BUDDHISTS AGAINST REINCARNATION
Buddhism And Reincarnation
The Buddha clearly asked his followers not to believe things simply because he said them, or because they are stated in religious texts, but because you have experience of them being true (see Kalama Sutta below). It follows therefore that there should be no pressure on the Buddhist to believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation is not one of the 4 noble truths and does not feature in the 8 fold path or Meditation.
This site is dedicated to encouraging open free debate and thought on the issue of reincarnation.
We would like to make the following points derived from human experience.
- Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil
It is true that some might gain significant reassurance from a belief in reincarnation and we should be sympathetic to this. People who need a belief will tend to defend it by ceasing to listen, switching attention, or being consumed by irritation and contempt. Hopefully they will not be harmed by this site. Perhaps they should not read further.
- Seeing is believing
To hold untrue beliefs has unpleasant side effects. Irrational beliefs are often in conflict with rational ones and this causes tension and suffering to the believer (Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Theory in psychology). ‘We learn things with great certainty through direct experiencing them via the senses.’- This human belief is in conflict with a belief in reincarnation (which few believers would claim to have any direct experience or evidence of). As there is no physical evidence for reincarnation there is little reason to believe in it.
- Throwing the baby out with the bathwater
Human beings have a tendency to reject a group of associated ideas if they find just one to be untrue. This means that intelligent people might reject Buddhism on the basis of their strong reasonable disbelief in reincarnation. This would be unfortunate.
- ‘It’s not a religion’
Buddhism is not a religion yet it strays away from human observation into ‘spiritual’ territories when it deals with reincarnation and the human soul. It therefore puts itself in conflict with other religions which may disagree that, for example, a human might come back as a goat after death. As a result many religious people may not contemplate Buddhist beliefs simply because of its association with reincarnation. This is unfortunate as they may benefit from Buddhist ideas and practices.
A belief in rebirth can encourage thoughts of surviving death. This grasping tendency leads to suffering (see 4 noble truths later).
- Buddhism is subtle
The rebirth can be seen as metaphorical. Every day and every moment we change and are ‘reborn’ as the contents of our bodies, thoughts, memories and feelings change. In fact after 7 years there is very little original material left in a human. Most has been replaced. Buddhism is subtle but its simplified expression can be misleading.
- ‘Blame’ the Messenger and the Message
The message of Buddha was carried orally for a 100 years before being written down. It is unlikely to have remained unaltered in that time due to the limitations of human nature, intellect and memory. It should also be remembered that Buddha was a human being and was therefore able to be wrong as well as right about intellectual matters including Reincarnation.
Buddha appears to Reject the concept of Reincarnation
‘There is rebirth of character,
but no transmigration of self.
Thy thought-forms reappear,
But there is no egoentity transferred.
The stanza uttered by a teacher
is reborn in the scholar who repeats the words.’ (9)
‘Thy self to which though cleavest is a constant change.
Years ago thou wast a small babe;
Then, thou wast a boy;
Then a youth, and now, thou art a man.
Is there an identity of the babe and the man?
There is an identity in a certain sense only.
Indeed there is more identity between the flames
of the first watch and the third watch,
even though the lamp might have been extinguished during the second
watch’ (57) .
Reproduced from Chapter 53 ‘Gospel of Buddha’ a compilation of ancient texts published 1894 by Paul Carus
Available on http://mountainman.com.au/buddha/
The Buddha Has The Last Say
‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and secure, I will live happily.’ – The Buddha.
The ‘Kalama Sutta’: A Charter for Free Enquiry
‘‘Do not go upon what has been acquired by legends; nor upon tradition; nor upon what is in scripture; nor by logical conjecture; nor by inference; nor upon analogies; nor by agreement through pondering views; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘the monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourself know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; and when adopted and carried out, that these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter in, and abide by them.’’ – The Buddha.
The 4 Noble Truths
It seems that any discussion of Buddhism is incomplete without mention of the 4 Noble Truths. These represent the essence and origin of Buddhist thought. They as follows
1 The Truth of Dukkha. All forms of existence are subject to Dukkha (stress, unsatisfactoriness, disease)
2 The Truth of the Cause of Dukkha. Dukkha is caused by Tanha (grasping). The main cause of suffering is desire or craving. The failure to satisfy one’s desire causes disappointment and suffering.
3. The Truth of Cessation of Dukkha: eliminate the cause of Dukkha (grasping) and suffering will cease.
4. The Truth of the Path: The 8 fold path is the way to eliminate grasping/extinguish dukkha.
8 Fold path
- Right understanding
- Right thought
- Right speech
- Right bodily contact
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right attentiveness
- Right concentration
For readers who may wish to learn more about Buddhism including the 4 Noble truths, MEDITATION, and the 8 fold path the following site is recommended.