Secular Buddhists represents scientism

Scientism isn’t the same as science. It’s the opposite of searching for truth. Scientism is the unquestioned belief that the mechanistic, materialistic worldview – which works well for technology – can provide us with a complete explanation of everything. In this era, academics, scientists, and professionals largely ignore the massive accumulation of evidence for postmortem survival – as if it never existed.
I find many parallels between Secular Buddhism and scientism. I have summarized that below

  1. Refusal to believe in afterlife and other planes of consciousness. Sometimes they would say that they are agnostics and would believe all this if presented with enough evidence. But they refuse to see evidence when presented. They try to spin Buddha’s statements to support their own beliefs. For e.g. I heard some say that Brahma loka and deva lokas aren’t part of EBT, and it is simply metaphor for good life on earth. They believe that nothing survives after death, thus concept of Brahma lokas and deva lokas are all fake.
  2. Buddha had no supra mundane powers. We see reports of such type of phenomenon in present times simply because it is a coincidence. And all unexplained phenomena such as telepathy, NDE, ESP, out-of-body experience are illusory.
  3. There is no such thing as reincarnation.

I think we can surely say that scientism has taken hold of Buddhism in the west.
Because, like most of the scientists of the west, the secular Buddhist refuse to see the evidence presented in favor of things Buddha claimed 2500 years ago.

Reincarnation

Books by Jim B tucker and every book of ian stevenson meticulously presents the research on children who remember past lives and had birthmarks at the same places as the wounds of previously deceased person.
Many skeptics have tried to refute these claims, but I couldn’t find any reasonable argument that can refute them . Secular Buddhists simply refuse to see this evidence.

Out-of-Body experience

Robert A. Monroe (1915-1995), was a radio broadcasting executive who became known for his research into altered consciousness and founding The Monroe Institute. His 1971 book, Journeys Out of the Body, is credited with popularizing the term “out-of-body experiences” (OBE).
There is in fact so much evidence for out-of-body experience that it is an embarrassment of riches. It is also the most easily achievable do it yourself technique, as opposed to years of mediation leading to jhana attainments .
I can challenge any secular Buddhist to read books on this topic and familiarize yourself, and you will see the results for yourself
my recommendations include

  1. Travel Far: A Beginner's Guide to the Out-of-Body Experience, Including First-Hand Accounts and Comprehensive Theory and Methods by Darryl E. Berry Jr.
  2. Demystifying OBE
  3. The Art and Practice of Astral Projection by Ophiel
    4.The Phase: A Practical Guidebook for Lucid Dreaming and Out-Of-Body Travel by Michael Raduga

ESP
We all know about Buddha’s power to read minds and see things at a distance using his divine eye. Well these things aren’t of the past as the evidence for ESP and Remote Viewing is overwhelming too. During the Cold War, the US was looking for any advantage it could find over the USSR because even the simplest edge one way or the other could have tipped the balance and changed history. At some point in the 1970s, the US intelligence agencies received word that the USSR was researching heavily into parapsychological phenomena, specifically, the science of Remote Viewing.
Project Stargate was the CIA’s counter to any possible extra-sensory research going on in the USSR. It encompassed multiple disciplines, but the main focus was on Remote Viewing, with over $20 million dollars spent over 20 years and hundreds of individual studies making up one of the largest Remote Viewing experiments ever created.

Project Stargate also didn’t go under just one codename. In the years it ran, the project was contained under the aegis of many other names, including:

STARGATE
GONDOLA WISH
GRILL FLAME
CENTER LANE
PROJECT CF
SUN STREAK
SCANATE

The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) began all US research into Remote Viewing, performing a series of experiments. The evidence in support of remote viewing is just overwhelming to simply refuse to accept it as true. Anyone skeptic can go through these books

  1. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13235703-the-reality-of-esp?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=SpVJLNl2wz&rank=3
  2. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41874668-everybody-s-guide-to-natural-esp?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=r8joNay4gm&rank=1
  3. The Seventh Sense: The Secrets of Remote Viewing as Told by a Psychi by Lyn Buchanan
  4. Amazon.com

NDE

Secular Buddhists also refuse to see the evidence presented in favor of afterlife through NDEs . Raymond moody has conducted very through research on this topic in his book

The point which I want to make is that secular Buddhist can’t just continue to pretend that the rest of us who do believe in all these things are simply doing this out of ‘belief’ and without any evidence, when in fact they are the ones who operate out of dogmas of scientism.

5 Likes

The problem is not really secular buddhism, mahayana, vajrayana, theravada, but our pure hearts are overgrown with the thickets of the ego-businessmind. We have has lost trust in the wisdom, purity and goodness of the heart. We have become calculated persons. Businessman. And be honest…isn’t that when the burden and suffering of life really starts? Do yoy think the burden can ever end when we keep being businessman? Calculating?

