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The Reincarnation / Karma Conundrum May 7, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Dalai Lama, Reincarnation, Tibet.
Tags: ,

Interesting stuff going on at the Urban Monk, where Dogo Barry Graham declares:

The Buddha did not believe in reincarnation (those who think he did do not understand the sutras).

This stems from an earlier discussion where the Dalai Lama said (among other things) that Tibet is being punished for feudalism. (See the DL interview here.)

The Urban Monk is a great blog. And if you’re in the Valley of the Sun, probably a pretty warm spot these days, go visit the Sitting Frog Sangha. Dogo Barry Graham is a student of the great Kobutsu Malone.



1. Konchog - May 7, 2008

Wow. The folks over there are happily careening toward the extreme of nihilism, expressing it in arrogant and dismissive tones, and trash-talking the Dalai Lama to boot! I think I need a little more coffee this morning before wading into that muck.

2. Dogo Barry Graham - May 7, 2008

Thanks, as always, for the kind words.

It’s a chilly, bracing 90 degrees here…


3. Loden Jinpa - May 7, 2008

>he Buddha did not believe in reincarnation (those who think he did do not understand the sutras)

Anyone that has studied hermeneutics, logic and philosophical argumentation would laugh at such a statement! I hope he had more to say than just this?

I believe the western philosophical tradition, with their use of essays to cogently assert given positions could help in this regard.

In this tradition, there is a tried and tested method of someone presenting their view on a given subject in an essay. Then others evaluate this essay and the presented arugments, and then writing their own in response.

There is nothing wrong per say with talking/arguing/debating whether this or that view is the correct one. This encourages openness and “the spirit of inquiry”. But, doing it as the quotation above is IMO the worth the time it would take to type.

Just my view. No harm to anyone intended 🙂


4. Dogo Barry Graham - May 7, 2008

It seems to me to be breathtakingly narcissistic to speak for everyone who has studied a certain subject, as Loden Jinpa does in saying, “Anyone that has studied hermeneutics, logic and philosophical argumentation would laugh at such a statement!” This has about as much substance as saying that everyone who has studied linguistics likes hot dogs.

As I wrote, to think the Buddha believed in reincarnation shows a sad misunderstanding of the teachings, akin to fundamentalist Christians who believe the earth is 5000 years old. Unfortunately, the Dharma (like Christianity) is often taught in such a shallow way that people can become ordained clergy while having little training and even less understanding.

Also, it’s “per se,” not “per say.”

5. Loden Jinpa - May 7, 2008

argumentum ad hominem


>Also, it’s “per se,” not “per say.”
I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing that out.


6. Loden Jinpa - May 7, 2008

While your staement is “argumentum ad hominem” google it for more information.

What was left out of this post was that you went on to say
“There is rebirth, but not reincarnation. ” This I completely agree with.

>Also, it’s “per se,” not “per say.”
I stand corrected. I did know that…have you never made a typo?

No hard feelings.


7. Dogo Barry Graham - May 8, 2008

Anger issues, much?

Try meditation… Oh, wait…

8. Konchog - May 8, 2008

Aw, now lookit that, Philip! You done got three monks squabbling. Sorry about the snarkiness of my first post, but I was just into my first cuppa. The thing is, I couldn’t, and still can’t, see what Brother Barry is arguing against. If the terms are defined carefully, I think no decently educated Buddhist is going to argue for a belief in any “thing” reincarnating. Least of all the Dalai Lama, whose quote, I felt, was unfairly cherry-picked.

There’s much more I disagree with, and know the Buddha disagrees with, about Barry’s narrow view of karma, but perhaps its best to go discuss it at his place.

9. Philip Ryan - May 8, 2008

Oh, that’s all right, Konchog. I’ve got Generalissimo Than Shwe, the head of the Myanmar junta, on another comment thread! He seems to not like Jennifer Aniston much. I guess he thinks Brad Pitt’s better off with Angelina Jolie?

10. Dogo Barry Graham - May 8, 2008

Hey, Konchog – I didn’t think your post was snarky, but then I also didn’t see anyone trash-talking the Dalai Lama.

11. Kelly - May 12, 2008

I just read the entire post at Urban Monk and think that you have de-contextualized his statement to an irresponsible degree.

12. Kelly - May 12, 2008

Although I do see that you probably weren’t trying to say anything negative.

13. Philip Ryan - May 13, 2008

Hi Kelly:

He also said: “There is rebirth, but not reincarnation.” But that doesn’t change the statement that the Buddha did not believe in reincarnation, and that he understands “rebirth” in a less literal way than many Buddhists. This was in the context of discussing the Dalai Lama saying that we literally inherit the karma of past lives. So while I don’t think I misrepresented his view, I’m sorry if it appeared that way.

14. Dogo Barry Graham - May 13, 2008

I disagree that Philip de-contextualized what I said. I do think some people had a knee-jerk reaction to the quote because of their own attachments. One guy reacted angrily, then actually read my blog post and left a comment saying that he agreed with me.

Philip quoted me as saying that the Buddha did not believe in reincarnation. I don’t think that was taking what I said out of context in any way. Rebirth has nothing to do with reincarnation. While we inherit the consequences of everything that has happened before, including every life that has gone before us, to think that we are reincarnated – given a new body, and then punished or rewarded for what we did while in the old body – shows a superstitious, simplistic and unsubtle view of the Buddha’s teachings.

Nothing comes and nothing goes. No one is incarnated, let alone reincarnated. The Buddha Dharma is minutely subtle and incomparably profound, and to reduce it to a fairy tale of our own immortality is to miss it completely.

15. mayor_lulzer - May 14, 2008

‘per se’, fundamentalism; oh the drama… That fat guy’s not around here to answer directly, isn’t he; you could ask directly the Dalai Lama for a straightforward response, but he may be too busy now with the lolympics’ protests and stuff. Do like I used to, rub a personal avatar statue’s belly, and wait a little ‘for something’ to happen; you’ll still have to interpret the sign(s) though, but in the end it’s not that different that the fist thing.

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