reincarnation question

IowaGuy

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Hi group, I have recently read a couple of Dalai Lama's books. I grew up in a Christian family so not much exposure to Buddhism. I'm really interested in the DL's teachings about eliminating suffering, increasing happiness, cherishing our enemies for the learning opportunities they provide us, etc. I have also incorporated some meditation into my life and like the results so far.

But the backdrop to all of his Buddhist teachings is his belief in reincarnation, a strange concept to me growing up in a heaven/hell environment (which I no longer believe in).

Question for anyone that has converted to Buddhism or considers Buddhism a core part of their core belief system: do you believe in reincarnation and why?

Reincarnation just doesn't seem logical to me (Occam's razor - seems like there are easier, more plausible explanations for our existence and what happens when we die). I'm wondering if one basically needs to be born into Buddhism to have this "faith" similar to a Christian's faith in heaven. i.e. is reincarnation faith-based or have you arrived at this belief logically?
 

Nick the Pilot

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Hi IowaGuy,
 
By the way, Buddhists do not call it reincarnation, they call it rebirth.
 
Reincarnation/rebirth, along with its companion teaching of karma, are the two teachings that are the cornerstone of my belief system. It is from these two teachings that all of the other parts of my belief system relate to me.
 
Why do I believe this?. Because reincarnation/rebirth makes absolute sense to me. I can find no flaw in the concept whatsoever. In addition, reincarnation/rebirth resolves inequities that I see in belief systems such as Christianity.
 
A person does not need to be born into Buddhism in order to be a Buddhist or believe its ideas. I would not say that Buddhism is faith-based. I have arrived at every part of my belief system via a logical route, although there are others who have not. (Many Buddhists are born into Buddhism and follow it mainly because it is their family’s religion.) I know that there are people who convert to Chrisitianity because of strong emotional feelings ("I am saved! Hallelujah!") but this is not common in Buddhism. What is your definition of faith-based?
 
Not all Buddhists believe in reincarnation/rebirth. An idea similar to the Christian heaven is the central belief in a type of Buddhism called Pureland, and the idea of reincarnation/rebirth is not important to them at all. Followers of the Pureland Buddhist tradition take an approach towards Buddhism that is very similar to the Christian approach, and millions of Pureland Buddhists follow this view. (But Tibetan Buddhism is not Pureland Buddhism.) By the way, millions of Pureland Buddhists do not believe in reincarnation/rebirth (which came as quite a surprise to me).

Then there types of Buddhism in which reincarnation/rebirth is the central teaching. You will find that there are many types of Buddhism, and they are quite different from each other.
 

Snoopy

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Nick, so our newbie friend knows where you're coming from why not put a label to the belief system you concur with? Just for his clarity? :)
 

Nick the Pilot

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Snoopy,

I am a Theosophist, but many of my ideas are similar to Buddhism. (Technically I am a Buddhist, but not in the traditional sense of the word.)

For many years I called myself a Buddhist, but I found that, by simply saying I was a Buddhist, many people would make assumptions about what I believe (or what I should believe) such as believing that people are reborn as animals or insects. (I do not believe people are reborn as animals or insects, as Tibetan Buddhists and others believe.) So for many years I stopped calling myself a Buddhist. I have finally found a balance that works for me, calling myself "a Buddhist, but not in the traditional sense of the word".
 

Snoopy

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Hi IG,

If you search for the terms reincarnation and/or rebirth as thread topics you'll find it's had a fair old airing in the past...
 

Snoopy

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I am a Theosophist, but many of my ideas are similar to Buddhism. (Technically I am a Buddhist, but not in the traditional sense of the word.)

Thank you! And I will say that I am a Buudhist, for the ease of labelling! :)
 

Snoopy

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IG,
I don't believe in reincarnation. Why? Because It seems preposterous. Also, I don't believe in soul, or whatever one likes to call the entity that supposedly re-incarnates.

I was born of Christian parents, in England, and was Christened...

