1

In a nutshell, the Buddha's teaching is:

  • self-views ("I have a self" and/or "I have no self") must be avoided
  • craving is a precondition for suffering, thus we must train ourselves to gain control over craving and, finally, to eradicate it
  • nihilism ("non existence") and/or existentialism ("existence") must be avoided
  • being spiritual or having spiritual views is better than being materialistic or having materialistic views
  • extremes must be avoided (middle way)

I'm wondering WHY a strong belief in rebirth does not conform with the above Buddha's teachings? I really want to understand the WHY behind it. WHY a belief in rebirth does not lead to the cessation of suffering? WHY somebody who strongly accepts rebirth (read the below case to see what I mean by "strongly accepting rebirth") can't attain Nibanna?

Please respond to the below questions that I provided and then if you wish give your explanations/answers.


CASE a)

Suppose person X STRONGLY ACCEPTS REBIRTH by claiming: "There's NO WAY that after death there is no life. Life after death doesn't stop. Life after death is real. Life after death can't stop." When asked "Can life after death come to an end for an arahat?" person X would answer: "No. There's NO WAY life after death can come to an end. Life after death does not come to an end for all beings, even if a being is an arahat or attained enlightenment (Nirvana).". When asked "Is there at least any tinyyyy possibility life after death can come to an end for an arahat?" person X would answer: "No. There's NO WAY! I know there's no way! NO WAY.".

Suppose person X is very sturdy and close minded and there's no way person X will change his/her views about life after death, not even if somebody would threaten his/her life and would actually kill him/her.

Questions:

1a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of craving? Why?

2a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of nihilistic ("non existence") and/or eternalists ("existence") views? Why?

3a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of a view regarding self ("I have a self" and/or "I have no self")? Why?

4a. Can an arahat strongly accept rebirth, just like person X in the example above? Why?

  • 1
    @Lanka Ok. I hope it's better now. – beginner Oct 9 '17 at 18:56
  • @beginner. Thank you for the edit. Question reopened. – Lanka Oct 9 '17 at 20:06
5

The question is basically, why is belief in literal rebirth (reincarnation) a problem. I won't address every OP point here, just make four theses:

  1. Rebirth is self. Self is rebirth. Whenever there is belief in rebirth, there is attachment to self. You can't possibly believe in rebirth without having a notion of entity (identity) that is getting reborn. Having a notion of entity means you don't understand sankharas (assembly of phenomena), which means even your understanding of anicca is superficial, let alone of anatta or shunyata.

  2. Rebirth usually (but not always, see next point) involves dualistic views about some "special" substance that carries on the entity's identity. That substance is imagined to be made from something principally different, a second kind of stuff (first being normal matter/energy) - hence "dual-ism". Whatever you call that stuff, it basically means "soul" - some spiritual supernatural essence.

  3. Even if you define rebirth as arising of the new being on the basis of the previous being's karma (like the old candle transferring its flame to the new candle) - in other words if you define rebirth as transfer of information/causation - if you imagine this process going 1:1 from one previous being to one new being through some mysterious mechanism, you are still creating a cohesive entity where there is just a bunch of disjointed causation chains. The information/causation is transferred all the time, many-to-many, not at the moment of death or birth. So transmigration of sentient beings at large is real, the wheel is continuously in motion rolling in the rut from generation to generation. Karma is real. But individual reincarnation is not.

  4. If you look deep inside you will see that rebirth is a byproduct of a psychological need. What need? A need to have something beyond THIS to look forward to, to hope for, because THIS is unbearable. But denying THIS is denying the first noble truth, it is escapism. No progress on the path can be made until we accept THIS with all its pain. We must fully come to THIS because THIS is where Enlightenment unfolds.

My recommendation is to meditate on the notion of entity. Think about a piece of wood and how it becomes ashes as it burns. Where are the spatial/temporal boundaries of an entity here? Same with ice/water/vapor. Same with an entity called "a river". Same with people, including both body and mind. Where does the mind come from? Where are its boundaries? Is there an entity here?

