I don’t understand the argument of believing in rebirth making life better or more kind. People are not more kind because they believe in Jesus, rebirth, Buddha or anything.
These beliefs are not preventing kindness or spirituality either. For some people believing in Christ does it, for others Krsna, or Buddha, rebirth etc.
Also I think it’s fair to say that with a certain mindset the one-life-view can be very powerful.
I guess my point is, if you look for meaning, purpose and spiritual development you can find it in a one-life or a multi-life view.
While admittedly rebirth is interwoven in basic Buddhist doctrine I think that factors like responsibility for one’s development, ownership, careful investigation and mental strength contribute more to the day-to-day development of samadhi and understanding than the inaccessible cosmic meta-structure of rebirth.
I guess I didn’t leave soon enough… I’ve got all the links from the OP now so this is my last post …
But, from my personal experience, I can say that I am actually noticing that my shift in perspective has enhanced insight and thus has enhanced daily metta: I am actually kinder. And it has become increasingly easier to be kind under pressure. My family have noticed this. So have my pets, I think! The difference it made in my work life was very useful.
And it’s not that I “believe in” the Buddha, but I do have the most enormous gratitude and confidence and sense that if it wasn’t for him, I’d be screwed…so reflecting on him does gladden my mind, and this makes Practice easier.
To me, your stating this much shows you are open. You’re not shutting down the possibility completely. Personally, I think this is in line with the teachings.
I’m not suggesting people have to believe.
I’m suggesting they don’t close themselves off.
Because if they do, what they don’t realise is, that they are closing a door that leads somewhere important.
From a worldly perspective, I agree. Kindness can be innate and is not rigidly dependent on some belief. Generosity from a random stranger can save one’s life.
From a spiritual perspective, my experience is that beliefs and views make a world of difference. The suffering in the lives of others is sometimes dismissed as their fate. Such a lack of empathy can arise because of clinging to a deterministic doctrine of Creation, or some nihilistic theory. These views bind the mind, instead of cleansing it of pollutants, IMO.
I totally agree! What I doubt is that we can prescribe views for specific developments - like “If you want to develop your kindness investigate the consequences of rebirth”
… or the belief in rebirth! Maybe you don’t know people like that but I can assure you that there are plenty of people who look at someone in misery, or handicapped etc. and think “you did this to yourself, in a former life”.
If I ‘want’ to be unkind I can easily be it as an atheist, buddhist, rebirth-believer, socialist or democrat. Blood has been shed in defense of any given belief. In turn, I don’t see a reason why a materialist or communist should not be the sweetest person - I personally know some
A good start would be a self-contained, accessible paper/book that presents a theory of rebirth using contemporary theories of knowledge. I’m all for evidence-based academic rigour, but there’s a lot to be said for an argument which doesn’t require a reader to understand secondary theoretical or empirical sources. I know this is a big ask, but many expert writers manage this balance in popular science and philosophy books.
Incidentally, how does a mind-stream become associated with human forms? Is there a more contemporary simile of passing on a flame?
I don’t think that follows, @Sujith. Even if it turns out mental phenomena are just a kind physical phenomena, it doesn’t follow that there is any kind of physical substance or treatment that could substitute for years of Buddhist discipline and meditation.
I don’t really understand the question. Buddhism teaches that there is a path to the end of suffering. Compassion for the terrible and pervasive misery in this word doesn’t depend on what kind of stuff you think that misery is made of. But it does seem to me there is some risk of compassion being deadened if, when people encounter suffering, they concoct some story about why the sufferer deserves the suffering. My feeling is that once one trains oneself to be fully aware of all suffering, and realizes the world is filled with cruelly unjustified suffering that is endemic to the lives of all living beings, that intensifies compassion rather than making the heart hard. Hard-heartedness and hatred are themselves a kind of painful suffering, and kindness and compassion flow naturally from a liberated heart.
I agree that if we are compassionate, and understand the roots of suffering in craving and attachment, and appreciate the brief finitude of life, that will have some bearing on how our lives should be organized socially to reduce human suffering and advance human happiness. The idea that here should be some privileged class of enlightenment seekers, while everyone else grinds away and waits for their chance in a future life, doesn’t make much sense any more.
I am glad for Ajahn Brahmali’s post, and really can’t add anything useful to the comments, above.
What I can add is a recent discussion with a friend/sensei of mine, who is an academic, and a clinical psychologist. We were discussing consciousness, and he mentioned to me that his wife is an identical twin. When his wife was having a hospital surgery as a child to remove a lesion on her stomach, her sister ( who was swimming at the beach and with other relatives) began to hold her side, and complain of terrible pain, at the exact time that the other twin’s surgery began. She had no idea that the surgery was taking place at that time. He told me there are multiple examples of telepathy that he has witnessed living with his wife and her relationship with her twin. My friend is a serious man and not prone to suffer foolish ideas.
What does this story mean to our discussion? Maybe nothing. But, as a scientist, my friend is very interested in what may have caused these twins, separated by distance, and knowledge, to suffer the same pain in the same location of their bodies, at the exact same time.
There is a science to this question it seems to me, and it will be great if we one day know the answers to these questions. Rebirth is integral to the Buddha’s teaching, and a necessary aspect, I believe, as part of saddha on this Path. Science may one day have answers to these important questions, and my friend who is an academic and a published scientist is asking these kinds of questions.
There are no doubt many things we still do not understand about the workings of the human mind, and that await further investigation and discovery. It would be interesting if it turned out that people who have a common biological origin have especially close psychological interactions across distances. It seems to me that would be some evidence that psychological function and physiology are closely connected.
Quantum entanglement does yield correlated measured outcome across space and time without transmission of information. And although measurable it’s a quality that remains elusively intangible even to the point of non-materialism. We can’t show each other entanglement–only the evidence of its passing. Hmm. Perhaps that goes into the formless existence.
You mentioned earlier that nibbana is to be considered merely as a mental state in which there are no views and beliefs. If this is the case, in a materialistic world-view which considers mind as a product of matter, drugs and substances that affect the mind to induce such a state is all that is needed. And there are lots of groups out there with such a view.
But, if nibbana is understood as the culmination of an ascetic’s path who renounces the world, purifies the mind, attains transcendental knowledge and complete liberation from all suffering, then there is no shortcut. And I think this path depends on Right View. I won’t use scare quotes, sorry
We are actually in full agreement here…
The hardening that I mentioned happens when some doctrine that tries to explain reality as ‘pure and good’ takes over one’s mind and then the suffering in the world is dismissed as either fatalistic or chaotic. It’s not very pleasant to be at the receiving end of such arrogant dismissal.
But isn’t this just a Utopian dream ? And how do we understand things that are more cruel than the weariness of workers ? Like children who are victims of horrifying brutality ? Or people who are forced to carry the burden of too many diseases ?
We can’t carry the misery of the world on our shoulders, but IMO, the Buddha’s teaching is a way to attain transcendental insight that answers these fundamental questions, and thus be liberated.
Yes I agree about the importance of the ascetic path. But think of it this way:an Olympic champion runner has to train for years to reach that level of perfection. Even though he is perfecting his body, it doesn’t follow that he can become a champion runner just by taking a pill.
Again it’s kind of funny how we deify scientists. Because someone is a gifted mathematician (what physicists basically are) it is suddenly important what they have to say about god?? (Leibniz, Schrödinger, Bohr…)
Why not the gifted architect, or the gifted linguist? We might be more Pythagorean in this regard than we know.