Rebirth Attempt 1 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Monday, December 19, 2022, 22:52 (542 days ago) @ xeno6696

Xeno: The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. What has this immaterial store of past memories which I shan’t be able to remember got to do with anything? Is it my previous life’s dying wish to be reborn? What will happen to me if I don’t believe in rebirth and therefore don’t desire to be reborn? (Answer coming up in a moment.) What is the point of recalling past lives once I’ve purified myself of all the cravings I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become? Ugh, that doesn’t sound like the enlightened selfless fellow I’m supposed to be now. And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?


So it's the combination of intent and action (remember, "karma" literally translates as "action") that determines your next life. Your "desire" for future lives is created by your actions right now. I read something just last night that might help, I'll follow up with a quote later. I would characterize it this way. Anne Rice wrote a series of Vampire novels where she explores the theme of what it would really be like to be an ancient being. More or less, the vampires who reach the age of the methuselahs become so utterly bored of life that death becomes something desirable. You can only go to so many fancy soirees and watch so many loved ones die before everything in the world becomes devoid of life, and meaning itself becomes meaningless.

While the Buddha expressly argues against this kind of nihilism, it is similar to how I imagine him talking about the dispassion that gets created after having accrued many many lifetimes. This is in fact why the Buddha left the "Brahmavihara" practices--loving kindness, appreciative joy, etc. After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?" And the sort of asceticism that leads you to hate existence is also NOT what he was aiming for. (Remember, 'middle path.') Your "final death" (parinibbana) will come whether you want it to or not--the Buddha on this particular path just teaches what you need to do in order to bring it about. Students who accomplish "Stream Entry" will reach Nibbana within 7 lifetimes.

As for the rest, you could only ask the question "I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become?" until you've done the work of purifying your mind to the point where you could easily recall your past lives. This was something that other Hindu teachers taught, they just had different doctrines surrounding the eternal nature of that reality. But the sort of selfless nature you would have to have in order to get there means you wouldn't be asking that sort of question to begin with. (Not by any means a slight, its just very clear what sort of person you have to be to get here--by this point your doubts would supposedly vanish.)

I hope these questions won’t make you angry, and they are not meant to deter you from the highly beneficial path you are on. It’s perfectly clear that there are certain aspects of Buddhism that would do all of us good to embrace, as is also the case with other religions (though I’m not sure that Buddhism should be classified as a religion). I just kick against certain forms of dogma which for me distract from the essence of the “Golden Rule”. And I strongly suspect that you do too. I don’t think you started this fascinating discussion with a view to proselytising. But I have very limited knowledge of the subject (indeed, of most subjects), and perhaps you or your teacher will enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’d like to join David in thanking you for bringing us into your personal life and also opening new doors for us. This in itself is a heartwarming experience.

Not at all angry. You have many of the same questions I do, because we're both westerners who grew up under a much different paradigm. I'm not on any path towards Nibbana in this life, rest assured of that. Good food, family, and solid friends keep me plenty warm and occupied! Present company especially!

"Secular Buddhism" seems for me to be a more likely path I'd settle in. When religion starts getting too "religiony" or in dealing with things I can't epistemologically agree with, I'm just going to leave those parts be.

That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't." Well, while I'm not seeing the utility of Rebirth, and I'm fine at this point in my life to leave it there. That said, it never hurts to be challenged. Rebirth used to even be in Christianity, so its not like it's a totally alien idea in the West.

My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.


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