Author Topic: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?  (Read 16259 times)

Abbath

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Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« on: December 26, 2009, 10:54:31 PM »
The Buddha said:

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

Why then do buddhists believe in karma and rebirth when clearly there is no evidence or scientific explanation for them?

Isn't believing in karma and rebirth the same as believing in gods or other supernatural things?

Matthew

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2009, 02:11:28 AM »
Abbath,

I do not find it conducive to believe in anything I have not personally encountered - including Buddhist Dogma. The Buddha taught to find out for yourself what is true and not to believe it because a teacher said it, it is in the scriptures or everyone else believes it.

Why then do buddhists believe in karma and rebirth when clearly there is no evidence or scientific explanation for them?

Perhaps when you have established a deeper practice you will find some evidence for them or proof they are false? Until then I suggest you don't worry.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 27, 2009, 02:28:10 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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mik1e

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2009, 07:33:54 AM »
Why then do buddhists believe in karma and rebirth when clearly there is no evidence or scientific explanation for them?

Those who do not see the karmic relationships, have nothing to do but to believe those who see them.

Those who see karma, need not scientific explanation -- they just observe and say what they see.

Those who do not see, but have to explain to others (say, some lamas or monks), just reproduce words of seers or tell fairy tales.

If you practice properly, at some moment you begin to see. But if you practice with the goal to start seeing, you will see nothing.

Sebastian

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2009, 03:29:26 PM »
I'm not convinced of karma or rebirth either, but I believe there is some fundamental scientific facts which are highly interesting from a spiritual point of view.

Take for example the law of conservation of energy, which is an empirical law of physics. To quote Wikipedia:

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It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time (is said to be conserved over time). A consequence of this law is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. The only thing that can happen to energy in a closed system is that it can change form, for instance chemical energy can become thermal energy.

In other words, all the energy throughout the universe has existed since the beginning of time, with nothing added or taken away. In addition, as Einstein proved with his famous equation, mass equals energy and so everything in the universe consists of energy.

What to make of this? Well, since energy is everything and neverchanging, all things that have ever existed and will ever exist will transform into some other form of energy upon death or disintegration. The energy that you consist of is quite possibly the energy of a person before you. This is not supernatural, but an observation in accordance with the law of physics (of course, the energy of you could also have been a tree, or from any and all other sources).

Knowing this, I think it is interesting to consider the metaphysical claims of Buddhist thought. For example, imagine the possibility that the energy that you consist of is affected by your deeds and thoughts. Then this energy, upon your death, would be transformed in this affected state. The imprints left by your life would be the basis for a new form of energy. This doesn't explain the physical process by which rebirth would occur, but it is a pattern of thought that greatly intrigues me.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2009, 04:17:09 PM by Sebastian »

Abbath

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2009, 05:56:01 PM »
Knowing this, I think it is interesting to consider the metaphysical claims of Buddhist thought. For example, imagine the possibility that the energy that you consist of is affected by your deeds and thoughts. Then this energy, upon your death, would be transformed in this affected state. The imprints left by your life would be the basis for a new form of energy. This doesn't explain the physical process by which rebirth would occur, but it is a pattern of thought that greatly intrigues me.

There is a HUGE leap between that and saying that bad things happen to people because of bad things they did before.

Supernatural claims in buddhism is what keeps many people in the west from practicing meditation and learning about it. They don't want to be part of another "religion".

mik1e

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2009, 06:46:18 PM »
... saying that bad things happen to people because of bad things they did before.

Taken directly (linearly, mechanically), this claim indeed turns to nonsense. But there are some indirect, non-linear relationships which connect some events and situations on person's life to his/her previous lives. However, it is impossible to understand these relationships without direct perception.

It is like with vision: If you do not see, you cannot understand why the Moon changes its visible form or how to distinguish between glowworms on the top of the tree and stars. But it does not mean that these object do not exist.

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Supernatural claims in Buddhism is what keeps many people in the west from practicing meditation and learning about it. They don't want to be part of another "religion".

The best way here is checking everything on one's own experience. If you clean your energy system to proper extent, you begin to see all these things and become able to understand them.

As a scientist, I can say that almost all "supernatural" phenomena mentioned in yoga and Buddhism are real and based on strict and rigorous laws of nature. But these laws are still unexplored -- just because scientists do not have ability to see the processes in the subtle world. Would everybody be able to see subtle processes as well as we can see physical light, we would have the theory of these processes and technical means for investigating them long ago.

poiqwepoi

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2009, 06:21:22 PM »
Knowing this, I think it is interesting to consider the metaphysical claims of Buddhist thought. For example, imagine the possibility that the energy that you consist of is affected by your deeds and thoughts. Then this energy, upon your death, would be transformed in this affected state. The imprints left by your life would be the basis for a new form of energy. This doesn't explain the physical process by which rebirth would occur, but it is a pattern of thought that greatly intrigues me.

There is a HUGE leap between that and saying that bad things happen to people because of bad things they did before.

Supernatural claims in buddhism is what keeps many people in the west from practicing meditation and learning about it. They don't want to be part of another "religion".


Hello Abbath,

After studying buddhism for a while, I have found that there are many forms of buddhism and many of them are in contradiction with Gotama Buddha's teachings.  I practice my own understanding of Gotama's teachings, and consider the rest as irrelevant until I can gain some first hand experience about these things I consider irrelevant.  Specifically regarding karma and rebirth.   If unwholesome words or acts are the one who create suffering, you acknowledge that you are able to influence others in a way that creates suffering.   Since you are connected in some way to others, you are causing suffering to yourself.    If you are standing in a lake and throw a stone, being connected with the water, you will experience the effect of your act, sooner or later.     So this is the way I understand karma.   Karma does transcand life.   Look at Buddha, after being dead (transformed) for 2500 years, he is still helping people, including myself.   His  karmic influence spread through space and time, reaching to the other end of this planet, in some other time.    Hitlers acts, are still having their effects around the world.     When you hurt the world, you hurt yourself.  If you don't see it, it might be because it has not become important for you to know.   


As for rebirth, being an former atheist I had much problem with the concept.    But the way I understand it is that rebirth means to be, die, and to be again.   Taken with the context that Buddha said that we should not consider our ego as something solid that will survive time, I take rebirth as parts of me (energy or matter) being deconstructed to form some other conditioned being.   The vibes good or bad, that compose this temporary conditioned being, will be present and influence whatever will be transformed wile including matter coming from myself.   


As far as science and religion are concerned, try to find a scientist able to explain how gravity works.   The only thing  they have found so far is a method to predict its effects on objects.   If einstein is right and that a large mass deforms space-time around it, to create gravity, try to find a scientist who can explain how a quantum of matter interact with the next to transmit gravity.   


I find science as very good to describe and predict but not so good to explain.   


With Metta,

-Eric

Abbath

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2009, 08:42:31 PM »
Look at Buddha, after being dead (transformed) for 2500 years, he is still helping people, including myself.   His  karmic influence spread through space and time, reaching to the other end of this planet, in some other time.    Hitlers acts, are still having their effects around the world. When you hurt the world, you hurt yourself.  If you don't see it, it might be because it has not become important for you to know.

Yes but that has nothing to do with karma.

How about the kid that loses his arms or legs in an accident?

How about criminals that are never caught or punished?

How about all the innocent people suffering in the world?

How about all the hunger in Africa?

This is all random, man. If you are born in a problematic family with lots of suffering and poverty and drugs it's not because you had a past life where you were a bad person. That's an explanation hindus and buddha pulled out of their asses because they just can't accept the fact that this world is not just.

mik1e

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2009, 10:17:44 PM »
Abbath,

You make common mistake -- you mix karma and justice. They have nothing common.

Karma does not work mechanically, and karmic relationships have nothing common with what you can read in books or hear from TV.

Karmic forces just "pull up" certain situations to you (or you to certain situations) and influence your mind in moments of uncertainty. That is, if you have the strong wish to experience the state at which you can do what you want and not be punished, you may not get possibility to satisfy your wish in the current life, but you will reborn as "lucky" criminal. It is not necessary that you have to be a criminal -- you may be an eccentric artist or scientist, or just a child of billionaire. Actually, you will fill the first "vacancy" which is available. And if it is the life of criminal, you will become a criminal. And, as the criminal, you will be able to do what you want, BUT: your wishes will be determined by the world of criminals, and your actions will be also of criminal nature.

This is karma.

And if you are an "innocent victim", it does not necessary mean that you had to suffer for previous crimes. You could just get a "short-life vacancy" -- simply to get some experience of being alive. These "vacancies" are distributed really randomly, and usually fall to lot of those who just want to live (e.g., former animals). Only few of such "vacancies" are given "personally", say, to make a spirit to get the experience of suffering or to suffer because of former deeds.

Or kid may become a victim in an accident not because he has to suffer, but because he wanted to be the cause of suffer for his current mother and to see her sufferings. Say, in previous life his current mother was an invader who killed his child. When he formed the intent of revenge, he just wanted to see the suffering of the person, but did not concretize the situation.That he is suffering himself, too, is the collateral damage. And so on.

I think that these examples can help you to understand, that "mechanical", "linear" approach to karma leads only to confusion and angriness. So, either don't think about this at all, or develop the ability to see these processes yourself. In any case it is senseless to chat about them.

Abbath

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2009, 11:56:01 PM »
Reborn as a criminal?

Former ANIMAL?

Previous lives?

Why do you believe all this? There's the same evidence for rebirth than there is for unicorns or the horoscope.

This is all supernatural. This is all blind faith. This kind of stuff is what makes people reject buddhism because they think it's just another religion like any other.

Oh well, I guess trying to convince you guys that there is no karma and rebirth is like trying to convince christians or muslims that there is no god.

sublime

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2009, 11:56:55 PM »
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Why then do buddhists believe in karma and rebirth when clearly there is no evidence or scientific explanation for them?

hmmm.. this is quite an ignorant statement (no offence :) ). By 'clearly there is no evidence or scientific explanation' I am guessing that you mean the scientific journals and textbooks that are held in high regard in the society that you subscribe to don't offer an explanation. The quote you gave said to believe nothing "unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense". To me this doesn't mean only believe it if a respected member of society says its so, explanation based on semantics or no explanation at all. Experiential knowledge is what is needed, and this is what experienced llamas and yogis have gained; or so I have read.

So to answer you original question, buddhists believe in karma and rebirth because this is the knowledge that has been passed on to them intellectually from scriptures, yogis, llamas etc. They are not taught to believe this blindly, but traditionally it is the norm in their culture. I think it would be strange if it wasn't, given that their respected elders past and present have reported experiences of these natural laws. I wouldn't see these things as supernatural either, they are just natural - laws of nature.

If these things are really bugging you, I think you should take the advice given in the second post..

Quote
Perhaps when you have established a deeper practice you will find some evidence for them or proof they are false? Until then I suggest you don't worry.

I do believe in reincarnation. Although I have no direct experience of it (that I can remember :) ), it does appeal to my logic. What never made sense to me as a kid was the concept of heaven and hell in Western religion... God loves you 'unconditionally' and gave you free will, but if you break his rules you will be damned to hell for all eternity. What kind of love is that ??? and what kind of free will is that  ??? There are plently of mainstream Western documentaries about young kids that can remember their past lives and have given shockingly detailed accounts of them. Although this hardly gives the scientific explanation you are seeking. Google for them if you are interested.

I don't believe in karma in the sense that you are refering to, I don't believe there is a cosmic list in the sky of who is naughty and who is nice with some menacing santa claus type figure dishing out punishments. I will try and explain my understanding of it as it might appeal to you if you can find any relevence in it to your own direct experience...

The subconscious mind, one of the most powerful information processors we know, specifically observes both the surrounding world and the body's internal awareness, reads the environmental cues and immediately engages previously acquired (learned) behaviours - all without the help, supervision or even awareness of the conscious mind.

There is a basic mechanism by which the human mind associates negative and positive feelings with memories as they are created in present time. When we are later unconsciously reminded of the memory we feel the feeling. In a frame of reference that you may be familiar with, you could view these as cravings and aversions; these terms were used in Goenka's discources at the recent retreat I attended. An easy to understand example could be a caveman encountering a bear for the first time... caveman gets attacked, but escapes and survives. The emotions he felt though (fear, panic, etc.), will likely arise the next time he encounters a similar situation. This is applicable to all situations in life, it is the reason for addicitions, emotional outbursts, animosity, etc.

Each negative or positive feeling held in the memory corresponds to a proportionally sized area of chronic physical sensation held somewhere in the body. I see a persons Karma as their collection of these stored sensations, you may like to call them 'Saṅkhāras' (Pali word). Where do these Saṅkhāra's come from? Ones own life experience.

You are quite literally a product of your own life experience. This is where I might loose you a bit... it is my belief that consciousness creates our reality. Quantam physics is really pointing towards this if you are still seeking scientific explanations.. although these ones would be considered theoretical. My life experience has proved to me many times over that thought creates reality, explaining my reasons for this belief would be irrelevent, you need to find your own if your curiousity takes you.

Anyway, if your thoughts create the reality and the life you live and you have these negative and positive emotions stored in your bodymind, they are basically bringing you the experiences you get in life. It would be useful to use the analogy of a computers Operating System here. Your subconscious is the eqivalent of your OS, its where your beliefs, thoughts and emotions are stored (systems files). These inturn control your habits, behavious, and perceptions; they control your reality. Situations with a strong emotional charge will keep arising in your experience unless you release them from you body. This is your Karma in my understanding.

Meditation (and many other practices) offers you the opportunity to break the cycle... delete the stored positive and negative emotions in your body and train your mind to not store new positive and negative emotions by remaining equanimous in present time.

I appologise if I havn't explained these concepts very clearly. Im not very articulate with these concepts, they make perfect sense in my head, but I don't get to discuss them with people very often, my friends are not this way inclined and get bored with these types of things  ::) . Obviously things are not quite as black and white as they way I am writing though, so try and fill in the gaps.

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If you are born in a problematic family with lots of suffering and poverty and drugs it's not because you had a past life where you were a bad person

I agree... If you are born in a problematic family with lots of suffering and poverty, then it is probably because you died in a problematic family with lots of suffering and poverty. You cannot jump from one end of the spectrum to the other. Your thoughts create your reality from moment to moment and from life to life. If you believe in reincarnation then this can be explained by the soul having a record of your Saṅkhāra's.

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That's an explanation hindus and buddha pulled out of their asses because they just can't accept the fact that this world is not just.

The world is very just.. you get what you think about whether you want it or not; your thoughts create your reality. Rich get richer; poor get poorer. It couldn't be more just than that, especially seeing as we have conscious control over the direction of our thoughts. Thing is most people are by habit thinking about what they don't want, because they are thinking about whats in front of them - not enough food, poverty, abuse etc. That is their 'Karma', until they break the cycle.. they can change their pattern of thought and be out of their misery... but how could a starving child in Africa think about abundance of food when all he/she has ever know was starvation, they have no experience of the opposite of their predicament.

I don't know very much about hinduism and I know even less about buddism, but I don't think they pulled it out of their asses... I think you havn't really done much research about Karma to be honest. And just because you can't comprehend something is no reason to condem something. Karma is a natural law... the law of cause and effect. Karma means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. What you think about you experience.

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How about the kid that loses his arms or legs in an accident?

He had some thought (cause) that lead to him loosing some limbs (effect).

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How about criminals that are never caught or punished?

They had no fear of being caught, such thoughts never entered their minds; it didn't enter their life experience either.

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How about all the innocent people suffering in the world?

Same as the kid who lost his limbs.

When you understand that Hitler went to the same place as Gandi did when he died, then you will understand the nature of the universe. There cannot be good with bad, we live in a world of contrast, it is the nature of the universe. I don't think I could explain it you satisfactorily... but I understand where you are coming from, I once asked the exact same questions that you are. And I wanted answers so much... and I definately got them. The law of cause and effect made it so. So keep asking in your mind and the answers to all you questions will come to you also... there is no way they cannot. Just don't ignore them when they show up.

Sublime x
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 12:20:43 AM by sublime »

sublime

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2009, 12:09:31 AM »
This is all supernatural. This is all blind faith. This kind of stuff is what makes people reject buddhism because they think it's just another religion like any other.

You have a healthy sceptisim, that is good.. blind faith is dangerous.. but try not to have a closed mind as well... that is dangerous also.

How about, you try not to worry about what makes other people reject buddhism and concentrate on yourself. Adopt the beliefs that make sense to you and leave the ones that do not and if they make sense to you later on, then there is no reason you cannot pick them up later on. I am not a buddist, and I have no intention of becoming one either... I make up my own religion as I go along... I call it life. Your welcome to join if you want haha.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 12:27:52 AM by sublime »

Sebastian

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2009, 02:47:36 AM »
Knowing this, I think it is interesting to consider the metaphysical claims of Buddhist thought. For example, imagine the possibility that the energy that you consist of is affected by your deeds and thoughts. Then this energy, upon your death, would be transformed in this affected state. The imprints left by your life would be the basis for a new form of energy. This doesn't explain the physical process by which rebirth would occur, but it is a pattern of thought that greatly intrigues me.

There is a HUGE leap between that and saying that bad things happen to people because of bad things they did before.

Supernatural claims in buddhism is what keeps many people in the west from practicing meditation and learning about it. They don't want to be part of another "religion".


Where is the huge leap? Everyone agrees that the energy in the universe is constant and that everything is energy. Everyone agrees that upon death, human beings will transform into a different expression of energy. Why would it be so strange if the energy that our body consists of are affected by our actions? So if you do "bad" things, what we in general consider bad, this will affect your energy in certain ways. Likewise, having a peaceful mind, free from hatred and greed, affects your energy differently. I'm not saying this is a fact, I'm saying this is completely possible.

I think you overestimate the reach of western science. As Mike told me in conversation - what has science taught us about consciousness? Not much. Sure, we can measure brain waves and other forms of activity. But that doesn't say anything about how self-awareness arises, nor does it even begin to dig deeper into the complexities that is human thought. If you read some studies on meditation, you will see how incredibly basic they are in their approach. Look, he has synchronized brain waves! That is totally different from all these other people who have never meditated. Well, that is interesting, but it doesn't explain the subjective experience of the seasoned meditator.

The point I want to make is that we have far from all the answers. In the west, we think we are on the forefront of everything, because we have built this immense machinery of industry and technology. We avoid giving merit to subjective perception, not seldom for good reasons: we try to be objective. But when we rely on the instruments of measurement which we have created, with their limited scope of applicability, of course we are bound to fall short when we use these instruments to investigate a perception of reality that is wholly unfamiliar to our own.

Again, I am not convinced of either rebirth or karma. But one thing I know for sure is this: to turn every sensible and logical inference on its head, all I have to do is peek out of my window and look up into the sky. I have thought about this for many years. It seems so bizarre, that among all the apparent rationality that governs everything on earth, all one can do is behold the infinity that is beyond our comprehension. How can anything be infinite? Think about that for a second. Infinity means neverending. Never.

No doubt, karma and reincarnation seems to me more plausible and explainable than the mere notion of infinity.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2009, 06:50:14 AM »
Abbath

Reborn as a criminal?

Former ANIMAL?

Previous lives?

Why do you believe all this? There's the same evidence for rebirth than there is for unicorns or the horoscope.

This is all supernatural. This is all blind faith. This kind of stuff is what makes people reject buddhism because they think it's just another religion like any other.

Oh well, I guess trying to convince you guys that there is no karma and rebirth is like trying to convince christians or muslims that there is no god.

Stop trying to convince anyone of anything. It is a fruitless exercise born of your desire to have arguments. You can not prove Karma is real or not real, you can not prove God exists or does not exist.

People who reject Buddhism without proper investigation are rather silly in my opinion and I have compassion for their sad loss of learning from a rich and varied (which means often mistaken) tradition. But it is possible to work out for oneself what really matters and the core is that you have a meditation path, examine the five precepts, four noble truths and eightfold path and try and work with it as a meditator.

NONE OF THIS INVOLVES BELIEF BEYOND THE BELIEF "MEDITATION MAY CHANGE ME" WHICH YOU USE ONLY UNTIL YOU DISCOVER IT DOES.

Abbath,

I do not find it conducive to believe in anything I have not personally encountered - including Buddhist Dogma. The Buddha taught to find out for yourself what is true and not to believe it because a teacher said it, it is in the scriptures or everyone else believes it.

This is the wise position. Instead of having pointless arguments on a forum go and sit on a meditation cushion and do some practice. Stop being argumentative and petty minded.

I can not prove God exists or does not exist. I believe in all likelihood he does not , probably, and if he does then before he is allowed to create more universes he should be forced into a psychotherapeutic program because he messed up pretty bad with this one.

But I do not waste my time on it. And neither should you waste your time on these petty arguments. If you want to do that please join E-Sangha and get yourself banned in a day. We don't ban people here except for spamming but it does clearly say in the "who we are":

We don't have any rules as a community. We treat each other with respect and compassion. We think before we open our mouths. Anyone incapable of maintaining these standards would probably not be helping themselves or us. If they didn't moderate their behaviour I think we would ask them to leave. This has never happened however and so, as I say, we don't have rules.

We now have a rule: continued wrong speech, insulting others, wasting time having arguments, will lead to such persons being banned. This is a MEDITATION PRACTICE community. So go practice meditation and come back with your experience and stop the useless arguing.

What you are doing, Abbath, amounts to wrong and unskilful speech, pointless argumentation and insulting others for their beliefs. It is not acceptable behaviour in this forum. We are a small community and get to know each other and befriend each other such that trust relationships develop and harmonious information sharing. Sometimes there is dis-chord but usually short lived and dealt with and usually comes to down to misunderstanding that gets clarified.

The Buddha did not accept re-incarnation, his teachings of re-birth were a VERY RADICAL POLITICAL change in Indian society of the time where the Brahmanic pre-Hindu religion said everyone was destined to live the same life over and over again.

Noble truth no 3 "There is a way out of suffering" is as much a political as spiritual statement. Maybe the Buddha did not believe in past lives for all I know .. he might have been using this as a "provisional teaching" to make the political aspect of what he was doing and saying less obvious.

But you have no personal experience one way or another and are completely wasting your time.

Please stop engaging in wrong and insulting speech now and henceforth. It will not be tolerated in the long term. Think twice before you write. If you are angry or want to write words lacking compassion, full of non-truths and such then I suggest you use that time to meditate instead.

We have offered you the hand of friendship and you are blind to the words people are saying and acting like a young child having a temper tantrum. Time to stop now please.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 08:46:04 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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mik1e

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2009, 01:48:11 PM »
Reborn as a criminal?
Former ANIMAL?
Previous lives?

Why do you believe all this? There's the same evidence for rebirth than there is for unicorns or the horoscope.

Abbath,

Your questions and skepticism are quite natural, but you are too fast with making conclusions. If your goal is not just to yell your ideas, but to approach to (unknown to you) reality, you need to be a bit more patient.  Then you will have the possibility to get informative answers and (which is much more important) to understand them.

I personally never believed in reincarnations (rebirth) and do not believe in them now. For me they are an experimental (empirical) knowledge, many times checked on my own experience and on the experience of other people. This knowledge is still not bullet-proof and cannot pretend to be as solid as Newton's laws, but I do can say that karmic processes can be explored rationally and objectively, without any blind belief in them. Even more, blind belief is the first hindrance for objective exploration of karma.

BUT: you have to understand, that exploration of processes in subtle world (such as karmic ones) totally differs from "common" scientific research. Here the researcher in most cases is simultaneously the object, the subject and the instrument of the research, and very often it is impossible to separate these functions. That's why one have to be very well prepared for such kind of work. And practice of Shamadha-Vipassana is very nice training method for investigation of processes in subtle world.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 01:53:26 PM by mik1e »

sublime

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Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2009, 03:04:38 PM »
In Abbaths defence, I don't think he/she was intentionally being argumentative. It seemed more like Abbath is fustrated at not having a satisfactory answer... and why should someone be satisfyed with an answer that makes no sense to them, I know I wouldn't be. But I understand if this is not the place for such a discussion, seeing as it is a meditation practice forum.


