What's so good about reincarnation?

A Cup Of Tea

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On my 'priority' bookshelves are three sections: Theology and Metaphysics (what else :eek:), Typography (my professional practice), and the history of Japan in the Sengoku era — 16th century — the history of the samurai, and specifically the development of swordsmanship, being a hobby. I was a member of the Hagakure dojo (named after the book of that name which 'defined' the samurai ethos), have three black belts in Muso Shinden Ryu iaido (the art of drawing the sword) and really got into the history of its evolution. I collect the few English translations of historical novels concerning the samurai, as well as factual monographs dealing with the topic... and a whole load of DVDs of that era.

I am, as my family will assure you, seriously into the samurai. :D
Brag brag brag...still, I would seriously like to meet you sometime and drool over all your stuff. And you can draw your sword a couple of times while I sit with a bag of popcorn. Stop being awesome Thomas, that's how stalkers are born...
 

A Cup Of Tea

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Can't edit the other post. I was trying to be a little funny, Tommy is a cool guy, I didn't try to put him down.
 

wil

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I absolutely agree... I would love to run into and toss a pint and a conversation around with Thomas...

If it doesn't happen in this life...hopefully the next.

(wil pulls sword first....while eating popcorn)

Acot...we should plan a trip...and get Brian, and Alex...
 

A Cup Of Tea

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To Thomas? That would be close enough for me, never been there but getting there from here is pretty cheap. Brians in britain right? So your the only one who would have to go very far.

Wait...who's Alex!?
 

Tadashi

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I must admit that I don't understand shame as a social mechanism very well, it gives me a bad taste in my mouth. But then I haven't lived in a society like Japan either. I don't know how big it is out side of Asian cultures either.
I know. It may be hard to understand it unless you've lived in the culture. I think many Japanese feel that if you can't take care of yourself and need someone's help, you feel ashamed for your inadequacy... This mentality makes it harder to ask for help when you need it (too proud to admit that you're not able to handle the situation yourself). I think this is too, very unfortunately, contributing to people developing depression and to a high suicide rate.

This we share with the Americans, we spoil our children with both things and self importance. I don't think that individualism or collectivism is THE answer, we need both in a society, matching their virtues to the situation.
True. They shouldn't be mutually exclusive. We need to find a balance in both.

He sounds like very humble and responsible man, I'll just go ahead accept it as true for now just because I like to.
Thank you. I've decided to believe the emperor's sincerity and integrity myself too, until opposing facts are discovered. This is largely Gen. MacArthur's account and I think it's fairly reasonable to trust what the man says.

Oh I am, I swear I will go there sometime (just last night my girlfriend asked me if we could leave Sweden for three month in autumn, just travelling, would like to take the train to China and then to Japan). I don't know where it started, probably something deep and heavy as Karate Kid...or Yoda.
And bushido and stoicism? I sure think so!
The Karate kid? Mr. Miyagi inspired you, huh? (I still can't catch a fly with my chopsticks...:p ) I'm not that much into Star Wars, so I didn't know until today (did a quick search), George Lucas was influenced by a Kurosawa movie for the plot of SW, and he even tried to get Toshiro Mifune, the star of The Seven Samurai, to play Obi-Wan Kenobi. But Mifune declined the offer thinking it was going to be a kid's sci-fi movie... If Mifune had accepted the role, it would've made one heck of a light-saber duel!

Travelling on a train through Russia to China and fly to Japan? That sounds like an exciting adventure! If you stay in Tokyo, you can take a tour of Imperial Palace for free (an advance reservation is needed), and also I recommend Asakusa, it's a fun old town to stroll about. :)

Tad
 

Tadashi

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Hi Thomas,

Did you know the English diplomat Henry Wotton said: "An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country."
I like that! I wonder if what Jesus said to his disciples is kind of similar to that...
"be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt.10:16)

On my 'priority' bookshelves are three sections: Theology and Metaphysics (what else ), Typography (my professional practice), and the history of Japan in the Sengoku era — 16th century — the history of the samurai, and specifically the development of swordsmanship, being a hobby. I was a member of the Hagakure dojo (named after the book of that name which 'defined' the samurai ethos), have three black belts in Muso Shinden Ryu iaido (the art of drawing the sword) and really got into the history of its evolution. I collect the few English translations of historical novels concerning the samurai, as well as factual monographs dealing with the topic... and a whole load of DVDs of that era.
I am, as my family will assure you, seriously into the samurai.
Wow, I'm sort of surprised and also very glad that you guys all appreciate Japanese culture so much... I feel you guys know way more about it than I do... I'd better re-study my own culture! :eek:

Oh, I know, you guys were all Japanese in some (or many) of your former lives, probably were a samurai a few times too, and I'm a first-timer Japanese! :D

Tad
 

Tadashi

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Hi, Nick

"...the art of diplomacy is always thinking twice before saying nothing..."
--> That's a good one!
I found even better one:

"A distinguished diplomat could hold his tongue in ten languages."

haha... so true isn't it.

