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Where to draw the line for beings being reborn

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  • #16
    Hi Stuart

    You can also see what you describe with bacteria occuring with chemical reactions. Perhaps it is our interpretation of the event that matters.

    I wonder whether the karmic effect depends on what in our minds is "alive", whether or not it is "really" alive. The Buddha did say karma is intention. So perhaps if you consider bacteria to be sentient beings and kill them you have a karmic consequence but not otherwise.
    Last edited by Michael Rodgers; 2nd-October-2013, 02:35 AM.

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    • #17
      Thanks Scott.

      Yes, Dheerayupa, that's how I've always interpreted it in the past too, but I do wonder ...

      Michael, I agree - and it fits in with my theory that "wherever we perceive dukkha - that's a sentient being". After all from a physical point of view we are all just a big bag of chemicals ...

      Stuart
      xxx

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      • #18
        I would think that a being must possess all 5 aggregates to be considered conscious for the sake of making kamma. For example, a person born severely mentally disabled really can't make kamma one way or another. Though a goodly portion of past non-beneficial kamma could be used up with a birth like this leaving subsequent beings in a much better state of birth. Imagine the amounts of "good" kamma they facilitate for others in needing constant care their entire lives.

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        • #19
          Hi Jerrod.

          I find myself a bit wobbly in this area, so I was wondering if you could clarify a few things.

          My understanding is that the five aggregates are just different aspects of the same thing. So, for example, the desk in front of me is 'brown' and 'wooden' and those two qualities are inseparable; in the same way a being has 'form', 'feeling', 'perceptions', 'volitional formations' and 'consciousness' and all of those are just different views on the same thing and they are again, inseparable from one another. Is that your understanding too?

          Secondly, when we talk about kamma, my understanding is that we are just viewing the being (usually ourselves) from the perspective of the 4th aggregate (volitional formations), and when we talk about vipaka we are then viewing the being from perspective of the 5th aggregate (consciousness). How do you see it?

          And thirdly, when we talk about rebirth, it depends on where the being is being reborn. My understanding is that everything that arises is 'born' into consciousness. For example, I cannot say if you possess all five aggregates, I can only know that about myself. I can certainly say that (my version of) you is reborn into my consciousness when I pay attention to you, and that mental version of you will contain certain assumptions about you, such as the number of aggregates you posses, but I can't know for sure. For all I know, you might be some piece of software developed by Bo and maintained by PJ

          So the question is, in the nicest possible way, what makes you so different from a bacteria from my perspective?

          Stuart
          xxx

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          • #20
            I don't know about the five aggregates, a person born with severe mental disability is still a sentient being in all respect. Also I want to point out that there are a number of plants who respond to stimuli ...that doesn't necessarily make them sentient beings.

            Metta,
            Daniel

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Daniel Ionita View Post
              ...there are a number of plants who respond to stimuli ...that doesn't necessarily make them sentient beings.
              well as someone who's studying bio-engineering i experience that it's getting harder and harder for me to make a distinction between 'mechanics' and 'life', at least from a rational point of view. as you point out there are indeed plants who 'respond' to stimuli and they even 'respond' differently under different circumstances with different sorts of hormonal action but on the other hand this 'reaction' can also be seen as nothing more than a chain of causal effects, a part of -a nevertheless spectacular- evolution.
              but... this sort of reasoning also works from the other direction: although these processes look more complicated science is gradually discovering how people 'operate' in similar ways at such basic molecular levels, like some sort of self-repairing biochemical robots if you will.
              so whether there's a hard distinction between some level of 'sentience' amongst different life forms might not be that clear-cut as most would like to believe it is.

              i do notice something which is very important for me personally however: whenever i come into contact with 'life' it just looks and feels very 'alive' to me, despite of those underlying mechanics which also have to be an integral part of the bigger whole called 'life'.

              with metta,
              Stefan

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Stuart Corner View Post
                Hi Jerrod.
                So the question is, in the nicest possible way, what makes you so different from a bacteria from my perspective?

                Stuart
                xxx
                What makes me different from a bacterium? Bo didn't develop the bacteria and PJ doesn't maintain them. LOL. I didn't comment on bacteria so I don't presently have any noteworthy thoughts on them. But I would think a being not possessing volition could not make kamma, as the Buddha taught it, because there is no intent to do or not do anything. Without intent, or even ignorance/heedlessness (replacing intent as a volitional object itself) how can one make kamma that bears vipakka as the Buddha taught it? The bacteria, as we know them, only react as programmed by whatever means (DNA?) and experience that they adapt to. So far as we know, and given your own brief descriptions above, they have no choice to ignore their programmed reactions. Human beings with all their faculties intact (5 aggregates) do. This leads us to the beings born with severe mental disability. Perhaps we would like to believe in our hearts that they are every bit as functional as the average human being, but are they truly? Sentience is not just simple bodily functions by definition. Sentience involves that capacity to respond to stimuli and the capacity to make a choice regarding which reactions to commit to.

                http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient

                I have seen human beings that definitely seem, and in all likelihood do, lack the faculties to qualify as sentient. Can a catatonic person make kamma? A fully immersed coma patient? Surely thoughts may arise in some cases that are kammic formations, but we can't know for certain even with constant brain scans what those thoughts are. At least not yet.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Daniel Ionita View Post
                  I don't know about the five aggregates, a person born with severe mental disability is still a sentient being in all respect. Also I want to point out that there are a number of plants who respond to stimuli ...that doesn't necessarily make them sentient beings.

