Talk:Rebirth (Buddhism)

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I'd like to add something to this page about the common western Buddhist's view of this as a metaphor, etc.

But before that... does anyone think it might be good to explain the POINT of reincarnation, rather than just the details and/or debate surrounding it? I mean, to begin the article with why it's an important teaching, regardless of whether it's believed or not?

--Jel 16:30, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Yeah, there are a number of issues here, among them being my objection to severing the discussion of reincarnation from that of "Buddhist rebirth" and your point regarding reinterpretations of it as a metaphor. Please feel free to chip away at the article, though I would caution you against identifying the metaphorical interpretation as the "common" "western" one, as I'm not sure it is.कुक्कुरोवाच 19:00, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Jel - be aware that there are many numbers of Western Buddhists who do not in any way consider rebirth to be metaphoric. There are plenty of Western Buddhists who do not consider the hell realms to be metaphoric. There are some Western Buddhists who believe that the world as a sphere is metaphoric, and that the Buddhist Kalachakra view of the world (flat, with a mountain in the middle) is the literal truth. however, if you wish to qualify your claims into a more specific group (e.g. the FWBO - not that I know what the FWBO say), then go ahead. (20040302 13:29, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC))

Alternative definition[edit]

There is another definition of rebirth which seems to be missing here. This is the concept of being continuously reborn into a succession of mental states such as hunger, irritation, the memory of an event from the past, awareness of a sense feeling. This cycle of "birth" and "death" is clearly distinguishable from the concepts of reincarnation and rebirth (as hitherto defined in this article) which are concerned with what happens after conventional death. This aspect of rebirth is taught certainly within the Theravadin tradition and probably other schools as being observable through meditation practice.

Unless there is justifiable objection, I would like to add some narrative to describe this and to link it to other concepts such as Vipassana and Anatta.

VirtuousCircle 00:41, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Please do! This is definitely needed. --Munge 07:49, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Finally managed to produce what I suggested above. Needs review and maybe some rework of the original material which I have mostly kept intact. All comments welcome.
VirtuousCircle 23:34, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

There is also the way in which the "mind stream" of a teacher or a parent becomes reborn in the student or the child. This is also a kind of rebirth.

Also, it's not just many Western Buddhists who hold to the metaphoric/non-literal interpretation of rebirth - there are also famous Theravadin monks like Bhikkhu Buddhadasa. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:55, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Buddhist texts which cast doubt on reincarnation[edit]

Here's an excerpt from the Kalama Sutra of the Anguttara Nikaya, as translated by Soma Thera

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.
"'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.

While I've emphasized a great number of Buddhist texts that suggest an agnostic viewpoint, this one is quite explicit about not simply accepting (as the current article says) that "According to Buddhism, there is a cycle of rebirth..."

Also, as I've pointed out elsewhere, In the Sabbasava Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 2, Gautama says that the result of attending to unhelpful questions, such as "Was I in the past?...Shall I be in the future?...Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?"...are several kinds of unhelpful views, including "I have a self" and "I have no self".

Note those unhelpful views are the result of speculating about rebirth. --Munge 07:47, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The four solaces are things that are solaces whether or not the Buddhist view of rebirth is certain. It does not endorse an agnostic view of rebirth. Regarding your second quote, it is clear from the whole passage that it is the "I" aspect of the question that is problematic--that much is made clear in the very next paragraph. It is not the post-morten continuity of the viññana sotam that is problematic - that doctrine is upheld by the Buddha all over the place in the early Suttas.Sylvain1972 (talk) 16:20, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Very good[edit]

Congratulation : )

i was discovering the french article and began to doubt reading that an non-personnal soul went from life to life ^^
Wondering how to work on the article, your is a very good model. Nice job, sure. pyl 02:37, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

I'd like to correct comments in the entry about Judaism. Judaism actually has a very complicated system of reincarnation/rebirth called gilgulim (discussed in a lot of Kabbalistic literature, but foremost in R' Isaac Luria's (the Arizal's) Shaar HaGilgulim (Gate of Reincarnations). Most notably, in these later generations, it is actually very rare for a unique new (ie. not reincarnated) soul to be born into the world. In other words: according to Jewish Mysticism, the majority of living people are reincarnations of earlier people. There are other aspects of souls coming to visit this world including dibbuk (possession) and ibur (most literally translated as impregnation). 11:57, 9 May 2006 (UTC)yitz. may 09 06

Something missing[edit]

Given that this page is linked to almost every time rebirth is mentioned in an article on Buddhism, it would be helpful to have something to define what rebirth in Buddhism actually is. Instead, the article wades into a polemical dispute right off the bat. RandomCritic 02:52, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

Using Buddhist sources[edit]

According to user Mitsube it is not permitted to use Buddhist or "religious" sources on this article, even though the subject matter is rebirth in Buddhism! This makes no sense. But when I try to introduce Buddhist sources, Mitsube threatens to "report me". Why is, for example, Vicky Mackenzie a more reliable source on Buddhist rebirth than Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a Buddhist scholar who has spent his entire life studying reincarnation and other Buddhist subjects? Mitsube seems to be making an arbitrary decision here. I don't mind the mods getting involved.(Truthbody (talk) 18:54, 29 March 2009 (UTC))

I have just left a message on Mitsube's talk page where I can see from other complaints on this page that he is also heavy-handed with other people's edits and will not assume good faith. (Truthbody (talk) 18:59, 29 March 2009 (UTC))

Using a Buddhist figure as a source is OK if the person has some degree of association with the world of academia. Wikipedia is written by using secondary academic sources. Please read WP:RS. Mitsube (talk) 00:12, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
Well that is okay then because Geshe Kelsang Gyatso does have "some degree of association with academia" both in the east and the west. Various western university courses use his books. He is also a highly respected Buddhist scholar in the world of Buddhist scholars -- and western academia is not important than eastern academia (to suggest it is is simply a form of cultural imperialism). Geshe Kelsang was educated for over 20 years at the great monastic university of Sera. He has written 22 classic textbooks on Buddhism. Etc etc. He knows a huge amount about the subject of Buddhist rebirth and it is incorrect to oppose him as a source! (Truthbody (talk) 18:03, 30 March 2009 (UTC))
Please justify "Various western university courses use his books." The quote you are using is overly simplistic and incorrect. Mitsube (talk) 22:32, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
User Sacca has reverted changes giving no reasons (for the second time). It is not suitable to quote Mitsube as his/her reasons are not valid (see above). Also, the question is whether Mitsube and Sacca are working together to block another editor? I am happy for Wikipedia moderators to come in now and see what is going on and stop these edit wars. I have not in any way sabotaged any editing of Mitsube and Sacca, but they are interfering with my editing, even though it follows all the Wiki rules. They have no reason to gang up on me. The sources are fine, the material is valuable and verifiable. (Truthbody (talk) 22:26, 30 March 2009 (UTC))


I've removed the following passage, since I doubt its authenticity:

==Buddhist Oedipus Rex Syndrome== The being in this intermediate state was known as a gandhabba (Sanskrit gandharva), and for pregnancy to occur a gandhabba is propelled towards rebirth through its desire for sex. The gandhabba witnesses its potential father and mother in sexual union and (if it is male) experiences lust for his mother and hatred towards the father, whom he sees as a rival (and vice versa). (Modern technologies, such as in vitro fertilization and cloning, would seem difficult to accommodate into this account.) Through its desire for sex, the gandhabba interposes itself between the parents. It then installs itself in the womb until birth takes place. Not all gandhabbas are conscious of their actions, for example, it might enter the womb to shelter from a chaotic storm.

I have never read anything like this in any traditional Buddhist commentary, and there would seem to be anachronistic Freudian interpretations creeping in here. I request a verifiable source (scripture or traditional commentary) for this statement -- I see that all the references are modern secondary interpretations, which are not always reliable. RandomCritic 15:22, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

The "Esoteric" Interpretation[edit]

(Ksolway: 13 Nov 2006) This is the interpretation which views the language of reincarnation simply as a poetic or metaphorical means of talking about cause and effect, change, or the process of becoming.

It is not properly dealt with in this article.

"Traditional" (exoteric) reincarnation happens in a narrowly linear way. For example, it is claimed that the current Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. Most Buddhists believe that they will have a future life *distinct* from other people. They do not believe they are reborn as their children, for example - even though cause and effect dictates it.

Cause and effect does not happen in such a narrowly linear way that is confined to a single line of individual consecutive lives.

Thus the teaching from the Bible: "One sows and another reaps", is correct, and echoes the following verse from Shantideva:

"It is a mistaken conception to think,
That I shall experience the suffering of my next life.
For it is another person who dies,
And another who will be reborn." - Shantideva ("Guide to the bodhisattva's way of life")

I propose adding an additional paragraph, or section, explaining this non-linear view that is based on the infinite workings of cause and effect.

Definition Missing?[edit]

I am not sure necessarily a definition is missing, as such, however i think some outlined are trying to explain with a certain obscurity more than the 2/3 listed. My interpretation of 'rebirth' has been that we are the result of the ideas, thoughts, actions etc. of many people before us, who cause our existence and account for our present thoughts, actions etc. (to a larger extent), i propose an analogy for this,

Consider waves travelling across open water, which interfere with each other continuously. Each wave is the result of smaller waves that have come together, and in turn, each wave causes smaller waves. The waves are thoughts and actions; a birth occurs each time a new wave is created from the other existing ones, which continue seemingly perpetually. The new life, though independent, is the result of many lives previously and will continue to affect many lives into the future. (In this sense, nirvana is achieved when a single wave ceases to cause more; it is consumed by the sea, etc...)

I do not submit this to the page as it is certainly not articulate enough in itself, however i propose that such an analogy be used, to improve clarity. ThinkMedical 20:09, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Rebirth and Conscious Control[edit]

How much conscious control do Buddhists have over where they are reborn? For example (and the reason I ask) can the Dalai Lama declare just prior to his death "I will not be reborn in China or Tibet" and have it be taken seriously by Tibetan Buddhists? -- 15:54, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Maybe, but the rebirth of a tulku is a different matter from ordinary rebirth as considered in Buddhism. For ordinary people, rebirth is considered to be just a result of karma; so you can consciously guide rebirth by your acts during life, but not during the actual process of rebirth. RandomCritic 17:46, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Population and rebirth[edit]

Since the population is growing, bigger than it had been the previous year, where does the souls of the new people come from. They can't all be reincarnates, since the population grows each year larger than the previous year. Please answer.--Samuraidude123 (talk) 23:33, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

This place isn't for debating Buddhist doctorine and this question haws been asked innumerable times on various other forums online (talk) 09:35, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

There is no reincarnation in Buddhism. "Souls" are part of long causal chains. Mitsube (talk) 22:22, 5 January 2009 (UTC)


The bracketed statement in the 2nd para represents the Theravada POV. Most Mahayana authorities say arhats & pratyekabuddhas must go on to become Buddhas, & Tibetan Buddhism says Buddhas never pass away. Peter jackson (talk) 11:12, 19 March 2009 (UTC)\

This page needs more sources and references[edit]

Please can we work together to try and get some to back up what is being said on this article and make it more reliable for the reader. Until then, I have put up

Thanks. (Truthbody (talk) 22:06, 5 April 2009 (UTC))

Move suggestion: Rebirth (Buddhism) -> Death and rebirth in Buddhism[edit]

I would like to suggest the article to be moved... I think it should be moved, since the proces of death and rebirth cannot be separeted from each other in the Buddhist POV. Any objections? Siru108 (talk) 11:29, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

I'd prefer to see the article stay with the current title. Death and rebirth are closely connected, but the name under which this subject would ordinarily be discussed would be rebirth or reincarnation. 'Death and rebirth in Buddhism' to me implies that the article is going to describe Buddhist attitudes towards death and rebirth, rather than the metaphysical conception of rebirth in Buddhism. The current title is also the more likely search term of the two. --Clay Collier (talk) 13:23, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I Agree with Clay Collier, better to keep them seperated. Greetings, Sacca 13:28, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I also agree it should stay where it is. Rebirth in particular is the focus of the article. Sylvain1972 (talk) 14:33, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

Hello "The consciousness arising in the new person is neither identical to, nor entirely different from, the old consciousness, but forms part of a causal continuum or stream with it." needs to be disambiguated: is this connection between the old and new life like that between two moments of one life or is it more like a physical cause and effect relation? i'm sure you see what i mean.

it's a really important point. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:26, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

Rebirth vs. Reincarnation[edit]

Nothing reincarnates. That is why Buddhist scholars pretty much universally prefer the term rebirth to reincarnation. This is no mere terminological quibble. Reincarnation implies that there is a non-material entity ("soul") that hops from one pile of meat to another. Rebirth implies that there is the repetition of a pattern within a process, without there being an entity.

"Rebirth," like "person" is regarded by most Buddhists scholars as a conceptual fiction, a term of convenience superimposed upon a series of causally connected, transitory, impersonal dharmas. This has been the standard position since at least as early as the Questions of Milinda. So Nagasena says to Milinda that the consciousness that is aware of the ripening of a karma is neither identical to nor entirely different from the consciousness that had the karma in the form of the intention to do something. It is not identical, because the awareness-of-ripening has different features from the awareness-of-intension. But it is not entirely different, because the later awareness is causally connected to the earlier awareness.

Vasubandhu's work on abhidharma makes is clear that the idea of rebirth holds weight only as long as the concept of person is taken seriously, because rebirth is essentially a personal category, whereas the actual causal process is entirely impersonal.

Chris Fynn (talk) 09:07, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

I agree. What transmigrates is delusion/ignorance.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 19:15, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

"causal continuum" - this is already an interpretation![edit]

"The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream." It is a common interpretation, but it is one. The Paticca-samuppada that is used to come to such interpretations is actually not a cycle of causes, but a cycle of *conditions*. Cause and effect are necessary, conditions are not necessary. If it was a cycle of causes there would be no way to escape this! Also, if we pose a causal relation between rebirths, then we get into trouble with science. What if we can show that there cannot be such a causal relation? Many sceptics doubt this is! The Paticca-samuppada is avoiding such problems in the Tathagata's skilful way. If the authors are Buddhists, I hope they will find a way to change the text skilfully! - a Buddhist monk. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:08, 1 December 2014 (UTC)

Tibetan Buddhism template incorrectly applied[edit]

It strikes me as odd that the Tibetan Buddhism template has been inserted in this article. Rebirth is obviously a general principle of all schools of Buddhism, as can be safely concluded from the contents of this article. If we add a Tibetan template, we might just as well add a Theravada template, and a Zen template. It seems random to me. Propose removal.--S Khemadhammo (talk) 23:07, 21 October 2016 (UTC)

Indeed. Go ahead. Ms Sarah Welch (talk) 23:32, 21 October 2016 (UTC)