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Thread: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

  1. #1

    Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Hello all!

    I was wondering if you guys could answer this general question about Buddhism (as I am a little confused on this topic, somewhat). Buddhism in general does not "believe" in a soul because of the permanence associated with this ideology. So, if there is no permanent soul, how can there be rebirth due to karma? Buddhism talks about action, consequence and its' karmic outcome, but how can rebirth be possible if there is no soul or in general, a permanent "something" to be reborn???

    Maybe I'm just spinning my wheels (albeit rusty ones)

    Gassho _/_

    Matt

  2. #2

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Hello Matt,

    The "BIG Questions" such as these do have a separate area of the forum here (viewforum.php?f=24) where they're discussed rather extensively, if that is of any help to you.

    As to your question, my own personal take on it is:

    When I was born, I was not "Perry." I just was. "Perry" was a convenient construct to identify me from all the other babies, and from that very first moment conditions have been bombarding me, subtly (or not-so-subtly) changing my perceptions of the world. In each moment, there is change, and I am at all times both a factor in and product of that change. So, one could say that death and rebirth happen moment-to-moment, all the time.

    For physical death and physical rebirth and whatnot, I've not died yet, and as such cannot speak with any authority at all. That having been said, I do have an inkling that does not easily collapse into words. I'll try to figure out how to explain and get back to you if I can.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  3. #3

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    Hello all!

    I was wondering if you guys could answer this general question about Buddhism (as I am a little confused on this topic, somewhat). Buddhism in general does not "believe" in a soul because of the permanence associated with this ideology. So, if there is no permanent soul, how can there be rebirth due to karma? Buddhism talks about action, consequence and its' karmic outcome, but how can rebirth be possible if there is no soul or in general, a permanent "something" to be reborn???

    Maybe I'm just spinning my wheels (albeit rusty ones)

    Gassho _/_

    Matt
    And Boddhidharma said "Bring me your Soul!"

    Doing a little "soul searching" are we? lol

    I found this idea of "soul" funny. Save your soul. Our practice is right infront of you, and all around you every time you step, or look, or breathe.

    Soul is just another word for ego to hang on to.

    Gassho and Good morning

    Will

  4. #4

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    Hello all!

    I was wondering if you guys could answer this general question about Buddhism (as I am a little confused on this topic, somewhat). Buddhism in general does not "believe" in a soul because of the permanence associated with this ideology. So, if there is no permanent soul, how can there be rebirth due to karma? Buddhism talks about action, consequence and its' karmic outcome, but how can rebirth be possible if there is no soul or in general, a permanent "something" to be reborn???

    Maybe I'm just spinning my wheels (albeit rusty ones)

    Gassho _/_

    Matt
    Good question! The way I see it; it is perfectly consistence. No soul and rebirth do not contradict each other because the way rebirth works. It is not you that is reborn, because everything that you are is based on the circumstances that surround you. Culture, upbringing education experiences, how can these things be reborn?
    Instead it is more like a continuation. Every action we take has consequences, and those consequences go on forever. Like a rock thrown into an endless ocean and the ripples keep on going forever.

    Try this; find a picture of you when you were a child. Now ask yourself "where is this child now?" You are in his place, but where is that little smiling child in that picture. You no longer think the same way, act the same why or even see the world the same way, yet if it wasn't for that little boy you would not be here now. So in a sense you have already taken a new rebirth.

    We die and are reborn each moment. We are a continuum. We do not need a soul to be reborn. We do not even have to "die" to be reborn. We just simply have to be aware, and we will come to see that the me of now is not the me of twenty minutes ago. In that the cycle of life and death is found in its completion with each cycle of the breath.

    Just some ideas...

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  5. #5

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    Hello all!

    I was wondering if you guys could answer this general question about Buddhism (as I am a little confused on this topic, somewhat). Buddhism in general does not "believe" in a soul because of the permanence associated with this ideology. So, if there is no permanent soul, how can there be rebirth due to karma? Buddhism talks about action, consequence and its' karmic outcome, but how can rebirth be possible if there is no soul or in general, a permanent "something" to be reborn???

    Maybe I'm just spinning my wheels (albeit rusty ones)

    Gassho _/_

    Matt
    Hi Matt,

    Yes, these are BIG QUESTIONS ... and I ask you to look at these two threads in particular in our "BIG QUESTIONS" series ...

    viewforum.php?f=24

    especially this one:

    Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VI (Karma)
    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1281

    and this one:

    Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)
    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1429

    ... then bring it back here and we can talk more.

    Not all Buddhists agree on these matters, or even that these are central questions for us to worry about. My attitude, and that of many other Buddhist teachers, is that ...

    If there are future lives, heavens and hells ... live this life here and now, seek to live in a gentle way and not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

    And if there are no future lives, no heavens or hells ... live this life here and now, seek to live in a gentle way and not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.


    I do not care if, in the next life, that "gentle way, avoiding harm" will buy me a ticket to heaven and keep me out of hell ... but I know for a fact that it will go far to do so in this life, today, where I see people create all manner of "heavens and hells" for themselves and those around them by their harmful words, thoughts and acts in this life.

    And if there is a "heaven and hell" in the next life, or other effects of Karma now ... well, my actions now have effects then too, and might be the ticket to heaven or good rebirth.

    In other words, whatever the case ... today, now ... live in a gentle way, avoiding harm to self and others (not two, by the way) ... seeking to avoid harm now and in the future too.

