Reflecting on Rebirth: An Understanding That Can Go Beyond Faith and Theory

Looking back, I had inklings of rebirth based on some childhood experiences. Specifically, when I was a kid, mainly ages 4-8, I developed a unusual preoccupation with World War 1. This happened by seeing images in books in a library or classroom from the war. I immediately was fixated on it. Although a generally sensitive child, I had no problem seeing, and wanting to see images of trench warfare, explosions, gas attacks, no man’s land, etc. I had a strong fear of sudden popping sounds. All I can describe it as is a sense of familiarity or connection. Eventually that faded but I always chalked it up as a strange experience I couldn’t quite make heads or tails of.

As I began meditating, this re-emerged as a subject in the form of images and experiences which further outlined this memory with me as some kind of low level officer in World War 1. I recall being fanatically in favor of the war, finding it exciting and thrilling, even going so far as forcing people to fight who objected, even when the situation was clearly futile, but then eventually became remorseful of what I saw and did. On the upside, I did also rescue some people and save some lives and had a strong self-sacrificing tendency. I died years later, alone in a small bed.

I think when I came to understand rebirth as a truth, it was following a process, but the realization of that process was encapsulated in a single moment when I began to feel what is described as samvega. But when I say samvega, I do mean in the sense of terror-- being in a situation-- trapped-- that I wanted to get out of. The idea of doing “this” forever was frightening but also clarifying and transformative.

I wouldn’t say that I ever decided to believe in rebirth. I would say that experiences with meditation, and correlating of my life experiences showed me that it was true.

Thanks all for this interesting and meaningful thread. I enjoy the thought that we may have all crossed paths in the world before meeting again on SC :slight_smile:

18 Likes

Dear @Mat,

Thank you for the extraordinary generosity, courage and vulnerability you have shown in sharing! :pray:t6: :pray:t6: :pray:t6:

With much metta :hibiscus: :heartpulse: :hibiscus:


No, not at all, it’s awesome (and not in the usual sense in which the word “awesome” is used these days). Thanks Peter!!! :pray:t6: :heartpulse: :pray:t6: :heartpulse: :pray:t6:


@dharmacorps…wow!..just WOW!!! Thanks so much for sharing this!!! :heartpulse: :pray:t6: :pray:t6: :hibiscus: :pray:t6: :pray:t6: :heartpulse:

9 Likes

Beautifully put Yasoja :hibiscus:

I’m reminded of the Danda Sutta SN 15.9 and the similie of the stick. We can try and incline ourselves towards wholesomeness and try and weight the good kamma side of the stick, but when it’s thrown in the air, it can land on either end, or in the middle…


Yes, it doesn’t make sense to talk about, or make a big deal of, kamma without rebirth.

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!! :pray:t6:


Much mudita :heartpulse: for being able to listen in person! This shows why it’s so important to hear such teachers in person. My favourite teachers are both long term monastic Practitioners and also scholars of Pali and the EBTs. :slight_smile:

8 Likes

Thank you Kay, for starting this post. It is a refreshing approach to the topic and one I am glad to see happening :slightly_smiling_face:

6 Likes

I’ve been reflecting on this lately and just wanted to pop back and say thanks!! What a brilliantly useful way of imagining you’ve shared. :hibiscus: :anjal: :hibiscus:

4 Likes

My experience is similar. I didn’t just decide one day, “OK, now I believe in rebirth.” I didn’t weigh the merits of one view vs. another view. I didn’t debate with others about it. It just naturally developed on its own with practice and study. I can’t even point out exactly when I became firm about it except to say that it was some time after taking refuge and committing myself to understanding the Buddha’s teachings.

Quite likely, and more intimately at that. :wink:

At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find… A being who has not been your father… your brother… your sister… your son… your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find.

"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."
SN 15.14-19

6 Likes

Which just points to another consequence of being open to rebirth. :slight_smile: It’s a useful reflection for developing karuna and metta. :slight_smile:

Thanks so much for this Mkoll! :hibiscus: :heartpulse: :hibiscus:


I am starting to see a clearer distinction between experiencing Rebirth as a Truth and using an open acceptance of Rebirth as a strategy or skillful means which can have an active and energising impact on our lives and Practice. I’m deeply grateful to you all for sharing your feelings, stories, journeys and personal experiences. :pray:t6: I hope you keep them coming. :hibiscus:

9 Likes

I appreciate how much courage it takes to share something that’s deeply personal - particularly on a public forum.

