Rebirth and karma

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Queequeg
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 1:44 pm

boda wrote:
Queequeg wrote:I've just read our exchange very carefully and here's what I found: you're all over the place.

The cognitive shift in awareness due to the Overview Effect, that you claim is akin to the ‘opening experience’ (if that’s an acceptable descriptor) you had in relation to rebirth, is nonreligious (secular) in nature.

Your brief critique of the secular/materialist view seemed to suggest that it was lacking in perspective. Yet you went on to give an example of a nonreligious cognitive shift akin to that of your own experience in relation to rebirth (nonsecular). But regardless of this, in reality a secular view is not limited in perspective any more than a religious view. In fact it is quite the opposite, religious views being limited to whatever the current narrative entails. Nonreligious views are free to entertain any perspective within the range of imagination. Most importantly, in my opinion, a secular view allows the possibility to admit that there’s more to heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any religion, philosophy, or science, dear Queequegio.

Sorry if I stepped out of place, by the way.


I don't disagree with anything here in particular. But be clear, until you changed tack, you were focused on meaning, which I have no opinion on. Instead of assuming I meant some critique, ask for clarification.

The secular/materialist view is going to handicap a person trying to understand Buddhist scriptures, just as someone immersed in Buddhist cosmology is going to have difficulty understanding astronomy. The perspectives are defined by certain assumptions, and preclude certain ideas implicitly. Nonreligious does not equal secular/materialist.

Your categories are all over the place so please excuse me if it's hard to exchange with you.

I would not use a label of religious in this context simply because it can mean a broad range of ideas, many of which are contradictory. It's functionally meaningless except in a very general way to define certain modes of human activity.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Bakmoon » Fri Dec 16, 2016 1:56 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:
rachmiel wrote:I see this as a huge leap of faith.

Several messages in this thread have assured me Buddhism does not posit that anything "survives" death intact, that rebirth is an unfathomably complex and subtle continuation of causes/effects. Given this, how could a mindstream continue intact? Are the workings of rebirth different for bodhisattvas or other highly accomplished people?

There are special tantric practices (i.e. Phowa) that allow a being to determine their next rebirth. For ordinary practitioners, this is used to get a good rebirth in one of the Buddha Pure Lands, but for highly accomplished masters, it makes more sense for them to come back and continue to teach, because that is of greater benefit to sentient beings.

Thanks, Bakmoon.

Being able to determine one's next rebirth slides over into the literal/mechanical approach to rebirth that does not resonate with me. If nothing specific and intact is reborn (no packet of Bakmoon-ness), how could "you" get a good rebirth?

There is no 'you' or 'me' that gets reborn. There isn't even a 'you' or 'me' here right now, either. Rather, there is a bundle of constantly changing phenomena that is able to function as a whole, and this bundle is conventionally referred to as a person. In Buddhism, there is no person, except as a conceptual sort of nametag we put on things for the sake of convenience and description.

The fact that these are mere labels doesn't prevent them from functioning or render them useless however. And when there is causal continuity, we can still refer to the process in question with a single label. For example, consider yourself right now in comparison to when you were a young child. Physically the body replaces it's material after every so many years, and mental phenomena only arise for very short spans of time, so there isn't any underlying 'packet' that makes the child-you and the current-you the same person. And yet at the same time, there is continuity between the two, so we can designate it as the same person.

The only difference between this little thought experiment and how rebirth works is that in rebirth, you get a different physical body. But because the body clearly isn't a self or person, that doesn't really change anything. The continuum of mental states between one rebirth and the next is there, and that's what makes it possible to designate them as the same person, just as the continuum of you and you as a child allows you to be considered the same person.

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby rachmiel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:41 pm

Bakmoon wrote:For example, consider yourself right now in comparison to when you were a young child. Physically the body replaces it's material after every so many years, and mental phenomena only arise for very short spans of time, so there isn't any underlying 'packet' that makes the child-you and the current-you the same person. And yet at the same time, there is continuity between the two, so we can designate it as the same person.

