Infinity & the rebirth process

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    • #34595

      I was speaking with someone last night who was interested in understanding Dhamma.For this question, I couldn’t provide a satisfying answer and so am hoping to gain clarification here.

      Here’s his question: If there are countless other planetary systems out there, then why is it that we’re limited to this particular one to exist in? If there are an infinite number of beings, then there’ll be an infinite set of potential parents whose gati matches ours and thus, there would be no need to wait”

    • #34596

      Hello Dawson,

      You asked: “If there are countless other planetary systems out there, then why is it that we’re limited to this particular one to exist in? If there are an infinite number of beings, then there’ll be an infinite set of potential parents whose gati matches ours and thus, there would be no need to wait”

      It is an interesting question. I need to think about it a bit more.

      1. But the following is an observation from the rebirth accounts of children by Professor Ian Stevenson.
      – Rebirths within a human bhava are observed to be highly local. For example, a person dying in India seems to be reborn in that region. For a person dying in England, rebirths are unlikely to happen in India.
      – However, there are a few exceptions in his studies.

      2. So, from observations, it appears that rebirths outside a planetary system must be extremely rare.

      I will think about this some more. Hopefully, others may have some ideas too.

    • #34601

      I think there are two main aspects to be considered.

      1. Upadana plays a big role. Again, there are two instances where upadana comes to play.
      – The first is when one gets a human bhava upon exhausting kammic energy in the previous bhava. For example, if a Deva dies and grasps a human bhava, that is according to “upadana paccaya bhava” at the cuti-patisandhi moment.
      – The second instance is when a human gandhabba enters a womb. This is the case that Dawson is addressing. Here again, upadana plays a big role.

      2. As we have discussed in the section, “Concepts of Upādāna and Upādānakkhandha” upadana plays a major role even during life with a human body.
      – In particular, see “Generating Kammic Energy in the ‘Upādāna Paccayā Bhava’ Step.”

      3. A gandhabba is drawn to a womb based on many factors. As you pointed out, parents’ “gati” need to match. The other major factor is the upadana of the gandhabba. A gandhabba is mostly drawn to an environment that he/she has a liking for. There are several accounts in the Tipitaka that make this clear. I don’t have the sutta references (maybe those who know can post), but a few are the following.
      – The “Tirokuṭṭa Sutta (Kp 7)” describes how a gandhabba of a recently died person is drwan to that same home in many cases. A reasonable English translation: “The Beyond the Walls Discourse
      – Another account that comes to my mind: There was a bhikkhu who was very fond of a certain robe. His attachment (upadana) for the robe made him be reborn a tick on that same robe. In that case, his kammic energy for the human bhava was exhausted. His upadana for the robe (combined with other kammic factors) led to that extraordinary rebirth.
      – Another factor is the following: When we talk about “gati” it is not just lobha gati, dosa gati, and moha gati. Other habits/tendencies come into play. This could be the reason for most rebirths accounts by children indicate that previous births were in the same region with similar customs, tendencies, etc. (as I mentioned in my previous post, per Professor Steveson’s studies.)
      – It is a very complex subject. This is why only a Buddha is capable of analyzing kammic effects for a particular situation.

      The other factor that comes into play is a technical one.

      4. The universe in infinite and there are uncountable “10,000 world systems” or lokadhatu in the universe. I have given a brief description in the post, “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).”
      – Even a Buddha can travel (or can communicate) only among those 10,000 systems, and not beyond that. Others have access to much smaller parts based on their abhinna powers. See, “Cūḷanikā Sutta (AN 3.80)” The English translation there is not that good: “80. Lesser
      – There is an account in the Tipitaka that describes how Ven. Moggalana “got lost” while traveling through the lokadhatu. See #18 of the post on Agganna Sutta.
      – The point here is that it would be impossible that a gandhabba to cross over to other “world systems.” Even birth in a different planetary system within the 10,000 systems is highly unlikely. As we saw above, the rebirths of a gandhabba are highly localized.

    • #34602

      That all makes a lot of sense. Thanks very much for the detailed response, Lal. I really appreciate it!

    • #34680

      I would add that Buddha does not really deal with those things. There is Sutta that Buddha explains that he does say what is the cause of suffering and how to end it, the rest is rather less important – people looking for those answers are not really looking to practice Dhamma but fulfill their intellectual curiosity – which is nothing wrong, but there is no point of “buying up” people into Dhamma thru proving certain points while Dhamma can be explained on examples that we are self-aware and most people are (mind, senses, ignorance, etc and whole Paticca Samupadda process and basic Anicca stuff should be enough even for less intelligent people)

    • #34816

      I grew up in a Hindu family and had absolute faith in the basic teachings but had a problem with
      some technicalities about the ultimate goal.
      I got exposed to the teaching of the Buddha after attending a vipassana course. I started investigating the teachings and have developed a lot of faith in it, and have come to the conclusion that the Buddha’s teachings are very scientific and one can experience the results immediately on putting it into practice.
      I am happy with my progress in following the 8 fold noble path, but in the back of my mind there is always one question, which I have put on the back burner and have not paid much attention.
      The common understanding is that the Buddha said that there is no self, but the question is
      what gets liberated? I can very clearly understand that we are not the body or the mind and
      all the problems are due to our misidentification, but what are we and what part of us is
      seeking nirvana?
      I hope I will find a satisfying answer on this forum and want to thank the participants in advance.

    • #34817

      Raj asked: “The common understanding is that the Buddha said that there is no self, but the question is what gets liberated?”

      The Buddha never taught that there is no “self”. He did not teach there is a “self” either. He said those two are extremes. At every moment a living being exists due to causes accumulated in the past and conditions prevailing at that time (So, there is a “sufferer” at each moment.) That is explained in Paticca Samuppada. I plan to discuss this in detail in upcoming posts.

      Based on that misinterpretation of anatta as “no-self”, a question that many people ask is what you asked in a different way: “Who attains Nibbana?”

      Here is what the Buddha taught:
      1. We all go through a rebirth process where one can be born human, Deva, animal, etc. Where one is reborn depends on what type of kamma (good or bad deeds) one has done not only in this life but also in previous lives.
      2. The concept of “me” cannot be retained in that view. If one is reborn as an animal, then “WHO” is it? That animal or the human in the previous life?
      3. Since most rebirths are in “bad realms” (like the animal realm), the Buddha said there is much more suffering in the rebirth process, even though pleasures are also there (for example, some humans don’t suffer that much, at least until old age).
      4. Thus, there is no “me” in ultimate reality, However, as mentioned above, there is a “sufferer” until the rebirth process ends!
      5. That “suffering-filled rebirth process” can be stopped by understanding how that rebirth process takes place. That is the teaching of the Buddha. It is called Paticca Samuppada. When one understands that process, one can see how to end the rebirth process.

      “Anatta” does not mean “no-self”:
      Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta

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