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A Naturalistic Approach to Buddhist Karma & Rebirth

by DT Strain

 

Introduction

I am a naturalist (someone who has no focus or particular belief regarding anything outside this material universe). As such, I find Nature pretty “super” as is and see no need to posit a supernatural realm. Many of my friends and associates have similar leanings and backgrounds. Therefore, as I have discussed my recent explorations of Buddhist philosophy with them, a common response has been concern over the Buddhist belief in karma and reincarnation. Even many others in the West who may not consider themselves strict naturalists might have reservations about these concepts. I suspect that for Buddhists seeking to spread their ideas to the West, addressing this consideration might be important; especially in the light of an increasingly secular West.

I should begin by mentioning that it is not my intention in this essay to make claims about what Buddhism is or isn’t. Neither is it my aim to imply that the following is necessarily or exactly how Siddhartha Gautama (the founder and Buddha) originally intended it. It is also not my aim to suggest that what I am saying is consistent with the Pali Canon or any other Buddhist scripture. Lastly, it is not my aim to suggest that what I describe is consistent with the majority of practicing Buddhists, or even a considerable number of them.

Not that any of these things might not be true, but the fact is that I am still a beginning learner, and I simply can’t presume to know to what degree my thesis applies. It is not really my concern to uphold or justify any particular dogma, doctrine, or religion. Rather, I prefer to explore good and useful ideas which may commonly be elements from different religions and philosophies, without concern for semantic labels or quibbles over whether I qualify as this religion or that.

What I do claim is this:

First, Buddhism appears to have a wide range of conceptions among its practitioners. It has a very large number of different schools and sects, and their historic and doctrinal relationship to one another is complex. Both between and within these schools can be found a spectrum of practice that ranges from the very religious to the very secular. By ‘religious’ I mean that which includes a great deal of ritual and many transcendental and supernatural-like ideas. By ‘secular’ I mean that which focuses on pragmatic practices which keep to the scientifically-understood natural universe as much as possible. While practice seems dispersed along this spectrum, I do not know of any statistics regarding the proportions of these different types of practitioners. It does seem, however, that practitioners in the West frequently favor the more secular end of that spectrum; but this conclusion is purely anecdotal.

Second, the following naturalistic understanding of karma and rebirth is a general impression I have received after reading various books and online sources that lean in this direction, and after speaking with various like-minded Buddhists (or Buddhism enthusiasts). More importantly, I believe the following to be a ‘good idea’ and a perspective which can provide the naturalist Buddhist explorer ample logic and foundation to the rest of Buddhist philosophy.

 

Modern Correlates to Ancient Understandings
Many ‘life philosophies’ have an underpinning which is a particular understanding or perspective on the world, followed by a way of dealing with that world, followed by conclusions on practice (or ‘oughts’ or prescriptives). In the West for example, ancient Stoic philosophy was divided into Physics, Logic, and Ethics. Each branch proceeded the next and was founded upon the conclusions of its predecessor.

Of course, it is the first stage (understanding of the world or ‘Physics’ in the ancient sense of the word) which has changed considerably over the centuries thanks to the many advances in science. These changes have rendered the worldviews of some philosophies completely illegitimate. This has the effect of destabilizing the logic and prescriptives on which those philosophies were based.

But in many cases, we find that the logic and prescriptives of ancient philosophies are maintained because the original worldview on which they were based is still ‘essentially’ legitimate given the new scientific understanding. Or, perhaps, it might be better to say that the perspective derived from the ancient and the modern worldview are similar enough so as to still provide the same basis for following the logic and prescriptives of that philosophy. Yet, often, it may take a reinterpretation of those ancient perspectives in the light of our modern understanding in order to see how the foundation of a philosophy is actually maintained.

However, we must be cautious in this sort of endeavor. The more harmful among the risks of this line of thinking is the temptation to bend scientific theory to our will, slightly distorting its meaning into a pseudoscientific understanding so as to match up to what is required as a foundation to the philosophy we are dealing with. This distortion of scientific findings can sometimes be intentional on the part of a charlatan, but more often it is the result of simple ignorance of science or its theories or its principles, and unconscious wishful thinking. An example of this unfortunate tendency is the New Age misrepresentation of quantum mechanics as suggesting that consciousness creates or determines reality – something that quantum mechanics simply does not mean to imply.1 Another example are various distortions of Relativity to justify some religious or philosophic idea about supernatural dimensional planes, a subjective universe,2 immortality in a timeless realm, or other miracles and pseudoscience.

