No announcement yet.

Buddhism Without Reincarnation/Rebirth - A Thought Experiment

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Are you theorizing that morality may be relative?


    • Daniel - I'm speculating that it might be based on delusion, whether one thinks of it as relative or absolute.


      • This may start sounding like a moral nihilism perspective, which in "The definition of right view" in the "Sutta, Vinaya and Pali" comes out as being the worst kind of wrong view.


        • As I have no basis to demonstrate what happens after death I can't think of a basis to contest such a perspective. But I can only try to imagine a world where such a perspective would become accepted and people would try to rid themselves of the idea that morality has any implication in what is to follow, basing my imagination on what I might have chosen to do in some points in my life had I not been shackled by morality.


          • Daniel -

            That's a good point, related to the second question that I raised when resurrecting the topic but which we haven't touched on much - that of the utility of the Karma/Rebirth doctrine as a moral organizing principle, for both the individual and society.

            The first question was: "Could the a hope that "All will be well" survive the ejection of an Afterlife doctrine, such as Rebirth, and what possible forms might the manifestation of the hope take?"

            I intended to initially focus on the first question before dealing with its possible solutions' outward manifestations, because how this question might be resolved would determine the behavioral/societal consequences.


            • "What" would be well? Assuming that there is nothing but inexistence after death?

              What of the ones who had no chance to make a difference? Infants, children, the disabled (physically or mentally) etc.

              Everything falls to pieces ... world is unfair, morality is unimportant, there is this one and only life (take as much as you can from it), there is no direction to grow other than drowning yourself in the obviously ephemeral sensual pleasures of this world, your existence itself makes no sense, don't like it - just end it, why have kids? , why love or care for another? etc. etc.

              There is a causal chain in my rambling there: if you look around without afterlife in the perspective -> the world is definitely unfair -> morality makes no difference -> get as much as you can / ephemeral pleasure -> life is senseless -> existence is senseless

              I can't find a positive alternative perspective without a concept of afterlife, only chaos and the end of sense-making. Can you make sense of an afterlifeless existence?


              • One of the things making this subject survive in perpetuity is the mistaken view that rebirth is an afterlife doctrine. One will need to understand compassion a bit more fully before realizing the importance of rebirth. What happens after this life is not quite as important to the path of Buddhism as it is to many other trains of thought. The ultimate goal is not to acquire a comfy afterlife, but to live one of contentment now.

                Can a hope that all will be well survive the ejection of any afterlife doctrine? Absolutely. It's all a matter of perspective. What's the manifestation of hope? A more joyful outlook in general and less time during THIS life spent wondering what the next life will experience.


                • I would like to correct myself and say that the ultimate goal of this path is not a life of contentment now, but of course, it is Nibbana. Though a life of contentment could be an integral part of that goal. I still maintain that an afterlife is not a primary focus of the path. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused with this.


                  • To any non-buddhist, rebirth is a doctrine of what happens (or not) after this life ends (the only known life).

                    I still maintain that an afterlife is not a primary focus of the path.
                    Perhaps it's not the main focus, but if making sense of Buddhism is ones main concern before stepping onto the path, giving rebirth a chance as at least "probable" is crucial.


                    • I agree that without an Afterlife doctrine, the world seems broken, hopeless, and meaningless at first glance. I also think that if one could believe in such a doctrine sufficiently strongly to banish doubt to a tiny corner of one's mind such that it wouldn't result in significant inner conflict concerning one's world view, it might well result in a happier life.

                      Increasing one's understanding of compassion, which I take to mean trying to learn to be kinder and gentler to one's self and others, seems like a positive approach to me. Since this would include being gentler with one's thoughts, including doubts or admissions of ignorance about certain topics, I wonder whether there's a way to consider the question in a gentle manner that doesn't inspire fear or despair.

                      For instance, maybe one could hope that "All would be well" whether there is rebirth or not, because even if there isn't, there might be a silver lining to non-existence, which we can't know at the moment because we're incapable of understanding what non-existence means. Perhaps a kind of humility is the silver lining to admitting that one doesn't know what's going to happen after one dies, although one may maintain hope. Mysteries can make life interesting.


                      • Originally posted by Alex Rogolsky View Post
                        In a deterministic world of cause and effect, all of us, including Hitler and Gandhi, experience the same thing after the physical deaths of our bodies. The cessation of attachments includes the annihilation of our capacity to ethically evaluate actions and intentions.
                        This sent a chill down my spine.
                        Does this kind of thinking inspire you to do good and beautiful things in your life? What do you get out of this endless speculating business, does it really bring you some happiness?


                        • Alex, if you can be kind, compassionate and contempt while discarding rebirth than I respect that.

                          On my side, rebirth was a solution to my own inner conflict. I've always had a gut feeling that things had to be fair but I could not make sense of how the world would be fair in either non-existence after death or heaven/hell after death.


                          • Rudite -

                            Thank you for the question.

                            A tendency to speculate is either part of my nature or a consequence of my upbringing or culture. It's possible that I distrust and question authority more than most. The tendency does not bring me happiness, but I think that I'd be less happy if I tried to repress it. To some extent it's an expression of curiosity.


                            I, too, have a gut-feeling that in some way, the world is fair or that the end-result for all is a happy one. Maybe that in itself is sufficient because maybe we can't know the details, and all of the different versions of what happens next are just allegorical.

                            However, maybe it is necessary to wonder about and question the various versions expounded by the different religions, because they are important parts of the religions' world views and affect how those who accept them think and act. They have important consequences to both the individual and society. Also, to the extent that they are not convincing and are vulnerable to doubt, the inner and outer dynamics resulting from the alternation between faith and doubt also have consequences.


                            • If we understood everything, inside and out, and had true and direct knowledge of everything we wished; what would be the point to any of this? This all reminds me very much of the simile of the arrow where the man, shot and pierced by an arrow demands of the physician treating him to first know who shot him, with what kind of bow, what kind of arrow, what material the arrowhead is made of. Is the tip forged or ground? What was the archer's intent when shooting? This speculation is pointless in that there can never be an answer except upon death. Even in death the mind will tell stories and lie unless it is pure and liberated at death. There is no satisfactory answer we can give.


                              • I agree with the view that meditating and cultivating compassion are more important parts of Buddhism than the particulars of what one chooses to believe happens after death, as long as one's version of it offers sufficient hope. As John Lennon said: "Whatever gets you through the night..."

                                However, in order for it offer sufficient hope, doesn't such an idea have to be sufficiently convincing? I've seen a number of videos of monks claiming that R/R is an essential teaching of Buddhism, and while I question that claim, I don't question the idea that what one believes (or chooses to try to believe) happens after death is often an important cause of hope or despair (or both), and can be at the center of one's world view and a powerful motivator of action.

                                It may be enough for a hope to be sufficiently ambiguous that it functions because it is "insufficiently unconvincing" to be dispelled (like "All will be well"). Maybe many people maintain such a hope, and then pay lip-service to whatever more detailed and specific Afterlife version is prevalent in their community. But if that's so, then why can't a community of such individuals be honest about it, rather than making less believable claims?



                                Debug Information