RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

P H, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 3:49 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 3:49 AM

Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Post: 1 Join Date: 1/20/22 Recent Posts
This is my first post on this forum.

I generally find that the dharma is very logical and easy to accept intellectually. (Of course, bringing the intellectual understanding into direct experience is not so easy.) However, being a scientifically minded person, there are some commonly held beliefs in Buddhism that are difficult for me to accept even intellectually.

One example of this is the doctrine of rebirth. It's easy to accept that samsara can be thought of as cyclic existence in which "rebirth" is a process that takes place moment by moment. However, the idea that each mind stream continues to exist, manifesting in a range of possible beings, realms or ways of existing until enlightenment is finally achieved is much harder for me to grasp.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha himself apparently had visions of his previous lives and believed those visions to be accurate. Especially the Tibetans seem to take the idea so literally that they believe in the possibility of directing one's rebirth so precisely that one's reincarnation will appear in the same country just a couple of weeks after death.

Of course, the Buddha was unaware of the modern scientific understanding of evolution, the existence of genes, and the fact that "humans" and "animals" are not separate, discrete categories of beings but rather exist on a continuous and dynamically changing spectrum. I would also assume that he was unaware of the fact that there may be an infinite number of other planets in the universe, many of which could harbor life, even intelligent beings and civilisations. He probably hadn't thought of the possibility that humans would one day create weapons of mass destruction that, in principle, could kill every living being on earth so that the causes and conditions for life, and definitely human life, would cease to exist.

If, for a moment, we assume the doctrine of rebirth to be true, consider the following: what would happen to beings who had practiced earnestly and lived very virtuous lives, destined to be reborn as humans, if all of human life was suddenly eradicated by nuclear bombs? Would one be reborn on a different planet with beings of similar propensities and abilities existing in the same realm as humans? Would one have to accept living in a different realm that didn't really match one's true karmic destiny, hoping for human life to somehow reappear in billions of years? Or could one maybe be reborn in the past or maybe in a parallel timeline in which human life still existed? And what would happen if one was unfortunate enough to end up in a place and time where the dharma was unknown?

I am not trying to attack or devaluate the belief in rebirth, but I would like to try to understand it better. Of course, whether or not the doctrine of rebirth is true, one should still practice the dharma to the best of one's ability. If it is indeed true, however, I would like to be convinced of it in order to take it more seriously.
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Griffin, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 6:19 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 6:19 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 218 Join Date: 4/7/18 Recent Posts
I don't think anyone here will have answers to questions you have asked. We could come up with all kinds of sci-fi sophist explanations, but it would be no different from theologist making up stuff to explain inconsistencies in the bible.

All this rebirth/karma doctrine rises countless paradoxes and plotholes. Your questions have barely scratched the surface.

I assume that the meditative jhanic phenomenon of "past lives recollection" is the original source of belief in rebirth. I have never seen any spiritual teacher who presented sufficient arguments to prove any kind of metaphysical explanation for this phenomenon. Are those real memories, or hallucinations, or some kind of quantum-based time-traveling mind-reading? Show me someone who knows for sure and I will be gratefully amazed.
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Dream Walker, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 6:35 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 6:35 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 1430 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
P H
This is my first post on this forum.
Welcome!

I generally find that the dharma is very logical and easy to accept intellectually.
Wow, thats amazing, I do not.
(Of course, bringing the intellectual understanding into direct experience is not so easy.)
What does that mean?
However, being a scientifically minded person, there are some commonly held beliefs in Buddhism that are difficult for me to accept even intellectually.
Ok, contrary to what you said above.

One example of this is the doctrine of rebirth. It's easy to accept that samsara can be thought of as cyclic existence in which "rebirth" is a process that takes place moment by moment.
Ummmm, lost me already.
However, the idea that each mind stream continues to exist, manifesting in a range of possible beings, realms or ways of existing until enlightenment is finally achieved is much harder for me to grasp.
That can be, ahhhhh, ya.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha himself apparently had visions of his previous lives and believed those visions to be accurate. Especially the Tibetans seem to take the idea so literally that they believe in the possibility of directing one's rebirth so precisely that one's reincarnation will appear in the same country just a couple of weeks after death.
As said, such stories told, ya.

Of course, the Buddha was unaware of the modern scientific understanding of evolution, the existence of genes, and the fact that "humans" and "animals" are not separate, discrete categories of beings but rather exist on a continuous and dynamically changing spectrum. I would also assume that he was unaware of the fact that there may be an infinite number of other planets in the universe, many of which could harbor life, even intelligent beings and civilisations. He probably hadn't thought of the possibility that humans would one day create weapons of mass destruction that, in principle, could kill every living being on earth so that the causes and conditions for life, and definitely human life, would cease to exist.
I've no clue what "buddha" was unaware of but he listed the imponderable stuff, so there is that.