Not only is it not my intention to distort science, but it is also not my intention to invent fanciful-but-possible stories which happen to fit with known science – even as it is. I am a believer in the wisdom of Ockham’s Razor when it comes to reaching belief on matters of fact. It is always possible to construct false fantasies which ‘happen to fit the facts’. Rather than proposing new facts which ‘might be possible given what we know’ it is instead my aim simply to point out a perspective – a way of looking at the facts, such that many of the logic and prescriptives of Buddhism might still be well founded. Therefore what follows is not some hypothesis about reality that requires additional proof, but simply a choice to look at the facts we already agree on scientifically from a certain perspective.

As such, it may be the case that there are modern correlates for ancient understandings of the universe. These maintain the validity of those ancient understandings to the extent that they remain valid foundations for the systems of ethics and practice upon which they were based. These correlates may place the ancient understanding into the role of simile to the modern one. But preferably, the correlate should take the form of being merely a less precise description of the modern understanding; perhaps even simply a result of translation from another language (which would be the ideal type of correlate).

The important thing is that we not take the philosophy first, and then try to find a perspective on the modern universe that preserves it. As is a common distinction between science and pseudoscience for example, the issue of our starting motivation is an important one here. We should simply ask, do the logic and prescriptives of a philosophy still seem wise in the light of our modern universe? The correlates should then begin to emerge naturally as we answer that question. Not all philosophies will yield a positive answer to that question, but many modern people are finding that, in the case of Buddhism, modern correlates to its ideas are often surprisingly on base.

 

Is This Buddhism?

As religions go, Buddhism may be ideally suited to this sort of thought or investigation. As mentioned, there are a wide range of takes on Buddhism. In addition, according to Buddhist teaching, Siddhartha Gautama himself stressed that adherents should question and examine all claims, including those of Buddhist scripture and even his own.3 It is this sort of ongoing examination in the light of new information that can help many older philosophies and religions evolve in positive, more enlightened directions. For Buddhism in particular, this openness and positive skepticism, as espoused in the Kalama Sutra, may be one of the reasons for the flexibility, longevity, and relevance of Buddhism.

If a naturalistic interpretation of Buddhism seems like a retrofit or even a perversion of the original, remember that in ancient times (500 BCE or so) the thought of a dualistic supernatural realm distinct from our natural universe may have been unfamiliar or at least not as universal as it is to spirituality today. It seems, rather, that the wording of many ancient philosophies, East and West, suggest a unity of the entirety of existence. In the West, Stoic ideas of an ‘ever-living fire’ and the Logos (the rational order that governs the universe) were considered a part of the natural and material whole.4 In the East for example, the very notion of the Tao was not meant as a supernatural ‘magical force’ as some might view it today, but rather a description of our universe and how it operates.5 These concepts were not thought of as magical loopholes to our natural world, but were instead attempts to explain the nature and operation of this universe in which we live.

As described in my article on visiting a Buddhist temple for the first time, Gautama specifically chose not to focus on the metaphysical.6 Yet, he included concepts of karma and rebirth. This would seem to support the notion that these were seen as aspects of how this material universe functions. Furthermore, Gautama altered the notion of reincarnation to rebirth and in this, removed the idea that there is a continuous indestructible ‘soul’ which survives death and moves on to the next life form. In Gautama’s model, nothing transcends or is transmitted from one life to the next. This is a crucial difference between Hindu reincarnation and Buddhist rebirth. Here we see the Buddha himself taking the first steps to interpret rebirth in naturalistic terms (more on rebirth later). If anything, a naturalistic interpretation of Buddhist concepts may be a return to something nearer Gautama’s original conception, albeit adjusted somewhat to account for new physical information gained over the last 25 centuries.

As it turns out, substantive adjustments aren’t really necessary so much as rewordings, clarifications, and perhaps a few additional perspectives. This fact may be one reason why so many scientifically-minded folks find Buddhism attractive.