The only difference between this little thought experiment and how rebirth works is that in rebirth, you get a different physical body. But because the body clearly isn't a self or person, that doesn't really change anything. The continuum of mental states between one rebirth and the next is there, and that's what makes it possible to designate them as the same person, just as the continuum of you and you as a child allows you to be considered the same person.

It's a vivid analogy ... but does it hold? The body-brain is the material medium in which the energy of self arises. Isn't it a leap of faith (in Buddha, the teachings, your own intuition) to believe that this energy continues when the material is no more?
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” Frederick Buechner

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Malcolm » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:44 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:For example, consider yourself right now in comparison to when you were a young child. Physically the body replaces it's material after every so many years, and mental phenomena only arise for very short spans of time, so there isn't any underlying 'packet' that makes the child-you and the current-you the same person. And yet at the same time, there is continuity between the two, so we can designate it as the same person.

The only difference between this little thought experiment and how rebirth works is that in rebirth, you get a different physical body. But because the body clearly isn't a self or person, that doesn't really change anything. The continuum of mental states between one rebirth and the next is there, and that's what makes it possible to designate them as the same person, just as the continuum of you and you as a child allows you to be considered the same person.

It's a vivid analogy ... but does it hold? The body-brain is the material medium in which the energy of self arises. Isn't it a leap of faith (in Buddha, the teachings, your own intuition) to believe that this energy continues when the material is no more?


Not when one understands that it is the mind that generates the body, rather than the other way around. For example, the mind of a buddha can generate a billion bodies at the same time.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:49 pm

Malcolm wrote:Not when one understands that it is the mind that generates the body, rather than the other way around. For example, the mind of a buddha can generate a billion bodies at the same time.


The crux of the problem for people resistant to rebirth seems to be this notion of mind generating form. This is completely at odds with the assumption that mind is a function of material.

BTW, just a billion? :smile:
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Malcolm » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:53 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Not when one understands that it is the mind that generates the body, rather than the other way around. For example, the mind of a buddha can generate a billion bodies at the same time.


The crux of the problem for people resistant to rebirth seems to be this notion of mind generating form. This is completely at odds with the assumption that mind is a function of material.

BTW, just a billion? :smile:


It is the standard number, but it is not a limitation.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


So called “sentient beings” are merely delusions self-appearing from the dhātu of luminosity.

-- Ju Mipham

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:59 pm

Expanding on my last post -

The problem for me had been a materialist premise. So long as I assumed that mind was a derivative function of form, it precluded the notion that anything could survive the dissolution of form. I had to open up and explore what mind meant in Buddhism, setting aside my materialist assumptions. Once I understood that mind is something deeper than just gross forms, then rebirth became intuitive.

Earlier in the thread, there were references to Manas and Alaya Vijnana. I have been familiar with these terms for a long time, but its only when I started to examine the mind directly that these things started to make sense.

If I can extrapolate from my own experience, without actual practice, all these explanations are useless. Just counting your neighbor's wealth, so to speak.

Just do it.™
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:03 pm

Malcolm wrote:It is the standard number, but it is not a limitation.


I know, man. Just razzing.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:09 pm

Queequeg wrote:Expanding on my last post -

The problem for me had been a materialist premise. So long as I assumed that mind was a derivative function of form, it precluded the notion that anything could survive the dissolution of form. I had to open up and explore what mind meant in Buddhism, setting aside my materialist assumptions. Once I understood that mind is something deeper than just gross forms, then rebirth became intuitive.

Earlier in the thread, there were references to Manas and Alaya Vijnana. I have been familiar with these terms for a long time, but its only when I started to examine the mind directly that these things started to make sense.

If I can extrapolate from my own experience, without actual practice, all these explanations are useless. Just counting your neighbor's wealth, so to speak.

Just do it.™


I think this is really the point, at least in my case. If you practice enough, I think the idea that the mind is not just a function of the body becomes much more plausible. Also, experiencing certain "supernatural" phenomena can be very convincing as well. :smile:
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby rachmiel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:16 pm

Queequeg wrote:The crux of the problem for people resistant to rebirth seems to be this notion of mind generating form. This is completely at odds with the assumption that mind is a function of material.

