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Rebirth; Buddhism

To: soc.religion.eastern
From: Frater Nigris (
Subject: Rebirth; Buddhism (9207.rebirth.fn)
Date: 49920706 

Quoting: |Greg Sanders 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The word of Sin is Restriction.

|Recently, articles were posted suggesting that no one could believe in
|rebirth or reincarnation in this modern age.  I waited for someone to
|respond, but don't recall seeing any.  Let me offer a few thoughts on

I also marked their passing with a nod and some patience.  Content to
simply contrast views here with Greg, I don't consider any particular
view to be the only 'truth'. 

|Although there is a difference between rebirth, which Buddhism
|believes in, and reincarnation, which many other traditions believe in,
|I will use reincarnation for both (the differences don't strike me as
|particularly important here).

I'd never really thought of this before, yet I think there are some
arguments for differences between the terms.

1) Re incarnation literally means to make flesh (incarnate) again.  This
could be the case between moments, involving the death of everything in
every moment or could suggest that Universe generates another fleshy form.
It seems to (and for some has come to) imply the HABITATION of flesh by
some divine substance (i.e. the 'soul' or the 'atman').  For this reason
I dislike the way it is used, since I consider flesh to be a divine 
substance without superior.

2) Re birth means to be born again, which is much different.  While it could
also be the case between moments, it would become similar to our first
meaning of 1).  It seems to imply the physical birth process, and so to me
is less dualistic, not positing the 'soul' or any other entity which is
separate from our divine flesh.  I think that this is quite healthy.  You
may find that I use this term more often for these reasons.

|First of all, if *YOU* were to assume reincarnation to be true, you would
|have to be able to say what is reincarnated or what it means to say
|reincarnation is true.  I submit you cannot, on the flip side, disbelieve
|in reincarnation without some similar idea of what reincarnation would mean,
|to you, and also what would constitute evidence.  

While I'm fairly unconventional (as philosophers go), I accept your challenge
and will give a definition which is easily proven (by suitable thought-
experiment) and am convinced that it is a viable concept/term without
positing the reality of time.

Rebirth is the recreation of the self-concept.  It is the reassessment of
an unjustifiable locus of cause within the sphere of sensation and the
generation of an image which 'identifies' this entity through association
with karma (action).

To say that reincarnation is 'true' is simply to say that I continue to
use the term 'I' with conviction, assuming an unchanged resumption of
bodily endurance, when we are given quite convincing evidence that we change
on a moment to moment basis with no support beyond the social for this
convention of identity.

I think that the proof for the flesh-inhabiting meaning of 'incarnation'
would require quite a few unprovable things which Greg may be implying:

1) The exposition of a SECOND substance (spirit, soul, prana, ki, etc.)

2) The identification of one 'soul' with another.

While I am not adverse to this idea, I think there are insurmountable
philosophical problems with it such that it can never be proven.  What means
shall be used to show 1)?  Why shall we accept these criteria?  What grounds
for identification are there?  Why is 2) not explanable through some
simpler (and less contradictory means) than personal transmigration (i.e.
the interpenetration/interdependence/unity of universal energies)?

I doubt that 'evidence' under these circumstances can ever be satisfactorily
acquired, and consider the question about it to be either moot or unanswerable.
As the Buddha, I would simply remain quiet as the ultimate 'answer' here.

On the one hand we are not 'selves' to begin with.  On the other, we are all
'buddha-nature' and reform in every now.

|..Second, I would submit that even with a clear idea of what reincarnation
|would mean (to you) there is no way to prove or disprove its truth.  Even
|though I generally believe in rebirth, I cannot say what would constitute
|real proof or disproof, not even for me.  This is in strong contrast to
|beliefs such as astrology, where I can easily state what would constitute
|proof or disproof, for me.  My assertion here is that, if you do decide
|what reincarnation is or would be, to you, you too will probably be unable
|to say what would constitute genuine proof or disproof of reincarnation.

While I discourage belief as mental stagnation, I can see the benefit of
assuming the reality of rebirth (my meaning).  The way our societies
work seems dependent upon personal identity, and abolishing this mislabelling
might throw it into confusion.  It is the responsibility of each 'individual'
to realize their inconsistency and disidentify with a constant form.  This
is what is called 'enlightenment' and consists in the cessation of the
rebirth process.  We simply stop associating activity (karma) with an identity
and end the self-concept (the cycle of rebirth).

Some people need to sit for decades in quiet reflection to see the truth of
this.  Some people can have it described and after some mindfulness come
to it themselves.  People *do*, however, realize this, and the idea can
be expressed in words.  Therefore I think it can be 'proven' to a limited
extent, and that many systems which do this are already in place (materialist
science, meditative Buddhism, yogic Hinduism, taoist alchemy etc.).

In fact, what I think is really meant by 'immortality' is the realization
that our true 'identity' as such is as a 'beingness' which lies outside of
or transcendent to the fragmentation of bodily form.  Experience changes,
it never dissolves.  Through coming to understand an underlying unity of
all energy, one can begin to detach from bodily experience as the only
focus of being.  'We', in effect, become immortal by identifying with a
larger context - universal energy.

This does not mean, however, that our bodily form will either physically
recompose (as some Christians seem to insist) or that some 'indwelling
spirit' aside from that energy will 'inhabit another body'.  This fractionated
worldview may lead to suffering.

|Third, it is my general observation that persons asserting that there
|is no reincarnation are usually not familiar with the evidence for
|reincarnation, some of which is mighty peculiar if there is no such
|thing as reincarnation.  
|[cited specifics omitted]

I see the recognition of universal unity as a very healthy thing, yet
not ultimately a proof of individual identity.  Like Descartes, who jumped
to conclusions about existence without examining the essence of this 'I'
which did the doubting, the thinking, it seems that many are jumping to
the conclusion that since one body can draw from the well of universal
experience and what some might posit as 'cosmic memory', there ought to
be an assumption not only that individuals exist, but that these
individuals have a personal continuation from one moment to another.

I find no evidence to support either assumption, and consider Descartes'
claim to be insufficient.  WHAT IS this 'I' which thinks?  Where is it?
Is it the same from one moment to the next?  While the convention of
language makes the position of 'subject' useful, I think that no true
subject is real apart from an object, and that if one carefully examines
one's experience, one will reach a similar conclusion.

Invoke me under my stars.   Love is the law, love under will.

Fr. Nigris

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