If, for a moment, we assume the doctrine of rebirth to be true, consider the following: what would happen to beings who had practiced earnestly and lived very virtuous lives, destined to be reborn as humans, if all of human life was suddenly eradicated by nuclear bombs? Would one be reborn on a different planet with beings of similar propensities and abilities existing in the same realm as humans? Would one have to accept living in a different realm that didn't really match one's true karmic destiny, hoping for human life to somehow reappear in billions of years? Or could one maybe be reborn in the past or maybe in a parallel timeline in which human life still existed? And what would happen if one was unfortunate enough to end up in a place and time where the dharma was unknown?
Interesting multiple questions.

I am not trying to attack or devaluate the belief in rebirth, but I would like to try to understand it better. Of course, whether or not the doctrine of rebirth is true, one should still practice the dharma to the best of one's ability. If it is indeed true, however, I would like to be convinced of it in order to take it more seriously.
Ummm, What is your goal? How does knowing that stuff change your practice? Is this just a fun philosophical thing? Here is a bunch --->
https://thepleasantconversation.com/philosophical-questions/

So assuming you figured out all of the 400 questions of that site, does it change your sitting on a cushion and getting to your goal as such?
shrug,
Good luck,
~D
George S, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 10:23 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 10:20 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 2461 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
 The Buddha was teaching to people from different backgrounds, including those who believed in reincarnation. It was an oral tradition, stuff got modified and added to the suttas over time.

When you grok not-self (anatta) then you know it doesn’t even make sense to think of being the same person from day-to-day or moment-to-moment, let alone literal reincarnation - “this was me in a past life and this will be me in a future life”. It doesn’t make sense to say this is my experience and that is your experience. It doesn’t even make sense to say this is past experience and that is future experience. All experience is present, it’s just that we delude ourselves into thinking some of it is not actually happening now!

SN 22.59 Anattalakkhaṇasutta (The Characteristic of Not-Self)

“So you should truly see any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Any kind of feeling at all …

Any kind of perception at all …

Any kind of choices at all …

You should truly see any kind of consciousness at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all consciousness—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Check out also MN 38 Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

"As you say, friend," the monk Sāti the Fisherman's Son replied. Then he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, "Is it true, Sāti, that this pernicious view has arisen in you — 'As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on, not another'?"

"Exactly so, lord. As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on, not another."

"Which consciousness, Sāti, is that?" [1]

"This speaker, this knower, lord, that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & evil actions."

"And to whom, worthless man, do you understand me to have taught the Dhamma like that? Haven't I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness'? [2] But you, through your own poor grasp, not only slander us but also dig yourself up [by the root] and produce much demerit for yourself. That will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."

Then the Blessed One said to the monks, "What do you think, monks? Is this monk Sāti, the Fisherman's Son, even warm in this Dhamma & Vinaya?"

"How could he be, lord? No, lord."

When this was said, the monk Sāti, the Fisherman's Son, sat silent, abashed, his shoulders drooping, his head down, brooding, at a loss for words.

Then the Blessed One, seeing that the monk Sāti, the Fisherman's Son, was sitting silent, abashed, his shoulders drooping, his head down, brooding, at a loss for words, said to him, "Worthless man, you will be recognized for your own pernicious viewpoint. I will cross-question the monks on this matter."

Then the Blessed One addressed the monks, "Monks, do you too understand the Dhamma as taught by me in the same way that the monk Sāti, the Fisherman's Son, does when, through his own poor grasp [of the Dhamma], he not only slanders us but also digs himself up [by the root] and produces much demerit for himself?"

"No, lord, for in many ways the Blessed One has said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness.'"

In MN 36 which is the account of the night of Buddha’s awakening, in the first watch of the night he recollected “many kinds of past lives”. The pali phrase is pubbe nivasa which is more like “past abode”. These could just as well be states of mind. The mind likes to create stories and identify with the characters. When you watch a film or read a book and identify with a character, there is an identity being created in the mind. Same as when you have a dream or a fantasy or rehash memories or get involved in a conversation. In the second watch of the night he ‘saw sentient beings passing away and being reborn—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. I understood how sentient beings are reborn according to their deeds.’ The Buddha had a pretty broad view of the different kinds of possible beings and “worlds” and their interrelationship. Maybe he didn’t know about natural selection, but dependent origination is a pretty broad framework for understanding how identities and “worlds” get created in the mind, and it’s something you can experimentally observe and test. You don’t need reincarnation to understand how identities arise and pass and get causally transmitted. You can experientially see that there is no stable entity which gets reborn, there are just identities arising and passing according to the law(s) of cause & effect. Sometimes people talk about the sankharas or karmic imprints being reborn, these days we would use the language of familial, behavioral, psychological and cultural prorogation mechanisms. Maybe he didn’t know about the evolution of the universe, but even Einstein said ““Hence it is clear that the space of physics is not, in the last analysis, anything given in nature or independent of human thought. It is a function of our conceptual scheme [mind].”

