Reincarnation with a soul

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Karma Dondrup Tashi
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Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:22 pm

The Western wisdom states that we have a soul, the Eastern wisdom states that we reincarnate - is it possible to reconcile the two views? Could we have a soul as well as reincarnate?

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by DNS » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:20 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:22 pm
The Western wisdom states that we have a soul, the Eastern wisdom states that we reincarnate - is it possible to reconcile the two views? Could we have a soul as well as reincarnate?
Most Dharmic traditions say there is a soul and we reincarnate (Hindu, Jain, Sikh, etc). I believe it's only Buddhism which states that it is not-self or no-self and there is still rebirth (similar to reincarnation, but no soul).

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by DNS » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:39 pm

The dilemma for Buddhism and for which even many Buddhists struggle; is that if there is no soul -- then how does rebirth take place? There are a number of analogies and descriptions Buddhists give to help people with this issue.

Flame on a candle, etc.

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:41 pm

Does anyone think it is possible to be a Buddhist if you think its possible that the atman is something that might last a very, very long time, but not infinitely?

I've changed a lot since I was born 50 years ago (not all for the better), but I'd still say I was "me". how long does it take in Buddhism for that "me" to fundamentally change also?

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by DNS » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:46 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:41 pm
Does anyone think it is possible to be a Buddhist if you think its possible that the atman is something that might last a very, very long time, but not infinitely?
Interesting idea. In all the anatta / anatman debates I've read over the years, I don't think I've seen that proposed.

It sounds similar to pantheism, where one has atman until one 'merges' with the Divine universal self in Nirvana.

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by DNS » Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:48 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 5:41 pm
I've changed a lot since I was born 50 years ago (not all for the better), but I'd still say I was "me". how long does it take in Buddhism for that "me" to fundamentally change also?
Really? Do you have picture of what you looked like 50 years ago? Do you look the same? :tongue:

Were you Buddhist 50 years ago? Or even 20 years ago? We change our thinking all the time, our appearance, even our personalities, in some instances.

But I know what you mean; there still appears to be some major continuity of being the 'same' person.

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Nicholas » Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:20 pm

Among the Tathagata-garbha sutras of Buddha there is taught a True Self. It is not a self or person or soul, but it carries & emanates each individual lifetime after lifetime. It is difficult to explain, but here is a little bit from the Srimala Sutra, one of the sutras that contain this Buddhadharma:
“World-Honored One, without one’s Tathāgata store, one cannot come to
tire of suffering and to delight in seeking nirvāṇa. Why not? Because, World-
Honored One, one’s seven dharmas—one’s first six consciousnesses and their
perceptions—neither abide for a single moment nor retain one’s experience of
suffering. Then one cannot come to tire of suffering and to delight in seeking
nirvāṇa. World-Honored One, one’s Tathāgata store has no beginning, neither
arising nor expiring, but retains one’s experience of suffering.* Then one can
come to tire of suffering and to delight in seeking nirvāṇa.
“One’s Tathāgata store is not a self, not a person, not a sentient being, and
not an everlasting soul. It is incomprehensible to those who hold the wrong
view that one has a self, those who hold inverted views, and those who
misunderstand the emptiness of dharmas.
* According to the Consciousness-Only School, ālaya consciousness (ālayavijñāna),
the storehouse consciousness, one’s eighth consciousness, stores all
pure, impure, and neutral seeds of one’s experience without a beginning. Here,
this sentence implicitly equates the Tathāgata store to ālaya consciousness.

Footnote & translation by Rulu.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Reincarnation with a soul

Post by bennieTedge » Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:45 pm

Ok- I see what youre saying. I believe in reincarnation- just not sure of the "whys" of it yet. Learning lessons isnt a theory I am 100 on... and if a soul had a chance to reincarnate and chose not to, why would it think haunting the living would be the A-numero-uno #1 choice? Ugh.. so many jumbled questions...lol

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Nicholas » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:59 am

bennieTedge wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:45 pm
Ok- I see what youre saying. I believe in reincarnation- just not sure of the "whys" of it yet. Learning lessons isnt a theory I am 100 on... and if a soul had a chance to reincarnate and chose not to, why would it think haunting the living would be the A-numero-uno #1 choice? Ugh.. so many jumbled questions...lol
Bennie, as far as I know, no matter which view of reincarnation one thinks of - all paths agree there is no choice. Rebirth is automatic and not avoidable. That is one of the inducements to seek Liberation from that endless cycle.

