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  • Rebirth

    Hi All
    I`ve just recently found the joy of the buddha`s teaching so i hope its not a silly question.
    I am wondering if rebirth is constricted by location, say for example could i be reborn on a distant inhabited planet, or is my kammic energy bound to where and by whom it was created?
    Thanks for any help

  • #2
    Dear Mattew,
    I'll tell you what I'd heard, but this thread should really be in the Ask a Monastic section.
    As far as I understand, Rebirth is determined by your actions or Karma, you decide what plane of existence you wish to be reborn into based off of how you act. There are 31 separate planes of existence ranging from Niraya (or Hell) to the realm of Arupas (A formless state of consciousness) broken into 4 categories Arupa-Loka, Rupa-Loka, Kama-Loka, and Apaya. Something to keep in mind is that all of these states are temporary (except Arupas, correct me?) and you will be reborn on another plane according to all of your Karma. Based on this I don't believe that locations are not really a factor on any level. Some meditators, enlightened beings and bodhisattvas have said that they have power over when their body dies and know what plane they will arrive in next, some choose to come back and be reborn as human beings so as to continue teaching, such as the Dalai Lama.

    Don't quote what I've said above, this is coming from a collection of stories and teachings I've retained, and can barely claim to have scratched the surface of a deep topic. Not to mention it is a matter of debate between the schools of Buddhism. For example Mahayana Pure Land teachings as compared to Theravada or Vajrayana, so who you ask will yield different explanations. The best way to deal with this topic is to 'go with your gut', if it doesn't sit right, don't pursue it, Karma is going to whisk you away regardless of what you school you follow.

    With Metta,


    • #3
      Thanks Dan, Ill look into these 31 planes of existence.
      Its funny, kinda like dimensions in science lingo.The more i learn the more I`m surprised at how close these teachings are to the latest theoretical science.
      The buddha really was a great man and it excites me to know that each one of us is capable of this knowledge.
      With Metta


      • #4
        What a coincidence I just watched this video on reincarnation before checking this Dhammaloka forum:

        I remember a Buddha teaching that no one you've met in this lifetime is a total stranger. they are either your family or friend or acquaintance, etc in your previous existences. So, based on this single statement, I would say that it's highly unlikely that you will be reborn in a world where you know no one. Then, again, it depends on your kamma.

        Ajahn Brahm gave an easy simile. He said that it was like buying a ticket to another country. If you want to go to, say, the Bahamas and have enough money to buy the ticket, you'll get the ticket. If you want to but don't have enough money, you won't get the ticket. and lastly, if you have enough money but have no desire to go there, you will not be there. so, your next existence depends on your accumulated kamma as well as your desires.

        Many people I know prefer to go to heaven to enjoy a pleasurable existence after this life than to get a rebirth that is nearer to the Path.

        Mega metta,

        Last edited by Dheerayupa Sukonthapanthu; 18th-August-2013, 11:53 AM. Reason: add info


        • #5
          A friend told me of a nephew. When he was very young, living in the northeast of Thailand in a not so rich family, he would complain to his parents every time they sat down for dinner that he wanted to use 'knife and fork' and wanted to eat 'steak'. His parents ridiculed him by saying that they had only 'machete' and he should be contented eating the 'preserved fish'. (Note: they ate with their hand and the preserved fish is what Ajahn Brahm always calls 'rotten fish', a common food in the northeast.)

          This boy claimed that he was an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam war (which means that he would have been stationed in the northeast of Thailand), but no one in the family paid any attention to his nonsense.


          • #6
            Hi Matthew, welcome

            In my understanding of rebirth; you'd have an easier time figuring out where the end of the universe is than deciphering what your next life will be. Without becoming enlightened it's counter-productive and might even drive you crazy. Insofar as enlightened beings deciding to be reborn as this or that; that is pretty, in my understanding, against what the Buddha taught. If one is fully enlightened, one is done with the round of rebirth, death and all in between...nibbana.

