[Buddha-l] Enlightenment as dogma

Randall Jones randall.bernard.jones at gmail.com
Thu Oct 14 10:16:31 MDT 2010

At 10:29 AM 10/14/2010, Pedro wrote:

>... (I myself have been told that I can't possible be a buddhist 
>without believing in rebirth, for example). But, the more 
>interesting question, in my opinion, is why would you want to call 
>yourself a ... a "buddhist" and deny such  a central tenet?

But what does "rebirth" mean?  Or "birth" for that matter?

Are you asking why someone who defines "rebirth" differently from you 
would want to call him- or herself a Buddhist?

Here's a quite extended quote from Aj. Buddhadasa. The whole article, 
No Religion by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, is at:


I must admit I've never thought to ask why he called himself a 
Buddhist. Do you suppose I should have?


         The words "birth" and "death" require the same discrimination
regarding language.  In people language, the word "birth" means to be
born from a mother's womb.  In Dhamma language, however, the word
"birth" means some form of attachment is born.  This kind of birth
happens every time we allow the arising of a thought or feeling which
involves grasping and clinging to something as "I" or "mine," such as,
"I am," "I have," "I think," and "I do."  This is the birth of the "I"
or the ego.

         For example, think like a criminal and one is instantly born
as a criminal.  A few moments later those thoughts disappear, one
thinks like a normal human being again and is born as a human being
once more.  If a few moments later one has foolish thoughts, right
then one is born as a fool.  If one then thinks in an increasingly
foolish and dull manner, one will be born as an animal immediately.
Whenever an attachment is felt intensely--when it burns inside
one with the heat of fire--one is born as a demon in hell.
Whenever one is so hungry and thirsty that one could never be
satiated, one is born as an insatiably hungry ghost.  When one is
overly cautious and timid without reason, one is born a cowardly
titan.(*)  Thus, in a single day one can be born any number of times
in many different forms, since a birth takes place each and every time
there arises any form of attachment to the idea of being something.
Each conception of "I am," "I was," or "I will" is simultaneously
a birth.  This is the meaning of "birth" in Dhamma language.
Therefore, whenever one encounters the word "birth," one must be very
careful to understand its meaning in each particular context.

         "Birth is suffering."  These words mean that the egoistic kind
of birth described above is always painful and ugly.  That is to say,
if we allow "I" to be born in any manner, suffering occurs
immediately.  If we live simply and directly in the awareness of
"not-being-I," it's like remaining unborn and never experiencing
suffering.  Although physical birth has happened long ago, there is no
further spiritual birth of the egoistic "I."

         On the other hand, whenever an egoistic thought or feeling
arises, there is suffering at once and the suffering always fits the
particular kind of "I" that is being born.  If "I" is human, it suffers
like a human.  If "I" is an angel, it suffers angelically.  If "I" is
demonic, it suffers hellishly.  The manner of the grasping and
clinging can change repeatedly, even being born as beasts, hungry
ghosts, and cowardly titans.  In one day, there may be many births,
many dozens of births, and every one of them is unsatisfactory,
frustrating, and painful.  To destroy this kind of birth is Nibbana.

         Concerning death, there's no need to speak about what happens
after the people language version.  Why talk about what happens once
we're in the coffin?  Instead, please deal with this most urgent issue
of ego-birth, that is, don't get born and there will be no suffering.
Without the feeling of being born, there is no person anymore and all
the problems disappear with it.  That is all.  When there isn't
this continual being born, there is no longer a "somebody" to have
problems.  It's as simple as that.  The time remaining in life is no
longer an issue once we know how to experience the fact that this "I"
will never be born again.  This can be called "non-birth."  You may
call it "death" if you prefer.

So you see, between people language and Dhamma language the words
"birth" and "death" have opposite meanings.  The same situation exists
in the scriptures of other religions, especially those of
Christianity.  As a result, the Christians don't understand their own
Bible, just as we Buddhists don't understand the Tipitaka (Buddhist
scriptures). Thus, whenever members of the two meet, they end up
arguing until they are blue in the face.  The quarrels are simply
unbelievable; they fight to the end.  Therefore, let us
develop some understanding concerning this matter of people
language and Dhamma language.


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