  • You are making a generalization statement with no.4. I used to crave for annihilation. I did not look forward to becoming, whether in this life or future lives. If it were not for my belief in past and future lives, I would have committed suicide many years ago. The belief in past and future lives gave me a strong will to practice this dhamma. Not experiencing anything at all is immensely superior to any kind of experience. – user11545 Oct 8 '17 at 19:48
  • Only confirms my point, belief in literal rebirth is often a coping mechanism. Not saying it's not effective but as any skillful mean has its cons. – Andrei Volkov Oct 8 '17 at 20:10
  • I agree as far as it being a coping mechanism, and in itself is a form of wanting, becoming. But, If there are no past and future lives, then what cons could there be? – user11545 Oct 8 '17 at 20:17
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation continues in chat. – Andrei Volkov Oct 8 '17 at 21:00
1

'Suppose person X'..

1a. X = Self.

2a. No - 'life' ends for the Arahant at nibbana, not parinibbana.. that there is a remainder is nothing to do with the Arahant's striving/determination.

3a. 'there is NO WAY' - based on what direct observation? MN 27.

4a. Can't accept something without having a view of something.. well, you can, but not within the sphere of reason. The Buddha never strayed from that.

5a. Any truth that is Essential - absolutely paramount to all experience ("... NO WAY ... "), is Essential/nihilistic (logic).. 'sabbe dhamma anatta', is the only objective truth to all experience, and even that is only negational.

6a. Depends how they know. If they know by direct experience, sure.

7a. Wrong views come about through a plethora of paths - judging on one from this little information is speculation.

8a. Accurate views? Multiverse theory is spiritualism/materialism free.. it's deterministic and not accurate, but it certainly has endless rebirth (of Self).

9a. No. 'ehipasiko' - 'inviting to come and see', verifiable/falsifiable in the modern tongue.. ending and beginning require Atta.

10a. An Arahant is empty of conceptualization, objectification, mental speculation. Any 'birth', whether 're' or not, requires an object to be birthed. The Arahant is beyond such conventions.

11a. Birth opposes death. Life opposes nibbana. The Arahant is beyond the conditioned experience of life. One can accept 'death', 'birth, 'continuation' as conditioned constructs, but if anatta is raised - where is X?

When rebirth is agreed to lack transmigration (as within only Buddhism (to my knowledge)), what is 'strong' and what is 'weak'? The Dhamma provides a path for the ending of objectification. Whether the human being that arises to become an Arahant at X point in time keeps arising over and over again for ever (in a deterministic setting), if they arrive at the end of objectification at time T of their life, then at any time after T, they cannot be objectified as 'human', or 'Arahant', or any 'thing', beyond their remainder.

Nibbana is the step after nirodha - cessation. One can't cease if one endlessly wanders on within Samsara/rebirth.

"WHY a belief in rebirth does not lead to the cessation of suffering?" 'belief' is unnecessary for the Arahant, as they have direct observational experience of dukkha (MN27). Rebirth is little more than the (n-1) of the Dhamma - it should be avoided until anicca, dukkha, anatta are understood.

1

1a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of craving? Why?

Yes. A strong acceptance of rebirth is a result of craving, which was also confirmed by the Buddha in this sutta:

30."There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are eternalists, and who on four grounds proclaim the self and the world to be eternal. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

"He speaks thus: 'The self and the world are eternal, barren, steadfast as a mountain peak, standing firm like a pillar. And though these beings roam and wander (through the round of existence), pass away and re-arise, yet the self and the world remain the same just like eternity itself.

38."There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are eternalists in regard to some things and non-eternalists in regard to other things, and who on four grounds proclaim the self and the world to be partly eternal and partly non-eternal. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

"Herein, bhikkhus, recluse or a certain brahmin is a rationalist, an investigator. He declares his view — hammered out by reason, deduced from his investigations, following his own flight of thought — thus: 'That which is called "the eye," "the ear," "the nose," "the tongue," and "the body" — that self is impermanent, unstable, non-eternal, subject to change. But that which is called "mind" (citta) or "mentality" (mano) or "consciousness" (viññāṇa) — that self is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and it will remain the same just like eternity itself.'