Abbath:

I don't think I made it clear, I kind of assumed you knew but maybe you don't... It is said that as one develops a deeper and deeper meditation practice (years and years and years of practice) one is able to remember their past lives vividly. This has been the reported experience of many yogis, but no one just expects you to believe anything. You may enjoy this film...

« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 03:21:42 PM by sublime »

Abbath

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2009, 03:29:16 PM »
In Abbaths defence, I don't think he/she was intentionally being argumentative. It seemed more like Abbath is fustrated at not having a satisfactory answer... and why should someone be satisfyed with an answer that makes no sense to them, I know I wouldn't be. But I understand if this is not the place for such a discussion, seeing as it is a meditation practice forum.


Abbath:

I don't think I made it clear, I kind of assumed you knew but maybe you don't... It is said that as one develops a deeper and deeper meditation practice (years and years and years of practice) one is able to remember their past lives vividly. This has been the reported experience of many yogis, but no one just expects you to believe anything.

Thanks for the answer sublime.

I didn't know this forum was about meditation only, considering the name of this section includes the words dhamma and path.

I guess we can't discuss buddhism here...

Anyway I highly suggest everyone to follow Buddha's advice and not believe in rebirth until they remember their past lives vividly through meditation, something I am extremely sceptical about.

mik1e

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2009, 03:45:03 PM »
Quote
It seemed more like Abbath is fustrated at not having a satisfactory answer... and why should someone be satisfyed with an answer that makes no sense to them,

sublime,

To put the question in any forum and to understand the answer, one has to do his/her homework first. If (s)he does not, that is the true sign that the person has very undisciplined mind, and for him/her it will be very difficult to understand the answer, if this understanding needs deep practical or theoretical knowledge. If one cannot understand what's written in a handbook on quantum physics, that does not mean that quantum physics is nonsense.

I don't know if the topic about karma is in lines with general rules of this forum (in principle, it should be, because karmic processes are important ones in subtle world), but we definitely have to keep our minds calm, stable and clear if we want to communicate fruitfully in Vipassana forum.

mik1e

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2009, 03:51:23 PM »
Abbath,

I have strong feeling that you have no experience in deep meditative states. How are you going to check answers about karma, if you don't have instruments (ability) for this? It is like being in the position of blind person who claims that stars do not exist. The simplest proof in this case is just one word:"Look!" But can you?

Abbath

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2009, 03:58:24 PM »
Abbath,

I have strong feeling that you have no experience in deep meditative states. How are you going to check answers about karma, if you don't have instruments (ability) for this? It is like being in the position of blind person who claims that stars do not exist. The simplest proof in this case is just one word:"Look!" But can you?

Have you vividly remembered past lives of yours?

And how do you know they are real memories from past lives and not just dreams fabricated by your mind?

sublime

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2009, 04:19:02 PM »
Why are you so caught up on what others have experienced and what someone else believes  ???

You seem really bothered by this more than anything.

You asked a question, we offered our understandings of these concepts. However we are not trying to convince you of anything.

I am going to trust my own intuition, experiences and common sense way above your (in my opinion) limited and narrow understanding of reality. If you don't/can't/won't understand, thats fine by me  ;)

I agree with mik1e... Abbath you remind me of this old koan:

Quote
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 04:28:43 PM by sublime »

Abbath

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2009, 04:34:10 PM »
That's the purpose of this thread, to discuss rebirth and karma.

I see nothing wrong with having an intellectual discussion about buddhism.

And why am I so interested in the topic? Because I genuinely believe that irrational beliefs are damaging to humanity.

You guys are reacting the same way christians or others do, avoiding the topic and not answering my questions.

Anyway, close this thread, you guys are clearly not interested in discussing this.

BTW I find it funny when someone says that discussions like this are a waste of time. Is watching movies a waste of time then? Is reading books a waste of time? Is taking a nap during the day a waste of time?

poiqwepoi

  • Member
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2009, 05:46:04 PM »
I personally never believed in reincarnations (rebirth) and do not believe in them now. For me they are an experimental (empirical) knowledge, many times checked on my own experience and on the experience of other people. This knowledge is still not bullet-proof and cannot pretend to be as solid as Newton's laws, but I do can say that karmic processes can be explored rationally and objectively, without any blind belief in them. Even more, blind belief is the first hindrance for objective exploration of karma.

ANd it has been found, a long time ago, that Newton's law of gravity is an approximation at best, that doesn't fully predict the orbit of mercury.   This is how Einstein came up with general relativity.  But General relativity doesn't explain the very small and is better at the very big.  People came up with quantum theory, which is excellent at predicting the very small but is not so good with the very big.   Relativity and Quantum being the two main theories of the present, if neither one of them is able to fully explain from the smallest to the biggest, chances are they are both wrong.  This is why some people are working on other theories like superstrings.   So your empirical knowledge may well be more solid than Newton's laws which was a mere approximation.  

For instance, I believe that the universe doesn't do mathematics.  For me, good theories will be able to predict without mathematics but more with simulation.  In a way, I think like Wolfram's NKS.  

Buddhists, karma, rebirth,  these are words each referring to soft concepts. clinging to concepts will only make you suffer.   Take buddhist.  What is a Buddhist?  Someone who follows buddhism?   Someone who is Mahayanist?  Theravadin? Both?  Neither?   Is everything that is said in mahayana buddhism true?   How about Theravada?   How about Tibetan buddhism compared to zen?  They are all religion when personally, I think that Buddhism should be about a path, that has been found by Gotama Buddha.   But how do we know what he said?   We really don't know.  Sure there is the Pali canon.  But even reading the oldest texts in the canon doesn't assure you that the ideas, even less the words, came from Buddha's mouth.   For instance, as a Buddhist, I just don't believe in the Devas, even tough the devatasamyutta is the first book of the samyutta nikaya, the connected discourse of Budhha and one of the oldest book of the canon.  In fact, if Buddha really pronounced these words, it just confirms that he was a mere mortal in many ways, with many of the same limitation other humans have.  But when I think about the four noble truth, I have  still to find an instance of mental suffering not routed on desire or clinging.   And in the end, I think that the Buddha communicated his understanding to the world.  So being a buddhist for me, is to find my path by building on what he has found that I can experiment, which is so far, the four noble truth, the eightfold path, and many other concept found in different texts from buddhists.  My conception of Buddhism is about experimenting, not about believing blindly.  

For karma and rebirth, I had the same reaction that the original poster had, when I first encountered the concept.  In fact, I found that these concepts were in complete contradiction with the concept of non-self. Since I was an atheist, I had lost the idea of the self a long time ago.   For me the self, the ego, has been an still  only is an electro-chemical state of the brain, which changes continually.  Rebirth in that context is  not possible if it implies the survival of the ego.   I cannot subscribe to the fact that one can remember his past lives, be it a human or a buddha.   Maybe I will change, but until I can experiment it first hand, I won't believe.   So instead, I looked at the concept in lights of what I know about this world.   In my conception of the world, rebirth is the passage of matter from time quantum to time quantum.   The here and now, changes continually and since we can only be here and now, the one that was just before now is no more and a new one, a new state of conditioned matter, a new one is here and now.  This is for me, rebirth.   Continuous, death or rebirth.   Karma, is for me the moral relation between causation and effects.  Since I do believe that everything is ultimately connected, I do believe that actions, words, intentions, toughts, etc. have consequences not only on ourselves but on other.   Who knows, something I say may lead to a murder somewhere in the world.   And I do believe that wholesome generates good and unwholesome generates bad.   This I was able to experiment firsthand with people with whom I had problems and who had problems with me.   I practiced compassion meditation toward these people and the relationship changed radically because I was not letting the bad energy being amplified  anymore.  The guy that was an almost an archenemy at work in a few months became a good working relationship.   I somehow stop the round of bad rebirths of these states of mind.   And during meetings, the two groups stopped working in confrontation and started working together as collaborators.   This is how I understand karma,   Moral causation and effect.

Abbath, consider buddhism in a not so solid state but as a set of soft concepts with a few fundamentals and find your own definition because after all, Buddhism is not about making you suffering but liberating you from suffering.  At the moment karma and rebirth contribute to your suffering.  Maybe your are thinking about them IN an unwholesome way?


But maybe I'm all wrong and I would not be surprised.  My understanding of life changes continually and so does my understanding of the path.  But I know the path is in the right general direction because suffering has been eradicated from my day to day life thanks to a very few concepts with a lot of practice and day long awareness of when suffering was arising.  Buddhist theory is useless if not put in practiced.   That is why you Buddhat said that the four noble truth are to be realized, that is experimented with knowledge and mindfulness and introspection in relation with suffering.  Make buddhism about practice and not only sitting and reading.  Realize the noble truths, the eightfold path by experimentation.  Buddha is the one who pointed the way and the faint light at the end of it.   Be your own guide on the path.   Define your own buddhism.  Take refuge in the buddha, that is the buddha inside you that is waiting to guide you on the way.


With metta,


-Eric


mik1e

  • Guest
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2009, 06:02:59 PM »
Have you vividly remembered past lives of yours?

And how do you know they are real memories from past lives and not just dreams fabricated by your mind?

Very nice questions. I'd ask them myself, too.

1)

Quote
Have you vividly remembered past lives of yours?