--> Bushido is very appealing to Americans. It is the ideas of honor, loyalty, allegiance, and conviction. We westerners find the idea of living to such a code very inspiring. (We do not see a lot of these things in our own culture.) Have you seen the movie The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise? In this movie, an American man with no honor is taught by Japanese people to live with honor, and this is a good example.
Yes, I liked The Last Samurai. Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada are my favorite actors. I was never really into samurai movies or anything violent for that matter (unless it's based on a true story and I can learn something about history), but I did like this one.

I think in a way 'samurai spirit' (fight and die for a cause) is universal. It reminds me of another Cruise movie that I was deeply moved, Valkyrie. Those German officers who had the courage to go against Hitler shared the same spirit. If I ever go to Germany, I want to visit the courtyard in the Bendlerblock where Col. Stauffenberg and others were executed, and pay my tribute.

To be a good samurai, one must choose the right master to serve. Stauffenberg was aware that, under German law, he was committing high treason. But he determined his action was just under 'natural law' to defend millions of people from Hitler's aggression. And the Giver of this natural law was also recognized by the America's Founding Fathers.

Tad
 

Nick the Pilot

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Tad, you said,

"If you stay in Tokyo, you can take a tour of Imperial Palace for free (an advance reservation is needed), and also I recommend Asakusa, it's a fun old town to stroll about."

--> I also recommend people read the story Chushingura, the story of the 47 ronin or masterless samurai, then visit the Chusingura temple, which is near Shinagawa in Tokyo. I visited the temple and nearby museum, I saw the well where their heads were washed after their heads were chopped off, and the whole thing was fascinating.

And I think any visit to Tokyo would be incomplete without visiting the large Buddha statue in Kamakura, just south of Tokyo.

"...I'm a first-timer Japanese!"

--> I am quite sure you previously incarnated as an American. Your English is too good. I know many Japanese people who have lived in America for many years, and your English is better than theirs. Like we say, you didn't 'learn' English, you 'remembered' it from a previous incarnation.

"I think in a way 'samurai spirit' (fight and die for a cause) is universal."

--> I agree. But I also think that the spirit of loyalty and honor is stronger in Japan than in America and Europe. And, I think it's fair to say that a samurai's job is to help everyone accelerate their progress towards enlightenment and nirvana, two important Japanese concepts.
 

Tadashi

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And I think any visit to Tokyo would be incomplete without visiting the large Buddha statue in Kamakura, just south of Tokyo.
Oh yes, I totally recommend a visit to Kamakura (only an hour train ride from Tokyo). Along with the great Buddha statue, there's a very famous shrine called Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū. They are both a must-see. Kamakura was once a capital (Shogunate) of Japan (1185-1333), so there are many historical places in the city. And the Kamakura period is known for the emergence of the samurai.

--> I agree. But I also think that the spirit of loyalty and honor is stronger in Japan than in America and Europe. And, I think it's fair to say that a samurai's job is to help everyone accelerate their progress towards enlightenment and nirvana, two important Japanese concepts.
Yes, the 'loyalty' aspect, I must agree Japanese have a very strong sense of it. The story of Chushingura indeed symbolizes that. Wiktionary says the original meaning of 'samurai(侍)' is 'to serve by one's side', so I should try to be a samurai that serves by my fellow men's side whoever that may be at each moment.

Tad
 

Nick the Pilot

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Tad,

Please look at the Chinese character for samurai(侍). The left side means human being and the right side means (Buddhist) temple. So samurai originally meant a man of the temple, a man of strong (Buddhist) convictions.
 

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I'm not that much into Star Wars, so I didn't know until today (did a quick search), George Lucas was influenced by a Kurosawa movie for the plot of SW...
Yep. He got the idea of R2D2 and CP30 as the 'link' between events from the two peasants who link the story in Hidden Fortress.

The Magnificent Seven is a remake of The Seven Samurai, and A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing are remakes Yojimbo.

Then again, Throne of Blood is Kurosawa's version of Shakespeare's Macbeth (reckoned to be one of the best film adaptations of that play), and Ran is his version of Shakespeare's King Lear.