 

What Karma is Not

Although many readers are likely already aware of this, I think it is important to mention a few misconceptions regarding karma as it is. First, karma is not something you receive from doing good or bad things. Karma is actually the act itself. If you steal something – that act is karma. Later on, if you suffer for it, that is the fruit of your karma. Because of rampant misconceptions in the U.S. at least, this may be a difficult mental adjustment to make for some folks. I know at least that those around me (non Buddhists) have always described karma as this magical stuff that builds up on your spiritual bank account when you perform certain acts – but it isn’t; it’s the original act itself that is the karma. Thinking otherwise seems to be a semantic and conceptual misunderstanding that is common among most non-Buddhist people I have associated with.

Secondly, there is a misconception about the connection between the act and the suffering. Matthew Bortolin is an ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Community and is also a Star Wars fan who recently wrote a book outlining Buddhist themes found in the film series called The Dharma of Star Wars. In that book he describes karma saying:

Karma is not a cosmic decree of justice or system of reward and punishment. If you break your leg today it is not because you swore at your brother yesterday. That is not the functioning of the law of karma. The remorse you feel for swearing at your brother is the fruit of karma, not the fact of the bone fracture. Similarly, an act of kindness does not always necessarily produce happiness – the intention behind the action or thought is of critical importance. If one performs a kind deed in the hopes of being rewarded by the stars or God then that deed is not good karma.7

It seems, however, that if you broke your leg because you were distracted by a nagging sense of guilt, then a broken leg could be said to be the result of “bad” karma. It may also be the case that if your brother broke your leg because he was upset at you for swearing at him, this is karma as well.

The open source online encyclopedia Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) currently says the following of karma:

In Buddhism, the ‘Law of Karma’ refers to “cause and effect”. The word Karma literally means “action” – often indicating intent or cause. Buddhists believe that the sum of their previous actions creates their present state and that the actions they perform now will create their future. Therefore, they try to stop performing ‘negative actions’ and perform ‘positive actions’ instead.

American scholar and author Alexander Berzin has created an online archive of Buddhist teachings at www.berzinarchives.com. On that website, he discusses karma as follows:

We could talk about a network connecting physical points in one moment, like all the different parts of a machine. That is how we usually think of a network, isn’t it? Here, let’s change dimensions and think of a network in terms of connecting different moments of time. We acted like this; we acted like that. I yelled then; I yelled another time; and then I yelled again.

For example, each time I complain, the karmic force of that act networks with the karmic forces of previous times I complained. The more times I complain, the stronger the network of karmic force from complaining grows and the stronger its effects can be. Here, the abstraction becomes what we in the West might call a “karmic pattern.”

This is what karmic networks are talking about, and I think this way of explaining it makes a lot better sense of the whole picture of karma than using such words as “collection of merit.” It is certainly not a collection of points that we keep in a book and, with enough points or “merit,” we win a prize.8

We must remember that when we hear karma being discussed, we are looking through a filter of culture and perspective. The filter of language can often lead to inexact translation as well. Thirdly, we are looking through a filter of two and a half millennia. Add to that the fact that many native practitioners in the East have overlaid a variety of dogmas and it becomes quite easy for a westerner hearing these concepts to interpret them exclusively as some sort of cosmic magical force.

 

What Karma Is

When one carefully examines the above, one can see that karma is an abstract way of describing and discussing cause and effect. It is basically the same as saying that if we act atrociously, then we should expect consequences for those actions. These consequences take several forms, but each of them is a result of the simple interactions of physical events.

It’s as though one were to notice that slapping another person makes them angry at you. However, karma goes deeper than this, and therein lies the value of its perspective. The Law of Karma recognizes that our world is a giant intricate system of causes and effects, only the most simple and direct of which we tend to notice on a regular basis.

For example, we can easily observe and comprehend a single neuron in the brain as it fires and causes its neighbor to fire. But now consider an entire brain made up of billions of these neurons, all linked in a complex web. Trying to comprehend the sheer complexity of its activity is impossible. It is at times like this when abstraction is needed in order to grasp what’s happening in any useful sense. We therefore speak of the function of various regions of the brain and the general implications of “brain activity” moving throughout different parts.

