According to the early Buddhist texts, how does one attain a fortunate rebirth, and avoid unfortunate rebirths like the animal realm or hell realm? I appreciate your help.
Check out section “V. The Way to a Fortunate Rebirth” from DhammaWheel’s open source version of Ven. Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words:
Yes, I’ve read that book. Thank you. I’m particularly interested in how to avoid rebirth in hell, if there is one.
Stream entry is the only way to assure one “stays above the line” (see AN6.97, SA61).
Hence, we need to gather from the texts what allows for stream entry to take place. EBTs like SN12.41 provide a good overview of that.
Thank you for your responses.
How about this quote of the Buddha?
In the Dharma well expounded by me,
all who have sufficient faith in me,
all who have sufficient love for me,
all have heaven as their destination. -
The Buddha, The Alagaddupama Sutta
First off, one should avoid (like the plague) committing any of the 5 heinous crimes, which would guarantee an unfavorable rebirth. That it to say, avoid:
3.Killing an Arahant
4.Causing a schism in the sangha
- Injuring a Buddha to the point of drawing blood.
Beyond this, avoid generating any and all unwholesome kamma, and generate a bunch of wholesome kamma. In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book (which you already read) he writes about the ten pathways of wholesome and unwholesome kamma:
“there are three kinds of bodily misconduct: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; four kinds of verbal misconduct: lying, malicious speech, harsh speech, and idle chatter (or gossip); and three kinds of mental misconduct: covetousness, ill will, and wrong view. The ten courses of wholesome action are their exact opposites: abstinence from the three kinds of bodily misconduct; abstinence from the four kinds of verbal misconduct; and noncovetousness, goodwill, and right view.”
Take and keep the precepts, practice generosity, practice meditation, learn the Dhamma, practice in accordance with the Dhamma, associate with good persons, cultivate all the Brahma Viharas, and aim for stream entry (which is the only long-term surefire way to avoid an unfortunate rebirth).
It is certainly a comforting quote - one which I was very happy to read when I first encountered it!
Does anyone know many times does that particular quote appear in the nikayas, and is there an agama parallel?
Yes, faith in Buddha is a factor of stream entry!
If a person is habituated to a particular negative behavior that can lead to a negative rebirth, how does one overcome that behavior according to the Buddha?
Just an important remark I would like to make is that SN42.8 tells us how the Buddha would approach the topic of how actions lead to rebirth differently from the adherents of fatalistic doctrines found around back in his time would.
To make the point I share Ajahn Thanissaro’s note to his translation of this special sutta:
Although the Jains, like the Buddhists, teach a doctrine of the moral consequences of actions, the teachings of the two traditions differ in many important details.
This discourse points out two of the major points where the Buddhist teaching is distinctive: its understanding of the complexity of the kammic process, and its application of that understanding to the psychology of teaching.
The Buddha shows that a simplistic, fatalistic view of the kammic process is logically inconsistent, and also leads to unfortunate results for any person who, with a background of bad kamma, believes in it.
The actual complexity of kamma, however, allows for a way in which past evil deeds can be overcome: through refraining from evil now and into the future, and through developing expansive mind-states of good will, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.
In such an expansive mind state, the unavoidable consequences of past evil actions count for next to nothing.
The Buddha also shows how his method of teaching is better than that of the Jains in that it actually can help free the mind from debilitating feelings of guilt and remorse, and lead to the overcoming of past kamma.
English translations of SN42.8 can be found in the links below:
Since I am not an official member of any Buddhist school or sect, I am concerned with finding whatever might be the most reliable texts in assessing the Buddha’s teaching on the way to a fortunate rebirth, regardless of whether or not that teaching seemingly contradicts whatever a particular sect or school might teach.
If rebirth is real, then our future destiny is too important to mess up on. We have to be concerned with, in the here and now, doing whatever the Buddha taught we should do to avoid future calamity.
Since you are not a member of any Buddhist school or sect, possibly one can offer you opinions straightforwardly and honestly, without fear of violating right speech guidelines by trampling on the delicate sensibilities and desperate future-life cravings of the orthodox.
