Rebirth Attempt 1 (Agnosticism)

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 19, 2022, 20:09 (542 days ago) @ dhw

Again I am editing for the sake of clarity.

If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it. But see later for the astonishing and seemingly pointless revelation I shall one day be granted. Meanwhile, a personal question: have you yourself ever been aware of any of your past lives?

These are great questions. I'll start with where I'm at: I'm trying to understand these bits of Eastern philosophy. I would still categorize myself as a materialist who acknowledges that there are gaps. I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection. I certainly think that if I'm contrasting the Buddhist approach against other explanations, it has fewer gaps, but it still has a problem relating to epistemology. As a western materialist trying to tackle this issue, my Buddhist friends haven't provided much evidence outside of hearsay. Ajahn Brahm's argument rests on three assertions, disappointing since he used to be a physicist. They are:

1.) There's lots of evidence for rebirth, people just don't like it.
2.) Anecdote. (He shares a story that leaves me dubious but its so personal to the particular family involved that trying to doubt it makes me look and feel like a monster.
3.) Wouldn't it be a beautiful idea if it were true.

I think it's important to note that even in the podcast I shared, towards the end even Brahmali shifts into an "if it were true" mode of speaking, which suggests that at least in Brahmali's case, he might not fully believe in it himself. (FWIW The Dali Llama has said there's good reasons to doubt it, and he's supposed to be the 14th reincarnation of a Buddhist teacher!) If I could talk to Brahm, I'd ask if the standard of evidence he's using to accept rebirth would fly in a physics department!

So with that bit of background, my answer to your first question is that the Buddha is dealing with his own empirical observations based upon the collected evidence of Indian society. "What's the point" of all those lives was the central question for the ancient Hindus, and much of their religion was trying to deal with that question. The radical departure for the Buddha is that "What's the point" is a flawed question, because it is unknowable. According to the explorations relevant to that time period, his teaching about rebirth here is only in explaining that the cycle of rebirth *was not* eternal, and neither were the Gods as they were stuck in the same web as the rest of us. It is notable in Buddhist teachings that Gods came to the Buddha for answers, never the other way around.

This leads me to your more personal question: Nope. Nothing in my experience that would lead me to believe in rebirth. And if I ever break into those higher meditations, I'd still suffer the doubt that I made it up somehow, like how my imagination does all sorts of fun things.

It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives. You might as well call it a something. Now we have hell or heavenly realms, which I can only assume means that you have entered your new life with different degrees of misery which you can’t remember, so you haven’t a clue why you’re suffering, except when you know the causes that have occurred in this life. I’ll change the pronoun: I am now a miserable selfish bastard. What makes me want to be a happy, philanthropic angel? Here is the rather strange answer:

So the way I'm understanding it, it does indeed store memories of past lives. It just isn't a fully functioning *mind*.

\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

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