I have no problem with the notion of mind generating form. Or of other notions, speculations, theories as to the nature of reality. So many wonderful stories! (Some perhaps "truer" than others.)

My issue is with certainties: My/this view is *the* view. And that issue holds, no matter who or what that source of certainty is. That's why I'm an eclectic. I look at religions/philosophies as blind men holding forth on the nature of the elephant. Each gets an aspect of the whole, but no one gets it 100%. So I pick and choose ... and that becomes my blind man's scope of understanding.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:24 pm

rachmiel wrote:My issue is with certainties: My/this view is *the* view. And that issue holds, no matter who or what that source of certainty is. That's why I'm an eclectic. I look at religions/philosophies as blind men holding forth on the nature of the elephant. Each gets an aspect of the whole, but no one gets it 100%. So I pick and choose ... and that becomes my blind man's scope of understanding.


You are missing the point of the blind man story, you are the blind man here too, with your picking and choosing.

My issue is with certainties: My/this view is *the* view. And that issue holds, no matter who or what that source of certainty is


To the contrary, we've had a lot of these conversations now, and you seem very convinced of your own skepticism, spending a long time talking about how no tradition 'has it right' and how it's best to stand outside of them all is taking a position, in fact.

I like you and appreciate your passion for discussing these things, but at this point it almost looks like a defense mechanism to avoid committing yourself. It's also frankly a bit of sophistry to continue repeating that "no tradition knows it all", in order to adhere to none of them. An intellectual pitfall of modernity IMO.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:25 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Also, experiencing certain "supernatural" phenomena can be very convincing as well. :smile:


I've spent the last few minutes trying to figure out some clever response to that. I can't right now, so,

Yes.

I don't know if we have the same type of things in mind, but for me, things were happening for long before I would accept them as what they appeared. I always explained them away as just random brain farts or coincidences. Then my wife casually said to me one day, "Everybody knows. We just don't talk about it." And then I got paranoid. Its just me who doesn't know?!!!!

LOL
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:28 pm

rachmiel wrote:I have no problem with the notion of mind generating form. Or of other notions, speculations, theories as to the nature of reality. So many wonderful stories! (Some perhaps "truer" than others.)

My issue is with certainties: My/this view is *the* view. And that issue holds, no matter who or what that source of certainty is. That's why I'm an eclectic. I look at religions/philosophies as blind men holding forth on the nature of the elephant. Each gets an aspect of the whole, but no one gets it 100%. So I pick and choose ... and that becomes my blind man's scope of understanding.


I proposed an answer for that...

Image
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Bakmoon » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:40 pm

rachmiel wrote:It's a vivid analogy ... but does it hold? The body-brain is the material medium in which the energy of self arises. Isn't it a leap of faith (in Buddha, the teachings, your own intuition) to believe that this energy continues when the material is no more?

That would be true of consciousness were itslef a material phenomenon, butt that isn't the case. Consciousness is very different from material phenomena because it is without location, physical form, shape, color, weight, etc... and yet it is immediately apparent in our experience. If we look scientifically we find that consciousness and the body are closely linked by correlation, but that isn't sufficient to demonstrate that consciousness arises purely from a material cause.

From a Buddhist perspective, although consciousness is causally linked with the body (i.e. consciousness arises based on the six fold sense base) it is not possible for consciousness to arise purely from mater because effects can only arise from a concordant cause, and matter is not a concordant cause with consciousness. Therefore, consciousness needs to have a previous consciousness in order for it to arise.

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby rachmiel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 5:54 pm

Queequeg wrote:I proposed an answer for that...

Image

Image
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby rachmiel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:06 pm

Bakmoon wrote:If we look scientifically we find that consciousness and the body are closely linked by correlation, but that isn't sufficient to demonstrate that consciousness arises purely from a material cause.

