Batchelor, Brahmali, Rebirth, Choices

It could be easily mistaken, but please don’t mistake calling out secular Buddhism vs animosity towards secular Buddhists.

One is a movement, the other are humans.

We can condemn a cult, but have compassion for the followers who are led astray.

We can condemn smoking, but have compassion to help the smokers to quit smoking. One of the requirement is to get the smokers to see that smoking is bad in the first place. So naturally, there could be some debate towards people who promote smoking as good.

Is it enough to be in robes for decades? I am often amazed at the motivation and drive of secular Buddhists to practise, and it’s very good. That’s an encouraging part of them.

As for rebirth, refer again to my comments on the top for why secular Buddhism is not a full school of Buddhism, and Why Secular Buddhism is Not True - Discussion - Discuss & Discover (

There are plenty of parallels in the other canons, so rebirth is very solidly baked into the suttas. It takes a lot of effort and crazy creative thinking to weave rebirth into the canon as a late teaching, which I don’t think it is possible to even academically attempt to produce that, and I don’t think any secular Buddhists goes into academic Buddhism to prove that, it’s basically not possible.

If dying (for non-enlightened people) is the end of suffering, there’s no need to practise at all. Same result for those who practise, devote their whole life to abstaining from sensual pleasures, vs those who indulge in debauchery, hedonistic lifestyle.

1 Like

If you consider anything I said to contain animosity, jeez, you don’t wanna see me on a bad day.

Exactly. There is compassion, and then there is being a doormat. Criticism doesn’t immediately equal ad hominem attack.

I hate to break it to you Stephen, but that is actually, by definition, what cherry-picking is. Picking out pieces of something you agree with, and leaving out the parts you don’t … I mean, am I off-kilter here?

What I shared from Ven. Analayo is a text-critical statement based on “EBT.” There is no doubt that rebirth is part of the what is accepted as EBT. Most of us on this forum know that the scriptures are nuanced, and may have changed over time, been added to, etc … but us regular lay folk need to take it easy sometimes in regards to our essentially amateur exegesis. There are many secular Buddhists—and I am not trying to target them, I am personally quite indifferent toward them to be honest with you—that have “translated” texts that absolutely, in literally no way, actually align with the other translations accepted by monks and scholars. You cannot just take personal conjecture and make up doctrine, edit it, or cherry-pick it and create new “renderings” or whatever people call this stuff nowadays.

Back to rebirth, it has already been stated you don’t have to “believe it” but you do, really, have to keep it open for consideration as an idea. You can just say to yourself you cannot personally verify it, so, yeah you move on and focus on other parts of the teachings that are more relevant at this particular moment.

1 Like

Regarding “What can get in the way of being open to rebirth”, what about the following?

Attachment to body or rupa khanda. Taking this khanda to be me, mine, myself, some people may not be able to imagine seeing themselves as having a different physical body.

Stinginess with regard to the sixth indria, mind consciousness, or mind object (idea). Idea saying that consciousness arises from physical body or any other idea. Idea is an idea, not direct seeing like what’s done by the sages who rightly see there is rebirth. The culprit is the thinking mind, or in Buddhist terms the sixth sense with its consciousness and mind object, isn’t it?

I don’t think a teacher should force a student to believe in a particular thing.
If the student is still greedy about his view or body, the forceful instruction may make the student develop rage because he doesn’t want to be separated from what he considers his e.g. his body, his idea, or his sixth consciousness.

To overcome greed or stingess maybe one needs to do dana frequently which doesn’t need to be in big amount. The more frequent the dana is, the more often one practices letting go. [Addition: and other practices in the Noble Eightfold Path]

Thumbs up. If possible, we should try to bring more right view into existence (addition: should be in a proper way). To back up criticising is necessary (when context and time are right), I’ll mention AN2.61 available in SuttaCentral

Just my two cents.

1 Like

I think there is a tendency, not just in the secular buddhists but in a very wide range of contemporary thinkers to be, perhaps out of naivety, perhaps out of conceit, or perhaps out of expedience, to genuflect towards “modern science” as being obviously or fundamentally “true” and to describe what’s “real”.

It’s something for example I have noticed Graham Priest do, and many others, trying to fit Buddhism into what we “now know to be true”.

