Rebirth PART TWO (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 09:10 (541 days ago) @ dhw

PART TWO

Xeno: What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. [...] 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.

My desire has to come from my mind. When? Do I say to myself on my deathbed: “I wanner come again”? And WHO OR WHAT determines my next life? Is someone sitting up in Never-Never-Land watching my every move and then plonking my non-soul into some poor woman’s womb (or some poor animal’s)?

dhw: 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?

Xeno: I read something just last night that might help […] 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.

You are confirming what I have just written. The ideal end seems to be eternal death, as apparently confirmed by this remark:

Xeno: 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.

Wonderful! How about suicide, leaving a note to say: “Do not resuscitate”? Sorry if this sounds flippant, but I think you find it all as bewildering as I do. I will add, though, that transience seems to be essential to all our earthly joys, and is also a consolation for all our earthly sufferings. Moral: carpe diem, so long as you don’t harm others but, preferably, help them to enjoy life as well.

Xeno: After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?"

I wouldn’t have thought it was too difficult to compile a list of causes: disease and death, the cruelties of nature, the cruelties of our fellow humans, the inadequacy of our social systems...Monotheistic religions grapple with the same problem (theodicy – why did God create evil, which is pretty close to “suffering”)? I would like to think the “core problem” is “How can I lead a happy life?” And I’d suggest that one factor might be to forget about the miseries of an unknown past, and the dread of more miseries in an unknown future, and another is to heed all the negative precepts (don’t do this or that) but to focus as well on the positives (starting with the Golden Rule). You seem to have reached the same conclusion, as follows:

xeno: 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!

Let’s shake hands!

Xeno: 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.

Another handshake!

Xeno: That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't."

Very wise of him.


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