Batchelor, Brahmali, Rebirth, Choices

About rebirth. It’s death. Is there anything like a deathless birth? Just thinking :thinking:

Conditioned is mortal=Darkness
Unconditioned is immortal=Light

Light without darkness? :thinking:

In beginning there was darkness. So without darkness there was no Light.

So the ending of darkness goal is too become a Light that doesn’t need darkness anymore? Which is hungerless?

Maybe those people they say doesn’t feel anything are actually Light beings without rebirth(hunger) :face_with_hand_over_mouth::open_mouth:

I recently listened to the talk between Ven Brahmali and Mr Batchelor, that was linked in the first post.

I’m surprised that this wasn’t mentioned - that rebirth is supposed to be something that one can see the proof of, or the mechanism behind, for oneself if one meditates in the right way.

Didn’t the Buddha go into the fourth jhana and then see his countless previous lives, he was part of this clan and ate this food, etc.?

I would assume that Ven Brahmali has attained the fourth jhana, so did he not see his past lives? or is a monk not allowed to speak about meditation experiences? I’ve heard other monks answer questions that clearly indicate that they have reached jhanas. I think it would be the end of the debate if a monk said “look… I’ve seen it for myself, it’s real.”

And for Mr Batchelor, if this question of rebirth was such an issue that it seems to have caused him to disrobe, did he not put the time and effort into trying to get to the fourth jhana and see rebirth for himself? What else in this world could possibly be as important and as interesting as that?

I just thought that it was a strange omission, as there is one way to see “proof” of rebirth, while everything else is just opinion. I type this out with ultimate respect for everyone here and mean no offense.

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It’s not wise to assume these kinds of things. All we have control over is our own practice.

I do remember that there is a rule in the vinaya (not sure which one) that prohibits a monastic (monk or nun) to discuss or proclaim to lay people about their attainments.

Yes, you should be slightly sceptical when you come across such things and “take things with a grain of salt” and always come back to what the Buddha taught.

Another thing to consider is the audience of such talks. There are a lot of talks that are available of say someone like Ajahn Chah were he speaks of a meditation experience/s but the audience he is speaking to are fellow monastics, which I understand is not a violation and is well within the Vinaya.

Should these talks have been made available? Not sure, it all depends on the intention.

Another thing to consider is if the talks were given in a different language other than english, in such cases the translator and the translation comes into the mix. Did the person who was translating the talk have a full grasp of the subject that was being spoken of? Did the translator have their own opinions of the subject and perhaps that would’ve ‘crept in’ into the translation? These are some of the things that you need to consider when listening/watching to these talks.

In the end, always come back to the what the Buddha taught :anjal:

jhana is a prepatory practice to the creation of the mind made body which is a preparation for the recollection of past lives.

It was already becoming rare for monastics to be able to master these practices in canonical times, se SN (link to be dug up later, its the one with the false monastic).

However already in that period it was acknowledged that complete liberation from suffering was possible without these psychic powers. (Ibid).

There are plenty of children out there who remeber thier previous life, Dr Ian Stevenson? has interviewed many of them.

With regards to proof, you may take the testimony of these children or go find out for yourself through direct experience.

For any one seeking complete liberation the only reason to devote ones life to the recollection of the past would be if succeeding in remembering was the only thing that could convince us to stop clinging on to the whirl and to truly let go.


It’s both refreshing and inspiring to see two individuals having a courteous debate without simply trying to drown the other person out, score points or let egos reign; they were both uncommonly kind. As a result, about a year after watching it, I still recall their main points (because they were so clearly and calmly presented, not because of my recall skills).

In simple terms in my case, the first thing that prevented me being open to it was culture; I don’t recall a serious discussion on reincarnation ever prior to encountering Buddhism. Most people I know would likely dismiss it out of hand, whatever that means. I’m not saying that makes the idea of rebirth wrong, just that we are herd animals and can easily and inadvertently start deciding ‘truth’ to some degree based on (assumed) popular opinion.

I’m not sure I agree that this would make their efforts in this life meaningless for two reasons.

  1. The devoted Bhikkhuni almost certainly experiences a happier and internally lighter life than the psychopath*.
  2. The devoted Bhikkhuni may bring benefit to those around her in this very life, even if there’s no continuation after death.

I’m also not sure that meaninglessness necessarily proves rebirth. It proves only that we might want to believe in rebirth, divine judgement or perhaps some other mechanism to ‘balance the equation’.


I Agree. I was raised to believe the Christian beliefs of heaven and hell and reincarnation was considered ridiculous. So even 25 years after I ceased believing in a creator god and those concomitant beliefs, the idea of rebirth was just too close for comfort. The theme of this thread is that many people have been able to trust the word of the Buddha enough to be able to set aside the weight of biases and make more balanced judgements.

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Let me repackage my thoughts then, because I consider myself fortunate to be in that category of people.

I could copy + paste entire paragraphs from the OP, as it parallels my own experience and I expect will be the experience of many more people as Buddhism spreads West. Like you, I found Buddhism to instantly feel “right”, until encountering the counter-culture ‘snag’ of reincarnation teaching. I was disappointed at the time to confirm that traditional Buddhists do in fact teach this…

…and like you, I put that aspect of Buddhism on the backburner for a time. I didn’t even consciously decide to revisit the idea of rebirth but by chance recently after dwelling on the views presented in DN1 for some time, I can’t explain why concisely, a lightbulb turned on. At the very least, I am currently fully convinced that it is impossible for me to rule out rebirth, even if I cannot confirm from personal experience. At the end of the day, it’s no more absurd than any of the other ideas regarding existence, and if assumed (on ‘faith’ for now) adds wholesale motivation to daily practice.


Something that can get in the way, IMO, is this idea that the ideas of non-Western people are somehow “cultural”, but the ideas of Westerners are not cultural, not local and idiosyncratic, but somehow the normal, standard, objective way of doings things.

For example, the conceit in psychology that findings from samples of mostly white, American college students generalize to universal truths about human psychology (aka WEIRD bias ).

My point I guess is just that materialism/physicalism is just as much “cultural baggage” as anything else.

It’s a bit naive (and maybe a bit chauvinistic?) to think one is without any cultural baggage. It’s all baggage no matter where you’re from :slight_smile:


I would recommend reading the essays from the contest here:

I have read 7, and it’s amazes me of how much I had learnt, even thought I thought I knew a lot of the past life recall of kids cases, I now can have more confidence of the medium, NDE, and apparition types too. And it helped me drop more materalism baggage I didn’t knew I was still carrying around.


After reading those essays, has your understanding of citta and vinanna changed or become more clear? If so, would you elaborate in a new topic?

A new topic is too much work for me. I just reply briefly. From the accounts of NDE and people who remembered being in spirit form while between lives, it seems that they refer to the mind-created body. It could be a form of rebirth (as devas?) or it could be the in-between lives that the EBT speaks of.

Some of the statements of NDE people gels well with Ajahn Brahm’s teaching on the nimittas. Redder than red. Most clear, etc. It’s due to separation from the physical body that such things are experienced. Indicating some support for deep Jhanas.

I just thought of an interesting thing. As DN1 stated, that there’s many different levels (7) of mind-bodies which people in the nihilism camp thinks of as self but they are all not self according to Buddhism.

There’s the physical body made of the 4 elements, the deva bodies, the mind-made bodies of Brahma, the other 4 are the 4 arupa minds.

In the EBT there’s mention only of the complete overcoming of forms at the arupa stage after the 4th Jhana, no more sense input only then. Whereas Ajahn Brahm’s Jhana is more of first Jhana already body disappeared.

There could be confusion if one ignores the deva body and mind-made body levels. So could be that the overcoming of the body is the physical body in the first Jhana of Ajahn Brahm, but can be in contact with the mind-made bodies of the Brahma realm.

Thanks for triggering this thought. It helped to resolve some puzzle I had.

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Thank you Adutiya for linking this illuminating debate. Since I definitely sympathize with the perspective of Ajahn Brahmali I find Batchelor makes some interesting arguments too. He definitely touches some critical issues. His problem is that he seems to be too intertwined with what he calls a “pragmatic” perspective, for which he is unable to reflect on the conditions as well as for his later pleading for existential “uncertainty”, which seems to be rooted, at least partially, in delusion.

Anyway some things remain important for me. At one point in the discussion, Batchelor calls the Noble Truths “Four Noble Tasks” and claims they are not at all a concept from EBT but probably a later invention/development. Does anybody have more knowledge or sources on that claim?

I can see how the Four Noble Truths can be seen as tasks, as SN 56.11 contains these verses:

“This noble truth of suffering should be completely understood"
“This noble truth of the origin of suffering should be given up"
“This noble truth of the cessation of suffering should be realized"
“This noble truth of the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering should be developed”

However, there is much more than simply tasks to be performed. In the same sutta the Buddha says:

“Now this is the noble truth of the origin of suffering. It’s the craving that leads to future lives, mixed up with relishing and greed, chasing pleasure in various realms.”

All over the EBTs kamma and rebirth are baked into Dependent Origination. For instance, in this discussion alone the Venerable Brahmali writes in post 9:

"I am not convinced bhava always implies rebirth. I agree that it does in certain contexts, most obviously in suttas such as AN 3.75 and AN 3.76. In these suttas bhava is virtually defined as the kamma made in one existence together with the consequent rebirth in a subsequent one. And there are other contexts where this definition of bhava is also appropriate.

When it comes to dependent origination, however, I am not so sure. In this case rebirth is already accounted for by jāti, and it makes no sense to me why bhava should refer to the same thing. Here I would therefore understand bhava in a narrower sense, as only referring to the kamma that is produced by living in a certain way. What I am proposing, I suppose, is that bhava can be divided up into two sub-categories: a broad bhava that includes rebirth, and a narrower version of the term that relates only to existence in a specific life and perhaps includes intermediate existence. (And the range of translations you suggest further down actually matches this twofold classification quite well.)"

I speculate that, because Batchelor rejects kamma and rebirth, he uses the term the “Four Noble Tasks” to effectively sterilize the Four Noble Truths from kamma and rebirth.

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Batchelor does much more than call the Noble Truths “tasks”, which is a fairly standard rendering. Ven Thanissaro calls them “duties”. For each Truth there is something that needs to be done - ‘This noble truth of suffering should be completely understood.’ etc.

Here’s a summary of Batchelor’s re-focussing of the Truths:

In summary:
Task #1: Embrace Life, Task #2: Let Reactivity Be, Task #3: See Reactivity Stop, Task #4: Actualize a Path

Thank you, Mike, for that! Yes, that’s a significant portion of the teaching in the dhammacakkappavattanasutta and we know it’s crucial because the Buddha said:

"As long as my true knowledge and vision about these four noble truths was not fully purified in these three perspectives and twelve aspects, I didn’t announce my supreme perfect awakening in this world with its gods, Māras, and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its gods and humans.

The topics of Secular Buddhism and rebirth is covered ad infinitum in multiple other other topics on D&D, so I don’t really want to drift away from the topic of this thread, which is how our biases can be hinderances to being open the the Dhamma of the Buddha and how that can lead to wrong view. What I see as wrong view in reading the above Secular Buddhist Network article, is:

“Dukkha is conventionally translated as ‘suffering’, which would fit the soteriological element in conventional Buddhism. However, this is quite incapable of expressing the Buddha’s explicit list of what dukkha stands for: birth, sickness, ageing, death, separation from what we love, being stuck with what we detest, not getting what we want, and our overall psycho-physical vulnerability.”

It’s not that what is said about what dukkha stands for isn’t true, it what’s left out of the Buddha’s explicit list there: the entire point of Buddhism and the Noble Quest: the ultimate ceasing of the cycle of rebirth.


Thank you Adutiya for your insights.

I don’t want to conquer your thread, but one aspect of my questions remains unanswered. I asked:

“At one point in the discussion, Batchelor calls the Noble Truths “Four Noble Tasks” and claims they are not at all a concept from EBT but probably a later invention/development. Does anybody have more knowledge or sources on that claim.”

Are there historical/philological arguments for this?

The argument actually was made first by K.R. Norman in this paper.

I spent some time going over the Secular Buddhist Network’s webpage, just to see where S. Batchelor is at these days with his vocation. His Bodhi College has changed up a bit, and it’s interesting to see the vast network of good looking teacher headshots that are now part of this Network. It seems all very attractive to the western sensibilities of offering timeless teachings in an attractive wrapper, diluted a bit so as to remove the “religious” aspects of the dharma for westerners that want that flavor of practice.

As as been discussed, I guess for many years, I see the secular network approach as one that offers many beneficial Dhamma teachings that likely open the doors of the Dhamma to many, and cultivate a fairly solid understanding of Dhama for many people. Yet, this approach is fundamentally flawed in that it strips the body of Dhamma of its most important and necessary teachings, that being kamma and rebirth. To me, this is a bit like a large Vegan organization that teaches adherence to vegan principles, but takes a cut of sales with Omaha Steaks promotions on its website.

Bodhi College has also evolved to be a money maker, so unlike the dana based Theravada monasteries that offer sound Dhamma teaching and practice on a heartfelt voluntary basis. A recent course for a limited 30 people cost nearly €4000, bringing revenue to Stephen and his wife of nearly €120,000 . On the website, the idea of dana-based teaching is explained away like this: “Having moved beyond the view of monasticism as the ideal form of dharma practice, I am led to question the dāna system that is part of it. I cannot find a single reason any more to justify running the Secular Dharma programme on a dāna basis.”

To me, whether these secular groups simply rename and repackage the 4NT to sell these teachings to westerners, or discard the model of dana-Bhikkhus-Bhikkhunis that the Buddha himself established for very pragmatic and ethical reasons, it seems all done to monetize and further capitalize the Dhamma to the benefit of the corporate founders and lead teachers. If one can earn hundreds of thousands of Euros a year repackaging and teaching essentially what the Buddha taught, that beats the heck out of a real day job.

As I’ve said before, I’ll take a week at Bodhinyana, Abhayagiri or Wat Umong over any of these for-profit programs. I’ll continue to support the growth and health of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis. I’l continue to hope that as westerners come to the Dhamma, that they appreciate that there are communities where the Buddha’s true Dhamma is still taught, by renunciants, on a dana-based system…just as the Buddha did so many centuries ago.


Thank you! Through this paper I found the fitting discussion on Sutta Central, for everybody who is interested:

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