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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
23 FALL 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly send your questions by mail or to email@example.com nArAyAn Liebenson grAdy: This is a question that has befuddled countless practitioners and scholars. If there is no self, then what is reborn? In countries where Buddhism is the predominant religion, rebirth is simply accepted as a fact of life, whereas from a Western perspective it requires a huge leap of faith. I am aware that my own belief in rebirth, as intuitive as it may feel, is still a belief and can’t be proven until I die. It is possible I’ll be surprised. Fortunately, the teachings are not meant to be believed blindly but rather taken as arenas of inquiry. They allow us to investigate the causes of suffering as well as the path to end suffering. In the Middle Length Discourses, the Buddha says we need only understand the four noble truths, no matter how interesting other questions might be. The Buddha didn’t try to prove that there was such a thing as rebirth. He simply recounted what hap- pened on the night of his awakening, which is that he saw endless past births and deaths. By the end of the evening, he knew the cycle of suffering had ended. If we trust the Buddha, and if we trust in the teachings that have served us thus far, we may also be able to trust the story of the Buddha’s awakening and take it as our story as well. The Buddha refused to answer the question about whether there is a self. What he did say is that this mind–body process cannot be clung to as being “me,” “mine,” or “myself.” The Thai teacher Buddhadasa said that being concerned with future lives is for simple-minded Buddhists, because what matters is “ending the rebirth of the ego. It will keep being reborn in mind–body in your daily life until there is the realization of the emptiness of ‘I ’ and ‘my’.” Buddhadasa emphasized the necessity of seeing into the emptiness of “I” and “my” right here and now. So from one point of view, there may indeed be past and future lives. But from another point of view, it doesn’t really matter. What breaks the cycle of Ask The TeAchers Zenkei bLAnche Hartman is former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center GesHe tenZin WanGyal rinpocHe is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet narayan liebenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center QuesTion: The doctrine of no-self seems to contradict the idea of rebirth. Did the Buddha address this contradiction? How do teachers reconcile this when teaching students like me who’ve grown up with a modern Western mindset? (leFt-right):bArbArAWenger,mAryeLLenmccourT,mAryLAng