I personally think this is a bit silly, as of course our best theories, QM and GR have very little to say about metaphysics etc, and in fact one of the few things they DO say is that they are definitely wrong as they are incompatible at a fundamental level and will need to be replaced one day by a “unified” theory…

Which brings me back to “expedience”. I suspect that a lot of people, especially people who carved out their careers in “academia” as in Preist’s case or adjacent to it as in Batchelor, that a lot of the declarations of faith and belief in “modern science” was more or less required by the powers that be in order to be able to speak about “spiritual” topics at all.

So that’s my take on what can “get in the way”, a contemporary society that can be deeply hostile to “spirituality” can get in the way, both on an institutional level, and on an internalised, personal one.


When was the last time 98% of scientists got something really important wrong?

Not 98%, but almost 100% of the scientists in the world got this one wrong.

And it was not even half a century ago. :rofl:

Takeaway of the story: When there are at least evidences pointing to new discovery that contradicts our own theory (especially when the new evidences also have their own logical theory to back them up) my suggestion is: it’s worth investigating before straightaway denying. Don’t you agree? :smiley:

I think you are wrong here. The person who always “needs” more will never be happy. The punishment for greed, is greed. Greed is never being satisfied. The same can be said of those who hate and resent those who have more.

My guess is that you are much younger than me that you do not think the certainty of death is something that needs to be dealt with. You may feel differently later in life. Most skeptics have doubts, not certainties. No living thing wants to die.

Since rebirth is not needed for the practice, it could be regarded as extraneous and therefore easily separated from it. Some might find it motivating, but for many, it serves no such purpose. To say it is baked solidly into the suttas is to say you believe every sutta is primary and no interpolation took place. The fact that there are parallels could just mean rebirth material was introduced shortly after the Buddha. Given the fact that virtually all converts came in believing it in the first place, it is easy to see how it could have be woven in later. I think the Buddha would have been more unique an individual if did not declare or deny rebirth than if he did.

I actually believe rebirth is possible though I am not sure how punishment and reward would factor into it. If it is possible, I hope I find Buddhism again.

By definition, cherry picking is taking bits and pieces arbitrarily based on what you like. I am saying something very different here. I am saying that if you regard X as primary and Y as incongruent with X than saying Y probably was secondary is perfectly logical.

See my reply to NgXinZhao on this issue.

My sense is that the Buddha was highly unique on this issue insofar as he distinguished kamma and rebirth from reincarnation, and the kamma of ritual in Vedic practice. It’s a subtle point, but he made this distinction quite sharply from the widely held positions of the time on reincarnation. Part of the entire structure of the Buddha’s theory involves these unique teachings of kamma and rebirth, along with the means of cultivating ethics and opening doors to insight into reality. And so, the support for rebirth is essential, in my view, but I don’t begrudge people that do not hold it for themselves and consider themselves Buddhists. In a way, we know that the Buddha taught some concepts to folks like the Kalamas in one way, and he taught his monks and nuns in a different way, understanding that different people will understand and accept his Dhamma with greater or lesser precision.


We are on different planets obviously. I regress.


1 Like

I agree 100% with your statement.

Kamma is essentially null and void without the potentialities regarding rebirth. Limiting it to “this life” or just boiling it down to another spiritual bank account which is not what it is, at all, in the Buddhist system.

We could go on and on around this topic, and I am not even going to go into the actual metaphysical and wild and weird stuff in the canon that cannot just be reduced to “added later” or myth or some other excuse people make to try and rectify Buddism with “modern science.” Buddhism is not science, and the two are not reconcilable, because as with all religions there comes a point where aspects must be taken on faith in the dispenser of knowledge, the Buddha in this case. To look at Buddhism with a reductionist lens is not only to detract from it the true beauty within the system, but to seriously lose a the chance to examine its actual potential as a system of thought. We don’t have to “believe” anything I wil say again, but we must be open to things beyond our scope of understanding. There is just no way around it in my opinion.


I think the Buddha in his first noble truth does not only describe the suffering of humans or the human situation in samsara. I think this is a nice aspect of Buddha-Dhamma. It opens a very broad perspective on life. It is not anthropo-centric. Suffering is not only for humans. We see animals suffer a lot. We are all in the same boat. I do not doubt there are beings other than animal and humans.
Buddha describes the suffering of all sorts of beings.

From this perspective seen one might question if one even can understand the first noble truth without the perspective of the suffering of all kinds of other beings in samsara and their situation.

1 Like

Richard, I agree and I really like the way you present this idea of the beauty of the Dhamma. In terms of a scientific approach, it’s been interesting for me to train in the chaplaincy field. Here in the US, naturally, there are many colleagues from Christianity, for example, who dominate the field, and in some ways try to dominate chaplaincy despite chaplaincy, by its nature, being interfaith and a kind of counseling function that requires one to adapt to the worldview of the patient or client. In other words, no evangelism is permitted, but many chaplains see their role in the field as an avenue to evangelize.

In any case, one aspect of the Dhamma that I value is that among all of the major world religions, the Dhamma when seen through the lens of history and science holds up very well. To really go deep in the historicity (thank you, Authenticity book … ) of the Dhamma supports it and reinforces it. The same exercise and scrutiny with some of the Abrahamic religions causes many degrees of indigestion among its believers, Christians being just one group susceptible to this problem. I like the way that the more that we dive deep and try to apply some measure of scientific scrutiny to the Dhamma, the better it holds up, when frankly, the same is not true with respect to other world religions, whose foundational beliefs have been found to be lacking in evidence and, in some cases, simply not true. One former Christian scholar once said ( I loosely paraphrase) that the best way to lose your religion is to study it, where, with the Dhamma, it seems the best way to cultivate and strengthen one’s spiritual life is to study it and scrutinize it, which we all are thankfully allowed to do at Sutta Central.


Instead of meditating on the dead, it is better to Meditate on the Dhamma of Life and Renewal of Hope in the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are the perfect guidance along side of the Noble Eightfold Path along for this reason, not for another. Buddhism has come to make us happy.

Anyway, Green, I had an imaginary friend named Green when I was a Child, and I remember scribbling your exact post onto a Piece of Paper in Elementary School. My Imaginary Friend’s name was Green. Hmmmm… This is an interesting trick of the Buddha-Nature. It’s okay, whatever it is. :grin:

I had the thought that if there is no believer present, no me or I that grasp any belief, then there will be no rebirth.

Thank you! And I like where you went in this post as well. I tell people all the time, I am a quite rationally-minded invidivual, who is naturally very skeptic of everything. Part of me even leans toward naturalism and these ideas around Nature being the only truth and such; however, I have studied Buddhism for a long time, and was caught in this cycle for many years of trying to rationalize or make sense of things I did not agree with. Then, one day finally, I realized it doesn’t matter if I agree with them or not, they are there for pondering, and being open to things outside of our wheelhouse is an extremely valuable trait not only regarding Dhamma, but politics, social arrangement, etc etc etc.

I think you are right that the more you ponder on these things, and use your rational mind, certain points of the teaching only seem more reasonable. Maybe not “quantifiable” by science in the peer-reviewed sense, but you know what I am saying, it to us as individuals can feel “real.”

I think Buddhism as a religious/philosophical system has such deep implications which bring us closer to the Real in the philosophical sense, but a lot of the modern chop and drop of certain schools/practices is to me only moving people away from that possibility. And I am in no way talking down to these other systems of thought, they are perfectly fine systems of inquiry, this is what people do. I just think we need to respect doctrine and the traditions that have brought us this information in the first place.


Sadhu, Richard! I wish you a good week.


The Buddha made many declarations about rebirth. By seeing and knowing his own rebirths was the final key to his awakening.

I suspect that’s if Stephen Batchelor would have done this, he may have not had a need to invent a philosophy without rebirth and kamma.

I had the same thoughts about this, that his teachers may have backed him into a corner.

Defining rebirth and kamma as a system of punishment and reward misses the mark. I think that’s another point that Stephen Batchelor may have had to adapt to his philosophy. Here’s a quote from his book “After Buddhism”:

“The doctrine of karma is a theory of cosmic justice. Rebirth is simply the medium within which such justice plays itself out: those who do good in this life will be rewarded in a future life, whereas those who commit evil in this life will be punished in one of the numerous Buddhist hells or will reborn as a ghost or an animal.”


You’ve summed up the heart of this topic: how making up one’s mind too soon not only misses our great opportunity, but sends us down a path of wrong view upon wrong view until we’ve constructed a philosophy that isn’t Buddhism any longer.

1 Like

everything driving to Dhamma has something positive. :slightly_smiling_face: Also the so-called heretical views are a constant from Buddha times. Buddhism would be more boring without it. Although if the doubt on rebirth arise, one can say this is an outsider idea.

At least I understand the discussion on rebirth is quite useless because the feeling of being akin with rebirth logics should arise inside the person. The only utility after the arising of this question is to investigate the possible obstacles. Then one can look with honesty into himself to detect what idea can cause rejection. If we feel the non-rebirth sounds an absurd idea there is no problem. If we feel both things are not a concern there is not problem.

The problem can exists if we feel more comfortable with the non-rebirth idea. When this sounds better than rebirth. Because in such case, there is arising of the idea of death and at that moment there is no knowledge or remembrance about key things like kamma and the arising of the individuality (atta). Then what’s happening at that moment in contact with that image of death.

The belief in non-rebirth is a wrong view because this can be an obstacle. The Buddha taught to identify the wrong views for practical terms, to avoid obstacles, and not because some intellectual coherence.

There is no special comfort by keeping rebirth or non-rebirth belief . In case of a life with strong sufferings, the nothingness idea and non-rebirth idea maybe can sounds good. In the case of a criminal life the rebirth idea can sound bad. In the case of losing a beloved being, the rebirth can sounds good. Etcetera. Many possibilities.

All Buddhists should aspire to non-rebirth although there is only one Path available in the whole Universe to realize that which is the Buddhas path. They arise to taught that. The nothingness of secularists is just an imagination because there is not any experience availabe in the Reality of such thing. Therefore, What is that idea at all?

However, we are experiencing how there is a continuity in Reality. It doesn’t care when one looks because we cannot see the things vanishing in a nothingness. This idea sounds like a magical trick, an spectacle for the children. I understand that with this question one should investigate to find where is the root of that idea and why this persist in our mind.

best wishes

1 Like

It should be clear from the context of my statement that you quoted that the same result is referring to after death.

Since by the belief of no rebirth, there’s nothing after death, what means is there for further greed or hate to arise as claimed to be the punishment?

Let’s use a very simple worldly situation. A psychopath, incapable of remorse or compassion, robs a bank, goes to hiding in some remote places, escaped the human law, lived out her life in comfort. Vs a devoted Bhikkhuni who trained so much harder than the monks to memorize the Vinaya, trained her whole life, yet not yet enlightened, but had established a super large amount of merits and good basis for the next life’s continued training. According to the belief of nothing after death, these two people will get the same result of nothing after death, making their efforts in this life time meaningless.

If there’s rebirth, then there’s the working of kamma, which is impersonally guiding these two people to two very different places which they start off with very different treasures of their mind and physical situations. It’s not so much punishment vs reward, unless one regard not putting one’s hand into the fire vs putting the hand into the fire as reward and punishment. Kamma is impersonal, it is not God, it doesn’t care about us doing good or bad deeds, it just operates, good gets good, bad gets bad. Like fire burns hands who gets into it, doesn’t burn hands which are wise not to get into it.

Suicidal people wants to die. They don’t believe in rebirth, or temporary forgot that rebirth exist, so they don’t see that death is not the end of their suffering.

I don’t see the relevance of this in context of belief in rebirth. What assumptions are made to produce that statement?

I explained in detailed 2 cases relevant to morality above, for someone who doesn’t believe in kamma and rebirth is more likely to fall trap into.

It’s better to make such statements about the suttas, if you had actually read them all, or at least most of them. I had read the 4 Nikayas, and it’s basically a crazy amount of mental gymnastics to weave them in as you suggested. Or else you’re just not following the Kalama sutta, not seeing the evidence of primary material, preferring to believe in your own pet theory and try to alter the perception of data to fit in your pet theory.

Also useful to read Evolution of Buddhism - Essays - Discuss & Discover ( There are other teachers who declared no rebirth, no kamma. If Buddha really saw that there rebirth and kamma was not true, he would not have any social pressure to declare it as not true. The fact is he did declared them to be true, by his own direct realization, no less.

Have you read the rebirth evidences linked here yet? Batchelor, Bramali, Rebirth, Choices - #3 by NgXinZhao

Well you know, in Police Code, an “autocycle” in the wording of terms of the Police who handle past and future life crime means that a perpetrator’s consciousness falls both into the state of commiting an offense, and experiencing an offense as the victim, because in the case of it then, it is the same person in multiple lifetimes, and their karma has caused them to hurt themselves, this can cause hellish rage and the person in question who is committing the crime, say, violence, can drag other referential (evil reincarnations) of that person into the “autocycle” and it can be a big problem, primarily because that means that the Law of karma has been severely broken. One person is committing many crimes at once, and won’t stop. The solution is a difficult one, and can be lifetimes of Police work to handle.