Luke wrote:What your description leaves out is whether this momentary rebirth you describe continues to occur after clinical death or not. Therefore, it is not clear to me if you are really supporting classical Buddhist ideas of rebirth which happen to a mindstream which extends from the beginningless past into the future, or if you simply believe that we physically (according to the standard western medical definitions) are born once and die once, but that in between, we can view the momentary changing of our bodies and minds as "momentary rebirth" using the 6 realms just as metaphors for mental states (which I happen to think is a "romanticized" idea!--"romanticism" is in the eye of the beholder). There is nothing at all "romantic" about being reborn as a dung beetle!
I am sceptical about anyone who says they have it all worked out. However, one salient point is that at a young age I had a sudden vivid memory that seemed to be from a previous existence. It didn't consist of any kind of recollection of the circumstances or of a previous identity. But there was a definite recollection of having known something - the single thing - of supreme importance, at some time in the distant past. It was a sense that 'if you know this, it is all you need to know'. When this happened, it was, in philosophical language, 'apodictic', impossible to doubt. (There are some passages in Plato's dialogues which allude to this kind of memory, which is called 'anamnesis'
.) Around that time I had two awakening experiences. So that has affected my attitude to the question.
Now, I am of the view that the causes we set in motion in this life, ripple forward and assume other forms in the future. It sounds vague, I suppose, but I don't think that the sentient mind is able to conceive of this process. But I am sure that there is something in Rupert Sheldrake's idea of morphic resonance
, which provides an underlying medium for such things to be transmitted. Furthermore, I believe mind is real in its own right, that is, it is not dependent on matter in order to exist. So, ideas are just as real as material things, and they can be propogated through the mind-realm.
As for whether there is any 'experience' or 'consciousness' after death, I wouldn't claim to know, however I was given a book called Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander, last Christmas. I don't quite know what to make of this book - I haven't actually finished it - but the author doesn't seem deranged or delusional, and he gives vivid accounts of his 'journey' to other realms whilst he was clinically near brain-dead. It is a hard book to simply explain away, although predictably many people will. There are also texts such as the iconic Bardo Thodol
(Book of the Dead) which purport to describe the 'bardos' or intermediate realms.
With regards to being 'reborn as an dung-beetle' - I think those kinds of ideas were conventional in traditional Asian societies. I do know that when I told my very Christian in-laws about my interest in Buddhism about 30 years ago, one of their principle objections to it was that 'you could be reborn as a worm'. I don't take anything like that seriously. I can see, poetically, that if you behave like a pig you might be born as one. I can certainly see how a drug addict could become reborn as a hungry ghost. I used not to believe that there were heaven and hell realms, but I am not so sure any more.
So for me, it is an open question. I don't accept the conventional view that the individual life is solely defineable in physical terms. But I think the really key point for dharma practitioners is not to get fascinated by any such ideas. The best approach is always to realize the truth of Dharma in this very life and not to get too caught up in speculation. But - keep an open mind. I don't see that in the 'secular Buddhist' view. They have already made their mind up.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi