This is my first post to this forum but it has been wonderful reading posts from others. I searched the forum and couldn’t find that there has ever been any serious discussion of antinatalism in the forum and was interested to hear others’ insights about the philosophy and how it relates to early Buddhism.
Antinatalism as I understand it is the belief that that it is morally unjustifiable to bring a new sentient life into existence since the preponderance of experience is infused with what Buddhists would consider Dukkha. The modern standard-bearer for antinatalism is David Benatar and his book “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence”. He sums up the antinatalist position with the following points: The Asymmetry of Pleasure and Pain - David Benatar
I am someone who works with youth and have seen the younger generation increasingly adopt this philosophy, swearing off procreation as everything from too burdensome to immoral, given the state of the world and imminent disaster of climate change, among other things. I’ve found myself pondering whether the Buddha himself was the ultimate antinatalist in the pursuit of the cessation of the cycle of rebirth. I think at a cosmic level this clearly seems true, and the Buddha would concur that it is “Better never to have been”.
But would the Buddha be a modern antinatalist that discourages procreation? It’s an interesting question. I’m not sure. It’s clear that in the early texts the Buddha values the opportunity that a human birth provides someone: Samyutta Nikaya 56.48: Yoke with a Hole. With that logic it may be the case that we should produce as many humans a possible. It’s unclear to me though whether Buddhist cosmology provides for a finite number of conscious beings being reborn and whether or not new ones are created. I suppose that matters because if existence is Dukkha and it is a good thing to escape it, then it would be a bad thing to create more, new, beings. However, if those beings are already trapped in the cycle of rebirths, it would be a good thing to provide them with an opportunity to escape via a human rebirth.
Perhaps that kids are right, and given the current cliff of impending climate disaster, it is simply immoral to reproduce at this historical moment, but would be the opposite in another.
Dhamma friends, help me explore this topic. What are your thoughts?