My current beliefs, subject to change!, are always based upon my own experience, understanding and practice. I read books but my mind is not an uncritical receptacle for dogma. That is not the 'idea' of Buddhism. 
 

IowaGuy

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I will say that I am a Buudhist, for the ease of labelling........I don't believe in reincarnation. Why? Because It seems preposterous.

Hi Snoopy, reincarnation seems preposterous to me also. But in reading the Dalai Lama, he refers to it very often and it seems like it is part of the foundation of his beliefs.

I'm just wondering if a Buddhist that believes in rebirth (DL) sees the world through different eyes than a Buddhist doesn't believe in rebirth (Snoopy)? My rookie understanding is that enlightenment is the end goal of all Buddhists, and that generally takes many lifetimes to attain.

If you don't believe in reincarnation do you believe in enlightenment? How does one attain enlightenment without reincarnation? Or do you just apply the Buddhist principles to your daily life to maximize your happiness/eliminate suffering in this lifetime without worrying what lies thereafter?

Thoughts?

I am working my way through the Buddhism archives, thanks for pointing me in that direction... Only so many hours in the day!
 

Snoopy

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@IG

My understanding is both limited and faulty but here goes. Some people use the terms interchangeably, I see them as different. Reincarnation implies the existence of an abiding entity, which as a Buddhist I find I cannot comprehend. Therefore, no reincarnation; even before you get into any notions of the practicalities of it. Buddhism is not a single monolithic paradigm, so it can often be difficult to ask 'do Buddhists think...' I imagine there's a lot of questions that would get different answers to 'do Christians think...'

There are broadly three 'vehicles' of Buddhism, one of which is called Vajrayana. Within this there are various schools and the Dalai Lama is the head of one of these. There are differences and similarities between the schools and vehicles. On top of this, Buddhism is not a revealed religion from a supernatural source (with the obvious implication it is unchanging and to be followed without questioning) Therefore, what Snoopy can take from it, understand and use is unique to Snoopy. So perhaps something is or is not central to Snoopy, currently. That caveat aside, I would say that rebirth is usually understood either literally (as you have presumably read) or as an expression pertaining more to a moment by moment change; such that you may find the term redundant. Snoopy falls into the latter camp on this one. 

I'm just wondering if a Buddhist that believes in rebirth (DL) sees the world through different eyes than a Buddhist doesn't believe in rebirth (Snoopy)?

I'm sure all beings view the world from a unique perspective.
 

Snoopy

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...contd...

If you don't believe in reincarnation do you believe in enlightenment? 

You're in with the minor questions aren't you?!

I suspect the word has been transliterated into English inappropriately. I find it unhelpful and misleading. It suggests something that is an event, a yes/no status. Buddha means awake. In the 3D world one reason not to say I am a Buddhist is the inevitable come-back 'so are you enlightened?'

Or do you just apply the Buddhist principles to your daily life to maximize your happiness/eliminate suffering in this lifetime without worrying what lies thereafter?

Short answer - yes.
But...
Buddhism is not about maximising happiness.
All suffering cannot be eliminated. Ageing, sickness and death will still occur. I still live in hell and heaven.
 

Snoopy

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Apologies again for failing to concur with the words of HHDL :eek:

You might get a better response from Vajradhara. I believe she follows a Vajrayana practice.
 

Lunitik

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I don't think rebirth is a particularly useful doctrine, whether it be truth or not. The reason I say this is because in India, many people become quite lazy spiritually, they figure they'll just wait till the next life to accomplish many things and have a very negative approach to life overall. Like, why do I care how bad this life is? The next one will be awesome! Buddha seems to reinvigorate the spiritual quest, asking why you'd want to be reborn to repeat this same experience or any other, for all walks of life experience the same suffering and all should seek to escape it. I certainly agree with this, we should all strive to experience our highest reality during this life.

