The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The Buddhist concept of Rebirth
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Regarding the Question of Survival after death human thinking has in general followed one of two philosophical currants. Annihilationism and externalism (In Buddhism Uccheda - Vada and sassata-vada respectively)
The first holds that after death or desolition of the physical body the personality ceases to exist: It is equivalent to Materialism. The second maintains that the individual personality persists after death in a recognisable form, as an entity variously named the ‘soul’ ‘spirit’ or ‘self’ this belief in some form or another is the basis of all theistic religion.
Ancient Egyptian belief that it continued to inhabit the Mummified body Christian belief in a resurrection of the body - or alternatively the spiritualistic idea that it continued its conscious existence on a spiritual plane.
In fall of them commen factor is the belief in immortality of the individual his preservation of the same identity throughout all eternity. Vedantic Hinduism offers a modification of this theory in the doctrine of a final absorption of the individual Atman in the Brahman. (The vedantic Atman). Buddhism rejects both of these opposing views. The first was stigmatized by the Buddha as being erroneous and harmful.
If there were no continuity of like in any shape after death there would be no moral law of kamma and vipaka (actions and results) operating in the universe. All life would be meaningless and there would certainly be no objet in practising self restraint or endeavouring to free oneself of the craving which brings suffering in its train.
The Buddhas entire doctrine of Nibbana the path to it and the reason for following that path would be redundant if death were followed by complete extinction. Rebirth in Buddhist perspective is very important for us to understand.
The division of Material and psychical corresponds in a sense to the Western Concept of flesh and the spirit, but in Buddhism if does a dichotomy: the four immaterial aggregates depend upon and are conditioned by the existence of a body and the nature, of their functioning is determined by the sensory apparatus of that body.
Likewise, in the process of its arising and formation of the body is conditioned by the mind. The two aspects of personality are therefore interrelated and intedependent. How this comes about can be understood by viewing their relationship in terms of a cyclic process: it cannot be said that mind precedes body, or that body precedes mind. Let me describe the nature and functioning what Buddha disclose.
This is simply physical body equipped with sensory organs appropriate to it comes into being through the genetic process. Its nature quality of its sensory apparatus being determined by the Kamma of a being who has lived previously.
This is the feeling that arises through contact between the organs of sense and objects which produce sensory stimulation, the fields of sense perception are six visuale auditory olfactory gustatory facticle and Mental mind is included as one of the senses - for two reasons:
It depends upon a physical organ (the base of consciousness) and it correlates and organizes all the information received thorough the other senses while at the same time having a sensory activity of its own.
The conscious awareness of sensation, this is made a distinct aggregate because quality of perception varies with different organisms and even between individuals of the same organic composition: ie what is perceived as pleasant by one may be unpleasant to another, these distinctions depend upon the predictions or aversions produced by the past kamma.
Mental Formation (Sankaahara)
In a sense equivalent to ‘character’ although the Mental formations as the term implies are largely conditioned by the nature of past activities they are yet capable of producing willed action within a more or less limited field of choice, power to act according to decision among the Mental Formations. This production of kamma with its good or bad results (vipaka) is the most decisive feature of personality.
The Stream of conscious existence fed and supported by the other aggregates consciousness is not an entity: if consists of an endless series of point moments of awareness which arise and pass away with inconceivable rapidity.
In Buddhism then, personality is seen as a series of events, it is a process in time put it more simply, man of seventy may remember his boyhood and enough of what has happened to him in the time between to be able to say he is the same person as the boy he remembers, having been. But he is the same person only in a conventional sense.
Actually there is no single time of his psycho-physical complex that is the same as it was when he was a boy. What actually exists it can only be said the man of seventy belongs to the same line of casual continuity as did the boy that he remembers having been he is the end product of an infinite series of connecting states of being or rather of coming to-be which make up his individual world line.
The pali word used in Buddhism to denote the process simply means arising in Pali (Uppado) there is nothing but a continuous arising way of cause and this arising by way of cause denotes not only the arising of a new mind body complex at birth as the result of kamma of one that has existed before it also stands for the arising of the point moment of consciousness as they succeed one another in the causal continue of one lifetime.
Each point moment of consciousness is a little birth and little death it continues all the time. It is for this reason that Buddhism defines all existence as Annicca, dukkha, Anatta, imperment subjecting to suffering and void of self.
The life stream may be likened to a current of electricity for its flow in the generation of unites of energy from moment to moment the sustaining factor in this continual. generation of psychic energy is desire or craving (Tanha) clinging to the elements of existence (upadana) this is the process Gauthama Sammasambuddha discovered 2,600 years ago at Buddha-Gaya inherent in all human life, explain to the world as a peerless teacher of Gods and men.
Today signifies birth, enlightenment and parinirwana of Gauthama Buddha though 2552 years have gone by He is the only guide who can take us from jungle of ignorance to everlasting peace of mind, His doctrine is “Ehipakkshiko” come and see it for yourself.