51."This, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata understands. And he understands: 'These standpoints, thus assumed and thus misapprehended, lead to such a future destination, to such a state in the world beyond.' He understands as well what transcends this, yet even that understanding he does not misapprehend. And because he is free from misapprehension, he has realized within himself the state of perfect peace. Having understood as they really are the origin and the passing away of feelings, their satisfaction, their unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, the Tathāgata, bhikkhus, is emancipated through non-clinging.

105.Therein, bhikkhus, when those recluses and brahmins who are eternalists proclaim on four grounds the self and the world to be eternal — that is only the feeling of those who do not know and do not see; that is only the agitation and vacillation of those who are immersed in craving.

106."When those recluses and brahmins who are eternalists in regard to some things and non-eternalists in regard to other things proclaim on four grounds the self and the world to be partly eternal and partly non-eternal — that too is only the feeling of those who do not know and do not see; that is only the agitation and vacillation of those who are immersed in craving.

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html

Thus, from this sutta it's evident that strong acceptance of rebirth (belief that rebirth never ends or that existence lasts forever) comes from craving. Whoever has the described view of rebirth is immersed in craving. It's confirmed by the sutta.

Please note that this does not mean that the self or being is annihilated after death. This belief/view of annihilation (non-existence) after death falls under the other extreme, which is annihilationism, which too must be avoided. I addressed this in the answer to this question Is the belief in no rebirth conditioned by craving? .

Furthermore, I also found this sutta (PLEASE NOTE: for clarity purposes I'm quoting only the parts of the sutta where the belief in eternal rebirth is mentioned) which says that strong acceptance of rebirth should be given up:

Bhikkhus, there are certain recluses and brahmans who declare views about the future. Such as there will be a healthy perceptive self after death. ... an immaterial self, or ... a self that is material and immaterial, or ... a self that is neither material nor immaterial ...

The Thus Gone One knows those recluses and brahmins who make known a healthy perceptive self after death, declaring of, a material self or an immaterial self, or a self that is material and immaterial, or else a self that is neither material nor immaterial ... whether material or immaterial ... He knows ... that these are compounded and coarse ... knowing the escape from this, the Thus Gone One overcame them.

There are recluses and brahmins who declare views about the past such as .... the self and the world are eternal, this only is the truth, all else is false. ... The self and the world are unlimited ... this only is the truth all else is false. ...

Bhikkhus, those recluses and brahmins who declare the view, 'the self and the world is eternal, this only is the truth, all else is false.' That they should by themselves realize this pure view without a faith, a liking, hearsay, careful thinking and without a pleased view is not a possibility. ...

Bhikkhus, the recluses and brahmins who bear the view ... [']the self and world is eternal ... unlimited ... this only is the truth, all else is false['] That they should by themselves realize this pure view without a faith, a liking, hearsay, careful thinking and without a pleased view is not a possibility.

Bhikkhus, a certain recluse or brahmin gives up views about the past and future, not intending any sensual bonds, abides in joy secluded, thinking this is peaceful and exalted. .... In the same manner a certain recluse or brahmin gives up views about the past and future, not intending any sensual bonds, abides in joy secluded, thinking this is peaceful and exalted. ...

Source: http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/2Majjhima-Nikaya/Majjhima3/102-pancattaya-e.html

2a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of nihilistic ("non existence") and/or eternalists ("existence") views? Why?

Eternalists views. Because it's a view about never ending existence.

3a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of a view regarding self ("I have a self" and/or "I have no self")? Why?

Yes. In question 1a we already concluded that a strong acceptance of rebirth is a result of craving. Whenever there is craving, there is also becoming:

Dwelling at Savatthi. There the Blessed One said to the monks: "In one who keeps focusing on the allure of clingable phenomena (or: phenomena that offer sustenance = the five aggregates), craving develops. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origin of this entire mass of suffering & stress.

