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Rebirth is not reincarnation. How then does the karma of an individual affect their rebirth?

In reincarnation, an individual's karma results in a better or worse next life for their soul. But in rebirth, there is no soul. So why should we care about our karma regarding our rebirth?

  • I'm not sure I understand how these two sentences are related. Can you elaborate? – yuttadhammo Jun 18 '14 at 17:51
  • In reincarnation, an individual's karma results in a better or worse next life for their soul. But in rebirth, there is no soul. So why should we care about our karma regarding our rebirth? – user50 Jun 18 '14 at 17:57
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    Can you update your question so people will be better equipped to answer? – yuttadhammo Jun 18 '14 at 18:05
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    Thanks for the update :) Why should we care about karma at all? We change from one moment to the next, so really we're born every moment, yet it obviously changes us from moment to moment. – yuttadhammo Jun 18 '14 at 18:20
  • @Yuttadhammo I agree but I'm still pondering anatta, karma and rebirth. :-) – user50 Jun 18 '14 at 18:22
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In reincarnation, an individual's karma results in a better or worse next life for their soul. But in rebirth, there is no soul. So why should we care about our karma regarding our rebirth?

There is no Soul, but still there is consciousness. All suffering we are experiencing now (in this life) is caused by past unwholesome deeds. So why cause suffering for future life? Yes, that person will not know about us, but still his consciousness will be in our stream of consciousness, related to ours, and even though we will not know why, we will suffer (or enjoy fruits of wholesome deeds).

Different argument. Basically, consciousness in our current life is as changing as between the lives. So, from this point of view, there is no difference when to suffer (or enjoy) - in the future of this or next life. If you don't want to suffer in this life why would you cause suffering in the next?

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But in rebirth, there is no soul

The Buddha didn't say there was no soul.

The problem with saying there is a self or there is "no self" requires a view which the Buddha said was incompatible with the practice:

... a certain monk said to the Blessed One: "Which birth, lord? And whose is this birth?"

"Not a valid question," the Blessed One said. If one were to ask, 'Which birth? And whose is this birth?' and if one were to ask, 'Is birth one thing, and is this the birth of someone/something else?' both of them would have the same meaning, even though their words would differ. When there is the view that the soul is the same as the body, there isn't the leading of the holy life. And when there is the view that the soul is one thing and the body another, there isn't the leading of the holy life. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata points out the Dhamma in between: From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth."

SN 12.35

He didn't say the one thing (there is a self) or the other thing (there is no self), he said the thing in the middle, which is that with certain phenomena as a requisite condition, other phenomena arise.

He didn't answer the big question of what does and does not exist, he answered the small question about how a thing arises.

Some reading: No-self or Not-self?

So why should we care about our karma regarding our rebirth

One thing that the Buddha consistently affirmed, though, is the efficacy of action and the results of kamma. He would go out of his way (MN 101) to refute ideas that personal action had no consequences or was totally predetermined.

He just didn't link together action and an individual's identity through multiple lifetimes or say that they weren't linked. Either view prevents the living of the holy life.

Seeing action as efficacious and producing results is the thing that is necessary; understanding the arising of phenomena is necessary. Talking about souls is not necessary.

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As I've said elsewhere (here and here), death is just a concept. The reality is that the mental and physical aspects of experience arise and cease incessantly, and are governed by complex laws of cause and effect (i.e. karma). Since this process isn't categorically affected by conceptual death, you should be as concerned about how your karma will affect your next life as you are about how it affects this life (or unconcerned, as the case may be).

There is one proviso to that, of course; death is a profound experience that resets much of the nature of one's experience, leaving one without much familiar to cling to; it is thus a time of vulnerability, where one is more prone to cling to past karma and be reborn according often to a seemingly random mind state that just happened to pop into your head at the moment of death. Dangerous for those without mental clarity.

  • I'm confused. Your statement appears to imply that there is such a thing as a soul. – user50 Jun 19 '14 at 14:49
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It's the same reason why you eat good food instead of spoilt food. Because spoilt food gives you a stomach ache. It's a simple matter of causes and effect. There's no soul involved at any place.

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