddha's teachings. It just makes for such a nicer way to spend samsara. All we can do is hope for the best. :wink:
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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