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Why do buddhists believe in reincarnation?

+1 vote

Although i respect buddhism very much i still have problems accepting somethin like reincarnation and it baffles me a bit that somany people accept this so naturally.

The thing here is that i did a lot of experiments myself and also meditate but until now i havent seen anything like it in my personal experience.
Here are a few of my reasons why i am sceptic.

  1. Buddhism and meditation are about living in the now. Reincarnation however is something that will happen in the future. The promise that you will have a better next life if you do it the right way create an attachment so even if reincarnation is true, it should not be a part of my meditation practice because it will involved fear.

  2. Like christians go to heaven or to hell according to their behaviour in this life, it sounds to me that there is punisment and reward involed in reincarnation. the danger is that like cristians people only do good BECAUSE you will be saved, and not because you are a good person or believe in a better way to help the world.

  3. If i would have been a dictator and i wanted to controll a big crouwd or a country, then introducing reincarnation as a beliefsystem with claiming you create bad karma because i give some rules ( like eating apples on a sunday is bad ) then i would be very succesful in having people not eating apples on a sunday.

  4. althoug i am aware when i do not think in some of my meditations, i also was uncounsious on the operation table 3 times were i blinked with my eyes and an hour suddenly was passed as if by a miracle.
    Where was my awareness at that time? For me that time just never existed, like someone did cut a piece out of the movie en then glued the ends together again.

So my question is this. Did you got any notion of reincarnation, or at least a hinge of it during your meditation sessions or are people just repeating the ideas of others and books.

i wondered a lot of times, waht if there is nothing else, what if this word is just what it is, and there is nothing after life, no good or bad, would you still be a buddhist or a christian.

And the other question is, would you choose to be lost forever or go to hell to save the world?

On the second question i would answer no, i would choose for myself in the end, but for the firt one it is defenitely a yes. I believe that when jesus said the the kingdom of heaven would come to you if you surrendered totally, he was actually speaking of this world. it is the here an now that can become your heaven or nivana when you stop being atacched and be mindfull. This place and this world you are in now is the important one and not a next one.

that said offcourse, im open to be totally wrong at this, and i would love to be corrected, because that would make my life a lot easier

Ps. That im referring to jesus is just because of my background. Although i believe there was the historical figure of jesus i am not religious nor do i think that everything that is told of him is true. But what i know of him could be easily seen as eastern knowledge, there is a gap between the jouth of jesus and when he started preachimg and i support the theory that in those years he travveled to india where part of his ideas come from.

asked Jun 1, 2011 in Buddhism by magwillems (5 points)  
   

3 Answers

+4 votes

In addition to what I've said elsewhere (here and here), I think I can answer a few of these points directly.

it baffles me a bit that somany people
accept this so naturally.

If it is true, it is only natural that people accept it naturally, since it would fit well with their general sense of the distant past.

The thing here is that i did a lot of
experiments myself and also meditate
but until now i havent seen anything
like it in my personal experience.

There are specific meditations one can undertake to remember past lives, and there are whole groups of people who undertake such meditations with generally positive results. Instructions are found in the Path to Purification.

Buddhism and meditation are about living in the now. Reincarnation
however is something that will happen
in the future. The promise that you
will have a better next life if you do
it the right way create an attachment
so even if reincarnation is true, it
should not be a part of my meditation
practice because it will involved
fear.

Fear of the future can be an incredible motivation to make one's preset moment better. One of the reasons I became a monk is because I woke up and realized I was driving off a cliff, so to speak. The only way we can really work to change is when we realize the effects of our present actions on the future, including after we die. Without the realization of long-term effects of our actions, it is difficult to see the deep ramifications of our negligence in the present.

Like christians go to heaven or to hell according to their behaviour in
this life, it sounds to me that there
is punisment and reward involed in
reincarnation. the danger is that like
cristians people only do good BECAUSE
you will be saved, and not because you
are a good person or believe in a
better way to help the world.

In fact, I would submit that the only reason an act can really be considered "good" is because of the reward it brings to oneself. If good deeds only made one a good person or helped the world, without bringing gratification, peace of mind, and freedom from the dangers of samsara, what good would they be, really? Altruism sounds nice in theory, but in practice, the good thing about altruism is it brings peace and happiness to the altruist. Of course, there is no need to go to heaven, but there is need to avoid hell, etc., and therefore need to better oneself.