The whole lives -- not. Certain situations -- yes. By the way,  I myself am not sure that somebody can really remember the whole past life but not just read information from certain energy layers. However,  I am sure that it is possible to "read" from the person's energy body the imprint of the situation which took place in one of past lives. When this information is being read, one really experiences vivid enough sensations, which definitely have nothing common with experience of current life or even with the Earth.

E.g., you can feel yourself in another body (usually in different age or even gender); you can more or less clearly feel the clothes on you and the situation in which you are (say, the dark room and several people around you). If your mind is stable enough and if it is disciplined so that you do not have any expectations about the situation, you can investigate the relationships between persons involved in the situation. For example, you can try to understand, why you have appeared in this situation, how you are related to other participants, and what they think about you.

Usually such "imprints" are found as sources of stress and distortions which do not allow the practitioner to achieve deeper states of calmness. And when you understand what were your state or actions in the past that caused the situation and resulted in imprint on your energy body, you become able to go through the situation again, in the different way, and "erase" the memory about it.

2)

Quote
And how do you know they are real memories from past lives and not just dreams fabricated by your mind?

As soon as you "erase" the imprint on your energy body, the source of stress and distortions, which you could not cope with for many years, disappears -- literally in few seconds. As a rule, this is felt as release from specific physical stress. I usually recommend to use such typical sensations as a sign that the imprint was really erased. It is impossible to simulate these sensations, since they are each time slightly different (and sometimes strong enough), and cannot be called "by memory". So, this is quite an objective sign. If you just play with your mind, you will feel nothing.

But there are people who are easily agitated and highly capable of manipulating subtle energies. They can imagine anything they want, and for them this illusion will be very vivid and tangible. Actually, such persons self-hypnotize themselves. Usually example of these people is used by skeptics as "proof" of nonexistence of previous lives.

How one can understand that (s)he or somebody else really deal with "energy imprint" but not just fooling himself/herself?

1. You have to see the energy imprint. If you have no information about the object, how can you check its existence?

2. You have to stop  your mind. If you have a slightest expectation about "what it is" or "how it should be", your higher bodies immediately begin to create the illusion, corresponding to your expectations, and you will deal with it. Many people are trapped by this game. When your mind is stopped, you can easily see whether the mind of other person is also stopped or not. If an observer did not stop his/her mind, (s)he will definitely deal with illusion.

3. Reality resists to changes, illusion -- does not. If you have to see the empty room, but you think "There should be some furniture here", you will feel, that "empty space" slightly "resists" to this thought. This resistance is very weak, and you can easily overcome it. But if you do, you will deal with illusion. You will "see" furniture, and it will be exactly where you expect it to be. So, when your mind is stopped enough and your sensitivity is high enough, you begin to feel the presence of the reality and let it drive your vision.

As you can see, I did not say any word about belief. One can take the described above principles and check them by his or her own practice (when (s)he is prepared enough, of course :) ;)).

poiqwepoi

  • Member
Re: Where's the evidence for karma, rebirth, and the supernatural?
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2009, 06:45:31 PM »
That's the purpose of this thread, to discuss rebirth and karma.

I see nothing wrong with having an intellectual discussion about buddhism.

I find this discussion very interesting, not for the sparing but for the fact that it makes me verbalize what I think about a concept.

Quote
And why am I so interested in the topic? Because I genuinely believe that irrational beliefs are damaging to humanity.

The topic is not irrational in itself.  What you might find irrational is the way the concept is defined by some.   I think of myself as someone who has a quite rational brain states and brain network.   Like you, I find that blind beliefs are unwholesome.   What you see as damaging to humanity is a feeling you have about the karmic effect un unwholesome speech.   But to blame or confront about such a topic (I am not saying you did that here), might also be unwholesome if it generates suffering for those who cling to these ideas on concepts.   

That said, if you genuinely believe that irrational belifs such as these, are damaging to humanity, you have all the space to positively define and propose your own interpretation of the world and the way to happiness, just like Buddha Gotama did.  By proposing answers, you might deliver the world from these irrational beliefs. 


Quote
You guys are reacting the same way christians or others do, avoiding the topic and not answering my questions.

Anyway, close this thread, you guys are clearly not interested in discussing this.

BTW I find it funny when someone says that discussions like this are a waste of time. Is watching movies a waste of time then? Is reading books a waste of time? Is taking a nap during the day a waste of time?


People who are genuinely not interested in discussing this would not participate in the discussion.   I am sure that many will only open this thread once, while others will not even open it based on the title because they are genuinely not interested in the topic.   Those who hurt by reading confronting ideas should take the oportunity to investigate the pain and root out the underlying desire.   

Those who blindly accept definitions because some one or an other proposed it,  might be missing the point about buddhism.   Those who refuse to consider an idea might be missing the same point.  But the one who is considering ideas and concept with detachment, and decides by himself what to do with the idea after careful pondering is acting in a way that Buddha himself followed for enlightenment.   

All written with metta,

-Eric

 

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