But, still, this calculating mind, this businessman, feels ripened. He things he is much wiser than the spontaneous heart. He has abandoned his own heart, i.e. the Noble Path. Now this businessman thinks that it can arrive at purity by being a calculating businessman :crazy_face:

The real problem is that we do not connect with the lessons, guidance, light from within . Which come from our own pure hearts. We seek for wisdom and lessons in books, in traditions, in others. That is avoiding what really must be done. We must make an inner turn and connect ourselves with our present purity, goodness and wisdom.

1 Like

Some might label me as a secular buddhist. Perhaps, it is best to explain this position or at least one interpretation of it. People, seekers and non-seeks alike, make all sorts of claims and assertions, that this god or that god exists, that they have memories of past lives, that they have super powers etc. Certainly, there is craving tied up with these notions… as mortals aspire to become long-living, powerful, and happy like the gods they conceptualize and dream of.

Of course, these people may be correct. But they also may be delusional, much in the same way that our minds form memories of events that never happened. And the EBTs are not a homogeneous collection, so we have suttas (MN 2, Sabbasava Sutta) where the Buddha discourages entertaining thoughts about the past, specifically with regards to identity formation and the creation and birth of a painful, troublesome fabrication like the self.

These sorts of inquiries below are said to be unskillful.
What am I?
How am I?
Am I?
Am I not?
Did I exist in the past?
Did I not exist in the past?
What was I in the past?
How was I in the past?
Having been what, did I become what in the past?
Shall I exist in future?
** Shall I not exist in future?**
What shall I be in future?
How shall I be in future?
Having been what, shall I become what in future?
Whence came this person?
** Whither will he go?**

These are all unskillful because they involve the generation of the conceit “I am”, the identity view.
And we also have contradictory suttas where knowledge of past lives and selves is encouraged, a sign of advancement along the path. Personally, I concur that is a later formulation that is reflective of the milieu following the death of the Buddha, where sages and enlightened beings were (as per the religious society and rival sramana sects) expected to be omniscient or have access to secret knowledge. The Buddha has already uprooted the conceit and thorn that is “I am” and sees the world as empty, lacking atta. Saying that was “MY” past live is nothing but clinging, attachment to mental sankhara, constructs. And with the birth of ‘me’ and ‘my’ comes nothing but decay and suffering.

There is the arising and cessation of countless things in the mind. Memories, thoughts, figments, imaginations. Perhaps these children do in fact remember past existences. Perhaps they’ve been brainwashed by their parents or trained to believe and say certain things. Perhaps those memories are real, but are like memories of dreams. Either way, does pursuing the past and generating “I was this or I was that” lead to unbinding, detachment, and the cessation of dukkha? Does it lead to the state of peace? No, it does not.

As per out of body experiences, the sage knows and is familiar with all resting places of the mind, but does not cling or crave any of them. That is to say, if OBEs or ESP are to take place whilst one is meditating, one should not cling to them. And the longing and the pursuit of OBEs seems rather counterproductive. One attains the state but then falls away from it in due time. With the fear of falling away from the state comes suffering. Craving for future states of being, being in this state of mind or that state of mind, is this the path that leads to Dukkha’s cessation? No.

Yet alas, real or not, people will always crave for ESP or OBE or past life memories or powers to be real, to be experienced. Bound up in delight is that craving, but it is best if it is abandoned. Those experiences, if they do happen, are impermanent, are not self, and are unpleasant.

3 Likes

It’s well known of the attitude towards past life recollection and supernormal powers is not to crave for them or identify them as self. Indeed. That’s nothing new to traditional Buddhism.

What’s at critique for secular Buddhists is to use these attitudes as justification to declare that there’s no such thing as past lives (due to no literal rebirth), no such thing as supernormal powers. When it’s clearly states as part of mundane right view.

There’s past lives, developing recollection of past lives can help in dispassion for seeing that whatever we want to do other than attaining enlightenment, we had done them, so many times in the past. It’s enough to abandon worldly things.

There’s supernormal powers, it allows us the faith to develop these powers to recollect past lives, or have faith in others who did it and declared past lives exist. For current age with the evidences for rebirth, there’s additional resources and one doesn’t need to rely on faith alone for rebirth belief.

Even arahants who had gone beyond all notions of self, acknowledge that they had a past life. Conventional truth and language is not superceded by ultimate truth. Arahants also acknowledges that unenlightened people will get reborn.

It’s the danger for secular Buddhists to take ultimate truth of no self to deny the conventional truth of rebirth. For they would interpret that everyone would not have a future life regardless whether they attain to arahanthood or not. Whereas the reality is that only arahants has no more future life.

3 Likes

If there are past lives or memories, whose lives or memories are those exactly? The issue is that in Buddha Gotama’s time there was widespread belief in a permanent inner essence, a transmigrating self. There was obsession with the self, and a popular view that, with sufficiently deep concentration, one could re-obtain and re-cognize memories of past selves. This notion really never went away, and the mere notion of one’s own past lives to identify with or associate one’s self with is deeply entwined with clinging, me-making, possessing, fettering, binding- that is to say, Samsara.