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.052.than.html

4a. Can an arahat strongly accept rebirth, just like person X in the example above? Why?

No. Why? An arahat knows that rebirth has ended, but for not yet liberated beings rebirth continues. That's why an arahat can't strongly accept never ending rebirth. He knows that rebirth can come to an end.

Furthermore, the Buddha said that anybody who strongly accepts rebirth by denying the possibility of ending rebirth (eternalism) is immersed in craving. Somebody who is immersed in craving is not an arahat. An arahat has eradicated craving.

1

The question(s) certainly state merely a view rather to ask something, how ever, this view(s) seems to confuse a lot, basicly two things:

Believe with fact. If one believes that his action has no effects, or at least hopes so, does not change the fact of it. So when mixing up, and stay just on theoretical ways, not really looking for one self, one tends to take on various views and turn around on them.

  • 1a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of craving? Why?

Strong believe of the fact of rebirth comes from seeing. A firm believe is a matter of entering the stream. And no, seeing things as they arise and decay, is not a matter of craving but requires the opposit.

  • 2a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of nihilistic ("non existence") and/or eternalists ("existence") views? Why?

Non of both, if it has been seen as it is. Of course the endless taking birth is caused by desire for becoming or not-becoming, but to see or to have firm faith in tgat fact, is not to be seen as wrong view, but actually as right view.

He has right view and is not warped in the way he sees things: 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are brahmans & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is how one is made pure in three ways by mental action.

AN 10.176

  • 3a. Is strong acceptance of rebirth in the above scenario, a result of a view regarding self ("I have a self" and/or "I have no self")? Why?

Not at all, if seen proper.

  • 4a. Can an arahat strongly accept rebirth, just like person X in the example above? Why?

An Arahat does not accept, does not believe. He knows, has gained the knowlegdes, this seeing clearly are features of awakening, and to get disenchanted with any kind of craving ofter becoming or no-becoming.

DN2

Recollection of Past Lives

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives (lit: previous homes). He recollects his manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he recollects his manifold past lives in their modes and details. Just as if a man were to go from his home village to another village, and then from that village to yet another village, and then from that village back to his home village. The thought would occur to him, 'I went from my home village to that village over there. There I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I went to that village over there, and there I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I came back home.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives. He recollects his manifold past lives... in their modes and details.

"This, too, great king, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

The Passing Away & Re-appearance of Beings

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the passing away and re-appearance of beings. He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human — he sees beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma. Just as if there were a tall building in the central square [of a town], and a man with good eyesight standing on top of it were to see people entering a house, leaving it, walking along the street, and sitting in the central square. The thought would occur to him, 'These people are entering a house, leaving it, walking along the streets, and sitting in the central square.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge of the passing away and re-appearance of beings. He sees — by means of the divine eye, purified and surpassing the human — beings passing away and re-appearing, and he discerns how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma...

"This, too, great king, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here and now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime.

Readings:

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

0

The question is wrong. The Buddha taught the two self-views of: (i) "I have a self" and (ii) "I have no self"; must be avoided because both are self-views that include the belief of "I".

The true Buddhist view is the five aggregates are void of self (sunnata).

However, the questioner is asserting the Buddha taught: 'the self is void of self' is a wrong view and thus the idea of "voidness" (sunnata) is a wrong view.

The question is reflective of a misunderstanding of the teachings, similar to the wrong or "bewildered" views of the wanderer Vacchagotta in SN 44.10.

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?"

"Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty. And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms... Eye-consciousness... Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.

"The ear is empty...

"The nose is empty...

"The tongue is empty...

"The body is empty...

"The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas... Intellect-consciousness... Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Thus it is said that the world is empty."

SN 35.85


if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?' SN 44.10


The Buddha did not teach to be "open-minded", such as to keep an open mind about the possibility that pigs might be able to fly; even though in reality pigs cannot be observed to be able to fly. If a speaker of truth is asked the question: "Can figs fly on their own accord", the speaker of truth answers: "Pigs cannot fly".

In short, mental 'rebirth' can be observed & verified. Physical-post-mortem rebirth cannot be observed or verified. Those who have verified the reality of mental rebirth & who have especially tasted the peace resulting from eradicating mental re-birth adhere to the truth of mental re-birth and do not engage in unprovable speculations that there is another kind of re-birth.

There is only one type of 'rebirth' mentioned in the genuine Pali suttas therefore a student should choose one of two interpretations of re-birth. Students who wish for future lives should choose the common physical/materialistic interpretation & students who are able to give up self-clinging & who are interested in here-&-now enlightenment should choose the mental spiritual interpretation.

Everyday language vs Dharma language: In every day language the term birth refers simply to physical birth from a mother's body: in Dharma language birth refers to a mental event arising our of ignorance, craving, and clinging. Whenever there arises the mistaken idea "I," the "I" has been born; its parents are ignorance and craving. The kind of birth that constitutes a problem for us is mental birth. Anyone who falls to grasp this point will never succeed in understanding anything of the Buddha teaching. Another Kind of Birth

0

I'm wondering WHY a strong belief in rebirth does not conform with the above Buddha's teachings?

Because in the western history, the western people have suffering by some religious, that have a strong belief in rebirth through moreover 2000 years, so they hate that religious and that belief, together. when they catch the buddha's teaching, they bias the buddha's teaching by that hate. They try to cutting rebirth off tipitaka, although they never completely study throughout the buddha's teaching by an ancient study system.

WHY a belief in rebirth does not lead to the cessation of suffering? WHY somebody who strongly accepts rebirth (read the below case to see what I mean by "strongly accepting rebirth") can't attain Nibanna?

nihilism ("non existence") and/or existentialism ("existence") must be avoided.

In the middle way, we accept all possible situation such as kamma causes rebirths, next lives, because we believe in causes and effects. But we do not believe in rebirth of self, because it is not the truth. It is just a rebirth of new effects, that may have the same look as in the past, but it is no self at all.

  • But you're not saying anything different than I am Bonn. When we shed this shell and some other space is entombed in a meat-bag it's not the same, but it is the same. The space awareness was all one - except now it is another space covered by another meat-bag. You're saying the same thing I am yet you guys call my "continuity" to be existence. If MY awareness, that in my shell right now, were to be swapped with that of another shell I would still feel like the same observer but with different memories and perhaps varied senses. – Kauva Aatma Oct 9 '17 at 1:28
  • @KauvaAatma I said "It is just a rebirth of new effects", but you said "the same". New is not the same. Your self view make you see the same. But new is new, new is not the old. A cause can not be itself's effect. Self causes not rebirth, self causes not self, kamma causes not self. Just new causes cause, new effects, rebirth. No self at all. Self is just an imagination of mind that is not smart enough to analysis the very fast ( the all time fastest stuff in the universe) of aggregates rebirth. So non practitioner always see "old aggregates" is "the same of new aggregates". – Bonn Oct 9 '17 at 2:12
  • I think you forget the cause and effect chain which results in karma. The end of the chain and its' beginning are the same. – Kauva Aatma Oct 9 '17 at 2:15
  • No it is not the same kamma. In a second, we made over billion, uncountable, kamma. And in one person depend on uncountable kamma, and change every time. So it is not the same. No self at all. Don't try to keep self view. – Bonn Oct 9 '17 at 2:19
  • For the example, one's eyes born by good kamma. Then these eyes are blinded by bad kamma, after birth. So is good kamma self? is bad kamma is self? are regular eyes self? are blind eyes self? Or it is just new causes (that maybe arose in the past, too, and it still possible to be a cause of new effects) and new effects arising and vanishing? This is the reason why paṭiccasamuppāda is very important in buddhism. – Bonn Oct 9 '17 at 2:42

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