... and he even tried to get Toshiro Mifune, the star of The Seven Samurai, to play Obi-Wan Kenobi. But Mifune declined the offer thinking it was going to be a kid's sci-fi movie... If Mifune had accepted the role, it would've made one heck of a light-saber duel!
And some! I've already worked out one ninja light sabre trick: When pushing and shoving with crossed light sabres, turns yours off momentarily. With no resistance, your opponent's sabre will 'fall' forward – make sure you're not in the way (First rule of fencing: Don't get hit!) – then cut him down!

I nearly went to Japan for three weeks a few years ago. I wanted to travel the remains of the old Tokaido highway, especially in Aichi Prefecture — the medieval Province of Mikawa — where so much of what I've read is set.

And Katori and kashima Shrines, of course!
 

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So samurai originally meant a man of the temple, a man of strong (Buddhist) convictions.
:eek: Gad! No-one told Oda Nobunaga, he slaughtered 1,000s! But then, Lord Oda was not a noble man, and the honour of the samurai was at its lowest ebb in those dark days. Betrayal and murder were the order of the day.

Nor were the monks of Mount Hiei much better ... definitely a 'church militant'!

Saying of the Sengoku Era:
弱肉強食
jaku niku kyō shoku
The strong eat, the weak are meat.

We should not overlook the role of Shinto in the development of swordsmanship: The greatest names are attached to Shinto shrines, and well over 90% of engravings on blades are Shinto, Buddhist markings are very few.

But Buddhism played a huge part in the samurai psyche, that's beyond doubt. Miyamoto Mushashi, the swordsman of Japan, was schooled by the Zen monk Takuan.
 

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Please look at the Chinese character for samurai(侍). The left side means human being and the right side means (Buddhist) temple. So samurai originally meant a man of the temple, a man of strong (Buddhist) convictions.

I feel Japanese Buddhism is very different in some aspects from Tibetan Buddhism. There were even what is called 'warrior monks' at some point in Japanese history. :eek:

Warrior monks first appeared during the Heian period, when bitter political feuds began between different temples, different sub-sects of Buddhism, over imperial appointments to the top temple positions (abbot, or zasu). Much of the fighting over the next four centuries was over these sorts of political feuds, and centered around the temples of Kyoto, Nara, and Ōmi, namely the Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Enryaku-ji, and Mii-dera, the four largest temples in the country. (from wikipedia)
 

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And some! I've already worked out one ninja light sabre trick: When pushing and shoving with crossed light sabres, turns yours off momentarily. With no resistance, your opponent's sabre will 'fall' forward – make sure you're not in the way (First rule of fencing: Don't get hit!) – then cut him down!

Cut him down!? Is that a Christian thing to say?! lol...

Thomas, your knowledge of the Sengoko Era and samurai overall is amazing!

Tad
 

Thomas

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Being very well read, Thomas, what did you think of Inazo Nitobes book?
D'you know ... I've never read it!

The book I was advised to read was Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本 常朝 I think). Famously opens with 'the way of the samurai is death' with is often then completely misconstrued. Our dojo was called The Hagakure Dojo, named by the head of the Muso Shinden Ryu when it gained recognition by the World Kendo Federation Renmei. As ever, when looking for a school, I looked for an unbroken tradition/transmission ... what else? :eek:

The original context is that samurai used Zen Buddhism primarily as a psychodynamic training tool. Their approach was generally quite pragmatic. The idea being that any thought of 'survival' will result in a psychological hesitation that'll get you killed. It allows fear to creep in ... better to throw your life away, and go for it.

Chapter 11 of Hagakure deals with 'the way of manly love' which doesn't go down too well in macho martial arts circles!

Uesugi Kenshin is widely regarded as one of the best and most noble samurai ever, and it's noted that when awakened by his guards in the middle of the night, he cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb the youth at his side.

You should check out Gohatto ("Taboo"), you can watch the fencing scenes on YouTube.

Perhaps I was a samurai in a previous life? (Or just a wannabe in this one?)
 

A Cup Of Tea

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D'you know ... I've never read it!

The book I was advised to read was Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本 常朝 I think). Famously opens with 'the way of the samurai is death' with is often then completely misconstrued. Our dojo was called The Hagakure Dojo, named by the head of the Muso Shinden Ryu when it gained recognition by the World Kendo Federation Renmei. As ever, when looking for a school, I looked for an unbroken tradition/transmission ... what else? :eek:

The original context is that samurai used Zen Buddhism primarily as a psychodynamic training tool. Their approach was generally quite pragmatic. The idea being that any thought of 'survival' will result in a psychological hesitation that'll get you killed. It allows fear to creep in ... better to throw your life away, and go for it.

