Karma and reincarnation

Vajradhara

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Namaste Nick,

thank you for the post.

Nick said:
This is where I get confused..this all sounds like reincarnation, not rebirth.

this is a nuanced distinction, to be sure. frankly, there is little wonder to me why beings can be confused on this point since to really have a firm understanding requires some knowledge of the Buddhadharmas philosophical underpininings.

let's parse the words for a moment. re-incarnation and re-birth seem like sort of the same thing, however, there is a salient difference here and, perhaps, we'll be able to bring it out through conversation.

the first thing to consider is that, within the Buddhadharma, there is no teaching that there is anything which is incarnated, i.e. created. moreover, of the phenomena which do arise, none of them have any permenant essence, no self-existent nature which can be found.

when we view external phenomena, this teaching is called Impermenance (i'm going to try to skip many of the Pali and Sanskrit names, we can do that later, if necessary). when we view this teaching in with regards to sentient beings, we call it No Self or Selflessness.

If I am choosing my next form, if my next life is determined by my previous lives, then surely there must be something continuous about me that survives death and goes on to experience the consequences of my actions..

it is not that one chooses ones next life, per se. however, that is a bit of a side point at this junction. it is not ones previous lives that are unalterable, if one could not change ones karma then Awakening would not be possible. ones previous existence conditions the arising of the current existence. the current existence conditions the arising of the next existence. in each existence, a sentient being generates karma. the fruit of karma can be positive or negative and it is this fruit which, ultimately, conditions the arisings.

in Buddhism, the consciouness is understood to be a many layered sort of thing, ultimately having 10 progressively subtle layers. the aspect of human consciousness which views the aggregates as "I" and "me" is the ego and its fundamental clinging to a sense of existence.

the ego lays at the 6th level of the consciousness, as such, when a being is able to access the 7th level, the entire idea of self is uprooted and we expose the Alaya Consciousness, the Ground. at this point, there is nothing which could be considered to be a self remaining, there is the Alaya Consciousness where the fruit of karma ripens and the more subtle stages of the 9th and 10th, where one is called an Effect Stage Buddha, the technical Vajrayana literature, at any rate.

so, to sum up, what experiences rebirth and the workings of karma is the conditioned aspects of consciousness, the I Consciousness (7th) as conditioned by the fruit of the Alaya Consciousness.

something to which Karma attaches.

it is not Karma, per se, that is responsible, it is the fruit of Karma which is the action item here.

the fruit of karma mainfests in the Alaya Consciousness, which is just slightly above what is conventionally labled as "I" by the mind.

.yet, I thought that Buddhism denies the idea of the self surviving death..??

that is correct. not only that, there isn't a real self which is existing now. this is a product of ego clinging and, though quite real to us, is not ultimately existing.

metta,

~v
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste Paladin,

thank you for the post.

Paladin said:
I think this is a good point. There would have to be a "self" that made the choice or was under dellusion, or could make mistakes.

in a certain sense, there is. this is the ego which is deluded. the ego, however, is a product of a fundamental delusion of consciousness. until such a time as the being is able to unravel the skein of ignorance, the ego will continue to manifest and the process of rebirth will continue.

in the Buddhadharma, there is a teaching we have called the Two Truths. that is, there is a Realtive Truth such as "i exist" and an Absolute Truth such as "there is no l". what we normally are experienced with and working with is the Relative truth and our language is rooted in the relative experience, however, through this linguistic convention we are able to speak of Absolute truth in metaphor and allegory, to a certain extent.

In light of the teaching of the Five Skanhas, where upon death the "heaps" go back to the basic elements from which they came, what is it that enlivens these aggregates in the first place?

Interdependent Co-Arising. the Aggregates arise in conjunction with the arising deluded consciousness and the deluded consciousness arises in conjunction with the aggregates.

