Topic 9: Rebirth

 

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All my ancient twisted karma, from beginningless greed, hate and delusion,
born of body, speech and mind, I now fully avow.”

Ways in which the Buddha Taught Rebirth

Realizations at Time of Awakening.

I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.”

(In)Felicitous Rebith as karmic result. Next life as wealthy/poor, beautiful/ugly, heaven/hell.

Step in Dependent Co-origination. ignorance → formations → consciousness .. → being → birth. (Mechanism of rebirth entirely psychological.)

Escape from Rebirth as Ultimate Goal. Samsara is round of rebirths, perpetual suffering. Awakening escapes from the round of rebirths.

Why the Buddha Taught Rebirth

Urgency not to Relive the Past. Tediousness, painfulness of Samsara,

Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?… This is the greater: the tears you have shed…” Also blood spilled, mountains of bones left behind, cemeteries swelled.

Contextualization of Present Practice. Transcendent meaning beyond this one life.

Bodhi,To take full cognizance of the principle of rebirth will give us that panoramic perspective from which we can survey our lives in their broader context and total network of relationships. This will spur us on in our own pursuit of the path and will reveal the profound significance of the goal toward which our practice points …”

Responsibility to the Future. Epic struggle for future benefit, ultimate Awakening.

Middle Way. Illusion of self pushes karmic results into new birth. This is Buddha’s Middle Way between eternalism, whereby fixed soul passes from life to life, and annihilationism, whereby self dies with body. These two philosophies encourage extreme asceticism and hedonism respectively.

Evidence

Buddha. Personal experience. Attribution of benefit even as working assumption.

Past-Life Memories. Most compelling: Ian Stevenson’s research.

Explanations. genetics, memes, butterfly effect,

 

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