Other than this, I really have no opinion on it, for I have have experienced nothing to confirm it, but also can see why it is true - an animal cannot reach enlightenment, it should have this ability if the world is just, rebirth posits a kind of fairness.
 

wil

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Whether I believe it completely or not, I am comfortable in a concept that this life I am currently perceiving I am experiencing is a training ground. I am here to learn, to grow. I've been given a big blue ball, a vehicle in which to propel myself on it, and fellow travelers. I need to learn to respect them all, and depending on how well I do will determine the course of studies in my next classroom.
 

Bhaktajan II

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I don't think rebirth is a particularly useful doctrine, . . . because in India, many people . . . figure they'll just wait till the next life to accomplish many things and have a very negative approach to life overall. Like, why do I care how bad this life is? The next one will be awesome! . . .
Other than this, I really have no opinion on it, . . . but also can see why it is true . . . rebirth posits a kind of fairness.



I do see the logic & illogic of your dual comments.

Reincarnation [of Memories-Ego-Self-Identity] is NOT an advantage to be exploited.

Anyway, there is no "reincarnation" of Memories-Ego-Self-Identity.

there is only the "Life force" that leaves the temporal material carnal body and then is awarded with another body in accord with one's "Fruits of one's works" (aka, karma-phalam).

If we cultivate service to God --or any myaid of Non-God-related endeavors ---we are awared accordingly.

The Rig-veda begins with the advise: "Arthato brahma-ji-jnasa"
"Now in the Human form of Life let us inquire unto the absolute Spiritual Truth".

We must be seek salvation in this life ---lest we die with only petty or funky or stupid or dullheaded or mis-fortunate or wonton or delusional or mis-guided or short-sighted "Karma-phalam" (aka, "Fruits of works").

"Karma-phalam" usually accrues future birth that DOES NOT facilitate any degree of spiritual pursuit or spiritual life.

It is bad advise to plan to rectifiy sins in a future date ---that is deliberate theivery.

Since we are all on borrowed time in a world we do not own nor preside over as eternal Lord & Master ---we must tread carefully because this Material World is deluding us into thinking that this world is a comfortable place.

Repeated Births and Deaths is a dis-advantage. We Must stop going through & transcend Repeated Births and Deaths ---by seeking out the Spiritual Master's path.

To carry one's own cross is to become a Yogi.


To say, "I don't think rebirth is a particularly useful doctrine --- because in many people . . . figure they'll wait till the next life to accomplish . . . "
[whereas "re-birth of the soul" is delared as a fact of Death to be warned about]
is like saying, "I will rob a bank today or I will cheat on my spouse ---and then, I'll wait till later to . . . to accomplish . . . a legit appology".
 

Sam Albion

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Hi, IowaGuy...

While I identify as a buddhist, I do not believe in reincarnation. I do not think death is neccessarily the end of a person's existence, but I do not believe in reincarnation as some kind of measure of past life morality.

In fact, this is one of the aspects of buddhism I would like to see revised.

It is, in my opinion, immoral, and perverse, to suggest that a deformed child sinned big in their last lifetime, that only un-enlightned beings are (re)born poor, hungry, dumb and/or ugly. Because, that's basically what their theory amounts to. And it stinks. And I'm not buying into it.

Buddhism, like all religions, has glimmers of gold within the dross. The trick is, to recognise what's dross and what has merit.

The Dalai Lama and his like support this theory because it supports their tenure. It reminds me of the divine right of kings, from France.
 

Snoopy

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Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes before and after and is independent of before and after. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death. 
This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death. 
Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.



- from Genjokoan by Eihei Dogen.
 

IowaGuy

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The Dalai Lama and his like support this theory because it supports their tenure. It reminds me of the divine right of kings, from France.

This is an interesting perspective. I must admit I find it strange that he was determined to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama when he was only a few years old. Who determined this and what evidence did they use?

He tells a horrifying story in the Art of Happiness where an older monk commits suicide since he believes he will be reborn as a young monk and can therefore pursue a particular type of study that is started early in life :(

I agree there are some glitters of gold in Buddhism. I'll just filter out the reincarnation parts :)
 
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