Can I still consider myself a "Buddhist" if I don't believe in reincarnation??

  • 1
    Which kind of Buddhism? In the a specific kind of Buddhism, there is an answer. Secular Buddhism is a think, and in secular Buddhism, reincarnation is dispensed with. Also, some forms of Buddhism have reincarnation in the inventory of idea, but not all of them give it equal importance, for example Zen is about practicing now (well some version of it) and de-emphasizes heaven & hell & the realms. Mar 3 '15 at 1:47
  • Agree with you Matthew, that the different schools you give different levels of importance to that, however I think this is an absolutely key concept of the Buddha's teachings. Just like the 4 noble truths. If you eliminate that from the Dhamma you will end up with something else, not Buddhism, but a different religion. There are points all schools share and this is one of them.
    – konrad01
    Mar 3 '15 at 1:51
  • you don't need to believe in cause and effect to attain a higher rebirth. ergo you do not need to be to follow the teachings [of the human vehicle] of the buddha. the idea of needing belief in anything including rebirth is IMVHO antithetical to buddha
    – user2512
    Mar 3 '15 at 4:06

I think to call yourself a Buddhist or practice the buddhist teaching you should at least believe in cause and effect.Maybe not in past lives but in the here and now.When you can see cause and effect clearly in the present then you'll infer that the same principle applies after death.

Things you do in this life will have some effect after.(Future rebirth)

There must be something you did before that caused you to be here now in this life.(Past Birth)

Note: Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation.Please search this site for more info.

  • There is nothing about cause and effect that implies the same principle applies after death, nor does it imply that I was around to ensure my birth. The cause of my birth need not have been me, just like the cause of a moving rock need not have been the rock itself.
    – R. Barzell
    Mar 5 '15 at 0:57
  • There is nothing about cause and effect that implies the same principle applies after death? The principle of causality states that there is a relationship between cause and effect.If it suddenly stopped at death then ..it wouldn't be cause and effect.It would be cause and death.no effect afterwards.And yet we've observed in our own lives and in meditation cause and effect,But somehow when we die we assume it doesn't apply.We might not have proof of whether it applies or does not apply after death but we should be able to infer from our own observation of the present life.
    – Orion
    Mar 5 '15 at 6:52
  • I was referring to the anthrocentric view of cause and effect. Of course rocks still roll, particles still interact and so on. However, there's nothing in cause and effect that states that I will go on or that I had a hand in my own birth. People can choose to believe this as a matter of faith (much like they choose to believe in God, channeling and so on), however, it's a matter of faith and is unsupported by science or logic.
    – R. Barzell
    Mar 5 '15 at 16:28

Rebirth is one of the key concepts in Buddhism. If you don't believe in Rebirth you don't believe in Samsara (ciclic existence) and probably don't believe in PariNibbana as well. My answer would be: No! It is the same as calling yourself a "Christian" not believing in God or in the ressurection of Jesus.

In Buddhism there are lower fetters that prevent a person from achieving greater results, doubt is one of them. So if you want to progress in the Buddhist path you should believe in Buddha's enlightment and investigate the teachings in meditation when possible.

If believing in Rebirth is too much for you, try to focus in doing good things, keeping morality and meditating, you can also observe the 5 precepts, that will bring you good things even if you don't consider yourself a Buddhist.

  • -1 It's not as straightforward as this. In Buddhism there is no dogma and one can belong to the wider Sangha without ascribing to any particular views aside from accepting that the Buddha is the Fully Enlightened One. Acceptance of rebirth (which is not reincarnation) comes in due time. Mar 3 '15 at 1:24
  • I respectfully disagree with that view. Yes you can participate in the Sangha and support it, but to be a follower of the Buddha, therefore a Buddhist, you should agree on key concepts. I honestly do not Believe the Buddha would advocate your view, however, as I pointed out in the end of the answer you can still do good deeds and live a moral and meaningful life even if you don't believe in it, that is perfectly alright, but being a buddhist without believe in samsara seems odd, to say the least.
    – konrad01
    Mar 3 '15 at 1:46
  • There are examples of Buddhist scholars who take the whole idea of reincarnation as metaphorical, e.g. Buddhadasa Bhikku. People's belief systems are wondrously complex and incoherent things. You handwave this complexity and assume that because s/he rejects reincarnation then s/he rejects the whole Buddhist cosmology. This is false. The parent was asking whether s/he can consider him/herself as Buddhist in spite of his/her skepticism. My answer would be a yes. We all have our wrong views and doubts otherwise we'd be enlightened already. Mar 3 '15 at 1:54
  • All schools of Buddhism share some fundamental concepts: 4 noble truths, Nibbana, Impermanence, Anatta, Samsara, Rebirth...etc... removing that from Buddhism is transforming the religion in something else, something we want it to be. Rebirth/Samsara/Realms of existance are often mentioned in the suttas/dhammapada etc and are key in this religion.
    – konrad01
    Mar 3 '15 at 1:56
  • People are free to use their interpretation like the case you mentioned, I have seen many "strange" school of "Buddhism" with very "unusual" concepts with no basis in any sutta or traditional buddhist texts. But please lets focus on what is known to be Buddhist, i. e. the main schools and known suttas. Using that as a reference you need to believe, or at least make an effort to believe in it by overcoming the fetters... if you completely give up believing in rebirth (that is whay I understood from the question) then you don't look like a Buddhist.. you should at least try.
    – konrad01
    Mar 3 '15 at 2:03

Yes of course.

I doubt you can call your belief Buddhist, but maybe in zen (which I have heard informs us to only believe in rebirth if it comes up in practice).

It less like not believing in the resurrection of Christ than not believing in the trinity. This is because IMVHO anyway the Buddha's life did not include parinirvana. It included nirvana, whereas Christs life was not ended.

Anyway that's not to say that you can call yourself Buddhist and be really obnoxious about it lol. But then that doesn't have much to do with religion, it's just general life advice :-)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.