My honest opinion? You probably are not going to have a rebirth, fortunate or otherwise. The belief that such a thing is going to happen is most likely a faith-based fantasy, one of the many such fantasies human beings have concocted for themselves because they can’t tolerate the idea of their own mortality.
So what to do? Seek liberation and peace, in the here and now, in this very life, at this very moment. Stop procrastinating. Do you think it’s going to better and more propitious when your very, very old? Or when you’re reborn? Not likely. And if you don’t think you can achieve complete peace and liberation in your limited lifespan, do the best you can, and help other people toward that goal. We are not that important in the vast scheme of things, you and I. So let’s not cling too hard to our egos. Let it all go, and let the distant future be whatever it will be.
This world is on fire with craving and greed and violence and fear. We need to help put out that fire. Stop being afraid; stop craving future states; accept your mortality and the impermanence and illusory nature of the precious life about whose future survival you are so anxious. Don’t crave rebirth; don’t crave annihilation - just don’t crave.
Sutta Nipata 4.2
I see them,
in the world, floundering around,
people immersed in craving
for states of becoming.
Base people moan in the mouth of death,
their craving, for states of becoming & not-
floundering in their sense of mine,
like fish in the puddles
of a dried-up stream—
and, seeing this,
live with no mine,
not forming attachment
for states of becoming.
for both sides,
comprehending sensory contact,
with no greed.
Sutta Nipata 5.4
Whatever you’re alert to,
across, in between:
Dispelling any delight,
in those things,
consciousness should not take a stance
The monk who dwells thus
letting go of his sense of mine,
knowing right here would abandon
birth & aging,
lamentation & sorrow,
Stop doing the behavior - make a conscious decision “I am not going to do that” and follow through on that commitment - then watch the mind as it goes through its little fits, watch as it tries to rationalize things, experience the uncomfortable feelings that might come up, and recognize that all of this arising is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. It is not always so easy, because some patterns have very deep roots - Have kindness and compassion for yourself, and eventually you will be free of that negative pattern of behavior and you will heal.
Thank you for your encouragement.
But is that what the Buddha really taught?
Who knows? Those passages from the Sutta Nipata are almost certainly the Buddha. Rebirth seems to be present as a relatively unimportant background belief in those suttas. The emphasis is on liberation, here and now, and on letting go of the world of becoming, and birth and death, not on the path to future states of becoming.
The other suttas contain many words of the enlightened Buddha, but they are full of inconsistencies and appear to be mixed up with the muddled scholastic trifles and cosmological musings of various students and followers, who imported teachings from other traditions, and their own inferior grasp of what the Buddha was on about.
The Buddha is dead. He’s not here to help us anymore, or to set us straight about which words are his and which words are other people’s, or to set us straight about how the words which are his were intended to be interpreted. You have to make your own way. Find the parts that make sense as a path of practice. Turn withing, work toward freedom and release, and an understanding of how suffering ends. See what turns up in your own mind. Be your own refuge. Nobody else can be your refuge.
It makes sense, for my own path of practice, to be concerned about the future karmic consequences of my actions, whether for this life or the next.
Well, OK. But just be aware that if you are mistaken about whether those consequences are actually going to occur, you might invest a great deal of your short and valuable time in your short and precious human life laying the foundations for a structure neither you nor anyone else will ever occupy.
Do you feel that you are in a unique position to understand the Buddha’s teachings about liberation? More so than the many people who have devoted their entire lives to the Dhamma over the last 2500+ years?
Forgive me, but I can’t understand why contemplating how one can make good kamma and abandon negative behavioral patterns makes them and others any less “free”? I agree that it is good to spend a good deal of time actually doing positive things, or meditating, not just thinking and obsessing over issues related to becoming. But it seems wrong to insist that one can only do this by abandoning any belief in rebirth and kamma. I’m not seeing the logical connection…
The Buddha didn’t teach a lot of “Buddhism”. That’s mostly a religion some superstitious and worldly followers built out of his reputation as an Indian “holy man”, because they couldn’t understand his teachings about liberation.
I hate to see people obsessing about so many matters other than making themselves and others free.