When we talk about buddhists or non-buddhists claiming this is my past life that I’ve recalled, my past life was like this or that, I was this, I was that, I wasn’t this, I wasn’t that, truly they have not put an end to the barb and fetter that is “I”. They have not put an end to “I am”, the fetter of “mine”, the fetter of “me”. They are merely experiencing sankhara, delightful, alluring, illusory, that they cling to and identify with or as. This does not result in the end of dukkha or samsara, rather these mental activities merely perpetuate it.

It is often incredibly difficult bhante, for even the most experienced mediators, not to cling to these wondrous sensations. When one experiences interesting phenomena like unusual memories or altered states of consciousness and time, one eagerly begins to identify with them. By identifying with them one feels delight, but that delight is temporary and such identification, such becoming, is the manifestation of samsara.

If memories, sensations, figments, dreams, consciousnesses, are to experienced, they should not be clung to with the conceit “This is mine or was my past”. One should instead realize that these phenomena are not the self and instead abandon the pointless, fruitless inquiry about whether the memories of past lives are ultimately are or are/not one’s self. It’s an unskillful inquiry, a distraction.

Such views and pursuits are themselves acts of clinging that prolong the path, not shorten it. The concept of self must be abandoned entirely such that, if memories (fake or real) are experienced, they are viewed as suchness, as that, as they really are, merely memories with no person or self they belong to or are affiliated with. Because memories, fake or real, are still at the end of the day mental constructs that don’t belong to any self or person.

Unfortunately, the Buddha’s teaching on how to put an end to “I, I was, I will be, and I am”, possessiveness, clinging, identity view, association with worldly phenomena and the five aggregates was difficult for most to grasp. As a result we have stories of the Buddha claiming this is “my past life here and like this” or “my past life there and like that”, and other suttas where we have the Buddha recalling past “his” lives. This is a logical contradiction within canon caused by Buddhist converts failing to understand the nuances of the dhamma.

The Buddha Gotama had already long put an end to “me-making”, views surrounding personal identity, and all acts of possessing and clinging. The tathagata is ineffable. There was nothing in the world of phenomena and all of consciousness that the Buddha claimed was “his” or belonging to “him”. The mental processes behind identify formation and me-making were quenched and blown out entirely.

How can one, especially an arahant, truly possess or have/had past lives, if one such arahant has already put an end to possessing, having, holding, claiming as one’s own, identifying with or as, and dabbling with the conceit that is “I” or “mine”?

When any bhikkhu says they themselves were this or that in the past, it is sadly clear they are still trapped by me-making and identity view, the conceit that is “I am, I was, and I will be”, by identifying with worldly phenomena.

If the Sabbasava Sutta’s recommendations are put into practice, one ceases to care or worry about what they feel or think they were in the past or what they feel or think they will be in the future. Those delusions are abandoned. With the mental construct and conceit “I” utterly extinguished, it is impossible for one worry about what “I” was in the past or what “I” will be in the future. Why? Because the construct and notion of “I” is no longer present in the mind of that liberated person. They have abandoned all of self-view in its entirety.

3 Likes

Again, you’re mixing up ultimate with conventional truth.

By such mixing up, you’re promoting the view of annihilationism.

Avoid 2 extremes.

  1. Eternalism: there’s a soul to be reincarnated.
  2. Annihilationism: The soul is destroyed after death, nothing after death. Or there’s nothing at all. Denying not only soul/self, but also the dependent origination process which creates rebirth.

The middle way is the dependent origination. There are the 5 aggregates when they are clung to (as self, self possessing them, in self, or self in the aggregates), then the process leads to rebecoming, rebirth. One can link this life with the past lives, via certain things which passes between them: kamma, ignorance, memories (not everyone remembers, but it’s a potential for us to be able to remember via past life regression, recollection of past lives via meditation) There’s also the spontaneously remembered past lives by some kids around the world.

As such, the chain of rebirth between this life and the previous ones can be traced to many many previous lives. If we draw the chain, (conventional speak) one person’s chain is different from another person’s chain. Why is this not considered eternalism, is because nothing eternal passes along the chain. Only conditioning from one moment to another, from one life to another.

Arahants ended their rebirth, means no more future life, chain ends. The arahant has no more clinging to the aggregates, thus no more process of dependent arising, it’s a process of dependent cessation for them. No more rebirth.

That means operationally speaking, if we all undergo past life recollection via meditation or hypnosis, none of us will remember being an arahant in a past life.

What you said about not identifying past life as self is the correct method of practice, ultimate truth, leading to enlightenment. What’s denied is that there’s no such thing as the recollection of past lives. There is. It’s only in conventional speak that we say that is my past life to refer to the chain which gives rise to this life. It’s possible for arahants to engage in conventional speak like the Buddha did without internally attach to such past lives as self.

It’s views of this sort that leads us Buddhists to see how arrogant secular Buddhists are to think that they know better than the Buddha. Buddha did teach in many suttas about kamma, rebirth etc. He also taught how to abandon all identification of self to all phenomena. It’s indeed very subtle and difficult for ordinary people to even intellectually understand how rebirth can happen without self. https://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/ihdwqy/comment/g2zu18o/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

It’s actually views that denies that kamma and rebirth exist which serves as wrong views that might lead one astray. I am still not convinced of any stream-winner who actively disbelieves in rebirth. And even arahants who had not personally recollect past lives would affirm rebirth, to be able to declare no more subjected to rebirth.

SN 12.70: Susimaparibbājakasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (suttacentral.net)

5 Likes

While there is more agreement than disagreement, the views of annihilationism were not expressed in the previous message. Where is it written above “there is no soul or self”? Where is it written above “there is nothing after death”. That simply was not said here. It cannot be found above, but if it is found above, please demonstrate where.

Much like memory, the self is a sneaky construct, a sankhara to be abandoned, not fueled. In the minds of the liberated ones there is no fueling of or arising of self, “I”, or “I am”, “I was” or “I will be”. In the minds of the liberated ones, notions, concepts, ideas, feelings, thoughts of “I am”, “me”, “mine” are gone. They are extinguished, blown out like a candle. Perhaps, in the past these thoughts arose, but they do not anymore. This can be mistaken for annihilationism. Even in the Buddha’s day, brahmin rivals mistook the extinguishing of the conceit “I am” for annihilationism.

A liberated one does not entertain inquiries about what they were in the past or what they will be in the future, because a liberated one has abandoned notions of personal identity in its entirely and all views surrounding the self. The liberated one does not say self is eternal or that the self does not exist, correct, there is agreement. Rather by extinguishing the rampant delusions “I am” and"I was" and “I will be” the liberated one has blown out all views of self, including views of what the self was in the past. With these cankers gone, what is left is peace of mind, for if there is no self-view there is no need to worry about what one will become.

When, on the basis of the sankhara that is memory, one starts entertaining and theorizing thoughts or beliefs about what one’s self was in the past, one risks putting oneself farther from liberation. Why bother with such speculation when it’s not helpful to realize peace and dukkha’s cessation here and now? Yes, it may lead to dispassion but it can also lead to its converse, passion and longing for that which has passed but is no longer here.

When the mind experiences memories, real memories or fake memories, from this life or any other possible life, it can be easy and simple for lay people to identify with them and cling to them as “me” or “mine”. Memory is an aggregate, a sankhara. If memories are to be experienced, those memories do not belong to the person experiencing them or to anyone. This must be emphasized, because it is very easy for people to experience memories then say they were from “their own” past lives. This is an example of me-making and an impediment on the path that is not nearly as emphasized as it should be.

One example of clinging to the 5 aggregates as self is when a sankhara, in this case a memory, is clung to with the belief this belonged to one’s own past life. If the one’s own part is removed, there is the view this memory belongs to a past life. That is one view, bhante. It is very common. Perhaps that view is true. Perhaps that memory is from a past life. But are there alternate, viable explanations? Perhaps that memory belongs not to a past life but is an imagined illusion or fiction. That is one other view. Perhaps that memory is from a dream. That is another view. There is a net of views surrounding memories and it can be very easy to hold onto or cling to one view among that net.

Functionally, does it matter if that memory belonged to a past life or if it does not belong to a past life? The truth of whether that memory belongs to a past life or whether it is an illusion like a dream does not bring about peace and quenching. Rather letting go of views surrounding the past, including the origin of memories is what brings peace. Perhaps your experience has been different and I respect that if it’s the case.

Any invocation of self leads to rebecoming and rebirth in the present moment. “I am”, “my past” these conceits, these ailments, are born and arise again in the mind. Is that no a manifestation of Samsara? When the delusions and conceits of “my past” and “I was” fade and go away, the mind experiences tremendous peace and ease.

So one should not say that memories are “mine” or belonged to “me” in a past life or were once “mine”. “I remember I was like that” or “I remember I was this”. All of that is fruitless me-making, all of that is identity view, two activities that must not take place for the state of peace to be reached. Even the memories of this very life should not be clung to or identified with as “me” or “mine”. The inner dangers of such identification cannot be stressed enough.

If we draw the chain, (conventional speak) one person’s chain is different from another person’s chain.

But here bhante, is where the confusion arises. To say one has or possesses a chain is to introduce a self view. So one possesses a chain? Who is this “one” possessing? This introduces a self view. So to speak of chains, we both agree that one must be very careful and mechanistic. One mustn’t speak of selves or ownership or belonging or persons with regards to chains, yet this is often common.