And I agree with this: the relationship between consciousness and matter is, well ... HARD. ;-) Buncha dedicated learned intelligent scientists/philosophers/religions offer their takes, which often wildly contradict each other! Did Chalmers get it right? Did Plato? Did Buddha? Did Krishnamurti? I certainly don't know. Nor do I think it is ultimately knowable ... though I realize I might be wrong.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby rachmiel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:42 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
rachmiel wrote:My issue is with certainties: My/this view is *the* view. And that issue holds, no matter who or what that source of certainty is


To the contrary, we've had a lot of these conversations now, and you seem very convinced of your own skepticism, spending a long time talking about how no tradition 'has it right' and how it's best to stand outside of them all is taking a position, in fact.

Yes, this is one of my core stories: No one knows anything absolutely, all knowing is relative to context, perspective, conditioning. And I see the contradiction in it ... how could I know this absolutely? Well, I can't. That's why I recognize it as a story.

I like you and appreciate your passion for discussing these things, but at this point it almost looks like a defense mechanism to avoid committing yourself. It's also frankly a bit of sophistry to continue repeating that "no tradition knows it all", in order to adhere to none of them. An intellectual pitfall of modernity IMO.

I like you too. :-) And I really appreciate that several accomplished students of Buddhism are willing to discuss these things with a dabbler like me. But my resonance with and reservations about Buddhism are both utterly genuine. Same with Advaita and Krishnamurti ... and every other worldview I've ever run into (mine included). Perhaps I'm deceiving myself, but I've come to see my path as an unraveling of the notion of a path. Which isn't easy! But I guess someone has to do it? :hi:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” Frederick Buechner

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby boda » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:45 pm

Queequeg wrote:
boda wrote:
Queequeg wrote:I've just read our exchange very carefully and here's what I found: you're all over the place.

The cognitive shift in awareness due to the Overview Effect, that you claim is akin to the ‘opening experience’ (if that’s an acceptable descriptor) you had in relation to rebirth, is nonreligious (secular) in nature.

Your brief critique of the secular/materialist view seemed to suggest that it was lacking in perspective. Yet you went on to give an example of a nonreligious cognitive shift akin to that of your own experience in relation to rebirth (nonsecular). But regardless of this, in reality a secular view is not limited in perspective any more than a religious view. In fact it is quite the opposite, religious views being limited to whatever the current narrative entails. Nonreligious views are free to entertain any perspective within the range of imagination. Most importantly, in my opinion, a secular view allows the possibility to admit that there’s more to heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any religion, philosophy, or science, dear Queequegio.

Sorry if I stepped out of place, by the way.


I don't disagree with anything here in particular. But be clear, until you changed tack, you were focused on meaning, which I have no opinion on. Instead of assuming I meant some critique, ask for clarification.

I was pursuing two lines of inquiry and the one based on a 'thread of logic' didn't seem to be going anywhere.

The secular/materialist view is going to handicap a person trying to understand Buddhist scriptures, just as someone immersed in Buddhist cosmology is going to have difficulty understanding astronomy. The perspectives are defined by certain assumptions, and preclude certain ideas implicitly. Nonreligious does not equal secular/materialist.

Your categories are all over the place so please excuse me if it's hard to exchange with you.

Speaking of confused categories, secular/materialist? To me, the term secular represents an ability to distinguish categories of value (e.g. church & state). A person can be a Buddhist who believes in literal rebirth, for example, and still have the ability to understand and support systems of government not based on their faith, and may even be at odds with. Being prochoice for instance, wouldn't seem to preclude certain ideas implicitly. This of course could extend to philosophical positions, such as materialism.

I would not use a label of religious in this context simply because it can mean a broad range of ideas, many of which are contradictory. It's functionally meaningless except in a very general way to define certain modes of human activity.

I find religious people have difficulty with the term because they believe their religion is an explanation of the way things are and not merely a system of meaning.

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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:50 pm

boda wrote:To me...


Congratulations.
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Re: Rebirth and karma

Postby boda » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:54 pm

Queequeg wrote:The crux of the problem for people resistant to rebirth seems to be this notion of mind generating form.


Funny, I had the notion of generating a nice caesar salad the other night and after a bit of work it literally took form! :tongue:


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