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Where to draw the line for beings being reborn

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  • Where to draw the line for beings being reborn

    Ive heard Ajahn Brahm say that bacteria don`t get reborn.Where do we draw the line? Is a bacteria conscious? I would think if it were it would be reborn?
    Ive been wondering for a while because i don`t know much about microbiology.
    Matt

  • #2
    Originally posted by Matthew Hebb View Post
    Is a bacteria conscious?
    I think it is conscious, because it demonstrates all the qualities of being alive. Biologically speaking, living things demonstrate the following characteristics:

    -an organized structure, being made up of a cell or cells
    -requires energy to survive or sustain existence
    -ability to reproduce
    -ability to grow
    -ability to metabolize
    -ability to respond to stimuli
    -ability to adapt to the environment
    -ability to move
    -ability to respire

    and bacteria demonstrates all of these qualities.

    If we look on viruses, however, they demonstrate only some of the characteristics. They don't have cells, for example, and they can not metabolize, but they can penetrate the host cells and utilize the facilities of the host in order to reproduce. It is interesting that some bacteria have the same limitations, but they still are considered to be alive.

    I think if we want to understand what the life is, we should learn much more what's happening in the frontier of the simplest form of life - bacteria and viruses. "Something" important takes place there that then grows in complexity, starts adapting to the environment, multiplying and producing the broad spectrum of all life forms that we observe today.

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    • #3
      Bacteria are certainly 'alive' like ara indicated and 'conscious'

      according to Cambridge dictionary
      "conscious
      adjective (NOTICING)
      /ˈkɒn.ʃəs/ US /ˈkɑːn-/
      be conscious of sth/sb B2 to notice that a particular thing or person exists or is present: "

      because they respond to stimuli they're 'conscious', they apparently display fight or flight reactions for example and respond to environmental conditions. however i don't think humans can have a clue how bacteria experience the world. it's a very different sort of existence they live.

      as for rebirth: buddhism was invented in a time before anyone could imagine such forms of life and the 'buddhist karma criteria' are definitely human so bacteria obviously won't qualify for such a set of rules and that's why such negative responses are destined to be formed ... however i don't see any objective reasons why and how such a distinction would be made between life forms if naturalistic laws would cause such a phenomenon.

      the whole question is a bit futile however because humans are rarely 'consciously communicating' with bacteria -err outside laboratoria? -, even when from the perspective of some bacteria a human can be their whole universe and even while we are dependent on them for our own survival

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      • #4
        Matthew,

        Can you provide us with a link to a video or audio track where Ajahn Brahm said this about bacteria? Or did you hear it during a live talk you attended? Please clarify your claim before this thread gets much further on. Thanks.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Stefan Van Cappellen View Post
          as for rebirth: buddhism was invented in a time before anyone could imagine such forms of life
          Stefan,

          There's good evidence that Homo sapiens neanderthalensis was aware of the existence of bacteria/microbes. They (neanderthals) were around quite a while before the Buddha.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jerrod Lopes View Post
            Stefan,

            There's good evidence that Homo sapiens neanderthalensis was aware of the existence of bacteria/microbes. They (neanderthals) were around quite a while before the Buddha.
            really? hm well it's not that hard to imagine that neantherthals were aware about such life forms because they were much closer to nature than later generations of 'people' and although bacteria are microscopic the big colonies can be visible to the naked eye and sometimes also by their effect.
            but i'm curious about this 'good evidence', can you explain which evidence was found?

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            • #7
              There's a sutta (can't recall its name, sorry) where the Buddha speaks of the "worms" that make the human body their home. The word he used is probably better translated "bacteria".

              An interesting idea, that one might be reborn as a bacterium. I, too, would like to know where the line is drawn and why.

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              • #8
                Stefan,

                There's at least one dig where bandages and the residuals of poultices were discovered along with the means to make them. I think there were several but I can only say one for sure and I don't remember where. I want to say Israel. There was bone fossil evidence of successful major surgeries with evidence of medicinal herbs used as anti-bitoics. Again, If forget the dig and don't have time presently to look it up again. Maybe sometime soon when I don't have to be on my way to work I'll give it a look and post the site(s) and date(s). I know I'm missing a bit but wanted to get back to you with something so as not to seem to be ignoring your inquiry. Be well.