Perhaps this is source of our problem, and where there is agreement even if it is not being realized. You speak conventionally so that lay followers may understand better. There is much merit in that. Speaking conventionally has its uses, but it can be very dangerous of course if one takes the conventional as truth, which many lay do nowadays. Perhaps we should aim to speak conventionally less often because it seems to only result in confusion.

Perhaps there is a problem of axioms. When consulting the discourses of the Buddha, some do not view it as a homogenous collection that all goes back to one person. Rather, it contains statements and teachings made by the historical Buddha, statements and teachings made by the Buddha’s successors after the parinibbana of Gotama (even if in text they are attributed to the Buddha), and statements and teachings made by other Sramanic traditions (even though in text attributed to the Buddha). What is what, what goes back to the Buddha and what doesn’t? When we as readers encounter puzzling contradictions between the texts, we are left to experiment to see what is conducive to liberation and ease and what is not.

One such contradiction in text is whether inquiry into past lives is conducive to liberation or not. According to MN 2, questions like

Did I exist in the past?
Did I not exist in the past?
What was I in the past?
How was I in the past?

should be abandoned because they all involve the conceit that is “I”. Other suttas disagree on the skillfulness of past life inquiry, hence the contradiction.

Nevertheless, if one wishes for rebirth to end, in this very life, one must put an end to me-making and identity view. Whenever “I” or “I am” or “I was” or “I will be” arises in the mindstream, is that not rebirth, rebecoming, and samsara? That’s not to say rebirth is entirely psychological. Perhaps there is a literal element to it, but the psychological aspect of it should be emphasized first.

5 Likes

Devout Buddhists or generally “rebirthists” tend to forget in such discussions that there is a supermarket of spiritual and esoteric ideas out there. Christianity of course in so many facets, energy believers, angel believers, reiki believers, mediums, ghosts, spirits, lizard people believers, UFOs etc.

And guess what: I’m sure that every one of these present “undeniable scientific truth” for their position. And the ignorant non-believers fail to accept these scientific truths!

But seriously, all proponents of these “truths” have spent hundreds or thousands of hours in legitimizing their findings - and what is a lay person supposed to do, just accept rebirth and lizard people and UFOs? Or devoting the rest of their lives to critically investigate all the claims, read all the books, fact-check every finding, etc?

I surely speak for many people who think: I will not dedicate my life to such claims, and I will not just accept them. I will jump on the bandwagon when diverse sources that I trust are convinced. Until then, I don’t.

8 Likes

There’s one that has direct relevance to the claims made by the Buddha, unless you find merit in believing in UFO, I don’t see you would spend time and energy to investigate those. If you find merit in Buddhism, and don’t wish to simply be arrogantly stuck in scientism but humbly wishes to really find out if Buddha was right about rebirth, then investigating rebirth evidence is useful.

Or else it’s the same attitude as the Catholic church holding onto old theological ideas of Earth as the centre of the universe, rejecting raw data. Secular Buddhism is not Buddhism, it’s a corruption of the Dhamma. It’s good for students of the Buddha to investigate. That can include investigating rebirth, especially for those who doubt it.

If either of you had read at least a few rebirth cases at all, you’ll see that it’s basically impossible to dismiss them as delusions, dreams or coincidence by the kids to have stories that are verified by real-world findings. Some of the real-world data is so hard to find, but predicted by the kids accurately.

might be worth asking if Sangha is one of the sources you would trust. As well as peer-reviewed published academic papers by authors linked in the OP above. Why is rebirth not commonly held self-evident truth? Might be good to see your own attitude. Eternalism and annihilation views dominate the earth. Eternalism for half of the earth is Abhramic faith. Annhilation for the materialist, scientism people dominating the academia, not just science academia, most academia.

It’s good not to be too obsessed with investigating rebirth too, as you said, there’s a danger of attaching, a stronger ego. What you just said above are all just ultimate truth level strategies for liberation.

If Buddhists only speak at the ultimate truth level, there can be more confusion for the beginners. Just see how Zen masters talk.

Just one question: do you acknowledge that rebirth happens for unenlightened people? That there’s a future life for one who has not yet attained to arahanthood.

If not, then you’re secular, you have wrong views, and you’re misusing the ultimate truth to deny core doctrines of the Dhamma.

If you do acknowledge rebirth, then there’s no disagreement between us.

Please don’t use another round of ultimate speak to confuse the discussion. Buddha was able to speak in different levels as suiting the audience. Ultimate speak is not helpful here. A simple yes, I believe in rebirth, or no I don’t is sufficient.