The ugly truth about reincarnation is that it’s good business. People are afraid of death and curious about what will happen to them after they die, therefore they are willing to pay for the hope of a better afterlife, whether that’s reincarnation or heaven. Once you experientially understand not-self and dependent origination, you pretty quickly lose interest in such questions. In the dharma nectar of Belinda Carlisle – heaven is a place on earth emoticon 
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David Matte, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 10:56 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 10:56 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 99 Join Date: 8/3/19 Recent Posts
Interesting questions, and without answering them, I think they can just stand as they are to demonstrate that rebirth isn't really a rational tenet. 

Personally, I'm still hung up at how rebirth, (the idea of a cyclic existence inhabiting various realms of beings) could possibly be true if there is no self. 
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Chris M, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 11:41 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 11:35 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 4418 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
The notion of rebirth has always seemed like a religious/belief-oriented part of Buddhism. Maybe it was meant to keep the non-awakened aware of the implications of their actions. Sort of like the idea of going to heaven in Christianity. Otherwise, it makes very little sense to me other than as the "moment to moment" rebirth of just this moment-to-moment experience.
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Noah D, modified 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 11:46 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/20/22 11:43 PM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 1181 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
This is my understanding of Buddhist cosmology based on my studies .  Not saying I believe it, just relaying the info as I understand it -

the 6 realms are "super imposed" on top of each other on a given planet . . Beings of these realms tend to have inter related karma & are reborn on the same planet but cycle between the realms.  When that planet no longer supports physical life, they will be reborn either in non physical forms or as early lifeforms in the process of evolution on a new planet .

more broadly the cosmology follows a Big Bang - Big Crunch pattern as driven by the collective karma of all sentient beings , with those beings attaining a sort of pseudo nirvana between universes, until their karmic winds stir the external continuum of the elements again. 

the mechanism of karma itself can be explained from the perspective of the abhidharma psychology or from that of tantra physiology . In either case, the consensus reality of a given realm is essentially an intersubjective hologram .

The way rebirth & karma are traditionally "proven " is through logic & debate.  But it can also be approached through aspects of 1St hand experience , as well as by examining various aspects of the body psi research .

ymmv 

edit: also important to note that all of these concepts refer to realities that are considered to be empty all the way down, with no static essence to be found in any aspect or facet. 
George S, modified 5 Months ago at 1/21/22 5:35 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/21/22 5:35 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

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Sounds not so far away from the kind of thing that might be going on in a physicist's mind when they are dreaming up some new-fangled multiverse model emoticon 
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Jim Smith, modified 5 Months ago at 1/21/22 6:31 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/21/22 6:31 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

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If, for a moment, we assume the doctrine of rebirth to be true, consider the following: what would happen to beings who had practiced earnestly and lived very virtuous lives, destined to be reborn as humans, if all of human life was suddenly eradicated by nuclear bombs?

Would one be reborn on a different planet with beings of similar propensities and abilities existing in the same realm as humans?
yes


Would one have to accept living in a different realm that didn't really match one's true karmic destiny, hoping for human life to somehow reappear in billions of years?
no, it wouldn't happen


Or could one maybe be reborn in the past or maybe in a parallel timeline in which human life still existed?
yes in the past, 


And what would happen if one was unfortunate enough to end up in a place and time where the dharma was unknown?

It wouldn't happen unless there was some special circumstance you didn't mention.
Oskar M, modified 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 5:38 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 5:38 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 252 Join Date: 3/22/21 Recent Posts
Hi, read you post and think you present really good questions. I read some in Abidharma and there is a chapter on this there you could check out. Also  check out the video by Lama Lena, she goes into details on the death process from tibetan point of view, I really like this video. Also says some on how to head for a pure land to be reborn in. I suggest to rainbow your body. emoticon 
I might write some of my own thoughts later, but need to think some, have not really contemplated in that much really though recently I figured that my sense of birth and death has changed completely after few insights, but need to think some before posting. 
​​​​​​​Good luck.

Oskar

Video Lama Lena:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6qjxilW5ds
George S, modified 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 10:52 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 10:52 AM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 2461 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
 I love this - maybe we could get some t-shirts printed:

[Front] You are going to die ...

[Back] ... and it's going to be the best orgasm you've ever had emoticon 

 
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Ni Nurta, modified 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 1:28 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 2/13/22 1:28 PM

RE: Rebirth if all human life was extinguished

Posts: 930 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Interesting video
Is that spaceship idea something more Tibetans believe or just her?
If there is such spaceship then apparently its security systems are not very tight emoticon

As for death process description I think that given description I might risk it with the soft demons. If they come to play with me it would be quite rude to leave them alone. Besides if lack of light is the issue then I got the light and I might just know what to do to make them lit up as well ;) Worst case scenario I get devoured... should I even care? Still sounds much better than being an arhat...

...oh, right, this video made me wonder about those poor gone/extinguished souls. Is anyone investigating where'd they gone to? Is anyone trying to find them and help them? Chances are they are just far far away in the lonely and very very cold place and already understood error of their ways but just do not know how to come back... I got shivers just thinking about it emoticon

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