10: Rebirth:


Rebirth is transfer of life from one physical body to another.

Normally soul is supposed to be a permanent entity residing in the body of a living being that differentiates it from non-living things. When a living being dies that soul leaves the body and finds another body to be reborn as another living being.

But in reality there exists no such permanent entity as soul. There is just a continuation of consciousness. Rebirth is in the form of continuous change in our body and mind. Thus we are continuously born and reborn. This concept is equally applicable to both form of rebirth that of rebirth in same life and after life. So you do not need a proof of rebirth for this chapter to be applicable to you.

Rebirth is a very important doctrine in Buddhism. Buddha refuted following doctrines as not true and will not lead to human development:

  1. One of nihilism that says that there is no birth after this birth. Thus there is no future opportunity to do good or rectify our bad karma.
  2. One of fatalism where one’s future is predetermined and there is no role of our will and no way to rectify our future.
  3. Where one’ future is determined by an act of external agent.

When we speak of Rebirth in Buddhism, we must give reference to the three Universal truths relating to existence:

  1. Dukkha
  2. Anatta
  3. Anitya
  1. Dukkha: (discussed in chapter 2 under Four Noble Truths) is also translated as unsatisfactoriness. This unsatisfactoriness of our life is what gives rise to our Karma, which in turn is the cause for continuation of our life. Until our karma and desire for life are exhausted life continues.
  2. Anatta: is the concept of no soul or no self. As discussed earlier, there is no such thing as a permanent soul that is transferred from one body to another. Instead it is a continuation of our consciousness. This continuation of consciousness is not only on rebirth but it happens all the time for all living beings. From birth till death we are continuously changing both physically and mentally. Our thoughts, values, tastes, circumstances all change continuously. But there is a link between the changes our awareness, our memories, our link to the changing physically body and mind. This link of awareness and memories associated with life is what we call consciousness. As the link of consciousness exists from birth till death, the same continues even after death to the new body to form what we call rebirth.
  3. Anitya i.e. impermanence: We change, our relatives change, our friends change, our environment change, our situations change. They give us temporary illusion of permanence. We still consider these as permanent. We have grown up with this illusion and we even teach the same to our children.

Nama and Rupa: Illusion of permanent entity or Identity is given by “nama and rupa” or Mind and Form duality. We confuse Name or Identity with form, and Form with name or Identity. Our language plays an important part in misleading us into believing that the name and form are one. While the form keeps changing we give it the same name, giving the impression of permanence. A popular analogy from “Milinda-Panha” (Questions of king Milinda) is that of a river, we call the river with the same name while the water is continuously flowing and at no moment there is same water in it to be called the same river. So is it with us, we keep on changing but still are referred by the same name.

The same process occurs at the time of death and rebirth. Our body changes, our consciousness is transferred to other body, we are reborn. The process is nothing different that during we are alive. Another analogy from the same book “Milinda Panha” is that of milk – milk first transforms into curd, curd into butter and butter into ghee. Once milk transforms into curd, we do not call it milk. Similarly for butter and for ghee, we do not call it milk or curd or butter once it has transformed. Thus after rebirth we cannot call ourselves the same person we were before rebirth nor can we call ourselves a totally different person as we have the same origin.

Concept of Rebirth builds on the concept of Karma that we discussed in previous chapter. The cycle of karma and its result forms the basis for the cycle of birth and death. Rebirth need not take place into human beings only. A person can be born into any of the 32 world systems depending on the gravity of the karma performed during this lifetime and previous lives.

Nirvana and rebirth: There is an important relations between rebirth and nirvana. After attaining nirvana, there is no desire left, no karma left, no continuity of consciousness, body continues its journey to old age and death and there is no further rebirth. While on attaining nirvana there is no rebirth at consciousness level during the lifetime, after death even body ceases to be reborn.

Rebirth and Karma are two important concepts that must be understood properly. They form an important part of right understanding or Wisdom and a strong basis for why we must maintain morality.

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Introduction


Hey, it just sounds to me like you need to unplug, man.

–Choi

This book “Attaining Nirvana” is about Nirvana or complete eradication of suffering of living beings, that Buddha gained more than 2500 years ago. Buddha taught the path to eradication of suffering or the path to Nirvana following which many people have gained Nirvana over these years. Even now, and in future too, anybody can attain Nirvana by following Buddha’s teachings or Dhamma.

Though there are many books on Buddhism, there are very few books referring to any possibility of attaining Nirvana and still less in this very life time. Buddha’s teachings are directed towards Nirvana – complete eradication of sufferings/Dukkha. Many monks have attained Nirvana to become Arahat in a single lifetime by following Buddha’s teachings. We have tried to include in this book only those teachings that are relevant to attaining Nirvana and can be easily practiced by any layman. Other teaching may be added as a separate part in future if needed.

Some Buddhist concepts are very simple for anyone to understand. But some are very difficult for even brilliant minds to grasp easily. They are difficult because our mind refuse to accept these concepts. These are concepts we have grown up to mean something else and we are unable to change our view. There are a lot of good books on Buddhism covering every aspect of Buddhism and a lot of them are for free distribution. Readers are advised to read other books on Buddhism too, to better grasp the concepts.

This book is covered in three parts. Part I – Practice, Part II – Insight and Part III – Nirvana and You.

Part I is Practice, the practising part of attaining Nirvana. It has basic required teachings which are essential to attain Nirvana. It basically deals with understanding of the Four Noble Truth for eradicating suffering and Noble Eight Fold Path that needs to be followed for Attaining Nirvana. It includes a hand chart that can be used for practising.

Part II is Insight which is essential, but not readily grasped by our mind. This also makes Buddhism different from other philosophies in the world. This is the understanding part of attaining Nirvana. It deals with concepts that make attaining Nirvana easier and also make it more clear what nirvana actually is and why it is so important to attain Nirvana and eradicate our suffering. This Part covers Karma, Rebirth and Dependent Origination.

Part III is Nirvana and You, this chapter will help you understand Nirvana better, clear your doubts, give motivation and help you check your development progress. This part covers topics which aid in practising for Attaining Nirvana and may not be directly related to Buddha’s teachings. This is also the reason these chapters are kept separate.