As for textual analysis, I think it’s been discussed here that it’s basically impossible for rebirth to be a later doctrine. Read this: https://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/du0vdv/why_secular_buddhism_is_not_a_full_schoolsect_of/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

Also worth to read this: Evolution of Buddhism - Essays - Discuss & Discover (suttacentral.net)

1 Like

A simple yes, I believe in rebirth or no I don’t is indeed sufficient sometimes when both speakers share a conceptualization or definition. But it is unclear if that is the case here. So asking if one acknowledges rebirth is like the question do you believe in morality or god(s) or liberation/awakening etc. We must first inquire as to what one means when they say rebirth, morality, gods, or liberation before answering.

The primary issue is indeed not whether rebirth is a later doctrine, but if certain conceptualizations and views of rebirth are later doctrines. And these conceptualizations can wildly differ, but seem to bounce back to what extent rebirth is a psychological phenomena or a metaphysical/literal phenomena. There are also different conceptualizations of causality, be it with regard to DO or karma etc.

I do not define as rebirth as the mere arising and passing of impermanent phenomena and dharmas. If material form arises or fades, I do not call that is rebirth or re-death. If consciousnesses and sensory discernments arise or fade, I do not call that is rebirth or death. If constructs or fabrications arise, if perceptions or feelings arise/fall, those too I do not call rebirth and redeath etc. If a world arises and fades, I do not call that rebirth and redeath.

What do I call the ebb and flow of these khandhas? Merely the arising of this and that, nothing more or less. There is sometimes the arising of memory of past states of these khandhas and there can/will be visualizations, hopes, fears, and experiences of future states as well.

Was the arising and cessation of these dharmas without a beginning? Will they be without an end?

I do not find such inquires, and the views of those who attempt to answer them, conducive or useful. Much like whether the question of whether a tathagata exists after bodily death, it is left not answered. After all, it is not important nor anything for one to worry about. As to what I or “this” was like in the past or what I or “that” will be in the future, these too are regarded as unnecessary reflections because they result in entanglement, the generation of self-view and the conceit “I”. Within this very life, they result in longing for states of being, craving for future states of existence or non-existence, craving for past states to return etc.

Amidst the arising and cessation of dhammas and skhandhas, there is a craving for the identification of self with these dhammas and khandhas. I can be certainly guilty of this. The psychological generation of self/me and the subsequent identification of self/me with these dhammas and khandhas is what I define as rebecoming and rebirth because the conceit “I am” is reborn. The (re)birth of that conceit “I” is understood, mindfully, as in this very life one can observe it. That conceit “I am” experiences becoming, for ex. I or I am becomes I am rich, I am poor, I am afraid, I am smart, I am weak, I am hungry etc. It may also experience other forms of becoming. I was like this yesterday or I will be like that tomorrow. I believe that within arahants, that conceit “I am” has been blown out and no longer arises.

In this very body and life, when an unenlightened mind, amidst the arising and cessation of dhammas, generates “I” and then clings to a khandha as “I am/was/will be that” or treats it as “me” or “mine” and generates self-view, that is what I call rebirth and rebecoming. The conceit that is “I” is experienced, constantly, being born, becoming, and unbecoming, being born and dying again, even prior to the breakup of the body.

Some may disagree, of course. For some the (literal) arising and cessation of all dhammas is rebirth and rebecoming and redeath. But that is not the conceptualization I hold to, where the cessation of rebirth is equivalent to the cessation of the psychological and mental constructs/conceits “I am” or “me” or “myself” and any affiliated or connected grasping, possessing, and longing that accompanies that “I am”.

4 Likes

After the breakup of this body, this life, then what happen to you according to your belief? Assuming you are still not enlightened

Will you arise somewhere else (rebirth), or you Dissapear forever (annihilation)

1 Like

The problem is that it is somewhat a leading question, a question that assumes or presumes a self. What is this “you” that is being spoken of or assumed in the question?

If I start asking, worrying, or wondering whether “I” will arise somewhere or whether “I” will disappear forever that itself is an act of “me-making”, the formation of identity view, and an act of becoming. It creates and gives birth to a self, a “me/I” right then and there in the mind. What troublesome and painful thing that “me” is.

Perhaps, it is better not to worry about future states of existence or non-existence, best not to tremble at what might happen after the breakup of this body. When one aspires to put an an end to self-view and to the very notion of “Me”, the question: after the breakup of this body, this life, what happens to me simply cannot apply because that notion of “me” is absent, abandoned, blown out.

4 Likes

That’s escaping the question which is specifically asking for not yet attained to arahanthood upon death in this life.

Don’t be intellectually dishonest and avoid valid question. If you want it framed in ultimate truth language without referring to self, then will another set of 5 aggregates arises again (physically, literally reborn with different physical body at least) after the dissolution (death) of the current 5 aggregates due to the current 5 aggregates have not abandoned all clinging to these 5 aggregates, have not abandoned self view. And kamma, ignorance and possibilities of memories passed on from the current 5 aggregates to the next.

3 Likes

This view only correct and useful when someone already in stream winner stage.

In someone still attached to worldly view, this is just a delusion. A dangerous delusion that pretend one is equal to a stream winner.