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                • #9
                  When the Buddha said worms, he probably meant worms, as there are a number of worm-parasitic infections that occur in India (and other countries). Schistosamiasis, Ascariasis, Tapeworm etc. Some of these would come out in the faces, or be seen burrowing through the skin.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jerrod Lopes View Post
                    Matthew,

                    Can you provide us with a link to a video or audio track where Ajahn Brahm said this about bacteria? Or did you hear it during a live talk you attended? Please clarify your claim before this thread gets much further on. Thanks.
                    Yep Ill find it.
                    It was a downloaded talk.He didn`t go into it and i don`t think it was the topic just a reply to a question.
                    Could take a bit tho i listen while at work so i dont really differentiate one talk from another.
                    With Metta

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Michael Rodgers View Post
                      When the Buddha said worms, he probably meant worms, as there are a number of worm-parasitic infections that occur in India (and other countries). Schistosamiasis, Ascariasis, Tapeworm etc. Some of these would come out in the faces, or be seen burrowing through the skin.
                      That's true. I'd forgotten about such things. Although, of course, there are also millions of bacteria also living within all of us. Anyway, the question about bacteria remains an open one. And for that matter, a similar question about tapeworms etc. I'd be most interested to her the Ajahn Brahm talk.

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                      • #12
                        I remember listening to a talk in which Ajahn Brahm said that it was ok to kill bacteria as the Buddha meant living beings that our naked eyes could see. Ajahn mentioned this as a response to a question on whether it violates the first precept if we take antibiotics.

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                        • #13
                          To me this is a specific case of the question: 'How do we recognise a sentient being?' - my answer for that one is: "wherever we perceive dukkha - that's a sentient being".

                          In the case of some bacteria (e-coli), I note that we can perceive e-coli moving from a high concentration of irritant to a low concentration of irritant (by chemorepulsion), so this suggests that maybe there is a level of 'suffering' involved. Anthropomorphically I call this 'running away'

                          Further I note that e-coli show signs of 'remembering' an irritant - i.e. when they are introduced to the same irritant as last time, but this time at a lower concentration than that which caused the chemorepulsion the first time, they still 'run away' - so I would anthropomorphically suggest that they are now 'afraid' of the irritant.

                          Can't find the scientific paper references for this, sorry.

                          I'm not sure if any of that means that bacteria are reborn or not, or if they are conscious or not, but it does justify me sending them all metta

                          Now I think about it, the Karaniya Metta Sutta talks about beings "visible or invisible".

                          I would still use antibiotics, though.

                          Stuart
                          xxx

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                          • #14
                            Hello all,

                            I seem to have a vague recollection of a sutta reference about a monk that stepped on a bug while performing walking meditation, who was not admonished by the Buddha because he had no intention of killing it. Harmful Bacteria and viruses are being constantly destroyed by our immune systems. Even if we assume that they reborn, then the majority of the time we have no intention of killing them and so we shouldn't feel guilty about it. I admit though it would be nice to know for certain from a combination of talks and/or sutta references.

                            I just also wanted to add:

                            On the subject of viruses, I just wanted to share that there are amazing discoveries being made of giant viruses! (http://www.the-scientist.com/?articl...Break-Records/) if anyone is interested in reading it.

                            Jerrod: Thanks for sharing about the Neanderthals - I haven't kept up with much to do with the Homo lineage since high school. They may not have necessarily known that bacteria themselves exist but the means to keep them away suggests some understanding of disease which is very interesting.

                            Stuart: I found one of the original paper references here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?...icting+Stimuli for anyone else interested in reading about it the process is called chemotaxis .

                            Scott

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                            • #15
                              Dear Stuart,

                              In the metta sutta, the words 'the unseen' refers to beings in other realms that our naked eyes cannot see as they do not have physical forms according to our standard.

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