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Buddhism Without Reincarnation/Rebirth - A Thought Experiment

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  • I would agree with those teachers that rebirth is an important teaching central to Buddhism. You also have to remember that few schools of Buddhism view rebirth even remotely similarly. You cannot take Buddhism as an umbrella label to describe all things that claim to follow the Buddha and mix and match views seamlessly. Going solely by my own experience I would also say, as have many times, that rebirth is not a subject for most beginners on this path. I would go so far as to suggest that perhaps it cannot be understood correctly or well by one without the intent to practice because it is a teaching integral to the path and not something easily understood, if at all, without a certain foundation of experiential knowledge being firmly in place. You can't hold water in a bucket made of fire.

    In my experience, knowledge of rebirth is important, but not for the reasons I think it is important for you. Rebirth, in my experience, is an impetus to act NOW,in this life. It is not something to strive for, fortunate or otherwise. The idea of being reborn, for me, is not a peaceful reassurance. It simply means I did not fulfill this path to the ultimate conclusion. Out of my sense of self, I desire to conclude this path now, in this life. Yet compassion does come in for the beings I may give rise to, for I hope very much that if I should fail again on this path in tis life, my hope is that those subsequent beings will experience it in theirs. Or at the very least, I hope that each subsequent being has a more fruitful and better life than each of those before.

    I will go out on a limb here, because in my limited understanding of things I think it is beneficial to say, that if a being practicing the path the Buddha set out to follow that path and believes that rebirth, fortunate or otherwise, is an attainment to strive for; that one is mistaken in their aims and understanding of the purpose of the path and the place rebirth has in it.

    Be well


    • What about wishing for a rebirth in a realm with less distractions, where Buddhism is widely spread, accepted and better kept, being born with a mind more conductive to good meditation all leading to better progress on the path?

      "I desire to conclude this path now, in this life"
      I don't think you can rush enlightment

      " Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch; in the same way this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch"


      • All people are at different points on the path Daniel. I like to try and only speak from my experience and views. My view, for my travel of the path is that there is no rushing nor delaying enlightenment. It is there waiting to be accepted. Very little, in my view, needs to be done to accept it except for the absolute dedication to the acceptance of truth as it is. Rebirth in any realm, for me specifically, holds little intrigue or promise. There's nothing better in the next that can't be cultivated here. Just my view, for me.

        Be well friends


        • Fair enough. Be well Jerrod


          • Regrets for not responding sooner. I've been suffering the bureaucratic torments of Health Insurance Hell.

            A few light and breezy thoughts related to the question of rebirth:

            The complex of attachments that we simplistically call the "self" is far deeper and more powerful than we can possibly realize. It's roots are far older than human culture, or even our existence as mammals or vertebrates; their origin goes back to the beginning of sentience itself -single-celled organisms billions of years ago. Hence it's tied to the most basic and primal interpretations of and reactions to experiences - pain and fear, and the desire to lessen them. The "self" is indistinguishable from our concept of consciousness, because each individual is bound to a self, and when the self defines consciousness, it necessarily defines it as a characteristic of an experiencing entity. Even when it speculates that consciousness may be collective or not tied to the body, there is an assumption of some kind of unity which binds it together, such as a continuity.

            If we assume that this complex of attachments that we call the self is illusory, then it follows that the self's interpretation of consciousness is also fundamentally delusional. Therefore when we speculate that there is some form of continuity of the self's conception of consciousness after the death of the physical body, we are simply expressing the illusory self's desire for continuation.

            The self abhors non-existence. Its tentacles have evolved with the evolution of species, and it has become increasingly more complicated and refined over the eons. Yet it is the elimination of the self-bound consciousness upon the death of an individual's physical body that eliminates the evaluator and recorder of whatever happens to an individual ("experience") as negative or positive, as painful or pleasurable. What is defined as pleasurable are those experiences which support and sustain the self, the function of which is to fearfully avoid experiences which it interprets as painful or destructive to the self. However, this is not to say that an individual with a highly developed self cannot act in a manner which seems self-destructive at a more primitive level, because his potential for reinterpretation and redefinition are greater.

            So what ceases to exist when we die is the self, which evaluates experience as either painful or tending toward a lessening of pain - in fact, the possibility of feeling pain at all. And with that, both the self and the self's conception of consciousness dissolve and dissipate like the ending of a bad dream.



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