If we attend to the ideas about rebirth then we may well attend to what Bodhidharma taught about our true self nature is Buddha, and to look outside of this is the great illusion.

did you know that Buddha is a title not a name of a being? it is an interesting word in Sanskrit, from the root "budh" which means 'to illume'. in this parsing, it means The Awakened One, which is one of many titles that Buddhas have. another is Tathagata, which is also quite interesting. depending on how it is parsed, Tatha-gata, it means "Thus Gone One" and if it is Tath-agata, it means "Thus Come One".

however, the discussion of true selves in Buddhism tends to remind me of a rather famous and a less famous koan.

when asked of dogs have Buddha nature, the master said "MU"! (which means "no")

(that one has stuck with Western beings, for some reason)

on a different occassion, when asked if dogs have Buddhanature, the master said "yes".

(that one hasn't stuck.)


If Mind manifests itself using the five aggregates and leaves them behind after a while (upon conventional death) don't we then get very close to the western idea of first cause?

however, that is not what Buddhadharma is teaching. mind is a many layered thing, like an onion. what is conventionally labled as "self" and "i" ceases at the physical forms death.

in any event, there is a Sutta called the Root Sequence Sutta wherein Buddha Shakyamuni teaches that there is nothing which can rightly be regarded as the "ground of phenomena" not even nirvana or buddhanature.

the idea of a first cause is not rejected in religious terms by Buddha Shakyamuni it is, rather, a philsophical refutation as such a view is grounded in a radically different ontological view that what Buddhism presents.

the sort of first cause or supernatural being that is rejected is described thus:

"That Worshipful Brahma, the Great God, the Omnipotent, the
Omniscient, the Organizer, the Protection, the Creator, the Most
Perfect Ruler, the Designer and Orderer, the Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be, He by Whom we were created, He is permanent, Constant, Eternal, Unchanging, and He will remain so for ever and ever."


DN 24

metta,

~v
 

Paladin

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Thanks Vajradhara,

Our resident teacher here in Colorado springs tells me my biggest mistake is asking : "Why?" I must say that Vernerable Tenzin is very patient, and being of the Tibetan Gelugpa lineage doesn't resort to beating the student when they ask something dumb.

I remember the Tathagata from the long mantra as the "thus gone foe destroyer" or simply the one thus gone. I am very grateful for your instruction here Vajradhara,because after reading so many books on Buddhism and meditating every day for the past seven years, I think I have educated myself to a near perfect level of ignorance(not yet a perfect idiot but I'm working on it)

Sometimes it helps to have an elder brother explain things ;0)

Peace

Mark
 

seattlegal

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Vajradhara said:
Interdependent Co-Arising. the Aggregates arise in conjunction with the arising deluded consciousness and the deluded consciousness arises in conjunction with the aggregates.
If the Aggregates are based upon desire, which feeds delusion, then does this not mean that {improper?} "free-will" is the "Root Cause?" {Or could this be yet another product of my delusion?} :eek: {I guess I'll just have to be patient, and wait, and see or not see...}
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste Paladin,

thank you for the post and the kind words.

if you gain anything from them it is due to your own good karma ripening.

i always benefit from the discussions that we have here and i thank you all for your contributions!

metta,

~v



Paladin said:
Thanks Vajradhara,

Our resident teacher here in Colorado springs tells me my biggest mistake is asking : "Why?" I must say that Vernerable Tenzin is very patient, and being of the Tibetan Gelugpa lineage doesn't resort to beating the student when they ask something dumb.

I remember the Tathagata from the long mantra as the "thus gone foe destroyer" or simply the one thus gone. I am very grateful for your instruction here Vajradhara,because after reading so many books on Buddhism and meditating every day for the past seven years, I think I have educated myself to a near perfect level of ignorance(not yet a perfect idiot but I'm working on it)

Sometimes it helps to have an elder brother explain things ;0)

Peace

Mark
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste seattlegal,

thank you for the post.

seattlegal said:
If the Aggregates are based upon desire,

this is a bit problematic for it is not desire, per se, which is the issue. having desire for an outcome and so forth is not, necessairly what we are talking about. we are talking about a particular form of desire, called Tanha, in Sanskrit. Tanha means, literally, "intense craving" and this is the sort of desire we are speaking of, intense craving.

however, the aggregates are not based upon desire or tanha, they arise in conjunction with the arising of deluded consciousness. so, what we would more accurately say is that the aggregates arise in conjuction with a consciousness deluded by ignorance.

which feeds delusion,

desire does not, in an of itself, enable delusive thought.