This could lead to apathy and not caring about future lives. And that could lead into

  1. Not caring about good deeds or bad deeds, or morality, and the law of kamma.
    If the one inheriting my kamma is not me, why should I care?
  2. Not caring about spiritual goal. If my future lives are not “me”, what does it say about that future entity who will inherit my spiritual progress?

Or more extreme, falling to the view of annihilation. If there is no future lives to care about, why should I make effort here and now? Why not just wait until I die, and just let my future " Me who is not me" solve this suffering problem.

2 Likes

Bhante, perhaps it is not escaping the question. Rather it is pointing out the question itself makes certain metaphysical presumptions. If those metaphysical assumptions are not correct, then the question itself becomes flawed or impossible to answer. If I ask what will “I” become when this body decomposes, then I am fruitlessly engaging in “me-making” and the generation of a self. Once again the conceit “I am” is unfortunately arising, once again there is clinging to khandhas as self, engagement with rebecoming in this very mind, in this very life.

The question is associating with or tying the self with the body because it presumes there is a “self” that is affected or goes someplace when the body decomposes. Why should one assume or generate a self to begin with? It is not necessary. What will “I” become in the future when the body decomposes? Pondering this does not lead to dukkha’s cessation and has proven to lead to further me-making right here and now.

Perhaps these sorts of questions are not useful or helpful to anyone at any stage of the path. One need not be an arahant to understand that the question itself is shaky because it assumes a self or encourages the fabrication of a self to ponder over and worry about. Abandoning these unskillful inquires, one’s mind is brought closer to a state of peace.

In this very life, the aggregates are impermanent and always changing. As this is being typed, there are aggregates arising and aggregates fading in this life. The aggregates of perception and feeling arise in this life, but for one who has attained the meditative state the cessation of perception of feeling, the aggregates of feeling and perception cease for sometime. And that is within this very life, some advanced mediators are able to bring about the cessation of the aggregates of consciousness in this life. And as we age, the aggregates of eye consciousness and ear consciousness fade and wither.

Because of this inconstancy, it is understood that it is important not to cling to the aggregates while they are changing or to crave future states of aggregates. If existence can be reduced to the 5 aggregates as suggested, then those craving future states of existence are indeed craving future states of aggregates. There is agreement here. Indeed, those who are craving future states of existence intentionally commit acts of merit or demerit, kamma, they hope and pray will bring about the desired states arising. When those states do arise following deeds, those who commit acts delight. When those states do not arise following deeds, they lament. That is understood.

There is understanding that those who worry about what the aggregates will become after the dissolution of the body and still identify with these aggregates experience suffering. Prior to their dissolution, craving to know the truth about what happens to the five aggregates after their dissolution, after the death of the body, is craving for a future state of existence. Such craving is not conducive to peace.

Instead one allows the aggregates experienced in this life to wither away, break apart, and decay. One trains not to cling to the aggregates or worry about what happens to them after their gradual dissolution, during or after the decay and dissolution of the body. Detached yet heedful, in the present, one remains mindful of the arising and cessation of phenomena.

One seeking the cessation of dukkha does not need to worry or speculate about the past or future states of aggregates, whether they definitively will arise again or never will or both or neither. Instead, one may abandon those inquires and instead entirely focus upon what one needs to do, how one needs to train to put an end to clinging to the aggregates that remain in this very life.

3 Likes

Who or where is there pretending to or claiming to be a stream winner? There has been nothing said about what person is or isn’t a stream winner. There have been no talk of it, no suggestions, no proclamations.

That view is not only correct or useful when someone is in the stream winner stage. That view is correct and useful irrespective of how far one is along the path. Why so? It is because that view itself is what helps one, anyone, at any point in time abandon “me-making” and identity view. This should be encouraged.

If one holds that view, yet still routinely engages in me-making and identity formation, then indeed they are still suffering from delusion. But there is a caveat. By first holding that correct view, a person engaging in me-making and other forms of wrongdoing understands that me-making and identify formation must be put to an end if the state of peace is to be reached. Indeed is right view not the first step of the eightfold path? Without right view, including views used by stream winners, one could not advance along the path. One would be stuck like a stick in mud.

It seems there is the worry and anxiety that the view leads to not caring about future lives. Rather than that entertain that worry, one should assess whether that view leads to the abandoning of craving for future states of existence. That is far more important and useful.

One who does not crave or long for future states of existence has little reason to commit or yearn to commit acts of merit or demerit. This is understood. If one cares about specific future states of existence and craves their arising, be it out of a sense of greed or a sense of passion or a sense of compassion, then naturally they will have to care about what they do.

The spiritual goal can be as simple as the cessation of dukkha, the extinguishment of the conceit “I am” and the cessation of the cyclical re-becoming that are the mental formations “I am” “me” “mine” “I was” “I will be”. It is unnecessary to worry about the spiritual progress of future lives (if be), rather focus on the spiritual goals and progress of this life and what can be done to be free from and put an end to the painful canker that is “I am”.

