April 8, 15 Discussions

A small group met on Easter day. I decided to switch topics a bit in honor of the occasion, to begin discussing Rebirth. We discussed rebirth from at least three perspectives:

(1) Is there any evidence that rebirth is verifiable in a scientific sense. This led to discussion of Prof. Ian Stevenson’s research at the University of Virginia and of the ongoing work of his colleagues. It also led to discussion of the nature of mind in the view of science and potential problems with a theory of rebirth.

(2) What are the degrees of faith in rebirth? Can it be accepted as a working assumption without a conviction in its verifiability? Or even as a myth that helps us frame Buddhist practice. I talked a bit about what I know of Burmese convictions. I noted that most Theravada monastics seem to have a rather firm belief in rebirth, even though most are well educated in science.

(3) Why did the Buddha teach rebirth? What differences does it make for the way we view the Buddhist enterprise? Keep in mind that the Buddha was parsimonious in his introduction of doctrine except where it had a real function in ending suffering. We also considered the view that it was a common presupposition in India at the time of the Buddha.

I would like to continue this important discussion next week. On of my aims in this group is to intentionally steer toward the thorny issues for Buddhism in America, and this is just about the thorniest.

I will come prepared on the 15th to give an overview of just what the Buddha did and did not say about rebirth, and suggest we continue the discussion from there.

I hope you will join us at Cory’s place, Sunday at 2, 2501 Trailside Dr. off of Robt. E. Lee near Zilker Park.

By the way, we are seeking a new venue; Cory is moving. We might start meeting at the Austin Zen Center, my old home. But other suggestions are welcome.





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