    And as Seiryu said, we are passing away and reborn in every instant ... and the effects of our actions, good and bad, spread out in ripples of effect far into the future ... impacting us and those around us in this world (not two).

    Gassho, J

  6. #6
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Seiryu wrote:
    Try this; find a picture of you when you were a child. Now ask yourself "where is this child now?" You are in his place, but where is that little smiling child in that picture. You no longer think the same way, act the same why or even see the world the same way, yet if it wasn't for that little boy you would not be here now. So in a sense you have already taken a new rebirth.
    I like the point you make here. It reminds me of something I read from a book on Buddhism when I was about 16. Exactly what or who we are is hard to define because by the time we reach a certain age(I don't remember the exact age they gave) every cell in your body has died and been replaced. So you quite literally are not the same person you once were.

    They were specifically talking about the ego and self identity. But by adding reincarnation to this same idea it can be viewed in a new light. You are truly dying and being reborn over and over again! Each second some part of you is dying and renewing. On and on.
    Though not as mystical as reincarnation is usually viewed/interpreted it is true none the less.

    I looked it up and from what I can find it appears that science somewhat confirms this statement. What I have read is that every cell has the potential to die and be replaced(And most will but at different rates.) except neurons. Once they die they are not replaced

    Gassho,
    John

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    The entire body is replenished - its cells die and are reborn - roughly once every seven years (with the exception of neurons, but the science on that has found that neurons can, in some cases, be replaced, and it's possible that their constituent parts are actually replaced over time). This corresponds, interestingly, with a Chinese tradition of thinking of new life cycles every seven years.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Kirk wrote:
    This corresponds, interestingly, with a Chinese tradition of thinking of new life cycles every seven years.
    Hi Kirk,
    This is very interesting. I'm not familiar with the Chinese thought on new life cycles every 7 years. I would like to know more about it. Could you share further information on this?

    Gassho,
    John

  9. #9

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Hi.
    Even though i'm no authority of any kind, a humble ordained Zen priest in training, and just an modest fool at best, today i'll write about rebirth and what happens next.
    So please read along.

    There's a number of zenstories on this, here's one...

    The Emperor asked Master Gudo, "What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?"

    "How should I know?" replied Gudo.

    "Because you are a master," answered the Emperor.

    "Yes," said Gudo, "but not dead yet."
    Often Rebirth is seen as only happening after death, and in some cases after 49 days..
    I often describe it as a wave on an ocean which comes up and goes back, without ever leaving the ocean itself.
    In the end, though, i dont know, but there has been some writings in the matter, and here's some..

    "His Holiness the Dalai Lama often speaks of this downfall of not understanding emptiness. A correct understanding of emptiness leads us to see how things are related, and how we are responsible for our world. […] Everything in samsara and nirvana—from the Buddha’s head to a piece of bread—everything is emptiness. There is nothing that is not included in ultimate truth. […] All phenomena are empty; they are without inherent existence. This is actually the ultimate view of Buddhism; the other three are grounded on this third seal."
    - Buddhism in a Nutshell: The Four Seals of Dharma, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

    And this is from Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, talking about the misconception of the matter...
    " With rebirth, it is the same - they make assertions just as if they had seen the death and the subsequent birth of the same individual with their own eyes ! This misrepresents the Buddha's main message, wich teaches the non-existence of "the individual", of "the self". Even though "I" am sitting here now, there is no individual to be found. When there is no individual what is there to die ? What is there to be reborn ?"
    For instance, there is no such thing as an permanent soul in buddhism, as everything changes, which implies...

    But i talk to much, here are some links on the subject of reincarnation-rebirth
    http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/r ... ation.html
    http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/r ... on-ii.html

    And sorry to say, this one is partly in swedish...
    http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/n ... om-en.html

    And i'll leave you with master Dogens Genjo koan..
    “Firewood becomes ash; it can never go back to being firewood. Nevertheless, we should not take the view that ash is its future and firewood is its past.

    Remember, firewood abides in the place of firewood in the Dharma. It has a past and it has a future. Although it has a past and a future, the past and the future are cut off.

    Ash exists in the place of ash in the Dharma.It has a past and it has a future. The firewood, after becoming ash, does not become firewood.”
    Now, the weather is nice outside, so i'll go sit on the Balcony.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Thanks Fugen,
    Gassho
    Soen

  11. #11

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Think of it scientifically, rather than "spiritually." Don't think of it as 'when you die you are put into the body of something else and live again.'

    Nothing in the universe is lost. It's the first universal truth.

    Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents, our children are born of us.

    Its compatibility to science is one of the first things that drew me to Buddhism.

  12. #12

    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Hi All,

    Thanks for the replys!

    Gassho,

    Matt

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Impermanence, Buddhism and Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    In other words, whatever the case ... today, now ... live in a gentle way, avoiding harm to self and others (not two, by the way) ... seeking to avoid harm now and in the future too.
    That's exactly my point of view! If you ask me, I am very skeptical to matters that are no proof by the scientific method. What matters to me is to create a world where it's worth living, with ethics and morality that uplifts the human spirit.

    I think that by our actions and sticking to the precepts we all can achieve true happiness.

    Call me hippie, but I think at the end of the day, it is the present we have to be concerned for.

    Jundo: Thanks for the Big Questions link. I will read it all starting today

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