So I just want to say an extra big thanks for those of you that have shared your personal, direct experiences of Rebirth. For those of us yet to have such experiences, but open to them and open to an acceptance of what you have shared as your lived truth, it is of great benefit. Personally, each time I hear such stories, I find myself deeply touched; they resonate so strongly with something I feel I know, but cannot, just at this minute :slight_smile: recall. Thank you. :pray:t6:

8 Likes

Wow. Amazing thread. It gives me a combination of inspiration, awe, and shivers…

7 Likes

A wonderful thread.
I’m always interested in hearing stories of others who had inklings of past lives as a kid. I remember having this really strong feeling when I was young that the time I was in the womb was an intermediary time. That I’d experienced so much before. Weariness mixed with familiarity.

As I grew up I got caught up in this life and it faded at around the age of 7. I often wonder if I’d had different conditions if it would have faded. Yet there was always the search, where others seemed content.

About 5 years after I started mediating I had my first distinct moment of realising rebirth had to be true. Before that I’d just put it to one side because the Dhamma had been beneficial. Then later after listening to a hair raising online sutta class with Ajahn Brahm on DO (DN15) the conditions where right to investigate further via meditation. This experience reminded me of that ‘knowing’ I had as a kid. The sense of urgency really increased and the vastness of my own predicament became clearer.

I’m somewhat amused and perplexed as to how I was born in Amsterdam to an America of Russian decent and an Englishwoman of German decent and then (re)discovered the Dhamma in Australia. But it feels like home.

16 Likes

I hear you! :smiley: Thank you so much for sharing your perspective.

I love this!

Nice :slight_smile: Very nice :anjal:

3 Likes

Discussing and sharing our experiences of rebirth has another couple of benefits, which are related to each other. These are found in the EBTs, and, just as importantly, in the hearts of those who have been writing (and hopefully reading) this thread. :slight_smile:

  1. It gives us a chance to have discussions about the Dhamma, it gives us a chance to dwell on the Dhamma because Rebirth is such a crucial, central aspect of the Dhamma.

  2. This in turn fulfills the requirement to deliberately choose to condition ourselves with Right View; in preparation for it being the cause of becoming the Right View of the Stream Winner.

Thus we are creating a View which generally dwells somewhere in the background of our minds, not often thought about or dwelt on, just there, quietly informing how we perceive and think. We continue, for most our time as Buddhist Practitioners, to cultivate metta and mindfulness, present moment awareness. Most of the time we don’t go around worrying about past lives or future lives or 3 life dependent origination or whatever. Most of the time we cultivate kindness and presence and awareness.

But every now and then, it’s good and useful to come together and share like this and also to listen and read the Dhamma. Especially when the contemporary, popular conditioning of the day doesn’t encourage or support us in such endeavours.

For me it’s not about reifing blind belief or hopeful imagination or cosy over-optimism. The Buddha’s teachings on rebirth are too coarse, too frightening, to hair raising for that. So it’s not about a blind faith.

Rather it’s - at least partly - about recognising the various mental gymanastics open to us. One of them, as I’ve mentioned, is conditioning Right View so that when we do die or have a profoundly deep meditation, we have the natural inclination to turn to look at and investigate Rebirth and find out for ourselves; and to make a habit even of this, perhaps even over lifetimes, so that we can have the best possible chance of Enlightenment. Or alternatively, the teaching on Rebirth helps us - as some of you have already pointed to - a deeper understanding of what it means to let go; and thus it prepares you for this in those incredibly important life moments - death and deep meditation.

The other, and certainly not the only other, mental activity where this sort of discussion comes in handy is in the development of a type of faith or confidence which we recognise as a strategy, a mental construct, an emotional tool. Which we can deliberately apply - as if it were an ointment - in our toolkit of skillful means. One which has the capacity to energise and fuel our practice in an extraordinary way. I am sure some of you are feeling this or have felt this while reading some of what has been written in this topic; you know what I mean. :slight_smile:


@samseva’s new thread made me think about the story of Dhamma Ruwan and how I first came to find out about it. Dhamma Ruwan, now an adult, is one of the speakers in the Global Conference video I posted on Samseva’s new topic. It’s also interesting to hear what Ajahn Brahm says about his chanting at around the 1 hour mark.

