Friday, May 13, 2011

Buddha's Responses to Questions about Death: q. 2,3, and 4

Question 1

The first question dealt with the existence of rebirth which Buddha confirms using the logic that living beings would be extinguished if they were not able to take a next life.  Now the questions become more specific about the form of that next life.  The first tells us that the form we take in the next life is variable due to the actions accumulated previously.

Question Two: O Bhagawan! Will the sentient beings who pass away from this world be born into types of rebirth without alteration? For example, will gods be reborn as gods?  Likewise, humans as humans, animals as animals, famished spirits as famished
spirits and hell-beings as hell-beings?

Response: No. Sentient beings are born as different types by the force of their wholesome
and unwholesome actions. For example, the present humans may have become
humans from previous gods. The present animals may have become animals from
previous humans who indulged in unwholesome actions.

The third question further explains the variability of rebirth.   Clarifying that any beings can be reborn as another being in the next life,  that there isn't a state that inherently prevents lower or higher rebirths.  Thus further illustrating the preciousness of the human rebirth.

Question Three: O Bhagawan! Can gods, after death, be born into other types, such as humans, etc.? Likewise, can humans, animals, famished spirits, and the hell-beings, after their deaths, be born as other beings such as gods?

Response: Yes, that is so. Gods, after death, can be born into other beings such as humans,
etc. Likewise, humans, animals, famished spirits, and the hell-beings, after their deaths, can be born as other beings such as gods.
The Fourth Question starts the questions about what accompanies us in our rebirth, the first issue being family.   King Suddhodana inquires as to whether the belief that in life after life we retain our same familiy members.  Buddha response in a series of questions that answer themselves.  His response points out that without physical bodies we wouldn't be able to recognize family members because we cannot recognize their mindstream.  Furthermore how would we explain the different races and cultures if we are reborn with our current family members over and over since beginningless time.

Question Four: O Bhagawan! When sentient beings pass away from this life, they retain in th next life the same circle of family members as in this present life such as parents,
grandparents, great grandparents, etc. whom they had been born with life after life from beginningless time. Such is the understanding of ordinary people. Is this true?

Response 1: When parents and children, etc. appear to each other, they do so as physically
embodied beings. It is not that one mind appears to another mind. When the physical aggregate is left behind and has ceased to be, how could minds accompany minds and appear to each other? The deceased parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. are not seen even by their living children and grandchildren who possess physical bodies. How could the parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc., who had already died and no longer possess physical bodies, be thought to accompany each other as they did before? Even granting this, without physical bodies how could we see them accompanying each other?

Response 2: In this life, when parents, children, and numerous relatives live together, they
acknowledge each other on the basis of their different physical bodies. They do
not see their own minds, let alone the minds of each other. Therefore, how would
they see each other after death? How would parents, grandparents, great
grandparents, etc. see and accompany each other?

Response 3: If, in the beginningless flow of time, there were the first ancestors whom the
present grandchildren accompanied, then all the present tribes, clans, clusters,
types, of which there are many who are enemies, have settled in places, belong to
tribes, speak languages, and carry out customs not heard or known to each other,
must have descended from that same ancestor. So, where would one draw the line
among these foreparents and grandchildren, and demarcate between the
accompanied and the unaccompanied?