A recent post on rebirth and the Buddha’s views on it stirred up a lot of discussion. Did the Buddha believe in karma and rebirth? Were they simply ideas that were current in his time? This latter idea is popular with those interested in reforming the Buddhist tradtion, while those hold the former position point out that the Buddha went out of his way to promote these ideas, which he wouldn’t have had to do if they were widely agreed upon already by his contemporaries.
One commenter writes:
So, what if Buddha was wrong about rebirth? I know most people posting here believe Buddha was the supremely enlightened one and that his words reflected absolute Truth, but I don’t. He had insights to share concerning our basic nature and how to live a good life, but he didn’t understand everything. I didn’t hear him talking about the common origins of all life, for example, a fact we now know to be true. We should take from the teachings those things that help us become better people and leave the rest alone. Rebirth and karma are two concepts we do not need to keep in our modern way of thinking. Let go of them.
Maybe hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions around the world, are served quite well by those two concepts. I know, I am quite a modern woman, and when I was barely 15 years old, I accepted Karma and Rebirth as “true and valid” and “felt it in my bones and cells”. I am now almost 40 years old and no where in my intense and full life, has anything proven to me that I was wrong in accepting those concepts back then. Many millions of people remember past lives, and there are too many unexplainable knowledge of other languages and details to just sweep it under the rug. Maybe it is okay to let go of them, but a lot of us can’t, mainly because…it wouldn’t be very honest of us to do so.
It’s a conflict that strikes at the heart of the tradition. Join the conversation here.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.