then does this not mean that {improper?} "free-will" is the "Root Cause?" {Or could this be yet another product of my delusion?} :eek: {I guess I'll just have to be patient, and wait, and see or not see...}


perhaps the thread on the 12 Linked Chain of Causation may help your understanding of this. we have a discussion of it here:

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=528

excerpt:

Ignorance conditions volitional actions. Volitional actions condition consciousness. Consciousness conditions mind/body. And so on. As soon as ignorance is present, all the other links -- volitional actions, consciousness, mind/body, and so on -- are already there. Each link contains all the other links. Because there is ignorance, there are volitional actions. Because there are volitional actions, there is consciousness. Because there is consciousness there is mind/body, and so on.


metta,

~v
 

seattlegal

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Thank you for your reply, Vajradhara, and thank you for the link to the 12 Linked Chain of Causation. :) I've been comparing it to the Mula Sutta, and it has been most interesting:
"'All phenomena are rooted in desire.

"'All phenomena come into play through attention.

"'All phenomena have contact as their origination.

"'All phenomena have feeling as their meeting place.

"'All phenomena have concentration as their presiding state.

"'All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.

"'All phenomena have discernment as their surpassing state.

"'All phenomena have release as their heartwood.

"'All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.

"'All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.'

"On being asked this by those who have gone forth in other sects, this is how you should answer."

If you compare the above with the 12 links, you will see some interesting entanglements:
ignorance

volitional action

consciousness

mind/body, or name and form

the six sense organs, accompained by their objects

contact (sparsha) between sense organ, sense object, and sense consciousness

feelings

grasping or attachment

"coming to be"

birth

old age (or decay) and death (jaramarana)
Thank you! :D
 
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Awaiting_the_fifth said:
Vajradhara's explanations are always accurate but, I think, a little heavy.

If I may offer my own humble and fallable opinion.

As it is ones own deluded mind that makes rebirth necessary, it is, in essence, you who chooses your next form.

I read the OP, and I read Vaj's response, which was pretty noncommital. So I have this question: Is reincarnation, in the pedestrian sense, a reality? Re-birth...in every moment we a reborn in the image of our thoughts and deeds. This I can accept, but reincarnation... I'm wondering if buddhism just let's people get away with this because that's what they want.

Chris
 

samabudhi

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If the Aggregates are based upon desire, which feeds delusion, then does this not mean that {improper?} "free-will" is the "Root Cause?"

Primordial ignorance is the root cause, which is regrettably what we base our free-will on, our decisions. This disempowers us, since we misapprehend the way things are. All efforts to attain happiness are then lost, since they are based on a falsity.

When our actions are based on attachment, hatred and ignorance, we suffer. When on wisdom and compassion, we are happy. Simple cause and effect.

I read the OP, and I read Vaj's response, which was pretty noncommital. So I have this question: Is reincarnation, in the pedestrian sense, a reality?
Ultimately, no. Conventionally (pedestrianly), yes.
Disclaimer: Reincarnation is as real as any incarnation.

Ultimately, there are no sentient beings, no suffering, no Buddhism, no Buddhahood, no self, no aggregates, no life, no death, no desire, no ignorance, no subject-object dichotomy.
Yet all things manifest, and we continue to grasp onto birth, old age, sickness and death.

Your inquiry into the reality of reincarnation is premised on the difference between real and unreal. But when dealing with the Buddha's teaching, even that distinction is called into question.
 

Nick

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Vajradhara said:
Namaste Nick,

thank you for the post.



this is a nuanced distinction, to be sure. frankly, there is little wonder to me why beings can be confused on this point since to really have a firm understanding requires some knowledge of the Buddhadharmas philosophical underpininings.
...

Hi Vajradhara.

Thanks for taking the time to explain all this. It has helped me understand this a bit more.

I don't pretend to be perfectly clear about this and a few other Buddhist concepts, but I try not to worry about it too much!. As an approach to these problems, I incline towards the Soto Zen tradition, where practice is emphasised over intellectual efforts. Surely, a lot of these concepts are unknowable, beyond thought. We can discuss these concepts till we're blue in the face, but they will only ever be concepts when all's said and done. They can only reflect the truth, they never can be the truth.:D
 
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