A different view of reincarnation

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  steve mareno 3 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #41667


    I was skimming through a book called the art of living by thich nhat hahn. He had a view of reincarnation that I was interested in discussing.
    He seems to be saying that we reincarnate in the sense that the “things” that we are made up of will later make up parts of other “things”. For example, each of us is made up of parts of our parents, grandparents, ect and each of them are also made up of the the things they eat to sustain them.
    His view also seems to incorporate the teaching of no self and interconnectedness.

    ( This is an article that explains it a bit more)
    I also thought it sounded a bit like the the conservation of mass
    I was just wondering if someone would like to share their thoughts, perspectives, ect on Hahn’s view or had anything they could add to deepen my understanding.

    • This topic was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by  J3ss3.
    • This topic was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by  J3ss3.
    • This topic was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by  J3ss3.
    • This topic was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by  J3ss3.
  • #41672
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins


    Sorry. The website is doing that thing where it doesn’t like to save replies. (It sometimes does this, and we don’t know why). Anyways, just wanted to say that you are far from the first person to have thoughts on this. I posted something you might find of interested for a class that I help mentor:


    I wanted to just copy and paste it here, but I’m not confident that the website will let me right now. To view the link, you probably have to sign into the class, but feel free to (it’s free and might be of interest to you otherwise).

  • #41674
    Michael Finley
    Michael Finley


    I definitely think this is part of Gotama’s approach to reincarnation: The middle way between “annihilationism” and “eternalism”. Nothing exists as a “thing in itself” (to use a western philosophical term),apart from its causes and effects. Seems to me that Gotama thought that what survives is the effects of my actions. This can be interpreted to mean something like “I live on in the influence I’ve had on others,” which is nice notion with good moral implications (cf Ken Jones’ notion of social karma?), and a satisfying notion for many of us.

    But are we really talking about rebirth/reincarnation here? It is not the self that reincarnates on this view,and, in fact, if continuity of the self is denied, can reincarnation have any sensible meaning at all? If I want to be reborn,to live on as myself, how does it satisfy me to know that nothing is annihilated in Gotama’s sense?

  • #41721


    I don’t know much about physics but have found Hanh’s interpretation of rebirth and his teachings on non-self and interdependance which tie in with this fascinating.

    Before I was aware of any kind of Secular Buddhist movement I would read some of his books and it felt like a relief that there were ways of viewing rebirth which are not dependant on metaphysical belief and which can exist alongside current scientific evidence.

  • #42087

    Perhaps I can add a little to this …

    WE are a grand accumulation of things. Our “self” is really kind of an illusion. It starts off with the actual “self” as viewed in the Isha Upanishad. This is the awareness that exists all around us and in all things. It is “the viewer” of the movie that is our life. That awareness is all around us and within us. The same awareness in your neighbor and your dog and some dude across the planet. The difference between us all is/are the filters that this self looks and exists through.

    Our awareness sees through our eyes and hears through our ears and tastes, smells, remembers etc… in the ways that are specific to these shells we currently inhabit. These things, in their totality, make up us. Included in those things is karma. Karma is, more than anything else, cosmic momentum. Everything you do or say or feel has some effect associated with it. Memories of you, a book you wrote, the philosophy of life you imparted to your son, the things you included in your personal universe, the choices you made, the things you observed that classified something as particle or stream (on a quantum level) … all of these things that accompany something you do tend to keep that thing going in the manner they accompany. That is karma. If you want to get fancy about it there is current research conducted showing that the double-slit experiment choices may actually be stored in cells on a molecular, biological level.

    These things are that rebirth. The leftovers.

  • #42090

    We are free to have our beliefs, but bringing in science to support this view is not a good idea.

    Science clearly has cause and effect for our creation and death with no reason for a repeat performance. This is based on physics, not other pseudo sciences that take massive liberties. There is no evidence for a soul or spirit, which means it can’t be proved or disproved, so we are free to follow our beliefs.

    Also what is this reincarnation? Buddhism is about rebirth with no memory, so it has no practical implication. There are claims of past life memories, but as with all the metaphysical, it always fails scientific rigor.

  • #42188

    If Gautama DIDN’T talk about some sort of re-birth, the people he was talking to would have thought he was nuts. He and they were most likely students of the Historical Vedic religion and that concept was as deeply ingrained in their worldview as knowing the earth revolves around the sun is in ours.

    Sure the Buddha probably believed what he was saying, and he and everyone else already agreed with the stuff that many of us find totally implausible. It’s all about frame of reference.

    If he was as intelligent, intuitive, charismatic, and compassionate as Buddhism makes him seem; and the 4 noble truths, the 8fold path, and maybe even the 5 precepts make sense to us, then why make an effort to rationalize stuff that’s implausible?

    The dude was awesome, but he was just a dude. He wasn’t omniscient, he wasn’t magical, he wasn’t anything reincarnated, he didn’t talk to evil or benevolent spirits, he couldn’t see past lives, he couldn’t predict the future, he couldn’t read minds, he couldn’t levitate, he most certainly had zero knowledge of cosmology, particle physics, chemistry, none of it. Anything that we come up with that fits the metaphysical stuff that he said into our empirically proven or even theoretically plausible definitions of reality is coincidence and unnecessary. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, and occasionally is uncanny. But coincidence nonetheless.

    What he could do is this: within the frame of reference informed by his time and place, come up with a method to reduce inner turmoil that is easy to wrap your head around at first but gets progressively more complex as you get bored with the easy stuff. He knew how to speak in a way that made people listen. He knew people memorized lists better than paragraphs, and repetition in said lists enhanced the retention. He knew what realizations brought him inner peace and he believed that these realizations had the potential to do the same for other folks.

    What I have to rationalize, though, are the things that he said about himself and his abilities that are plainly false. The only things I can come up with are these:
    A. He was your typical guru in some ways, and knew how to manipulate people, however benevolent his intentions may have been
    B. He was crazy
    C. The folks that laid down the Pali Canon on paper and standardized the scriptures knew that the crazy stuff had to be in there or the hoi polloi wouldn’t have thought he was worth listening to. They had to compete with all of the other manipulative, deceitful, and/or crazy gurus vying for attention so they strategically massaged his legacy.

    I’m gonna go with a little of A and a lot of C. But that’s just my humble opinion.

  • #42409

    steve mareno

    If the self (the ego identified self) is an illusion (in that it is not there at all, you can’t see it or measure it), then there is nothing and no one to reincarnate. There is also no proof that reincarnation or rebirth exits that would pass muster with any sort of science. Every thing I have ever seen has not come back after death. My body and mind will die, but is any of that “me”? One can argue that question to death (no pun intended), but for sure, we will all find out, and the killer part is that the only way TO find out is to die. So until then, I am going with what I see, and that is that all things cease to exist in their present form and do not come back. I am like the protagonist in one of Flannery O’connor’s novels who wants to establish a church wherein “the deaf don’t hear, the blind don’t see, the lame don’t walk, the dumb don’t talk, and the dead stay that way”.

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