Doctrine of Rebirth Doctrine of rebirth is not confined to Buddhism and Hinduism but is accepted in many other religions around the world. Almost every country of the East accepts the doctrines as too obvious to need proof. The doctrine was also accepted by the early Christians until about 500 years after Christ’s death. Despite pressure from the Church, many Westerners believe in rebirth.
One Life Versus Many Lives The Christain’s belief in life after death takes the form of eternal condemnation in hell or eternal happiness in heaven after one’s brief life span on earth. If there is any justice in this belief, the theory should be questioned for the injustice it suggests. Surely the few years we spend here is an inadequate preparation for eternity either in hell or heaven. This belief in life after death suggests a belief in rebirth. If it is possible to exist in some form after a person dies, why can’t there be lives before the present one? One wonders why some men can accept the idea of a life after death and yet discard the idea of lives before birth.
Ability To Recall Past Births There are many recorded cases and whose authenticity have been verified, which strongly suggest rebirth. Some of the ways these people can recall their past births are through hynopsis, memory and meditation.
Through Hynopsis Through hynopsis, a person can be brought back in time to a particular point in childhood or infancy and re-live his experiences. There were some experiments which had taken a person further back in time and accidently landed him into memories belonging to previous lives. There were cases, where some people under hynopsis could speak a different language, give accurate information pertaining to a different time and place, and perform feats they were unable to in their normal state.
Through Memory There are a number of people who write accurately about matters they have not studied nor could have experienced in their present life. Dr. Alexander Cannon, a psychiatrist, in his book The Power Within wrote that for years, he had been haunted by the theory of reincarnation and had tried very hard to disprove it. But as more and more people came to see him, he was finally convinced …….”in effect, until now, well over a thousand cases have been investigated, and I have now to admit there is such a thing as reincarnation.”
Through Meditation The Lord Buddha is the greatest authority on rebirth. On the night of His enlightenment, he recalled his numerous past lives and the past lives of other beings. The Buddha perceived beings dying in one state of existence and reappearing in another. Beings were born according to the deeds they performed. Through meditation, it is possible for a person to attain high mental states of concentration and gain psychic powers, one of which is the power to recall past births.
Difference Between Reincarnation and Rebirth The primary difference is the belief in a permanent, transmigrating soul. The belief of reincarnation accepts the existence of such a soul whereas Buddhism denies such an existence. The “immortal soul” belief is centred on an indivisible, eternal and indestructible entity which has taken up its temporary abode in the body. This belief is flawed and based on ignorance of the true nature of being and living beings. Such a concept arises from the desire for eternal, personal continued existence.
What is Reborn? If there is no self, how can we speak of our future lives? What then in us causes us to be reborn? The desire to live, based on ignorance, pervades us all and forms the creative power which causes our rebirth and existence. The craving (tanha) and our moral character formed by our past actions (kamma) are the causes of our rebirth. So long as we fail to understand beings as processes and in a state of flux, we fail to understand Anatta (no soul). These form the core of our being, and create for themselves a new body which corresponds to their nature after the disintegration of the present body.
What is Reborn? The only kind of self-identity which connects us when we were children and what we are now is the arising and passing away of mind and matter from moment to moment. The rebirth from one life to another is just the same. The man in this life and the one in the next is not exactly the same, and yet it is not altogether another. Though there is no soul passing on, yet there is moral responsibility linking one life to another; just as a man is not the same as the child he was, yet he is responsible for whatever he has done in his childhood.
Life-Flux When the body dies, its Kammic force is reborn in another body without anything transmigrating from this life to the other. The last thought-moment of this life perishes conditioning another thought-moment in a subsequent life. The new being is neither absolutely the same – since it has changed nor totally different – being the same stream of Kamma energy. There is merely a continuity of life flux; just that and nothing more. Kammic Force
Planes of Existence According to Buddhism, the earth is an insignificant speck in the universe; is not the only inhabitable world and humans are not the only living beings. The Buddha said “By traversing one cannot reach the end of the world.” Indefinite are the world systems and so are living beings. Nor is the “impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth.” Births can take place in thirty-one different spheres of existence according to their moral or immoral Kamma. The Buddha further said that these 31 Planes exist not only in our universe but is found amongst millions of other world systems/universe.
Rebirth into Heavens and Hells Of the 31 planes, 26 of these planes are states of joy or heavens; 4 are suffering planes and one is the human plane. Buddhists believe that there are dark states of suffering and despair. A person with a lot of bad kamma is reborn in hell and must remain there until he has suffered for the results of his evil deeds. A person with a lot of good kamma can be reborn as a human being where he has the opportunity to gain the knowledge leading to deliverance. The good person can also be born into bright states of joy or heavens where he enjoys the fruits of his meritorious deeds.
Rebirth into Heavens and Hells These states are however not permanent. One does not stay in hell or heaven eternally. Buddhism shows that it is the individual who passes judgement on himself in the very act of performing a deed. It is he who sends himself to heaven, or consigns himself to hell. Not only are there heavens and hells beyond this world; but heavens and hells can be found in this very world itself. They are mental states we can recognise around and within us.
Planes of Existence There are four states of unhappiness (Apaya) which are viewed both as mental states and as places. They are:
Woeful states where beings atone for their evil Kamma. They are however not eternal hells. Niraya Departed beings, or those absolutely devoid of happiness. They possess deformed physical forms, generally invisible to the eyes. They have no places of their own, but in forest, dirty surroundings. Peta-yoni Asura-yoni The place of the Asura demons. They are unhappy beings like the Petas and lived in relentless conflict with one another.
Tiracchana-yoni Animal kingdom. Beings are born as animals on account of evil Kamma.
Planes of Existence There are seven happy states (Sugati) . They are:
Manussa Realm of human beings. It is a mixture of both pain and happiness. Bodhisattas prefer the human realm as it is the best field to serve the world and perfect the Paramitas. Buddhas are always born as human beings.
Planes of Existence Deva Realms Catumma-harajika - Lowest realm of the heavenly realms. Tavatimsa - Celestial Realm of the 33 Devas where Deva Sakka is the King. Yama - Realm of the Yama Devas. These Devas live in the air, free of all difficulties. Tusita - Realm of Delight. Happy dwellers. Nimmanarati - Realm of the Devas who delight in their own creation. Paranimmitavasavatti - Realm of the Devas who make others’ creation serve their own ends.
Rupaloka consists of 16 realms according to the jhanas cultivated. They are: Plane of the First Jhana - 3 realms Planes of the Second Jhana - 3 realms Planes of the Third Jhana - 3 realms Planes of the Fourth Jhana - 7 realms Arupaloka consists of 4 realms which are totally devoid of matter or bodies.
The gift of Dhamma excels all gifts the taste of Dhamma excels all taste, the delight in dhamma excels all delights, The Craving-Freed vanquishes all suffering. - Dhammapada verse 354 End of Lesson 9