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Thread: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

  1. #51

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    . . . it is volitional action, which can take the form of thoughts, words or deeds.
    I don't think that says hardly anything at all, on its own. Seeing actions in isolation from their causes and consequences is not helpful, is it?

    What is important is the kind of actions we are talking about, and this is discovered by taking into account the causes and consequences of the actions in question. And there we have cause and effect.

    I'm reluctant to quote any excerpts from it directly, as it is copyrighted.
    You're safe to quote from anything at all for the purpose of discussion, so long as you don't duplicate long swathes of the stuff, which, hopefully, you wouldn't do.

  2. #52

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi Kevin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    The mistake most people make, as I see it, is that people think karma is "theirs", but fail to see that cause and effect does not respect such boundaries.
    This can be interpreted in a few ways, that's why I referred you to that essay. If your intention is that our actions (harmful or not harmful) can affect not only ourselves, but others around us, then yes, I'm with you. Our karma is what we do. How others react to that is their karma.

    However, if you intended to say that there is such a thing as collective karma which decides the harming or well-being of larger populations (for example, the idea that the victims of the Tsunami in S.E. Asia 2003 was the result of karma, or the idea that people in a poor country somehow deserve the situation in which they were born), then I think that is a misconception.

    Gassho
    Bansho

  3. #53

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    If your intention is that our actions (harmful or not harmful) can affect not only ourselves, but others around us, then yes, I'm with you. Our karma is what we do. How others react to that is their karma.
    Ok, I see what you mean. Delusion is our own. Our suffering is a result of our own delusion. The distortion is coming from our own faulty lenses.

    But we should always be aware that our actions can create delusion in others, creating their karma. I know that most Buddhists baulk at accepting this idea, thinking instead that we each have our own separate streams, so to speak.

    However, if you intended to say that there is such a thing as collective karma
    A collective is a kind of individual - especially when it acts as an individual, such as we human societies do. In fact, the individual human being is itself really a collective, behaving as an individual. When we "make up our mind", many voices weigh-in, like in a democracy.

    So the distinction between collective and individual karma is in reality a false one.

    which decides the harming or well-being of larger populations (for example, the idea that the victims of the Tsunami in S.E. Asia 2003 was the result of karma, or the idea that people in a poor country somehow deserve the situation in which they were born), then I think that is a misconception.
    The Tsunami itself would have been the result of karma only if it was the result of deluded action, which it doesn't appear to have been. But I think it's fair to say that the overpopulation, which resulted in so much suffering and loss of life, was certainly a result of karma, among other things.

  4. #54

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi Kevin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    But we should always be aware that our actions can create delusion in others, creating their karma. I know that most Buddhists baulk at accepting this idea, thinking instead that we each have our own separate streams, so to speak.
    It doesn't surprise me that most Buddhists baulk at accepting that idea. Where did you get it? Each of us are responsible for our own actions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    A collective is a kind of individual - especially when it acts as an individual, such as we human societies do. In fact, the individual human being is itself really a collective, behaving as an individual. When we "make up our mind", many voices weigh-in, like in a democracy.

    So the distinction between collective and individual karma is in reality a false one.
    Sure, societies as a whole display patterns of behavior, no question about it. But - that has nothing to do with karma. As Ven. Kobutsu talks about in his essay, karma isn't the only force in the universe.

    Gassho
    Bansho

  5. #55

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    But we should always be aware that our actions can create delusion in others, creating their karma. I know that most Buddhists baulk at accepting this idea, thinking instead that we each have our own separate streams, so to speak.
    It doesn't surprise me that most Buddhists baulk at accepting that idea. Where did you get it? Each of us are responsible for our own actions.
    It's something that I myself have discovered to be true. We are not only responsible for our own karma, but also the karma of others. That's why teachers teach.

    It's a mistake to think that we are all isolated units.

    This is what I see as the essential "Mahayana" realization.

    Of course, it's a mistake to think that we are totally in control of the karma of others, just as it would be a mistake to think that we are totally in control of our own karma.

    There is no reason to think that we cannot be instrumental in the arising or falling away of the deluded actions (karma) of others, and it is only a mental block in Buddhists that prevents them from realizing this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    A collective is a kind of individual - especially when it acts as an individual, such as we human societies do. In fact, the individual human being is itself really a collective, behaving as an individual. When we "make up our mind", many voices weigh-in, like in a democracy.

    So the distinction between collective and individual karma is in reality a false one.
    Sure, societies as a whole display patterns of behavior, no question about it. But - that has nothing to do with karma.
    What societies do, as individuals, meets the definition you have provided for karma. Socieities act, and they usually act in a deluded fashion.

    As Ven. Kobutsu talks about in his essay, karma isn't the only force in the universe.
    Sure, karma is only one of the many forces in the universe.

  6. #56

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    It's an interesting point to note, that if one were to define "karma" as being only personal, then one would be effectively defining it out of existence.

  7. #57

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Good point, Bansho. In the context of the thread I began that dealt with the war on terror, individuals who commit acts of terrorism would have to answer to the karmic consequences of their actions as well as many other consequences. And due to their actions, the people from their societies may have to face consequences as well, but not on the karmic level.

    The exception to that would be if an atrocity is carried out, and the people who are not directly involved don't make any attempt to oppose it and refrain from associating with those who were responsible. The choice to not take any action has just as many consequences, but does inaction also have karmic consequence where the undue suffering of others is not opposed?

    Gassho,
    Dave

  8. #58

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by humblepie
    . . . individuals who commit acts of terrorism would have to answer to the karmic consequences of their actions as well as many other consequences. And due to their actions, the people from their societies may have to face consequences as well, but not on the karmic level.
    That other people experience the consequences of our karma (deluded actions) is undeniable.

    I'm only interested in the nature of the action, and its causes and consequences, which is to say that I'm not interested in pointing the finger at individuals and saying "it's your fault", or "it's your responsibility". There is too much at stake for that, and I don't think it's at all helpful.

    If we really thought that other people's karma was isolated from our own then we wouldn't bother trying to help them.

    The choice to not take any action has just as many consequences, but does inaction also have karmic consequence where the undue suffering of others is not opposed?
    When inaction is a deluded action, it is karma, by definition.

  9. #59

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    When inaction is a deluded action, it is karma, by definition.
    Thank you, Kevin. I'd agree with that.

    Gassho,
    Dave

  10. #60

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi Kevin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    There is no reason to think that we cannot be instrumental in the arising or falling away of the deluded actions (karma) of others, and it is only a mental block in Buddhists that prevents them from realizing this.
    No. The way an individual reacts to a given situation is that individual's karma. We cannot make anyone responsible for it other than ourselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Solway
    What societies do, as individuals, meets the definition you have provided for karma.
    No. As I've stated previously, societies exhibit patterns of behavior, but only individuals can be said to act based upon their own will.

    Generally I don't like to get involved in long-winded discussions about these things, however karma is a touchy subject. If it's viewed incorrectly it can become a dangerous ideology. My understanding of the Buddha-Dharma affects the way I interact with and treat others, and I should think that applies to all other Buddhists who take their practice seriously. If your personal way of looking at things leads to beneficial behavior, that's great, keep up with it. However, as you've stated yourself, it's something you yourself came up with and has been rejected by other Buddhists. It shouldn't be confused with the Buddha-Dharma.

    Gassho
    Bansho

  11. #61

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi.

    wasn't there a story in the sandman series about the dreaming cities?
    I wonder what happens if they ever wake up...

    Another twist is "the city that never sleeps"...

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  12. #62

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi all. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone here for joining in this discussion. Jundo, a HUGE thank you for starting it. Even though I went off on a temporary scientific tangent and threw in a little quirky humor (or is it "quarky?" Sub-atomic silliness...), this topic has helped me out tremendously...especially regarding the eventual passing of my father.

    I'm not really the type who gravitates to long explanations. In fact, throughout all these posts, the one that stuck out in mind the most was from Clyde.

    I rather like this, "Where does your fist go when you open your hand?"

    clyde


    p.s: I think I first heard this from Alan Watts.
    Of course, that answer won't work with our children when they ask the BIG question, but it works for me. I'm much more at peace with the situation now.

    Better yet, it's more a matter of trust. Thank you again, everyone.

    Gassho,
    Dave

  13. #63

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Hi all! Merry Sunday

    Thanks for tackling this big question, Jundo, and for doing so with honesty.

    I guess it's not so important after all. A more pressing question to me right now is, 'What am I?' or 'What is this?' or perhaps, 'What am I doing here?' I think if you feel OK about these questions then you feel OK about the life after death question too, and also understand the question!

    So, life after death... What is it that was born? and what is it that dies? It seems pretty obvious what happens to the physcial body. Like all living organisms its life expands and then contracts until it finally perishes and isn't able to be a vehicle for life anymore. The brain is of course part of the body so if the brain creates then mind then the mind must disintergrate too. But consciousness? Does the brain produce that? Was consciousness ever really born?

    And what about all our mental energies, thoughts, desires, feelings and so on that we experience during life? Are they reborn and passed on to another living organism or do they simply intermingle with the whole... the whole ocean that is constantly manifesting forms like human bodies?

    These questions are not necessarilly for answering. I'm just throwing them out there as questions.

    Very many people have given accounts of past life visions and experiences. I don't think they can all be crazy and delusional or liars. There must be something to it but I'm not sure whether these people are actually seeing their past lives or if it's more a case of something like collective memory. They may be seeing some past human lives and perhaps the sense of I and my past life is present because our true sense of I, which doesn't come from the body-mind, is one and the same in all human beings... Just a thought.

    Some people also claim to have memories of the intermediate state after death and before rebirth.

    As I indicated above, I'm not sure if I believe in a direct rebirth from one being into another, or if it's more that after death the drop returns to the river and intermingles with it again, and it's the river that then manifests itself as the myriad drops.

    Well, that's my two cents.

    Gassho,
    David

  14. #64
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Skimmed all that karma discussion above...
    karma as Indra's net seems a simple way to think of it.
    But that's no fun, so carry on.............

  15. #65
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Oh yeah, that what happens when we die question.. sorry, I got distracted.

    Studs Terkel wrote a whole book about death where he interviews all sorts of people about it, their views and experiences with it, etc. (Will the Circle be Unbroken) I am reading it now. Fascinating read, lots of great and moving stories, but everyone seems to agree that the whole point is:
    1. death is part of life
    2. we don't know what happens when we die
    3. so best to live life

    Sounds familiar, huh.
    Studs was a buddha.

  16. #66
    disastermouse
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    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by Bansho
    No. As I've stated previously, societies exhibit patterns of behavior, but only individuals can be said to act based upon their own will.
    When you examine your internal experience, at what point do your rather random thoughts and conditioned patterns of thought become an 'individual will'?

  17. #67

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo on beliefnet
    Jundo June 20, 2009 9:05 AM

    I must also add that a lost son is reborn in traditional Buddhist view. How or when ... we cannot say for sure. Perhaps he is reborn as all that will someday come. But a lost son is reborn.

    Gassho, Jundo

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafze....html#comments
    Hi,

    (I wanted to ask about this response on beliefnet and, since it's relevant to this thread, have posted here. Also, since the original comment on beliefnet was a very personal one, it didn't seem appropriate to discuss it there).

    Sometimes it seems that the zen analysis that nothing dies because nothing is born offers little comfort. It feels like some kind of semantic device - at least at the "unenlightened" level that many of us operate on most of the time.

    I think that the traditional Buddhist view (that a lost son is reborn) is more comforting and hopeful. Jundo, is that why you added the extra comment?

    gassho,

    JohnH

  18. #68

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001

    Sometimes it seems that the zen analysis that nothing dies because nothing is born offers little comfort. It feels like some kind of semantic device - at least at the "unenlightened" level that many of us operate on most of the time.

    I think that the traditional Buddhist view (that a lost son is reborn) is more comforting and hopeful. Jundo, is that why you added the extra comment?

    gassho,

    JohnH
    Hi John,

    BE WARNED: THIS TURNED INTO A LONG POST

    A very very welcome question. No, I said that to the father who lost his son because I truly believe it.

    I need you to really hear me out on this before coming to any conclusions about what I will say. What I am about to write may shake some folks' image of Jundo as this very 'down to earth' guy.

    One of the reasons this place is called "treeleaf" is because of an "insight" that came through years of this practice on rebirth (yes, Jinho, insights are important in this practice ). It is an insight very common to people who engage long enough in Zen practice and Buddhism in general, not unique to me. However, this allowed me to taste our little "selfs" as much like the single leaves of a tree which ... though each a leaf apparently separate and individual ... are really just the tree itself in the most radical sense (meaning that they are not merely 'parts of the tree', but are the tree itself). Leaves come and go with the seasons, but the tree remains.

    What is more, because each leaf is just the tree in its most radical meaning ... each leaf (you and I) are radically each other in the most intimate sense. Yes, every leaf born of the tree (although also separate and distinct) is, in that sense at least, our rebirth and the rebirth of each other.

    So, you see, that whole "Zen is 'bout 'Being One With The Universe'" cliche is not a cliche, 8) and we do experience this at moments on the long mountain hike. There are truly aspects to our Zen practice whereby ... looking at the moon and stars in the sky ... one is looking at a mirror, until only the mirror remains.

    Due to the foregoing, I no longer fear death (at least, some of me no longer fears death ... the part of me that is still a white knuckle flier fears death :shock: ) because losing this body is not much different from a single hair falling out of my old beard ... another hair is bound to grow in. So, when I told that father that his son would return ... I meant it through and through. (I am not much for overly mechanical images of rebirth and reincarnation, as sometimes professed in Tibetan Buddhism, for example. But I do believe in rebirth).

    I wrote a book about this a few years ago ... rarely show it to folks, will someday. But it is filled with little images to convey this. One is the "airplane" story I told in the first post in this thread, which I told to my friend Danny who was soon to die of cancer. I am going to BOLDFACE a couple of sentences in there for emphasis ....



    How can I put this? Perhaps, in the Zen perspective, life is like being born ... for some mysterious reason ... in a certain seat on a trans-Pacific flight (I thought the analogy appropriate, given how much time we both spend crossing the Pacific to Japan). We are not quite sure how we got here on this flight, who paid for the ticket, the destination ... and certainly, we are not quite sure who is in the cockpit or how the plane got made. However, something has seemingly gone to a lot of trouble to put us on this plane (earthly plane? har har). And, the movie is not bad (sometimes comedy sometimes tears), the champagne is cold, and the view out the window spectacular. Sure, some of the other passengers are hard to bear (often fighting amongst themselves), not everything is to our liking, and sometimes it downright is unpleasant. But the 747 seems to be moving along on its own power. So, nothing to do but enjoy the ride.

    But there is more to it than that ...

    For, in our perspective, we can see that we are all connected. I don't mean that we see some loose, indirect connection we all have. It is precisely that we see that the airplane and all the other passengers, the motor, the wings, movie and all the seats, and the guy in the cockpit are all part of you too, or are really you, or you are them ... or, better put, you, Danny, are the plane ... or even better put, there is just the flying).

    ...

    And it sure seems like something went to a lot of trouble to make something as elaborate as a plane. A great mathematician and physicist [Fred Hoyle] once said ...

    "The chance that higher [sentient] life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein... I am at a loss to understand biologists' widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious." ("Hoyle on Evolution," Nature, Vol. 294, 12 November 1981, p. 105.)

    The fact [I am writing a book on this] that so many a priori conditions were required to set our 747-world just right in order for us to share this e-mail leads me to conclude that our appearance on this plane is not mere happenstance, and the trip not without purpose (although I do not clearly know the nature of nature's purpose).

    So, have a good flight, even with the turbulence and bad food. It's all part of the flying and we are not really at the controls.

    Some Buddhists might also add that you are working through what needs to be worked through (karma and all that). I, personally, don't know about that, but it could be I suppose. Certainly, it is one explanation for how you ended up as "Danny," and not as some piece of luggage, coffee cup, headrest, other passenger or ... seemingly much, much more likely ... nothing at all. I can attest that this "Danny" is certainly one of a kind. (If I may continue with the silly plane analogy), why did you end up in seat 37D, and not some other seat, or in the baggage compartment, and why on the darn plane at all?? Maybe there is no reason at all, maybe it was an assigned seat.

    Oh, and embracing the whole things means that it is okay to be pissed off, disappointed, etc., sometimes at being sick. That's what human beings do at times when we have been diverted, seemingly, from where we wanted the plane to go.


    Your friend, Jundo ... quite often, a white knuckle flier
    I do not know all the reasons why you and I popped up alive in this universe when, seemingly, even a small change of conditions would have rendered some other outcome. One small change in evolution's winding road, for example ... a left turn in place of a right ... and you and I would never have been born, let alone if our great grandparents had never met and fallen in love. But, I suppose, my simplistic belief is that "if the ridiculously ridiculous happened once to you and me, it is likely that the dice were loaded in some way!") And if the dice were loaded once, they might be loaded next time too.

    Below, I am going to post a couple of things that I have only once before posted here. It is my image of the deep intimacy of "leaf" and "tree" (or "passenger" and "plane" if you prefer) ... anyway, you and me and from whence we came ...

    I have a manuscript kicking around here that I've meant to get back to and finish someday. In it I try, through some poetic images and various 'thought experiments', to get folks to see some of this. Humor me on some of these, as I was just trying something creative here. What I have discovered over the years, in getting folks to look at some of these, is that some folks can see the image and some can't ... not unlike the way some folks cannot see those "3-D Images" which they publish in the newspaper sometimes, or the famous "Old Lady/Young Lady" optical illision:

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/YoungGirl- ... usion.html

    There are now some aspects of the following I would change if writing this today, such as the emphasis on the word "One", which can be misleading (for example, being "at one" with reality does not necessarily mean that all of reality is "one" single thing. That is why Buddhist philosophers often use such phrases as "not one, not two"). Something else I might change is the feel that I am necessarily talking about some "universal consciousness". A much younger me wrote this, so I would not do it just the same way.

    Work on through it to the "YOU/I" image in the third excerpt. Anyway, here goes "NOTHING"!

    We think of ourselves as separate individuals born into a universe, independent bodies calling a world our home. Like inhabitants of a house, we feel that the universe is where we live, not what we are. We see the world as but the stage for our dance of life, not as the fusion unbroken of dancer, stage and dance. In our limited way, although we may be aware of scattered connections between our individual ‘self’ and all that surrounds us, we perceive no more than chance, isolated relationships among separate things and beings. We see that humans live in the world, but not that humans and the world are wholly One, a single entity undivided.


    We feel as dancers in a dance, across a stage we run,

    each dancer dancing solo, our connection nearly none.

    But when our steps are flowing, as leaves in wind a’frenzy spun,

    it’s not hard to see that dancers, stage and dance are truly One.



    Our separation is a perspective, but offers no more than a confined viewpoint on reality. Far from being the only vision we should hold to – an encompassing perspective is simultaneously true and useful. In this tale, I propose that we learn to see ourselves ….


    as this universe itself,
    as much as the lonely leaf is part of its parent tree,
    and thereby -is- the tree.



    Picture in your mind a single tree leaf growing from a tree. Is the fragile leaf a separate thing, that which we call a “leaf”? Or is it instead the tree itself?

    It is possible to view the single leaf as both “leaf” and “tree,” one and the other. Certainly, a tree is but its roots, trunk, branches and leaves. Strip away, one and all, root, trunk, branch and leaf, and there shall be no tree at all. Nothing remains.

    Yet the true key to union is the human beholder, for when the mind steps back, no longer focuses on the leaf, ceases to isolate its separate form, when we see nothing but the whole and forget about the part ….. all that we see is the tree. The leaf is absorbed into the tree, vanishes like a ladleful of water poured into a sea, there perhaps - but not there. Thus, each leaf is a separate life, unique. Simultaneously, it is the tree itself. A human being may, too, forget her separate self, cease to isolate identity from the whole, pour her being into that sea. We human beings are, likewise, each one separate and unique. Simultaneously, we are but this universe in its expression.

    The leaf is part of the Tree, without one no other.

    For a tree must have its leaves to be,

    and no leaf is born apart from tree.

    Yet root, trunk, branch, leaf …..

    they are not mere parts of their Tree -

    They are the Tree, the One, inseparable.

    For if no root, trunk, branch and leaf,

    what Tree would be at all?

    If no root and trunk and branch below,

    where would the frail leaf grow?

    We are the universe.


    * * *

    Step back!

    Seeing beyond the particular- thus All becomes clear.

    Single brushstrokes unnoticed, and a painting beheld,

    much as the Ocean appears by absorbing each drop.

    It is the eye’s focus, with expansive vision,

    for our thoughts set life’s boundaries, shapes and forms.

    When leaf is forgotten, a Tree is there;

    unseeing of sand grains, wide desert found;

    overlooking the many, the One comes in view…..

    Mankind, your Self is, as self drifts from mind.


    Dogen wrote in the Genjo Koan….


    To know the Self is to forget the self…..


    When the facet-partial is not forefront in thought, the whole-encompassing is first seen. The clouds of atoms which assemble as a tree are (in daily life) invisible to our eyes, and in this way before us - the total tree appears. Should we magnify our vision to the trillion, trillion atoms, the tree must vanish from our sight. Seeing the wondrous tree’s beauty, we rarely bring to mind its constituent elements, only doing so when summoned to our notice (perhaps as the poet draws our inner eye there).

    From one perspective, there is only the tree - the atoms forgotten, swallowed whole by the Whole. From another perspective, there are only atoms, for the tree (as all matter) is nothing but atoms - no tree truly there at all. From still another, just as valid as an insight, both the tree and tree’s atoms are there all along (in fact, one is the other). But the more one is seen, the harder to see the other.

    Mankind, it is the same for you, each perspective true in its way, for you are an element of the Tree, you are an aspect of the greater reality of Being …..


    Mankind, though you go about this daily life

    thinking but of your little self,

    take a chance!

    Lose your ‘self’ for a moment,

    thereby to find your ‘Self.’

    Oh, the mind plays games of separation!



    Sometimes, in the stillness by the empty window - I sit in formal meditation. Perfect is the moment. The rain stops, the clouds depart, but the eaves drip each single drop. Moonlight floods my room. I recall the words of Ikkyu ….


    Single moon
    Bright and clear
    In this unclouded sky …..
    Yet somehow we stumble
    In the worldly darkness



    It is by such state that the hard borders of my body and being come to soften. My self is real, yet too is self gone. Why are we so quick to think that we are what is contained in the margins and restrictions where flesh meets the air, where our feet touch the ground and head will reach no higher? Is my true being but my hand, or too whatever a hand may grasp? Just these eyes, or any vista that these eyes might see? My mind, or whatever the mind might know, feel? The distant hills, the farthest star, are no less “me” than the tip of my tongue.

    And it is not just into space that my being expands, but into time. For I am no more constrained by the false boundaries of birth and death than I can be prisoner in an unlocked room. If the world is but me, and the world has been for eons, then I have been for eons. If the universe is but me, and has always been, then I have always been. Though the single leaf may grow, soon to fade and disappear, still the Tree goes on …..

    Leaves come and go,

    Only the Tree remains …..

    For all that grows there,

    Only the Tree …..

    As a first step, it is important to understand that the statement “we are the universe” is meant in a strict sense. It does not mean that we are but isolatable parts of the universe, like autonomous beings who are members of a social club or citizens of a nation. Nor is the point mere “solipsism,” the idea that, for example, you (the reader) are the one and only being that exists in the entire universe, and thus everything else in the universe except for you (but including, unfortunately for me, this writer!) is unreal.