            It's very common in my experience that many people are very interested in rebirth as they wonder what will happen to them when they die. It reminds me of when I went to flight school. Before I knew how to get the plane off the ground and into the air, I already wanted to know how to do barrel rolls and skids like in Top Gun.

            I know you didn't ask for this advice, but I would warn that there are many many more productive and worthwhile things to learn about before rebirth. And again, in my experience, one won't understand rebirth before understanding other things like kamma and dependent origination. I apologize if this is a letdown, but I feel it's extremely important for you to be aware of these things. Again, welcome and be well.


            • #7
              Aloha Matthew,

              Welcome! Indeed the Buddha was the greatest being that lived in our universe. "Sugato lokavidu" - knower of all worlds, the Buddha was.

              The question you're asking is not a silly one at all. As stated by Dan, there are many planes of existence one can be reborn into the lowest ones being the animal (beasts), peta(hungry ghosts), and hellish planes. If one enjoys samsara then should aim for the higher planes of existence (humans and the succeeding deva planes). You can google 31 planes and see being lives in each plane. I also would like to add that one can practice the Dhamma in the higher planes provided one has let go enough during her/his birth as human - these beings are called non-returners.

              I heard the same thing as Dheerayupa from Ajahn Brahm that beings are born usually to somewhere they are familiar with. He explained that family members are not total strangers to us, especially children, because beings generally want to be reborn somewhere they will have a nice life where they can be cared for. To me it only makes sense that the people who are close to us have connections to us in a previous existence.

              Lastly as stated by everyone above, rebirth involves one's ripening of kamma (from this current life or previous ones). One just doesn't know where or when one can be reborn as existence is annica - unreliable, dukkha - suffering, and anatta - non-intrinsic. I mentioned the 3 marks of existence because we just don't really know when the fruits of the unwholesome kammas from the past will show up.

              May you continue investigating and continue treading the path.

              with anjali and metta,


              • #8
                Yep i think your right Jerrod more study is in order.
                James I`m glad you mention "If one enjoys samsara then should aim for the higher planes of existence (humans and the succeeding deva planes)".I have noticed the longer i follow the path the happier i am becoming and wondered if i will still want to reach nibbana as time goes on.
                Thanks Dheerayupa it really makes me feel good hearing from friends, I find it quite awkward with a lot of people i hope we can follow the path together.
                With Metta


                • #9
                  Perhaps those gullible enough to believe in rebirth and those skeptical enough to view it as an unfounded speculation it go to the same place, which resolves the question by removing the questioner.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alex Rogolsky View Post
                    Perhaps those gullible enough to believe in rebirth and those skeptical enough to view it as an unfounded speculation it go to the same place, which resolves the question by removing the questioner.
                    You're correct that there is nothing but faith to make one believe. Though there is a foundation for knowing. What is the foundation for skepticism? Are those foundations beneficial to the skeptic in the long term? Some may even say that skepticism takes a certain gullibility, or at least degree of ignorance. But in the end, again, rebirth isn't the most important thing in the world to worry about or even ponder, IMO.


                    • #11
                      Jerrod -

                      There are any number of things that aren't true, but that it would be beneficial to believe, if one could force one's mind to believe them. It might be beneficial for someone to believe that there is a diamond the size of a football buried in his back yard, and that one day he'll find it. The believer might be more optimistic than if he didn't believe in the diamond, and his family and friends could even strengthen their bonds of family and community by helping to dig for it. This is the concept illustrated in Plato's Noble Lie.

                      However, I don't consider the belief in Reincarnation/Rebirth to be wholly benign, as I commented in the earlier string "The Social Consequences of a Belief in Rebirth."