If i would have been a dictator and i wanted to controll a big crouwd
or a country, then introducing
reincarnation as a beliefsystem with
claiming you create bad karma because
i give some rules ( like eating apples
on a sunday is bad ) then i would be
very succesful in having people not
eating apples on a sunday.

Which says nothing of whether it is beneficial or harmful to oneself to eat apples on Sunday, nor whether the mind really does continue after death. This is a superfluous argument, I'm sorry to say.

althoug i am aware when i do not think in some of my meditations, i
also was uncounsious on the operation
table 3 times were i blinked with my
eyes and an hour suddenly was passed
as if by a miracle. Where was my
awareness at that time? For me that
time just never existed, like someone
did cut a piece out of the movie en
then glued the ends together again.

I'm not sure what this has to do with the question at hand, I assume your conclusion is that the same thing happens at death, only permanently. There is no evidence to support that; many people report being on the operating table and watching the entire operation from outside their bodies.

i wondered a lot of times, waht if
there is nothing else, what if this
word is just what it is, and there is
nothing after life, no good or bad,
would you still be a buddhist or a
christian.

We practice because we see the repercussions of our actions; if we knew for certain that at death there was nothing more, it would indeed be difficult to find reason to improve ourselves beyond what was necessary to enjoy this life; it being an illogical conclusion based on the findings of various types of meditation, however, I don't think it is worth the speculation.

And the other question is, would you
choose to be lost forever or go to
hell to save the world?

Going to hell will never save the world, since hell is part of the world. Unless you can somehow free all beings from hell up to the brahma realms, you haven't saved the world. By doing something that winds you up in hell, you only defile the world more than before.

answered Jun 2, 2011 by yuttadhammo (8,823 points)  
+1 vote

As an initial response to this I would suggest reading this blog post by Ven. Yuttadhammo. I found it very useful personally as my first encounter with the notion of rebirth / reincarnation was through a form of Tibetan Buddhism, and it did not sit quite right with me at the time. Ven. Yuttadhammo’s explanation here is very useful. Also see if you can find anything written by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu on this; he makes sense with his explanations too.

In answer to your specific points though there are a few things to be said. Although it is true that meditation is something that focuses on our moment to moment experience, there is still, in a sense, a purpose to doing this. It’s not so much that we should give up all desires, but that we should have skillful desires, especially in terms of the future. For instance, gaining stream entry in this life would be a worthy goal to aim for, and although we’re practicing in the present moment, this can still be something we can hope to aim for in the future.

Furthermore, the traditional depictions of the states that beings are born into is not a description of a divinely administered system of justice, as it appears to be in Christianity. As the saying goes, we are punished by our anger, not for it. It is in recognizing that unskillful and unwholesome actions are in themselves their own punishment that we learn to give them up, not through fear that someone is standing over us ready to strike us down because we’re a ‘bad person’. There are no bad people, only people who make mistakes due to lack of understanding.

As for the time you were unconscious there is nothing in Buddhist teaching that says that is not possible. That can even happen during deep sleep.

In a lot of ways there is nothing more than this world, this experience, right now. That is what we have to work with and that’s what we can look at directly. It may be difficult to accept some other notions about rebirth etc but in a way I think the ways in which we tend to speculate about those things are still based on mistaken notions about ourselves. It is through examining our present experience as it is in this very moment that we have a chance of gaining some clarity about what and who we really are, and this in turn, will slowly throw light on our own understanding of what the future might hold.

answered Jun 2, 2011 by daiwei-16 (361 points)  
0 votes

I think its worth remembering that a principal purpose of this practice is to maintain and encourage Peace,Happiness and Freedom from Suffering,both for oneself and others,as such i find myself wondering if focussing ones attention on reincarnation will best help us achieve that.

I think one answer to your question about reincarnation after this life is to view this life as a series of lifetimes/periods.For example if i do a good meditation on the breath now i feel refreshed and energised for several hours (lifetimes)afterwards.If i show loving kindness towards another now i am usually rewarded similarly in another lifeperiod.You might reasonably argue that i am using semantics to dodge your question,however i feel justified by my first point about the purpose of practice.

Personally i would recommend this simplified empirical approach to the teachings and b mindful of how one progresses.
Best wishes

answered Jun 1, 2011 by gc367581 (1,470 points)  
edited Jun 2, 2011 by anonymous

Yes, thats a good one, see this life as a series of lifes, like the nine lifes of a cat good thinking, thanks..

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