                  Metta,
                  Daniel
                  Daniel, anyone whose ever worked with or socialized with someone who has an intellectual disability knows they are sentient beings. They're not just passively responding to stimuli.

                  For everyone else:
                  In regards to the conceptual reduction of the human being to the physiological and biological processes, we currently have over tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of genes in our factical bodies at this time. Does that mean we all have a severe case of multiple personality disorder?

                  I'm not sure what the guidelines are for the new subsection is but it's obvious this topic has morphed into a discussion about phenomenology vs. epiphenomenology. In other words, a first-hand description of consciousness vs. an objectivist depiction of consciousness. As Edmund Husserl said, "consciousness is always conscious of something." And Daniel Dennett who basically said, "consciousness tricked itself into becoming conscious." The effect being that Dennett rationalized our first-hand experience of existence with a third-person ontology, while Husserl reinforced our experience of existence as the cornerstone for cosmic awareness with an ontology of noetic ideas.

                  Perhaps a new topic, titled "phenomenology vs. epiphenomenology", would give people a place to carry out this discussion and get to the root of the problem; however, I think because people are unfamiliar with these terms and phrases, they might dismiss it as elitist or intellectual. So, I want to ask people participating in this forum, would you be willing to nurture a new lexicon if it helped further your understanding of these issues?

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                  • #24
                    Rocky,

                    I think the past few posts are still well within the topic of the thread, but you are more than welcome of course to start a new thread if you feel it's really going to get away from the intent of the OP here. As for me, I think my days as an active participant in most of these discussions is drawing quickly to a close so I'm out on the new thread, though I suppose I have to read it anyway . Might be better placed in the Papancha Lounge section though. Now back to our regularly scheduled thread...............

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Rocky Roberts View Post
                      Daniel, anyone whose ever worked with or socialized with someone who has an intellectual disability knows they are sentient beings. They're not just passively responding to stimuli.
                      Rocky,

                      My mother took care of a young woman for 13 years who was catatonic. I saw her on occasions too numerous to remember. She never struck me as sentient. She did nothing except breathe on her own. She was fed by IV and all the rest. She didn't respond to any stimuli that I ever saw. Sad as the story is, I don't think that is sentience. I have to admit that it brings up some questions about the ramifications of killing or harming such a being as the dhamma is concerned. If a being is not sentient, then are there kammic consequences for killing or harming him/her? The answers to that would be a whole new thread.

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                      • #26
                        Jerrod,

                        I saw her on occasions too numerous to remember. She never struck me as sentient. She did nothing except breathe on her own. She was fed by IV and all the rest. She didn't respond to any stimuli that I ever saw.
                        You may say the same for coma patients, but on rare occasions people come out of decently long comas. On another note the ability to make kamma is not a definitive indicator of sentience ... one is still sentient in hell, as a preta etc. , but one is able to make kamma in such situations.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Jerrod Lopes View Post
                          Rocky,

                          I think the past few posts are still well within the topic of the thread, but you are more than welcome of course to start a new thread if you feel it's really going to get away from the intent of the OP here. As for me, I think my days as an active participant in most of these discussions is drawing quickly to a close so I'm out on the new thread, though I suppose I have to read it anyway . Might be better placed in the Papancha Lounge section though. Now back to our regularly scheduled thread...............
                          How so? You'd really have to do a lot of back flips to say the most recent discussion about 'materialism' directly relates to the original question in the OP. As I said, I know I can start a new thread, but I'd rather not waste my time if people are going to be put off by it in some way. That's why I asked the question. As with most places, here on the forum might makes right and I'd feel a lot better staying away from any petty forum politics. Not to mention the personal insults that usually culminate when people start discussing old topics in a more nuanced way.

                          My mother took care of a young woman for 13 years who was catatonic.
                          Catatonic individuals are not people with intellectual disabilities. The example I used specifically addressed the sub-topic of people with intellectual disabilities (as we used to call it 'mental retardation'). I do believe there are instances where a person's brain has suffered beyond repair and there is no longer an adequate means through which consciousness can become fully alive. But that's not the same thing as mental retardation.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Daniel Ionita View Post
                            Jerrod,



                            You may say the same for coma patients, but on rare occasions people come out of decently long comas. On another note the ability to make kamma is not a definitive indicator of sentience ... one is still sentient in hell, as a preta etc. , but one is able to make kamma in such situations.
                            Daniel,

                            You've missed the point I was making. The point is that without making kamma, what rebirth is there? Since we're talking about beings being reborn and where we draw the line at which beings do, I think it relevant. I don't think that a catatonic being can necessarily realize Nibbana just because of the state they're in; but it seems likely that such a life will play out a whole lot of past "negative kamma" despite it not being quite enough to cease the cycle of samsara altogether. It's not only a lack of volition, but also the lack of physical ability to create any untoward kammas.
                            Last edited by Jerrod Lopes; 4th-October-2013, 03:02 AM. Reason: clarification of syntax

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