If you are suffering and wish to be free from suffering, you should make an effort here and now because it is possible to realize the state of peace and cessation of suffering in this very life. Worrying or clinging to views about the future, what will happen after death, does not solve this suffering problem. At worst it exasperates me-making if one’s identity is being associated with the body.

4 Likes

The quest for seeing and understanding the 4 noble truhts and the quest for self-knowledge

I think MN2 teaches where our focus must be, namely, on seeing and understanding the four noble truths and not on a quest for self-knowledge.

I feel, this does not mean, ofcourse, that self-knowledge is not part of the noble truths. Ofcourse it is per sakkaya ditthi and in asmi mana. But when we focus on suffering (cause, ending etc) then we will automatically begin to see and understand how identity plays a role in all four noble truths.

Buddha seems to say in MN2, we must not do this the other way around. We must not focus on who/what we were, are of shall be. But we must see how suffering is related to identiy views and perception. It is a different approach.

Buddha explained why this focus, also in MN2: Because when our focus is not on the 4 noble truths but on a quest for self-knowledge, we will find and develop answers (self-views) and get stuck in those answers like “i am this and that” . We only develop solid self-views, such as: a self exist for me; from self i see not-self. etc etc. Meanwile suffering does not come to an end. It becomes worse. Our conceit only grows. That is for sure.

What is seeing and understanding the truth of suffering?

Seeing suffering is, i belief, also more then seeing the human suffering or ones own suffering. So, one can question if one can understand the first truth of suffering without rebirth and belief in others kind of beings than human and animal for who suffering is also a reality according EBT. Even for the deva’s.

Regarding rebirth

If one remembers past lives as an arahant or Buddha of anyone else, one remembers them as Me and mine because that is how they have been experienced in former lives. It is how they are recorded too, not in the brain but in nama-loka which is all-pervasive. So, part of vinnana-khandhas are almost endless experiences which are also stored as Me and mine. I wonder if this changes when one becomes an arahant. In some way it is the same stream, like a river is no moment the same river but still it is the same stream. I think nature in some way records this. It knows which experiences belong to which individual stream.

By the way, would it not be unreal when a Buddha gave a talk yesterday and would claim tommorow: ‘no that was not Me yesterday giving a talk, you are deluded people’.

1 Like

I agree with most of what you said here, but you still did not answer, “Is rebirth true or not?”
This simple question is not answered because you are being evasive, using the view of Ultimate Truth to answer. But this “rebirth” is a conventional phenomena.

One must not mix the conventional and the ultimate.

Ultimately, there is no independent eternal self. There is no one born, no death, no coming, no going. No Me, Mine, or even, no suffering, and no liberation. There is no body, because it is just mass of cells. There is no house, they are just combination of rooms.

But conventionally, there is a body, there is a house, and there is a self.

Ultimately, there is no one reborn, there is no kamma.
But conventionally, there is rebirth, and there is kamma.

The belief about rebirth and kamma is one central doctrine of Buddhism, and unlike speculation about “whether the question of whether a tathagata exists after bodily death”, this is deemed useful. And this can exist along the correct view of the ultimate.

The conventional truth that rebirth happen will result in:

  1. Sense of gratitude and not wasting opportunity. The cause of human life is difficult. The opportunity to become human and meet Dhamma is rare. One should practice diligently and not wasting the chance
  2. Sense of urgency. The consequence of failing to practice well in this life will carry over to the next life. It could lead to many period of time wandering in lower realms.
  3. Sense of dispassion. Contemplating that I have been here for a long time, wandering, enjoying all types of pleasure available, made me realize that sensual pleasure is just like that. There will be boredom, and not attracted to sensual pleasure.
  4. Sense of weariness. Contemplating on how I will have to wander again for infinity in samsara, I will think that I should practice well here and now.

One should take this conventional view, about conventional self that experiencing conventional suffering, and continue to suffer in the future conventional rebirth,
Before even thinking about identity view.

Take ordinary person for example. If you told him that there is no evidence of rebirth etc, there is no self etc. And then you told him to end self-view. He will ask, “why?”
After all, everything will just end in death. Why do any effort?
Suffering? Just drown in sense pleasure and forget about it. (Most of people in the world already doing this)

3 Likes

The Buddhist club membership seems quite complex. The orthodox demand seems to be:

  1. Admit that you believe in the conventional self
  2. That the conventional self gets reborn
  3. And vow that you aspire to transcend this conventional self, so that
  4. Rebirth doesn’t exist any more
  5. Only then you can claim to realise ulitmate reality

That’s quite a corsett

4 Likes

Do you agree that rebirth is a part of EBT and Buddha talked about recollection of past lives or do you think it is a later addition?