                      The utility of skepticism is that it encourages questioning the authority of claims about reality so that one doesn't blindly accept them as true. It's necessary in distinguishing speculations from facts. Most (if not all) organized religions are mechanisms for transforming speculations into dogmas, and then discouraging further speculation.
                      Last edited by Alex Rogolsky; 28th-August-2013, 12:05 AM. Reason: syntax


                      • #12
                        -guess i'm in a philosophical mood so let's share some of the thinking-

                        there are different views about afterlife but like jerrod i don't see how uncertainty about rebirth really matters within the certainty of a current life because even if there would be nothing after death then you're not going to complain about that, in fact you would not even find out the truth about that subject so why worry?

                        regardless of an afterlife you do have your current life and whatever religion or lack of religion might play it's part for you it's in your best interest to make the most out of it ... how and what that best interest is that's where a lot of controversy, blaming and suffering originates from.


                        • #13
                          Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu Stefan


                          • #14
                            It's interesting that on the one hand, many Buddhists say that a belief in Reincarnation/Rebirth is central to Buddhism (including some monks who've made Youtube videos preaching that dogma), while on the other, when R&R is questioned, the response is often either "you have to be really advanced to comprehend it" or "it doesn't really matter."

                            Both evasions run counter to the intellectually inquisitive spirit of Buddhism, and obstruct its evolution.

                            I propose that the beliefs in Karma and R&R might not be essential to Buddhism. It might be enough to admit that we do not know what happens after death, but that there are any number of interesting speculations about it. We do not need to base a system of ethics or a belief in ultimate justice on any kind of divine or universal carrot and stick formulation, especially since the need for such systems, and possibly also our identification as discrete, vulnerable individuals rather than temporary manifestations, reflect our own attachment-based fears and desires.

                            The dramatic increase in average longevity, improvements in education, advances in science, etc. means that humans will eventually find it harder to swallow fairy tales that ignorant, illiterate 15 and 20 year-olds called religions for several thousand years. For any belief system to survive, it'll have to discard its superfluous and ridiculous doctrines.


                            • #15
                              As far as I remember, Buddha said in a Sutta, that nobody can be certain what happens after death, because never anybody came back to report.

                              He says he remembers past lives, but doesn't demand anybody has to "believe" it.
                              He rather demands, not to "believe", but to find out.
                              As time goes by, each and everyone of us here, discussing it, will find out. How about some patience. If there is one thing for sure, than it is, that we ALL will get there. We all will die. Each of us will find out. And science won't be able to prove whatever we find out. Just like science can't prove any personal perception.

                              If one says.. "oh, but than it might be too late", Buddha suggests that it is possible to live a live as if there was future lifes. ("noble lie?")
                              That means not believing in a lie, but it means, assuming, that it could be true or not be true. Science sadly has no answer for that. Meaning: science leaves it to that: it could be true or not be true.
                              Science can not prove, that there is NO stream of consciousness... as far as I know. Please, Alex, tell me if I am wrong here.
                              Also, living according to the Dhamma has good, wholesome effects in THIS very life if you try it out. That is also not scientifically proven, but everybody can experimentally experience it.

                              He also refused to speculate about it and said... ( very rightly, when I watch these "life after death discussions here), that speculating about it only drives one mad.

                              In the Digha Nikaya, first Sutta he says some clear words about the believes around "perception after death".

                              In Wikipedia is a nice article about it:

                              In science proves count as scientifically proven (hence "truth"???) until the opposite of it gets proven and I guess, that happened relatively often.... A nice example would be the light-wave-particle discussion.
                              So: science also could not give you that absolute certainty. Even IF it could prove whatever it proves.

                              Up to now, there is a LOT happening everyday in our lives, that science can not explain, prove or prove as false. As we all know?

                              So: that science can not prove or explain something does not mean it does not exist.

                              And it does not mean that it does not exist.

                              So: which sense is in all that speculating apart from getting all exited about our clever use of logic and words. There won't be any result at the end.

                              Just wait a bit. Time is passing ... unscientifically fast or slow... we all will die.