    What does it mean to say “the leaf is the Tree?”

    Does it mean that there is no Tree,

    only leaves, branch, trunk and roots united, a “Society of Tree?”

    Does it mean that there is only a single leaf that’s true,

    with all the other leaves, the branches, trunk and roots but its dream?

    Nothing of the sort!

    For there is leaf, it’s sister leaves, each branch, trunk and root ….

    Yet, there is only the Tree.


    What is meant has a very different meaning from some “club of parts” or from “solipsism,” made clear in the following example:

    Let us suppose that your human body were the whole universe. (As I do not know the reader’s actual name, I will take the liberty of calling you “Albert.”) What we call our universe, with all it contains, is contained within Albert’s body, and nothing exists outside that body. I suppose that in such case, in place of black holes and planets and such, the universe then consists of the various bodily insides, as well as the hands, the feet and all the rest. Your body is perhaps billions of years old. As with the real universe, the ‘Albert’s body’ universe is constituted of a multitude of parts, represented by the billions and billions of tiny, vibrant cells which make your body.

    One wondrous day, some of the very smallest cells of Albert’s left foot become conscious and intelligent, just as we human beings did in an isolated corner of the real universe. After some millions of years of further development (and not knowing that they are part of you), those cells begin to philosophize, to ask themselves “who are we?” and “why are we here?”

    It is at this point that Eastern philosophers may offer again that a ‘tautology’ need not be a “begging of the question,” but can be an answer complete and sufficient unto itself, an answer to which nothing more can or should be added. Accordingly, if a philosophically inclined speck of Albert’s instep were to make inquiry regarding the foregoing questions, “who am I” and “why am I here,” the best answers for it might be just as follows:


    You are your bit of Albert (particularly, his graceful foot).

    You are here as your bit of Albert.

    Go to it!



    In equivalent fashion, when I (Jundo Cohen) ask myself “who am I?” and “why am I here?” in the real universe, the best answers for me may be simply:


    You are the universe’s Jundo Cohen.

    You are here as the universe’s Jundo Cohen.

    Go to it!




    It is quite satisfying to my heart as an answer, letting me know my very specific, most unique place in reality and what I am to do in it: I am me, and I am to lead my own life as it goes, as I lead it. Enough said. Also, the answers are unchanged whether or not Albert is currently asleep, in deepest coma or completely without intelligence or awareness whatsoever (just as we cannot be sure for now that the real universe has some higher intelligence or grand awareness to it). We are still our unique bit nonetheless, even if Albert is as dull and dormant as a tree.

    And just as a tiny bit of Albert’s heel is thereby just Albert, the one making possible the other, the one being the other, so am I no less

    ….. just this universe.

    So for all of us, so for you, as you must be the only you of this universe, doing as you do, thereby this universe in its unique expression. Go to it!

    Suppose “I” were really everyone and everything in the universe, and everyone and everything in the universe were really “another I” (just as much as “I” am “I”). Suppose the sensation of my being a separate and independent “I” from everyone and everything else in the universe were really the illusion. Then, “I” would inhabit my body because “I” inhabit every body. “I” exist in the universe because any person (let alone “thing”) which exists in the universe is “I” as much as “I” (Jundo) am “I.”

    Though it may sound confusing at first impression, I think it can be described simply.

    But before I do describe my idea, it is important to emphasize certain points: My proposal is not what is often called “solipsism,” the idea that “I” am the only being that exists in the entire universe, and that everything else in the universe except for ‘me’ is unreal. On the contrary, I believe that everything is quite real, quite distinct one from the other. Nor do I mean that “you” and “I” simply are linked together in a common being, like cosmic siamese twins (interesting enough thought as that is).

    Instead, my concept is that there is not one bit of separation or distinction between you and I whatsoever in the most radical sense, and further, that neither you nor I are quite what we think we are. In fact, you are YOU/I, and I am YOU/I, i.e., both the I/OTHER. Thus you and I had to exist, because everything is, was and shall be YOU/I. Every human being alive wakes up in the morning and says of himself or herself, "I am YOU/I. How did I get here?" I think the idea not illogical with the right perspective.

    The reason that this perspective is not obvious to most people may be because the human mind plays tricks of smoke and mirrors, leading us to think of ourselves as separate, autonomous entities. I wish now to try to clear away some of the smoke, and show how the magician might perform the illusion of separateness. Of course, modern physics has already introduced the basic concept by demonstrating that your perception of “you,” your friends, your house and your car as being physically distinct entities is untrue. In fact, you, your friends, your house and your car (and all things in the universe) form a single, unbroken continuum of matter/energy. There is simply no clear place where you end and the chair you are sitting in begins, except as intersecting wave patterns on the continuum. Thus, though the perspectives of science and the perspective of Buddhism should not be taken as the same, my assertions may have modern science on their side (at least, on the sub-atomic level).

    To see how the illusion works, please picture me in two ways, both “Jundo.” The first Jundo, I will call “small jundo” (If you wish, dear reader, please pretend that I am you, and substitute your own name in the example). This “small jundo” is my normal, day-to-day self, with its own sensation of separate identity. It is the “Jundo” that gets up in the morning in his apparently separate house, goes to his job in his apparently separate car, and has little sensation of being part of a continuum with the world around him.

    However, the other aspect of Jundo I will call “BIG JUNDO” (Again, please substitute your own name if you wish). “BIG JUNDO” is the continuum, and might also be called one’s “True Self.” To understand the concept, it may help to picture “BIG JUNDO” as being the single, undivided “stuff” of which all the individual “things” of the universe are made (equivalent to our ‘Tree’). For simplicity, try to picture “BIG JUNDO” as a vast sea of clay perhaps, or as the body of the Tree. All the individual “things” of the universe are made of “BIG JUNDO,” are made out of small pieces of that clay (are leaves, fruits and flowers of our Tree).

    The key is this: Each and every one of the “things” made out of the clay or of the Tree (BIG JUNDO) is itself a “small jundo.” You and I are each a “small jundo.” My house is a “small jundo” and my car is another “small jundo.” For purposes of keeping them separate, let me assign arbitrary numbers to each one: e.g., You are “small jundo 1,” I am “small jundo 2,” my car is “small jundo 3,” and my house is “small jundo 4.” In fact, every individual “thing” in the universe is a “small jundo,” and could be assigned a number.

    Now we come to the point where the human brain starts to play its tricks. Of course (as far as I know) my house and my car do not “think,” and thus do not think about themselves existing as “Jundo,” or in any other way. However, each human being’s brain thinks. Thus, “small jundo 1” (you) wakes up every day and thinks “I am Jundo” (meaning, that you are thinking that you exist as “you”). As well, “small jundo 2” (me) wakes up every day and thinks “I am Jundo” (meaning, that I am thinking that I exist as “me”). In fact, we each think of ourselves as the one and only “Jundo,” and that all the other people and things in the world are NOT “Jundo.” We each think we are fully individual and separate, and are blind to the fact that we are BOTH “Jundo” from a different perspective (that we are both YOU/I, the I/OTHER, both the Tree). We thus both think, “How did I (meaning “Jundo”) come to inhabit my particular physical body,” because we do not see that every person in the world would have had to have been “Jundo.” We fail to see that “small jundo 2” (me) is thinking and feeling that I am “the only Jundo” as much as “small jundo 1” (you) are thinking that you are “the only Jundo.” Each singular leaf of the “Jundo” Tree thinks itself the one and only “Jundo” leaf, unique and separate, yet each is no more than the “Jundo” Tree.

    At this point, some readers may raise an objection: They might say, “Although you may be “Jundo,” my name is “Francesco.” You are short and round and live in Tokyo, I am tall and skinny and live in Venice. What do you mean that we are both the same and both named ‘Jundo’?”

    The answer is that I am not talking about how we each appear on the surface, or who we think we are, our personal life histories or day-to-day names and selves. That is all just the “small jundo” self, the particular leaf with its unique position in the sun, but an expression of the encompassing Tree.

    This perspective may become clearer by a further example: Imagine that the universe were a vast airplane in which an “I” (Jundo) is sitting in each and every seat. One “Jundo” starts to wonder how he came to be in seat 27D (his particular life), and not in some other seat (or, how he came to be on the plane at all). The answer is that “Jundo” is in every seat, even if passenger 27D does not feel it so. In fact, the whole plane is likely “Jundo,” and each wing, wheel and motor is “Jundo.” Also, since the airplane represents the entire universe, there is nowhere outside the airplane, and thus no place for Jundo to be but on that plane. Thereby, if there is a certain passenger on the plane, that passenger must be a “Jundo.” However, because each passenger is sitting in a separate seat, with his or her own view of the cabin or out a window, each sees life from quite a unique perspective (i.e., each has his or her particular, individual life, seen out of his or her own eyes).

    How does the brain play the trick of causing us to perceive only our “small jundo” self, and not our “BIG JUNDO” Self? It is an illusion, possibly much like one’s being seated in a multi-screen cinema, each screen showing what appears to the viewer to be a very distinct image. Depending on the angle (or the particular life), each view appears quite different from all the others. However, the viewer cannot see that each “small jundo” image is but light on a blank screen emanating from a single, hidden “BIG JUNDO” projector, each image but the cast light refracted differently, at different angles and perspectives, and thus looking most distinct. As well, the viewer cannot see all the other screens of the theatre, only his or her own. Thus, the leaf experiences its leaf-ness, not easily the total being of the Tree. It is much the reverse trick as experienced in the “Hall of Mirrors” of the carnival funhouse …… You see yourself reflected by the thousands, tens-of-thousands, endlessly to the horizons, each image slightly distinct …… Which is the “real” you?

    You may wish to imagine another situation, that, due to a mysterious twist of genetic latency, your single, little head suddenly sprouted a second, fully distinct brain, one brain now controlling your left eye and the left side of your body, the other the right. Although from the outside you still appear a fairly normal person, in fact each half of your body is under a fully separate consciousness, conjoined twins within. Each eye and hand sees and feels the world in a slightly distinct manner, distinct from the experiences and awareness of the other half of your body, whereby each of your two minds undergoes its own experiences, holds it own subjective beliefs and personal judgments. Now, imagine that this magical body of yours began to sprout additional brains by the billions, each with its own eye and independent hand, each brain representing one of the untold sentient lives that exist on this planet which is our home. Would we then be speaking of but one creature or a world of creatures? Which is the real “you?”

    ...

    And that (perhaps) is the story of how “you” got to be “you,” and “I” got to be “I,” and how we are different, and how we are the same.


  19. #69

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII

    When I first heard the wave in the ocean metaphor, it quite literally changed my perspective on life. I read it in a book and it settled in with me cozily and things have not looked or seemed the same since. It's hard to describe just how radically this one little thing changed my perspective.

    Thanks again, Jundo. You have an amazing ability to convey thoughts and images and we're lucky to be in a position to read your words.

    Incidentally, this is a very interesting and, for me, incredibly timely thread. A friend of mine who passes through town when she can was just through town. We had lunch at the usual spot. She's a whirlwind of inquisitiveness and inspiration.

    She was on her way to the Mind-Life Institue conference (a collaborative deal between some Buddhists and western scientists) and, from there, Dharamsala. She is a really serious student of rebirth and many related issues. We've had a few interesting discussions around the topic.

    What I found for the first time since knowing her was that it wasn't anywhere near as interesting as the topic had been. I simply don't have that much interest in knowing about my death or my rebirth or anything like that. I was really surprised to find this out about myself. Until we started talking about it, I hadn't realized that this was the case.

    [Sorry for making another post about "ME." Just a passing thought that turned into a little more.]

  20. #70

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    On this topic of rebirth, I am reminded of something Brad Warner had written in his book "Hardcore zen" and I think it's a good attidtue to the whole rebirth thing.
    "If you want to believe in reincarnation, you have to believe that this life, what you are living through right now, is the afterlife. You're missing out on the afterlife you looked forward to in your last existence by worrying about your next life. This is what happens after you die. Take a look." ~Brad Warner

    Gassho

    Rafael

  21. #71

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Thank you Rafael, thank you Brad (I am going to steel that brilliant quote), thank you Chugai ...

    In all events, this life, this moment, is where it all comes down to: our acts, words and thoughts here and now ... the heavens and hells we start to build in our life and others' lives (not two) here and now ...

    Nine Bows, Jundo

  22. #72

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    I was thinking about this and I feel Life are Death questions stem from a primal and instinctive fear we have of death. No one really wants to die, the idea of me becoming nothing is scary but there is a quote from Richard Dawkins about this which I really enjoyed:

    "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here."

    Life after Death? who knows...who cares...I am here...or better yet...something is here. What more can we want?
    We come with nothing, and are generously allowed usage of a body and a mind. Then, we return it.
    But that does not mean we return into nothing...no, we just continue as something else. a memory, an action that reverberates through time and space. Master Dogen may be dead, but his actions still affect us today...how can one say he no longer exist? My great great great(times ten great) may be dead, but I would not be here if it wasn't for their actions...they are not dead...I live on as them...we all live on based upon the actions of the past. there is no separation between us and them.

    “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” (Chief Seattle)

    Gassho

    Rafael/Seiry?

  23. #73

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiry?
    I was thinking about this and I feel Life are Death questions stem from a primal and instinctive fear we have of death. No one really wants to die, the idea of me becoming nothing is scary but there is a quote from Richard Dawkins about this which I really enjoyed:

    "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here."

    Life after Death? who knows...who cares...I am here...or better yet...something is here. What more can we want?
    We come with nothing, and are generously allowed usage of a body and a mind. Then, we return it.
    But that does not mean we return into nothing...no, we just continue as something else. a memory, an action that reverberates through time and space. Master Dogen may be dead, but his actions still affect us today...how can one say he no longer exist? My great great great(times ten great) may be dead, but I would not be here if it wasn't for their actions...they are not dead...I live on as them...we all live on based upon the actions of the past. there is no separation between us and them.

    “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” (Chief Seattle)

    Gassho

    Rafael/Seiry?
    The problem with Richard Dawkins is that he thinks he was born in the first place.

    Gassho, J

  24. #74

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    .... he thinks he was born in the first place.
    Gassho, J
    Wasn't he born? What would his mum say?

    JohnH (still mystified by this topic)

  25. #75

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    .... he thinks he was born in the first place.
    Gassho, J
    Wasn't he born? What would his mum say?

    JohnH (still mystified by this topic)
    Of course he was born, and so was his mum! Certainly.

    Except that he wasn't, and never was. Basic Buddhism 101. That's his Original Face before even his Mum and Dad were born.

    Also, I think that Richard Dawkins (and Charles Darwin too) are not wrong, yet neither do they offer a necessarily complete and comprehensive explanation of how you, me, Darwin, Dawkins and Dawkin's mom happened to pop up here in the middle of time and space despite all the seeming odds against it. That's something touched on briefly on another thread this week.

    posting.php?mode=edit&f=9&p=46574

    Gassho, Jundo (for now)

  26. #76

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    I think the reason Dawkins and Darwin do not provide a complete answer to how we got here (although their answers are pretty damn good) is because language cannot do the job. as long as you call 'this' 'this' then by means of linguistics boundaries, 'this' is not in fact, 'that'
    which is why I agree with Jundo when he repeats that when concepts such as here and there are dropped; we are all together.
    I would like to add that, when concepts such as 'this' and 'that' are dropped; we are all one.

    Gassho


    Seiryu

  27. #77

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Of course he was born, and so was his mum! Certainly.

    Except that he wasn't, and never was. Basic Buddhism 101. That's his Original Face before even his Mum and Dad were born.
    ...
    So he, his mum and dad (and every individual) are just expressions of this Original Face? And that is why you can say that they were never born and never die?

    gassho,

    JohnH

    (PS I don't know why quotes and italics aren't working. Editing screen says BBCode is OFF. My preferences have BBCode ON)

  28. #78

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Of course he was born, and so was his mum! Certainly.

    Except that he wasn't, and never was. Basic Buddhism 101. That's his Original Face before even his Mum and Dad were born.
    ...
    So he, his mum and dad (and every individual) are just expressions of this Original Face? And that is why you can say that they were never born and never die?

    gassho,

    JohnH
    Yes, in the most intimate sense ... like a wave looking for the ocean, or the smile looking for the teeth, or wine looking for the grapes, or .... but this is where every Zen teacher thoughtout (timeless) time says something like "don't just think about it ... go sit". ops:

    Why?

    Well, kind of like those 3-D pictures they print in the paper, or this optical illusion of the "Old Woman/Young Woman". Which one is it? Why, one, the other, both at once ... but more than talking about it, you really need to see. Ya either see that or not.




    Gassho, J

  29. #79

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    In all my days on Earth (20199) I have never heard anything or experienced anything that has convinced me to believe in an afterlife of any kind , or a soul or god or gods of any kind ... just saying ...
    Personally (this is not a particularly "Zen" thing I am saying, just a feeling in my guts), the absolutely best argument I can come up with that something continues after death, or that we come back again is ...

    ... that we got here even once, popping up alive in the middle of time and space, despite how unbelievably-amazingly-ridiculous that having happened seems to have been. Despite all that seems to have been required for it, and the seemingly endless chances for it not to have happened ... here we are.

    And since this ridiculous thing happened once ... might as well happen again! 8)

    I tend to feel that the "dice are loaded" some way, that this is more than a one time ride. However, for purposes of Zen practice ... just fetch water and chop wood, and let what happens in the next life happen (or not).

    Gassho, J

  30. #80

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    A simple and direct question is asked. “What can I expect when my life comes to an end?” The answer given is “I do not need to know, and the whole question is rather unimportant.”
    You may not know the answer to the question but anyone who’s held the hand of a person while they die knows THE ANSWER IS VERY IMPORTANT! And I would wager those who say the answer is unimportant to them now will likely change their minds when their life is ending.
    This is the question that drove Siddhartha from his life in the palace. He may have left the question unanswered to some of his disciples but I don’t think all his effort left the question unanswered for him.

  31. #81

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    Quote Originally Posted by captkid
    may have left the question unanswered to some of his disciples but I don’t think all his effort left the question unanswered for him.
    Hi Captain,

    I don't think this practice "leaves the question unanswered" for us either, and I think it provides some pretty fine answers ... in fact, several that may all be true in their way.

    For one, we believe that there is something that goes on and on when we drop all human thoughts of "beginning and end, birth and death, me vs. you" ... much like the sea goes on and on, though its waves may come and go. In life, we tend to think of our "self" as just a wave, but we are the sea too! Whatever is at the heart of this life and reality, going on and on ... that's us too!

    So, we rather trust in that fact, and go with the flow! Where the sea goes, that's where are going too!

    We also think, as a corollary to that, that all the mountains, stars, bees and ants, trees and blades of grass, and babies born everywhere are "us" too ... so that, so long as there is any of that, there is us too!

    A famous Koan says of this ...

    Dogo and Zen-gen went to a house to show sympathy. Zen-gen hit the coffin and asked, "Alive or dead?" Dogo replied, "I won't say alive, I won't say dead." Zen-gen demanded, " Why won't you say?" Dogo repeated, "I won't say." On their way home, Zen-gen cried, "Tell me right now teacher, alive or dead; if you don't tell me, I will hit you." Dogo said, "You may hit me, but I won't say." Zen-gen hit him.

    Later after Dogo died, Zen-gen went to Seki-so and told him the foregoing story. Seki-so said, "I won't say alive, and I won't say dead." Zen-gen said, " Why won't you say?" Seki-so repeated, "I won't say, I won't say." At these words Zen-gen came to awakening.

    One day, Zen-gen took a hoe into the Buddha hall and crossed back and forth, from east to west and west to east. Seki-so asked, "What are you doing?" Zen-gen said," I am looking for my teacher's relics." Seki-so said, "Vast waves spread far and wide, foaming billows flood the skies - what relics of our late master are you looking for?"

    Zen-gen said, "It is a way of repaying the kindness of my old teacher." Fu of T'ai Yuan said, "The late masters relics are still present. "
    We also suspect that, since there is something very mysterious and strange about all cause and effect having come together to let us be born even once ... some reasonable chance that something is afoot, maybe it happens again! Hey, if it happened once ... why not twice or 10,000 times? Certainly, wherever we were before we were born ... we probably head back to the same.

    Traditional Buddhist views say that we come back again and again depending on our actions in life, evil acts sending us downward into hells or the animal realm, good acts up to heavens. Such continues until our ultimate release from the wheel of rebirth as Buddhas. It could be true. A lot of Buddhists have thought so over the centuries.

    Certainly, our effects go on and on ... like the spreading ripples from all our acts, good and bad, that have effects far far into the future. We live on in such way too, the effects of our life ... evil or for good ... spreading far and wide.

    But at heart ... we Trust! We do not need to know the details because we trust in the process. I once wrote the following to a friend who was dying of cancer. He was not a "Buddhist" himself, but he wanted to know what Buddhists might teach on this. He often flew, like me, between Japan and America a lot, so I made the story in the top post of this thread (look there to read the rest) ...

    How can I put this? Perhaps, in the Zen perspective, life is like being born ... for some mysterious reason ... in a certain seat on a trans-Pacific flight ... We are not quite sure how we got here on this flight, who paid for the ticket, the destination ... and certainly, we are not quite sure who is in the cockpit or how the plane got made. ...
    So, in the meantime, little small creatures that we are, we do not know the answers. A famous story goes ...

    A Zen master was asked about the after death state. The "master" responded with, "Why ask me?" The questioner said, "Because you are a Zen master." The master said, "Yes, but I am not a dead Zen master."
    Did the Buddha really know what happens after death? Did he not know what happens after death? Sometimes he seems to speak on the subject in detail, sometimes to hold his tongue and say nothing.

    Whatever the case ... Life is life and death is death. Fetch wood and carry water.

    Gassho, J

  32. #82

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)

    I love these kinds of questions. And I don't think they will ever be answered by the thinking mind, but I wanted to highlight this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from one of the readings from the precept study that really speaks to me

    "During my meditation, I had a wonderful image -- the shape of a wave, its beginning and its end. When conditions are sufficient, we perceive the wave, and when conditions are no longer sufficient, we do not perceive the wave. Waves are only made of water. We cannot label the wave as existing or non existing. After what we call the death of the wave, nothing is gone, nothing is lost. The wave has been absorbed into other waves, and somehow, time will bring the wave back again. There is no increasing, decreasing, birth, or death. When we are dying, if we think that everyone else is alive and we are the only person dying, our feeling of loneliness may be unbearable. But if we are able to visualize hundreds of thousands of people dying with us, our dying may become serene and even joyful. "I am dying in community. Millions of living beings are also dying in this very moment. I see myself together with millions of other living beings; we die in the Sangha. At the same time, millions of beings are coming to life. All of us are doing this together. I have been born, I am dying. We participate in the whole event as a Sangha." That is what I saw in my meditation. In the Heart Sutra, Avalokitesvara shares this kind of insight and helps us transcend fear, sorrow, and pain. The gift of non-fear brings about a transformation in us."

    I think this is one way we can look at it...

  33. #83

    The History of Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Brahmanism

    For Buddho-history junkies, a wonderful essay on the history of how the idea of "rebirth" was reborn and evolved over the course of development of early Buddhist history. It is continuing to evolve today, perhaps into oblivion. The author is a history buff, and open minded skeptic/agnostic (as am I) on overly detailed models of mechanical rebirth, associated with the Triratna Buddhist Order. I will take the liberty of posting the essay in full:

    =============================


    How Buddhist Rebirth Changes Over Time

    ONE OF THE FACTS about the foundation texts of Buddhism that most people don't seem to have taken in is that rebirth is an idea with a history. The idea did not spring into being fully formed. And what's more we can discern this history in the Pāli texts themselves. It has been traced in detail by Gananath Obeyesekere in his book Imagining Karma. In this post I want to review the development of rebirth from its primitive form to the full blown received version, basing myself on Obeyesekere, along with some observations and diagrams of my own. The received tradition tends to obscure the variations in the texts, but they can be (at least partially) reconstructed. So this is a kind of archaeology in the spirit of Foucault. A caveat here is that we don't know the absolute chronology of these changes, we only know that they were all preserved, somewhat unevenly, with the fixing of the Canon.

    The most basic form of rebirth eschatology is binary. It involves 'this world' (ayaṃ loko) and 'the other world' (paro loko) a way of referring to rebirth that one finds scattered throughout the Canon, and which may have been retained as an idiom long after the binary model had been augmented. In this simple model of rebirth one lives on earth; then after death one rises up to the other world (always up), where one lives for a long time; then one falls back to be reborn on earth again. For example in M 49 the movement is described by this sequence of verbs: jāyati jīyati mīyati cavati upapajjati--being born, living, dying, falling, being rebirth. Rebirth is automatic, and human.

    binary-copy.png

    Brahmins also began with a binary cyclic eschatology. Indeed it seems as though rebirth eschatologies were indigenous, or at least endemic, in India. The Brahmin ancestors (or fathers) live in the other world. This cycle is what is referred to as saṃsāra - which means 'going through; course; passage' (from saṃ- 'with, together, complete' √sṛ 'flow, run, move'). The cycle is believed to be endless and beginningless. At this early stage rebirth is not problematised; its just a description of the how the world is. However for the Brahmins going to the next world, like all significant life moments, required the performance of certain rituals. There is no sense of morality being a factor here, but the need for the rituals to be performed correctly had a similar effect. The arrival of morality is the next thing to discuss.

    moral+1-copy-copy.jpeg

    What morality does to any afterlife is divide it. If one has lived well the other world is a place of reward, and if one has not lived well the other world is a place of punishment. In Buddhist texts we find the distinction in the pair of terms 'good destination' (sugati) and and 'bad destination' (duggati. Skt durgati). Another pair of terms are 'heaven' sagga (Skt svarga) and 'hell' (niraya). The word svarga 'shining place' has a long history in the Vedic tradition. It was where the gods lived, but also where the ancestors lived, so in simple terms the other world was svarga. It was situated beyond the sky. However initially there is no clear reference to hell in Indian texts, it's not really until Buddhism that hell plays any definite role in Indian cosmology or eschatology. The word niraya means 'going down'. Because the idea of a subterranean hell appears to be absent from earlier Vedic texts, some scholars have speculated that the idea of hell comes Zoroastrianism (via the Iranian Śākya tribe - see Possible History). Like heaven, the early hell is a place where you go to live out the consequences of the actions done in life, but not a place where one does actions with consequences. We see this explicitly in the Devadūta Sutta (M 130) where one is tortured in hell, but does not die, and therefore cannot be reborn elsewhere until the wicked actions have exhausted their force. Actions carried out in hell appear to have no bearing on this fate.

    Note that liberation is outside of space and time and described as "dhuva, sassata, nicca, etc." by both Brahmins and Buddhists. Because the Brahmanical diagram would look just the same I say the two are topologically identical.

    At the same time a third option appears, which is liberation (mokṣa, vimokṣa) from going around the cycles. The idea is first seen in literature in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (BU). By re-jigging the dates of the ancient India texts and placing BU after the Buddhist texts, Johannes Bronkhorst manages to argue that this idea must have come from the śramaṇa milieu. However it's doubtful whether his revised chronology will stand up to scrutiny, and I know of no other scholar who has adopted it yet. Even so, my work on the Iranian origins of the Śākya tribe makes it seem possible that the idea of liberation (i.e. a single destination eschatology) might have been introduced into both milieus around the same time (ca. 850 BCE) from Iran; leaving the current consensus on chronology intact. However it arose, the option of liberation from saṃsāra becomes the major preoccupation of Indian religion from about the middle of the first millennium BCE down to the present. And given how it spread in various guises it must be seen as one of the most influential ideas in the whole history of ideas.

    It seems as though these early versions of rebirth eschatology are similar to Brahmanical views, but they might have been more widespread. Rebirth eschatologies are not common amongst the Indo-European speaking peoples (with some ancient Greeks as a debatable exception) but they are ubiquitous in India. So, like linguistic features such as retroflex consonants, rebirth might have been a regional feature. In any case what happens next is the incorporation of some explicitly Brahmanical elements into the Buddhist model. These are not taken on their own terms, in fact presented in distorted, rather mocking ways.

    moral+brahmin-copy-copy.jpg

    For the Brahmins we meet in the Canon going to Brahmā's realm (brahmaloka) is synonymous with mokṣa or liberation from saṃsāra. Richard Gombrich has argued that the Buddha used brahmasahāvyatā as a synonym for nibbāṇa; which in turn explains the brahmavihāra (literally "dwelling with/on/like God") meditations. Buddhists denied Brahmanical soteriology, and did two things: they brought Brahmā's realm back into saṃsāra, but placed it over the god realm (devaloka) creating a new refined level of saṃsāra (also called ārupaloka); and they multiplied the Creator God into a whole class of very refined beings called Brahmās (plural). On one hand the Brahmās are the highest beings in saṃsāra and people in the texts are very impressed when one of them visits the Buddha, and one of them, Brahmasahampati, is responsible for convincing the Buddha to teach; and on the other hand they are depicted as being deluded about their own nature, trapped in saṃsāra and therefore subject to death. The other thing that happens at this stage is the separation of the spirits of the dead from the gods. The word peta (Skt. preta) has two possible etymologies one which derives it from the word for father (pitṛ) and the other which derives it (as an action noun) from a verb meaning 'gone before' or 'departed' (pra-√ī). In any case this common word for the spirits of the dead who are in the other world becomes a pejorative. Perhaps because the Brahmins made sacrifices to the gods and to their fathers, in Buddhism the preta came to stand for a class of ghosts who were constantly hungry, but unable to ever satisfy that hunger.

    At the same time, or perhaps a little later, the idea arose that one could be reborn as an animal. This idea is first seen in the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad where the fate of those who do not carry out the rituals is to be reborn as an invertebrate. So at first it appears to be a somewhat chauvinistic Brahmanical idea, but it catches on and is incorporated into the Buddhist eschatology.

    mature+tradition-copy.jpeg

    The final stage involves the emergence of the full-blown version of the Buddhist cosmology with the brahmaloka, devaloka and hell realms being divided into many different layers, and the layers of the first two being related to states of meditation. The devas and their counterparts the asuras undergo their separation and the asuras are sometimes (but not always) given their own realm. In some older parts of the Ṛgveda the two terms deva and asura are synonyms. Varuṇa for example is referred to as both deva and asura. However the contest between them required a winner and loser, and the asuras lost. (In Iran they won and the devas are seen as demons.) Some remnants of the early stories are preserved, often with little alteration, in the sakkasaṃyutta of the Saṃyutta Nikāya (the 11th chapter, beginning on p.317 in Bodhi's translation). For the purposes of diagramming the brahmaloka and devaloka are often treated as aspects of a single domain, though Brahmā is never referred to a deva. This gives us the traditional six domains of rebirth: human, deva, asura, preta, hell, animal, as seen, for example on the bhavacakra or 'Wheel of Becoming'. It is possible to go to any realm from any other realm, but liberation is only possible from the human realm.

    One of the major changes from beginning to end is the likelihood of a human birth. Initially it is 100% certain. Even in a morality influenced eschatology one always returns to this world as a human being eventually. However, by the end of the process the likelihood of being born human is vanishingly small. The chance compares unfavourably with the probability that a blind turtle raising its head from the great ocean just once a century might put its head through the hole in a plough harness (yoke not yolk!) which is floating about at random on the ocean. While this is not impossible, the chances are vanishingly small. If we take this on face value we have almost 0% chance of being born human. Related to this is the possibility of multiple rebirths in hell or heaven, particularly the former. This suggests a growing concern over the waywardness of human beings and a greater desire to curb behaviour with the threat of exile from humanity in the afterlife. In other words it looks like a hint that rebirth theory changed in response to social change. This should not be surprising as a huge number of Vinaya rules, including the pāṭimokkha ceremony itself, are made in response to public pressure.

    In this essay I've been looking at the development of the idea of Rebirth in the Pāli texts. Given the way that kamma changed after the Pāli Canon was closed, it is only reasonable to assume that ideas about rebirth also continued to change. I will briefly mention one other major development in rebirth theory which was the invention of the so-called Pure Land: a parallel universe with a living Buddha. The Pure Land was not simply another level in this universe, not another level of heaven, but an entirely separate and complete universe (though usually lacking the durgati). The parallel universe was not invented because the ancients had insights into the nature of the multiverse or M Theory, it was a theological necessity for those who had begun to believe that the presence a living Buddha was necessary for liberation (the same theological anxiety can be see in the Suvarṇabhāsottama Sūtra; and in Peter Masefield's Theravāda oriented book Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism.). The Pure Land is a place where liberation is guaranteed by the constant living presence of a Buddha (I would argue that at this point the Buddha has become a god, theos; and that the term theology is entirely appropriate). The resident Buddha in fact creates this parallel universe through their practice of the perfections, emphasising the importance of hard work. Fantastically rococo in many other respects, each Pure Land is entirely flat for some reason. I mentioned Pure lands last week, and it is a fascinating area, but for another essay. Those interesting in how Pure Land theory developed should read this article by one of my favourite authors:

    Nattier, Jan. (2000) 'The Realm of Aksobhya: A Missing Piece in the History of Pure Land Buddhism.' Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 23 (1): 71–102. Online: http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/o...icle/view/9167

    Those who oppose the idea that rebirth is implausible often fall back on simplistic arguments like: rebirth has always been accepted by Buddhists, it's been analysed and accepted as true many times. However this argument seldom takes in the subtleties of the history of the idea. Rebirth clearly changes during the period between of the inception of Buddhism and the closing of the canon. Several different versions of rebirth are, as it were, trapped in the amber of the Pāli texts. But rebirth continued to change. The received tradition, as is usual, never acknowledges the variety of the models, nor the subtle contradictions in the collection of texts. Received traditions are all about presenting an internally coherent narrative, and ironing out difficulties. So inconsistent aspects of the textual tradition are reinterpreted or simply bracketed out. This is not a new process. And confirmation bias is not a new problem.

    Contrarily those who seek to deny that rebirth was part of the original teaching don't have a leg to stand on. Rebirth is prominent in the older hagiographical accounts like the Ariyapariyesanā Sutta, and in the older parts of the Sutta Nipāta. Rebirth is quite obviously an important part of Buddhism in the earliest records we have. The idea that rebirth is somehow in the background, or was added later, is insupportable based on current evidence. That rebirth no longer seems plausible is an entirely different proposition. And one that creates a dilemma that I have no wish to underplay. We have yet to really work out the implications of this news, though it is the news. Understanding that our doctrines have always been quite changeable and responsive to social change, seems to me to be an important factor in loosening our grip on traditional doctrines with a view to letting them go. Everything changes. Resisting changes causes suffering. The only way forward for Buddhism is, well, forward.

    ~~oOo~~

    Other essays by the same author ...

    http://jayarava.blogspot.jp/2012/05/...mentalism.html

    http://jayarava.blogspot.co.uk/2011/...entalists.html
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2012 at 04:06 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  34. #84
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo for once more adding clarity to the imponderables. Let's face it, everyone has to be somewhere :02.47-tranquillity:
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk going nowhere; try somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  35. #85
    "Everyone has to be somewhere" -- I love that, Shokai!

    Thanks, Jundo--very informative!
    Gassho, Kaishin
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  36. #86
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    ... everyone has to be somewhere
    Thank you Shokai, love it!

    I choose to be right here, right now.
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  37. #87
    Member Thane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Thank you very much Mujo, this is very wise, nevertheless the belief in Heaven's reward and fear of hell's are of such a nature that they won't help the very person to come back to the simplicity of home. And a would be "good action" arising from the field of fear or greed has a poisonous nature that will even outgrow its primary direction. Crusaders of the past, suicide bombers of today are drunk with Hell and Heaven visions and promises. The toys have become weapons. And on the top of all this, the belief in Heaven or Hell is always happening" over there, out there, after death...", the teaching of the Buddha is to free yourself from these chains and see your reality as one witth the whole reality. Heaven and Hell are the the major obstacles to the display of the empty field, hope and fear are the way religions have controlled people and unlieshed the most dreadful hounds of human beings turned into hungry dogs.
    In fact I have heard your answer many times in the mouth of Christian priests who were trying to justify why people should believe in such things, immature and ordinary people would, according to them, do bad things if they did not dread the wrath of God. This is exactly what religions are aiming at: keeping people in a dependant state and and viewing them as inferior. Not my cup of tea.

    Heaven and Hell are ways to taste and experience reality. This is a story I remember: A famous swordman challenged a Zen monk once asking him to show him the nature of Heaven and Hell. The old monk started to dismiss the request and show great contempt for the warrior who lost it and in a fit of rage raised his sword to kill the monk. At this very moment the monk said:"this is Hell", the swordman, surprised and amazed, lowered his sword down, the monk thenuttered gently: "this is Heaven".
    Hi Taigu and Jundo

    Thank you both for these teachings on rebirth. Taigu i have never heard this story before about the monk and the swordsman. A beautiful story and one that makes me think about how we create our own heavan and hells.

    Gassho

    Thane

  38. #88
    Quote Originally Posted by monkton View Post
    Dear folks,
    I'm enjoying reading these posts - one thing that I would like to hear more about is a line from the airplane analogy:

    " ...leads me to conclude that our appearance on this plane is not mere happenstance, and the trip not without purpose... "

    Is there anything 'wrong' from a zen point of view, with seeing life as nothing but happenstance? or as being totally without purpose? I feel that a belief in any meaning to life, whether veiled or somehow comprehendable, is related to our human predilection for patterning existence. It's what our consciousnesses need to do in order to function.

    [I would just add though that I don't find this in any way depressing, and hope no one else finds it depressing either - personally I've always found the idea of a totally random and pointless universe rather refreshing and enlivening, even if it does mean that after I die I have to spend eternity in the corner with everyone else around me having a lovely time, pausing only to tell me, "We TOLD you so!".]

    Random happiness to all,
    Michael
    Michael,

    Just a few "random" thoughts about a "happenstance" universe:

    . Along with Jundo, I suspect that if the universe were truly random and happenstance, it would not have evolved humans with their complex intelligence.

    . Following Krishnamurti, I believe that we talk about the "meaning" or "purpose" of life because we are separated from life. If we were enlightened, life would be plenty "meaningful" and we would not be
    looking for some extrinsic purpose for it all. Nor would we be thinking about the future and what happens after we die (Krishnamurti claims that death did not exist for him as a future psychological event).

    . I believe there is nothing "wrong" with looking at life as happenstace, purposeless, meaningless, random, or any other way, but I believe the Zen way is to ultimately transcend any and all such dualistic
    perspectives and to experience life directly.

    Of course, these are just personal opinions from a personal perspective, but such a perspective does provide me an urgent motivation to practice Zen diligently.

    Gassho,
    Dave

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