Discussing continuity

Questions for discussion

  1. The standard Buddhist claim is that there is no thing that survives from one moment to the next. There is, therefore, no such thing as reincarnation, since that term implies that an entity leaves one physical body upon its death and takes up residence in a subsequent physical body at its conception. What there is instead, according to Buddhist scholastics, is the continuation of a causal momentum; what happened in the past shapes what is happening in the present. This process can be called rebirth (punarjanma) but not reincarnation. Does this distinction between reincarnation and rebirth make sense?
  2. Following not only Locke and Parfit but Buddhist scholastics as well, it was said in the study module that “A student participates in the survival of all her teachers. Everyone of of us participates in the survival of everyone who has ever existed in history, for all of us are in some way, even if only a small way, affected by the actions of all who have gone before us.” The implication of that is that what we might call the folk stories about rebirth, in which one person from the past dies and in some sense is reborn as one person in the present, no longer makes sense. It would, for example, make no sense to say, and literally mean, that Dalai Lama XIV is the rebirth of Dalai Lama XIII. Is there any way to square the philosophically acceptable notion of rebirth with folk stories about rebirth?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.