Anyway, this is how I first heard about him:

I happened to be strolling along one evening when I heard this melodious chanting. I got close enough to hear, though indistinctly. I’d never heard the melody before. I closed my eyes and stood still. I suddenly “saw” a temple in Sri Lanka, the ground (which is common in Sri Lankan temples) generously covered in beach sand and the buildings whitewashed. It seemed to be a full moon night - with the moonlight reflecting off the sand and the white buildings. It felt intensely peaceful and pure. And I knew - like I know with certainty that 1 plus 1 is 2 - that what I was seeing was something from a distant past. It was gone in a few moments, but it was so powerful that I feel its echoes now as I write this.

Later I found out that the chanting I was hearing had been done by a little boy of 3 years, who spontaneously chanted in a style that had long, long since dropped out of fashion.

9 Likes

…probably by a few hundred years. No one had ever heard it. And it was too complex and melodious for anyone to create it or for a 3 year old to be able to recite it. As I lived in Sri Lanka I have experience listening to all night long paritta chanting. This was very different from that. Also these are not meant to be sung melodiously- and against the teachings of the Buddha. This is widely known among the layity in Sri Lanka. So even if someone was creating a new melody, they would not have created this beautiful style of reciting these texts but would have stuck to a monotonous one.

https://youtu.be/ghyc9WftU3w

with metta

11 Likes

Which brings me to another reason to discuss and reflect on Rebirth, which is common to all other aspects of the Dhamma and is certainly an understanding about this and all other characteristics of the Dhamma: it is fun! Or to paraphrase from the Suttas (and possibly the Vinaya?), it is, to perceive the Dhamma as “beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end.” :slight_smile:

So on that note (pun intended - though it might be so weak that you didn’t get it?), here’s the breathtakingly beautiful chanting of a 3 year old boy, spontaneously and perfectly chanting in an unknown language.


EDIT: Somewhere, in a box of old cassette tapes, I also have a copy of him chanting the Dhammacakkapavatana Sutta.

7 Likes

Thanks so much for the link to the Bojjhanga Sutta Mat…I think you must have edited your post as I was writing mine! :slight_smile:

Anyway…it’s all good because this is different to the one I’ve posted…hooray!! :grin: :anjal:

1 Like

@anon29387788, I was just about to post your link but changed my mind in the last moment for some reason! Lol!

with metta

3 Likes

:grin: :rofl:

2 Likes

Similar to yours @Pasanna, my wife has a very interesting story of remembering being in the womb, waiting to be born. Weariness was a word she used to describe it as well! She remembered details of it, what she thought, how she felt, and a familiarity of nearness to her last life. She was very frustrated as a kid whenever she was made to “wait” for things because of this experience. Perhaps a interesting explanation for children’s impatience! They’ve spent months waiting to be born, they want to hurry up and get on with things.

My wife is also not a Buddhist per se, so this experience isn’t confined to those studying the dhamma, although I do wonder what she could experience if she meditated more.

10 Likes

Ah, yes. I had forgotten about Dhammaruwan!

A 3-year old cannot possibly recite this well, to such lengths, in a language he doesn’t speak, all from memory. It is fascinating.

Here are (I think) all the recordings of Dhammaruwan:
http://www.pirith.org/ (middle of page)

There is also the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which is recorded quite well—and which might cause shivers to go down your spine! :slight_smile:

URL (right-click and ‘Save As’ if you want to keep it):
http://www.pirith.org/download/Dhammachakka.mp3

Dhammaruwan’s story from the above website:

Dhammaruwan was born in a small village near Kandy, Sri Lanka in November, 1968. From the age of about two, before he could read or write, he spontaneously started to chant the ancient Buddhist scriptures in the original pali language, known only to a few scholar monks.

Each day, somewhere around two o’clock in the morning, after sitting in meditation with his adopted and devoted Buddhist foster father for about twenty to forty minutes, he would spontaneously start to chant pali suttas. On the Poya or lunar Observance day, he would sometimes chant for two hours.

Dhammaruwan’s foster father started making amateur recording of the chanting and invited prominent scholar monk to listen. The monk verified that it was indeed the ancient pali language and the boy were chanting it in an ancient style which no longer existed in world.

@anon29387788, I’ll add this to the rebirth video/documentary thread, if you don’t mind.

4 Likes

@Linda Thanks for the heads up about Ven. Anālayo’s new book and that Dhammaruwan is discussed in it.

Regarding duplicate posts, I think for reasons of either documenting or compiling important information, or to delve deeper into a topic, it is probably fine. Such as the topic of Dhammaruwan started in this thread, but by not adding it to the Most revealing documentaries/videos/research on rebirth that you’ve found? thread, people who would search for such information on SC—or even on Google—would not benefit from this information.

3 Likes