Chapter 11 of Hagakure deals with 'the way of manly love' which doesn't go down too well in macho martial arts circles!

Uesugi Kenshin is widely regarded as one of the best and most noble samurai ever, and it's noted that when awakened by his guards in the middle of the night, he cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb the youth at his side.

You should check out Gohatto ("Taboo"), you can watch the fencing scenes on YouTube.

Perhaps I was a samurai in a previous life? (Or just a wannabe in this one?)

Then I hope you will someday, his perspective is from someone with the foot out of the door, being able to translate many things for our Christian sensibilities. Two of the most memorable stories he told both included the sacrifice of young boys, the concept is bizarre and grotesque but capture the essence of something being more impotent then ourself.

I have been hesitant to pick up Hagakure, the foreword was written (or at lest read by me as) in a testosterone haze. But I first heard of it in 'Ghost Dog' (definitely one of the films that directed me toward Bushido) in short paragraphs read by Forest Whitaker, they were very moving to me. The book is just sitting here on my shelf so I should just go ahead and read it, you sold it well.
 

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Then I hope you will someday, his perspective is from someone with the foot out of the door, being able to translate many things for our Christian sensibilities.
There were many Christian samurai (they were stamped out in the end) – the nobility of Christian self-sacrifice appeals ...

But I'll put that book on my list!

I have been hesitant to pick up Hagakure, the foreword was written (or at lest read by me as) in a testosterone haze.
Well, there's history.

After the Age of Civil War was brought to a close, around 1600, the samurai really had nothing to do. They became bureaucrats.

The reputation of the samurai had, by that time, sunk to its lowest ebb. Imagine the 'Wild West' run by 'the Mafia' (or the yakuza). Betrayal and murder was the order of the day. There were, of course, notable exceptions.

So the authorities set about reconstructing the mythos, and that's the image that comes to most people's minds today. Hagakure plays it's part. It's author was sick and fed up with the samurai of his day (18th century) – he wanted to commit junshi (suicide) to follow his master into the next world, but the authorities refused it.

So it does rather look back with deeply 'rose-tinted' spectacles ... a fundamentalist samurai, really.

But samurai vanity has always been really, really brittle, and really, really to the fore. When there were no more wars, they got into fights over the most trivial things:

A samurai was going up the stairs at the Imperial castle in Edo. Another was coming down. They happen to brush passed each other in passing. One jumped back, furious at this 'insult', but because it was illegal to draw your sword against another in the Castle, he drew his sword and killed himself, rather than live with the shame. The other, furious at being shown up, ran on to deliver his message, then ran back and killed himself at the same place!

Go figure!

When you read histories, you have to read between the lines. All samurai dialogue is most eloquent, deeply informed by the Chinese classics, poetry, the tea ceremony. So look for words like 'stalwart' and 'robust' and what that means is your samurai was more likely an ill-educated, rustic fighter ...
 

Namaste Jesus

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Many seem warm and accepting to the idea of reincarnation. Some, like myself, tend to reject the notion, regarding it as somewhat pessimistic, even hopeless.

I still hope for an informed and orthodox Hindu or Buddhist to make the case for reincarnation, but that hasn’t happened yet, so I don't understand the attraction of it, and I still have massive reservations about what I have been led to believe.

So I thought I might air a few of them here, in case I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

1: Is reincarnation progressive?
There seems to be a popular notion that reincarnation is progressive, that each successive life, to a greater or lesser degree, perfects the last, on a linear journey towards one’s goal, whatever that is perceived to be.

Is it, though? I’m not so sure Hindu or Buddhist doctrine asserts that as the case. The idea of a linear ‘progress’ I rather think is a western one, and relatively recent. Old cultures, including those that gave rise to the doctrine under discussion, tend to see the world as cyclic.

But even if recent, is the idea of progress wrong?

I rather think it is. To be authentically progressive would require the conscious reflection on prior existences. I would have to be able to see myself making progress.

Such is not the case. So I think the assumption of ‘progress’ is in fact one made in blind faith, and indeed is rather optimistic. Dare I say, it’s false?

But then, the idea that I enter this life burdened with a debt derived from prior existences, a debt the nature of which I am completely unaware, seems unjust in the extreme. In effect I am being punished for something I didn’t do, or at least have no memory of ... in which case the punishment is doubly unjust, because without that memory, I have no way of learning the lesson. The punishment holds not value for me. It’s a punitive punishment with no pedagogic value. It cannot be said to be 'good' and, indeed, if we conducted ourselves the same way, we would be described as 'bad', if not 'evil'.

I am told bad karma has to be burned off. Why? Who's keeping the score? Who benefits? Not the victim of our past wrong actions, and not ourselves, being ignorant now of them? So where is the good?

Karma is presented in cold, mechanistic terms, but the balance is determined not by our actions, but by our reasons, which introduce a moral dimension. So we are punished, or rewarded, for moral decisions but a mechanism that is, apparently, amoral?

I'm sorry ... it just doesn't make sense to me.

Say I am born with good health, good looks, a bright mind, into a wealthy family ... I haven't a care in the world ... do I assume this is karma's reward for previous good behaviour?

And yet the priests of this doctrine shun 'the good things' and seem to embrace poverty, dirt, isolation, hunger, self-denial ... why?

So this incarnation is not a means by which I learn from past mistakes. How can I, when I don't know what they are. It’s just a place where I get punished.

Traditional doctrines refer to this round of reincarnation as ‘the wheel’. Not progressive at all then, but cyclic.

In effect, reincarnation lands you back in the place you were before, but no wiser, no better, perhaps nearer your goal, perhaps further ... you have no way of knowing.

And even if you’re a cat’s whisker away from that goal, you can still lose it all, and bump yourself back to square one. Remember the kiddie’s game, ‘Snakes and Ladders’? That was a ‘game’ to teach a moral lesson, that one can get to the penultimate step, and then blow it, and find oneself back at the start.

This, of course, can happen within a life. We make our fortune, and then lose it; we have our faith, and then lose it; we have a family, and then lose it. Life is full of ‘ups and downs’ — life is not progressive, it is not ‘up and up’ or ‘down and down’ ... only physically do we get older.

Do we get wiser? Not necessarily. Do we become more enlightened with age? Not necessarily.

So does reincarnation promise another chance, a better hope?
Not necessarily. Indeed, the odds are against it.

The solution to that dilemma, if there is one, lies perhaps in the answer to this question: What is it that reincarnates?

But that’s a whole other can of worms.

I can't really give you any definitive answers on the subject of reincarnation and I'm quite sure my theories would fall well short of satisfying your query. However, I can tell you that a lot of people near and dear to me wholeheartedly believe in it and that I've had a number of personal experiences that would tend to suggest that they're right. In any event, back to the fundamental question, "What's so good about reincarnation?" You know, I like everyone else have made many mistakes in life, done things I'm not particularly proud of and wished I'd taken a different path from time to time. To me, reincarnation is the ultimate (do over); another chance to get things right. For me, it takes some of the pressure off. I mean, if you don't get it right in this life, you can always try again next time. In my mind, it doesn't get any better than that. I do realize of course this notion raises another question. How would you know what you did in a past life, to make up for in this one? Well, God's keeping that one to himself. I nor anyone else can answer that with any degree of certainty. I do believe however, that our sub-conscious may hold the key to any past lives and that this perhaps serves to guide us though each successive life cycle. I don't know how true that is, but I am hopeful.
 

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I can't really give you any definitive answers on the subject of reincarnation and I'm quite sure my theories would fall well short of satisfying your query. However, I can tell you that a lot of people near and dear to me wholeheartedly believe in it and that I've had a number of personal experiences that would tend to suggest that they're right. In any event, back to the fundamental question, "What's so good about reincarnation?" You know, I like everyone else have made many mistakes in life, done things I'm not particularly proud of and wished I'd taken a different path from time to time. To me, reincarnation is the ultimate (do over); another chance to get things right. For me, it takes some of the pressure off. I mean, if you don't get it right in this life, you can always try again next time. In my mind, it doesn't get any better than that. I do realize of course this notion raises another question. How would you know what you did in a past life, to make up for in this one? Well, God's keeping that one to himself. I nor anyone else can answer that with any degree of certainty. I do believe however, that our sub-conscious may hold the key to any past lives and that this perhaps serves to guide us though each successive life cycle. I don't know how true that is, but I am hopeful.

This is my stand:

Even accepting Reincarnation is real, and one becomes progressively more 'good' in successive lives, to achieve 100% goodness ...what next ?

The point is:
There is no way to prove reincarnation apart from believing in scriptures. It will remain a belief.
The hope/desire is to achieve a 'perfect be good' state.

But why does one want to achieve a 'perfect be good' state? It is like asking why does one want to be a billionaire?

The belief arises from desire.
 
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