Why is it profitable to stop the cycle of rebirth if it is not "me" who is reborn? Or maybe to ask differently - to whom it is profitable?
Related: If there is no self what or who is it that gets enlightened?, If there's nobody to get enlightened, why bother?– ruben2020 ♦Feb 16, 2021 at 5:53
The Four Noble Truths talk about suffering. That there is suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way to end suffering permanently.
It's not about the cycle of rebirth.
Please read this answer to understand what suffering is in Buddhism. It's about discontent and unsatisfactoriness.
Also, please read this answer and this answer to understand what rebirth is in Buddhism. It's the rebirth of individuality and not really the rebirth of the individual, since there is no soul or permanent consciousness in Buddhism.
Buddha has described rebirth through a metaphor of a seed, on a karma field, nourished and sustained by cravings. The seed growth and dies, fertilising it's offshoot seed or seeds in the process. So karma field exists and is seeded. What profit does it do to extinguishing this process for an individual seed? How do we know that another seed will not simply arise?– CobFeb 16, 2021 at 22:17
@Cob The first noble truth talks about suffering. Not your suffering or my suffering. It's simply suffering. As long as suffering is reduced, even eliminated, there's already profit.– ruben2020 ♦Feb 17, 2021 at 4:06
Excellent logical question however the question ultimately has no relevance because it merely represents the false ideas that have arisen in Buddhism for the last 2000 years or so. In summary:
- The original scriptures refer to two types of teachings: (i) moral/mundane/kamma teachings for worldly people; and (ii) transcendent/supramundane teachings for enlightened people, namely:
And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path. MN 117
- The moral kamma teachings that refer to various states of being that follow from certain types of kamma (actions) are never impersonal. Such teachings refer to the same "being" the reaps what it sows, such as:
I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled 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, & mind, who did not revile 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.' MN 4
The transcendent/supramundane teaching that all things are not-self (anatta) are never found together with the worldly mundane teachings about "kamma".
Its like the teachings found in kindergarten compared to the teachings found at university. You don't find teachings about algebra, calculus and rocket science in kindergarten for the small children.
To conclude and answer your question, when you act in an ordinary worldly way, there is a sense of "self" behind that action. For example, if there was no sense of self (for example, no "I want to have sex"); there would be no performance of ordinary action. Since there is a sense of self behind the action; there is also a related sense of self behind the results of the action (for example, "I hate my girl who left me for another guy & I am now feeling hurt").
Therefore, it is profitable to stop the cycle of "rebirth" ("cycle of getting burned by self-centred actions") because it is profitable to be without the pain & suffering of doing misinformed careless self-absorbed things.
To the extent that you are reborn at all, to that same extent you are reborn from every moment-to-moment. With this in mind, ask yourself: "Why is it profitable to stop the cycle of rebirth from moment-to-moment if it is not 'me' who is reborn?"
Let's break this down into some piece-wise questions:
- Do you accept the premise that you are reborn from moment-to-moment?
- If yes, then would it be profitable to stop it? If so, why/how?
- If no, then what is reborn from moment-to-moment? Anything? Nothing? Is it "me?"
Maybe think of the above and if you come up with anything let us know! :)
The questioner would most likely be unfamiliar with the concept of moment-to-moment rebirth.– ruben2020 ♦Feb 16, 2021 at 4:56
That's true and I thought your answer was excellent. To me the question itself shows confusion or misunderstanding about rebirth. It is hard to answer such questions because the precise knot of confusion is hard to discern. In my experience, putting aside life-to-life rebirth and focusing on moment-to-moment is a very good exercise for somewhat untying most of these knots. Do you think moment-to-moment rebirth an advanced topic? For me, life-to-life is the more advanced. Feb 16, 2021 at 16:42
Since your birth, if you haven't experienced any of these, yes it's not profitable.
Got sick and hospitalised for days
Felt pain both physically and mental
Lost someone loved