As for haunting the living, that ghost is only the shell of the once living person. The 'soul' or mind leaves earth life behind until it is reborn. The vital shell or ghost will fade out in time, which is why cremation is a good choice. If the flesh body is buried the vitality that once invigorated the body hovers around the dead body and may seek out people nearby or who were once known to the embodied person. Thus the haunting.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Iconodule » Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:04 pm

The Buddhist understanding of rebirth is a bit tricky for me, though, because, it would seem to be that, if we take the principles of impermanence and non-self to a logical conclusion, then the karmic seeds should scatter at death like the other forms of consciousness and the other skandhas. So at my death my ignorant tendencies are reborn in the animal realm, my greedy tendencies in the preta realm, etc. I think of Zhuangzi's words: "Will He make you the liver of a rat, or the arm of an insect?" But this is wrong- instead we are told there is a storehouse consciousness where the karmic seeds are carried in a united stream between births, so that one sentient being is reborn as one sentient being again, based on its particular karmic configuration, ad infinitum (or until enlightenment) so that, even if other elements that might be mistaken for "self" dissipate, this single, individuated stream of rebirths persists. Why is this not a self?
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - St. Isaac of Syria

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Nicholas » Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:13 pm

Iconodule wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:04 pm
The Buddhist understanding of rebirth is a bit tricky for me, though, because, it would seem to be that, if we take the principles of impermanence and non-self to a logical conclusion, then the karmic seeds should scatter at death like the other forms of consciousness and the other skandhas. So at my death my ignorant tendencies are reborn in the animal realm, my greedy tendencies in the preta realm, etc. I think of Zhuangzi's words: "Will He make you the liver of a rat, or the arm of an insect?" But this is wrong- instead we are told there is a storehouse consciousness where the karmic seeds are carried in a united stream between births, so that one sentient being is reborn as one sentient being again, based on its particular karmic configuration, ad infinitum (or until enlightenment) so that, even if other elements that might be mistaken for "self" dissipate, this single, individuated stream of rebirths persists. Why is this not a self?
DNS may chime in later with the Theravadin view, which rejects the ālaya consciousness, which is also rejected by many Mahayana folk. Buddha in the Lankavatara Sutra and other places said that because the ālaya consciousness could be so easily thought to be the self, it was not taught for everybody. Later, time & will permitting, I may try and clarify just what this Tathagatagarbha (identical with ālaya) is.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by Nicholas » Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:45 pm

Karl Brunnhölzl came out recently with three volumes titled A Compendium of the Mahayana. That gives one an idea of how deep, wide & complex is the system based on ālaya consciousness. I like the notion of it being the holding source of all seeds, and far greater than a 'self' which is reborn. Here is a little quote:
The Bhagavān spoke a verse in the Abhidharmasūtra:

The dhātu of beginningless time
Is the foundation of all phenomena.
Due to its existence, all forms of existence
And also nirvāṇa are obtained.

I.2. Also, he said in that same [sūtra]:
The consciousness that contains
All seeds of all phenomena is the ālaya.
Therefore, it is the ālaya-consciousness,
Which I explained [only] to the superior ones.
Excerpt From: Asanga & Karl Brunnhölzl. A Compendium of the Mahayana.

Our individual selves do not contain, when born here or after death, 'all seeds of all phenomena'. So it seems to me that the ālaya might be the source of a fraction of the karmic seeds that make up each person. But the entire selfless ālaya consciousness is never born.
A metaphor might be that our apparent 'self' is single gem or pearl or silver coin from that treasury, but the treasury is never limited to incarnation.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- Buddha

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Re: Reincarnation with a soul

Post by DNS » Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:18 am

Iconodule wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:04 pm
so that, even if other elements that might be mistaken for "self" dissipate, this single, individuated stream of rebirths persists. Why is this not a self?
Yes, this is a dilemma, some might call it a paradox, for Buddhism. The Theravadins reject the idea of a store-house consciousness as Nicholas noted. They use all kinds of anaologies and similes, for example the flame on a candle burning; as it burns down, it is not the "same" flame, but rather a continuation in a series.

All forms of Buddhism say that rebirth is individual. There are no elements or rays of consciousness that are divided apart and spread in different directions, for example as found in some reincarnation theories, where there might be 'multiple' souls in an animal, but just one in a human. All indications from Buddhist texts are that it is individual and in the prior birth stories of the Buddha (Jataka) it also refers to prior births as one particular human, deva, or animal.

And all this just makes it more so sound like a soul or if not a soul at least some kind of impermanent self. The anatta doctrine is thus, difficult to comprehend and largely must be experienced. Intellectually, however, we can see how we are the sum of the parts of what makes us human and there certainly is no physical material inside us that can be pinpointed in us as a soul.

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