If there is no soul, how can there be rebirth?

  • Anatta is often described as "not-self" which I understand to mean that our identities are illusions. But it's also described as "soullessness" which I think implies that there is no mind other than the brain itself.



    But many Buddhists believe in rebirth. If there is no soul, how can there be rebirth?


    Thank you all for the considered and learned answers. I shall study the texts in question. However, I am a simple man. Is there a simple answer to my question? Thanks and best wishes.

    see https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/rebirth-debate/ "His main concern, however, was not whether there is or is not life after death, but whether it is possible to live in such a way that one could transcend the dilemma of suffering."

    I've read of rebirth as the transmission of 'impressions'. I like this way of describing it. It suggest a medium for transmission but not a 'thing' that is transmitted.

    The absence of a soul is not declared by Buddha. In MN 63, Buddha himself has said, "And what is undeclared by me?..The soul & the body are the same'... 'The soul is one thing and the body another' is undeclared by me.

  • When most people think of "self" they think of some abstract core that is the subject of all experience and the agent of all actions. Buddha taught (and modern cognitive science tends to agree) that upon careful examination there is no such single core. Instead experiences result from interactions of multiple perceptory functions. Similarly, our actions are performed by a conglomerate of functions, without a single agent responsible for all choices.



    When the notion of individual rebirth exists as an unexamined belief, it depends on this unexamined notion of "self" as its necessary foundation. Once practitioner is free from illusion of self (in practice, not just conceptually), the notion of individual birth/death/rebirth no longer applies. From this perspective, rebirth is a byproduct of attachment to a (substantial) self.



    But because karma at large still continues to function, the infinitely forking/joining threads of causation that once were the subject of attachment continue to participate in activity and serve as causes for subsequent effects. In this sense, rebirth as principle goes on continuously whether we posit an individual or not.



    To give this a more practical spin, instead of worrying about rebirth, we practitioners should focus on working towards deconstruction of self by reducing the strength of the illusion through practice of altruism and non-attachment, first and foremost at the microscopic level of thought-to-thought intention and reaction.


    n.. Once practitioner is free from illusion of self (in practice, not just conceptually), the notion of individual birth/death/rebirth no longer applies. From this perspective, rebirth is a byproduct of attachment to a (substantial) self. Influenced me.

    So if I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as rebirth of self or rebirth of the individual, just ongoing causation. Is this an accepted position among practitioners?

    Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, when asked what is it that gets reincarnated said "neurosis". He was joking of course, but seriously, it is nothing else but Karma or we could say information. You can ask around but yes, I believe this is a common understanding among advanced practitioners

    @AndreiVolkov In my reasoning, the following sentence strengthens the independent existence of a self: `working towards deconstruction of self`. It implies the deconstructed self is there the moment you are not working on its deconstruction, which is not true. There is no self to begin with, hence there is nothing to deconstruct. It is rather learning to see that you are constructing it, and when fully seen that you are, it is simply a matter of not having to put it together anymore, as reality is easier worked with without that delusional mental construct.

    I agree with many of your assertions here, but I still hold that illusion does not have to be reality in order to be functional and require deconstruction.

    I understood it the same way, but then what past lives have Buddha been talking about? How could he get access to memories of past lives, if there are no past lives, that could be considered "his"? And what are teachers talking about when they say that "you" might be able to achieve nirvana in the next lives, if not this one? Those will not be your lives anymore. Either you liberate yourself in this life, or generate further suffering for next lives, which will have to try to liberate themselves from in their life.

    Buddha talks about "spirit" in Pali Canon. Spirit is soul without body. See Ratana sutta, Aja Sutta, (in many more Suttas, also in Jataka tales). Search word "spirit" in accesstoinsight. End of topic.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM