Rebirth PART ONE (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 09:04 (541 days ago) @ xeno6696


dhw: 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.

It’s quite difficult now to develop the discussion, because it’s clear that you and I have exactly the same doubts! (You wrote: I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection.) I can only pick on certain points, so forgive me if I again edit the entries accordingly.

You quote the Buddha’s answer to the question what is the point of the past lives:
Xeno: "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.

I would say it’s not the question that’s flawed but the theory that gives rises to the question. You summed it all up earlier when you said it boiled down to epistemology. Beliefs are not knowledge, and if a combination of theories seems senseless to us, why should we believe it?

xeno: 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.

3) is a big laugh. 1) and 2)remind me of NDEs, and if any of them provide evidence of some confirmable truth (like information the patient could not possibly have known during their temporary “death”), I will keep an open mind. There are many psychic experiences which we cannot explain.

XENO: (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!)

This encourages me still more to drop the subject altogether, since there can be no answers to other questions relating to rebirth (the answers are "unknowable"). However, there are other points in your posts to comment on.

dhw: It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives.

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

Dhw: But until you’ve reached a very high meditative state, you can’t remember a thing. So where does this mysterious “store consciousness” hang out during all the lives when we don’t even know we’ve got it? Another “unknowable”?

Xeno: "According to the Buddha's teaching, all beings except Arahants are subject to "renewal of being in the future" that is, to rebirth. Rebirth in the Buddhist conception, is not the transmigration of a self or soul but the continuation of a process, a flux of becoming in which successive lives are linked together by causal transmission of influence rather than by substantial identity."

DAVID: That implies there is no mental continuity, and one would not be conscious of the past life.

A crucial point! And unconsciousness of past life is confirmed above: you only remember past lives when you’ve reached a “very high meditative state”. (In passing, Matt,I'd like to echo David's admiration for your scholarship.)

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

I’ve been chuckling ever since I read this, as I thought it was a great joke. (Your wife’s punishment for her past sins is to be born again as a Christian!) I think a sense of humour is one of the most crucial attributes for the attainment of balance in anyone’s character. I hope there’s evidence of the Buddha having a good laugh in between his thoughts on “suffering”.

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