Following the path of the suttas, is believing in the cessation of dukkha enough?

Hello all,

As background, for a while now, I have loved and respected the path of the Buddha from afar, but as with so many, I find the idea of rebirth and nibbana to be a stumbling block. Specifically, despite having struggled through a variety of explanations, I simply can’t square annata and us being the five aggregates with the concept of being reborn. But unfortunately for me, I also agree with @sujato that one can’t really excise rebirth from the Buddhist path without it ceasing to be what is presented in the EBT and perhaps Buddhism writ large. So, I stay at a distance.

My question is this: for the entrant into the tradition, is there a way around this? I was watching a video about modern Vedanta by Swami Sarvapriyananda, and he explained how moksha is both the ending of suffering caused by illusion/clinging and the end of the cycle of rebirth. And he said something to the effect of, since they are two sides of the sane coin, he advises people early on to focus on the former, and the latter understanding will come.

Can the same be said about Buddhism and nibbana? It’s my understanding that the Buddha portrays nibbana in the EBTs both as the end of suffering and the end of samsara. If a person accepts the possibility of the former, must one also embrace the latter? Or is withholding judgment about rebirth enough to be faithful to the way of early buddhism and the EBTs?

I realize this may come across as a bit pedantic or scholastic, but it’s important to me to truly embrace the Dhamma as it is, if that is where I am in life, rather than just make the tradition suit me. Thanks in advance, all, for your thoughts; this forum always impresses me.


Welcome to the forum @ASearcher !

To enter the tradition and become a Buddhist, all you need to do is take the three refuges and five precepts. There’s no “test of faith” to be a “true believer” in Buddhism. That’s theistic stuff haha

Indeed, confidence is built up slowly in Buddhism.

In one sutta (MN 27), the Buddha compares nibbāna to a great, bull elephant. He cautions that even seeing footprints and tusk marks in a forest, you shouldn’t definitively conclude “this forest contains a great, bull elephant” until you see the animal for yourself. In the same way, even if you have jhānas, etc you shouldn’t yet conclude that the rest of the Buddha’s teachings are true from that. Rather, like a skilled tracker follows a trail, the spiritual searcher should follow the gradual path: doing what is instructed and seeing if the results match every step of the way. In this way, confidence builds little by little.

It also helps you avoid teachers and teachings that aren’t right for you if you’re constantly seaking to improve and are circumspect about what effect your practice is having on your virtue, clarity, and discernment. (see also: the four iddhipādas)

Hope that helps and, again, welcome! :grin:


There is Buddha’s Pascal wager, the teaching that cant be refuted.

A sensible person reflects on this matter in this way: ‘If there is effective action, when this individual’s body breaks up, after death, they will be reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm. But let’s assume that those who say that there is no effective action are correct. Regardless, that individual is still praised by sensible people in the present life as being a moral individual of right view, who affirms the efficacy of action.’ So if there really is effective action, they win on both counts. For they are praised by sensible people in the present life, and when their body breaks up, after death, they will be reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm. They have rightly undertaken this guaranteed teaching in such a way that it encompasses the positive outcomes of both sides, leaving out the unskillful premise.

MN 60

In my opinion, it’s okay to not believe in rebirth. Why don’t you practice for happiness and well being in this life? The present suffering that we can feel is enough reason to practice dharma.

Belief about rebirth and nibbana will come later… Maybe it will become clear to you after some time

This is correct, so the practitioner must first realize they are suffering. The Buddha became aware of suffering through observation of the worldly conditions of old age, sickness and death, and that was the basis of his search and attainment of awakening. The practitioner should examine how strong their realization of suffering is.

"The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.

At first such changes generally are not welcome. We try to deny our vision and to smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away the discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry, once lit, continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves be swept away by superficial readjustments or slouch back into a patched up version of our natural optimism, eventually the original glimmering of insight will again flare up, again confront us with our essential plight. It is precisely at that point, with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can we continue to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social norms. A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of a more stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive at our destination we cannot rest content."—Bikkhu Bodhi

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Welcome to the forum!

So, please don’t take this personally unless you can find it helpful. Obviously I don’t know anything about your situation other than the few words you have shared. But I think that reframing things can be useful sometimes.

There are actually many more people in the Buddhist world that don’t have a problem with these things, so I think it is a mistake to normalize the issue. Of course, it is normal for some people. But if we reinforce our difficulties by thinking that there are many others with the same difficulty, it takes the edge off something that I think is better with one.

I think it’s also helpful to reframe what the stumbling block is. The stumbling block is not rebirth and nibbana. The stumbling block is lack of saddha (faith) and lack of right view. When we see things this way, our course of action becomes more clear.

And importantly one can still be a Buddhist and lack saddha and right view. One only perfects these things when the path has led to fruition.

Unfortunately much of the way that Buddhism has been falsely marketed to the world has been with the slogan “don’t believe anything that you can’t know for yourself.” It’s quite poisonous and has brought so much trouble to so many people.


Yeah. Indeed, the water’s much nicer over here in Camp Rebirth :joy: The path (and life) gets much easier and fuller with a belief in reincarnation, for sure. Hopefully the OP will try it some day :slight_smile: