Re-birth or New Birth?
Posted on March 20th, 2010

Sunil Vijayapala Oxley, Australia

As with most doctrines with the passage of time some important concepts in Buddhism too have been distorted and one of the most significant ones is the concept of Re-birth. According to Dhamma, everything of mind and matter of an Arahant or an ordinary human (Puthajjana) ceases to exist at the time of death. However in the case of a puthajjana, the cravings and clinging due to kamma of the past take a foothold in the new substratum in the form of a consciousness called pati sandhi consciousness, popularly known as re-birth linking consciousness. Conversely, in the case of an Arahant all defilements have being extinguished with no further continuation of the cycle of birth, with no new becoming.

The concept of re-birth is an aberration of what Lord Buddha actually meant. Its really a New Beginning or New Becoming or Bhava (punarbhava) which in turn conditions a New Birth rather than a re-birth. As at death (cuti consciousness) everything ceases to exist, with no continuation of mind and matter. What continues is Suffering through a new becoming and a new birth with the patisandhi consciousness, conditioned by kamma of past. Patisandhi consciousness needs to be correctly translated as a new-birth linking consciousness rather than a re-birth linking consciousness. Being or a self is categorically denied in Buddha dhamma and itƒÆ’‚¯¿½s fallacious to base a statement which connotes continuity of a being.

In Mahatanhasankhaya Suttra Buddha reprimands a bhikku who misrepresents Lord BuddhaƒÆ’‚¯¿½s interpretation of the concept of consciousness and strongly believed in a continuation of consciousness. Buddha vehemently denies this and once again reiterates what he actually meant stating that NOTHING continues of a being after death through a new becoming. Even the concept of a being is denied in Dhamma and any logical deduction based on the concept of a being is categorically rejected, let alone a continuation or a re-birth of a being.

In the stories we have heard of people re-collecting their past lives (even Buddha did basically to explain kamma and its vipake) the theme is that in HIS or HER previous life he/she was born in such and such a place and ate such and such food and was engaged in such and such work etc. ItƒÆ’‚¯¿½s a basic craving of any ordinary person to find about what he was in the past and what his immediate fortunes are and where he would end up after birth, wishing a heavenly one. As long as a puthajjana believes in a self or being or I or mine, he would certainly will tend to believe in HIS past life and HIS future life through a re-birth.

During the life time of a person while a person is awake, consciousnesses arise due to conditions constantly, to the tune of a billion consciousnesses at the blink of an eye!. Between two consciousnesses lies the bhavanga consciousness or life-continuum consciousness, sought of a baseline consciousness. However while one sleeps without dreaming his consciousness lies in a subliminal state of bhavanga consciousness. At the time of death, cuti consciousness arises and ceases ending the present life. There is no bhavanga consciousness for it to fall back to nor does it conditions the re-birth or new-birth consciousness which will have a foothold on the new substratum, as explained in Mahanidhana Suttra. The new-birth consciousness Pati sandhi consciousness is as a result of kamma of the past due to clinging conditioned by cravings. (Loba, Dosa and Moha).

The English translators of both in the west and the east did make errors when they came across Pali or Sanskrit words, especially in deep doctrines such as Buddhism. They had to depend on available dictionaries which were in turn erroneously translated by so called scholars. English being intrinsically an inconsistent language, prone to errors added more fuel to the fire. Unfortunately Re-birth was a concept born out of erroneous interpretation and we need to address this issue urgently to prevent further mis-representation of Lord Buddhas precious doctrine.

One Response to “Re-birth or New Birth?”

  1. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    I appreciate your great article and am bit surprised to see no response to reflect the calibre of people who might have read it. As Buddha said himself, there is no reason to repeat the same and we must try our best to see whether this version is true or not. As well, what we hear may not necessarily be the original thinking. In Christianity, the first 200 years of history is not even revealed to the faithful, which could have enlightened many of those believers by finding some interesting facts. Considering the fact that Prince Siduhath was born into a Hindu society and that he was given the best education using the best and the famous intellectuals, it is certainly a mixture of facts from many views that had given way to Buddhist concept you detailed in your article. I seriously doubt the notion that the origin of these words rest with Buddha himself.

    If the final words of Buddha is properly investigated, the relevance of earlier findings raises the need to analyse this view in more detail. I find it more interesting to note that most of the concepts that made the basis of this faith were in existence long before the advent of Buddha. Even the arrival of Buddha was an ancient prediction giving way to many occasions of individuals claiming this title as theirs. If a detailed comparison is carried out, Buddhist version of knowledge can be considered as re-interpretation of some original Hindu concepts with the new thinking that attached all the evil to the kind of human instinct represented by words such as desire, greed, need etc., an essential instinct to keep us alive. Other interesting feature is the total rejection of the sexual and reproductive aspects of humanity for the devoted believers. These are essentially Hindu concepts pushed to the extreme. Rejection of worldly humanness is also a key feature in this faith.

    Anyone would understand that the Hindu faith lacks the originality to create a basis to judge Buddhism as it carries a lot of contradictory concepts pointing to another set of beliefs as the origin of Hinduism. A further extension indicates that Hindu values were originally derived from pre-Hindu Sinhala concepts that point to the same direction as our own approach to humanity as an entity produced by natural means. The mysterious parts introduced in Hinduism are essentially to fill the gaps in poor understanding of the original concepts. As an example, the use of Karma (self attributed actions of all sorts) as the sole basis to see the world, which is also extended to Buddhism denies the believers the other similar facts that decide the worldly events. In fact, we have identified several other concepts that add up to mid teens in total. So, the concepts, processes and conclusions that they have reached in both beliefs may be missing a significant part of the original Sinhala knowledge used to see the world through humanity, an eccentric view.

    If we go back to ancient Sinhala thinking that remain among the traditional belief system though a bit adulterated by alienation, when applied after sending through knowledge filters, reveals a more appealing and naturalistic way to see the life itself, and the rest of the time before the birth and after the death, without going to hardly understandable and essentially imaginative concepts.

    Though we are mystified and try to see the world through our eyes, as humans, we are just one form of an infinite number of life forms that exist around us. Since it is too many, confining ourselves to see the world through us may lead to miss the point and give the lie to essentially a natural event that occurs naturally around us without our input in whatever form or shape and without any understandable interventionist forces. The downside to our reliance on unrealistic or unnatural explanations may lead to terrible losses and damages due to our own ignorance. A case in point is the achievement by Buddha himself that he almost succeeded eliminating the whole tribe that he was born to as a result of this belief. So promoting any concept must be preceded by an understanding of its consequences to very people that we try to emancipate, though our intentions are genuine, clear and sound. Unfortunately, what Sinhala people experienced over the last two and half millennia is no better, though attracted by its advanced nature of convincing arguments. Later history tells more about other individuals (religious leaders of other simplistic faiths -, some even going to the extent of rousing cannibalistic and primitive instincts)) who became more successful to make their people to walk to their own ends to presumably achieve a status that has no such end, but the opposite. My point is that going back to ancient Sinhala knowledge may be more prudent than the later arrivals that lack originality to analyse life itself and what comes before and after. In comparison, the later beliefs, which essentially attract the humanity much closer to those who lived the life in the nature, have done a tremendous damage to believers as well as non-believers.

    While our second best group did try to achieve the ultimate goal by themselves during the last two and half millennia, English came up with a more down to earth kind of knowledge and found some facts about the relationship of parents to their children. In fact, they went to the extent of using the process of human reproduction as an effective tool of genocide. In other words, they used the opportunities prevailed in the occupied lands, sadly in the lands of those who sought heavenly life by peaceful means while forgetting earthly rules, to produce children to the most disadvantaged and destitute folk (essentially those who hate the very people they claim to belong to) who grew up without the guidances of their natural fathers. Knowing the fact that it is irrelevant to have a father to nurse children, they achieved their best goal of implanting their own kind among the silly people living in those occupied countries. What they are doing in our own country is well documented even if someone read a few articles appearing at this website alone. As well some of you might have enjoyed that chance I had to dismember such an entity to open its inside to see how English they are though partly made of local costume and identified by local name tags. Having said that, it is not fair to stop there without offering a simple way out. The solution to that problem is also available in the system built by the very people who created this problem and what is needed is to shun the heavenly thoughts at least until the work is finished.

    This may be the more interesting part of my comment. Instead of trying to follow words and deeds that are beyond our means to comprehend though we have been repeating the same words for a long while to end up spending our lives like tape recorders, I want to complement this article by my own suggestion. Sure, we want to find whether there is re-birth or not. If we just get a bit around the thing that comes after our death that nobody has ever told, though we had so many deaths, and ask the question “Who the hell is my/our child/ren”, this may offer a more understandable and explainable version to identify the reproductive process, the backbone of humanity, that kept producing humanity beyond the known history. We have made some progress and found very interesting bits and pieces of knowledge to piece together what is essentially a natural process. What we found was amazing and the fact that ancient Sinhala civilisation had known much more than what we found by ourselves was more encouraging. In fact, we might have done a bit of re-inventing the wheel kind. It is more fascinating to find that they knew even the means to control, change or deny birth using natural processes that contribute to the reproduction of life, in other words to give birth to a child that meet their requirements. This is a tool that must be used if we want to get out of the current mess. In a way we could have been living the life of donkeys during ancient times to miss the value of that knowledge. Since humanity today is more like a pestilence gone out of control, there are many opportunities to learn more about our own lives. Unfortunately I cannot tell more as they come under privileged information. I hope there will be people interested in my comment who desire to live longer as humans, the original belief of humanity foretold by ancient Sinhala people.

    As mobile people (migrants) who may have helped English gentlemen to create speculative webs of deceit and concoctions to cover almost all aspects of entities that affect life and nature at large to join the fast lane to extinction behind the very gentlemen, it may be the responsibility of those of us to help untangle and find the truth natural way than going on the same old path.

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