Likewise, in the complex web of interactions throughout our world, our slapping someone has many more effects than we can possibly comprehend on an event-to-event level. The individual’s immediate reaction might be analogous to the single neuron’s firing. But consider just a few of these additional effects…

1) How will this effect the victim’s psyche later?
2) How will his psyche effect his own future interactions with others?
3) How will those interactions affect the overall average condition of the society in which you live?
4) What discussions will the victim have with others about this event?
5) What will others think of you?
6) What actions might others take in response to their thoughts?
7) How will you be affected by the victim’s response?
8) How will that response affect your psyche and interactions with others?
9) How will you performing the initial action effect you, your emotions, and your thoughts?
10) How will this action add to the cumulative habit-building patterns of your behavior and your future inclinations?

These are only ten simple effects from one simple action. But remember that each question in this list is itself an abstraction of much more complex events. When we ask, “what discussions will the victim have with others” we are really asking about a multitude of interactions between the victim and others, and wrapping the entire notion into a subset we label “discussions”. When one thinks along these lines in respect to an entire life, or a lifestyle, it should be apparent just how complex these matters can become, and how important abstractions can be in dealing with them.

Consider a body of water with various motions and waves. In reality, this is a collection of molecules and atoms interacting in a series of complex events. But we use the abstraction of a wave to deal with the overall effect of these interactions. We can watch a wave move from one location to the other with our eyes, even though nothing of substance is actually moving between those locations. We even create complex mathematical formulae to describe the activity and interaction of waves. However, waves don’t actually exist as discrete objects; rather, they are a pattern of the collective causes and effects. We can describe this as an abstraction, in the sense that it is something which is “disassociated from any specific instance… expressing a quality apart from an object” as Merriam-Webster Online defines “abstract”. As the Berzin Archives state:

Question: Are these networks some sort of energy?

No, the networks of karmic force are not forms of energy; they are nonstatic abstractions imputed on a continuum.8

Karma is a conceptual abstraction of the complex web of interactions in our lives. More specifically, karma refers to the willful actions of intentional decision makers and the effects of those actions on suffering.

Why create such an abstraction? There is a utility to speaking of actions in terms of karma when it comes to our intentions and their effects on a happy life (or something like karma, even if we don’t use that particular word). As mentioned, it would be impractical and perhaps impossible to speak of each and every particular interaction which plays a role in our overall suffering. As with the usefulness of any abstraction, the abstraction of karma allows us to speak of those aspects of action and consequence which go beyond any one particular instance, and which can be found recurrent throughout many varied situations as a norm. This is not unlike the many universally applicable relationships discovered between widely divergent phenomena in the field of complex systems.

One of the remarkable things about the notion of karma is just how deep and robust the concept goes. Everyone can easily see the immediate wisdom that being nice to others engenders the same from them. But consider questions #3, 8, 9, and 10 in the list above. These questions are far more subtle; especially the realization that our intentions behind an action can affect our sense of guilt, our mood, our memories, our preoccupations, and our habits. Indeed, the shape of our brains and our very selves change, based on the habits we build through our actions.

With each new action comes a subtle shift in our character, like the minerals in a water drop slowly building into a stalagmite over decades. This new character will either result in us having a more satisfying or less satisfying and contented life. Most ethics tend to focus greatly on the effects and end results of our actions, but rarely is the intention behind our actions given much focus in today’s way of thinking. We often talk of good character, but rarely address how and why a character forms as it does. Consider again these words on karma from the Berzin Archives:

Participant: It is not adding one to other, but rather one reinforces the other or strengthens it. When I have repeated something, it gets stronger because it includes the second, third, and fourth times.

Correct. The karmic force of the first act networks with the karmic forces from the second, third and fourth repetitions. And not only that, but of course every time we do something, it is slightly different. It is not an exact repetition. This is why “pattern” is a helpful word here. It goes in that direction. This is not like filling a bag with more and more rice, as in a collection of rice.8

Through the idea of karma and its behavior, we can approach these complex issues with a handy conceptualization. In this way, the abstraction of karma allows us to see larger patterns in life. We can easily see and grasp the waves on the water – so much so, that it is difficult not to think of them as real things.

But were we as microscopic mites floating on the water’s surface, we might not even know we were riding waves. We might have to run complex calculations on our surroundings before we figured out the nature and behavior of these waves, much less their existence. But even after learning of these waves intellectually, it would be difficult to have the perceptual deep understanding of their existence and activity as we macro-scale entities looking at the surface of the water have.

For another analogy, consider the difference between knowing intellectually that the Earth is traveling around the Sun, and perceiving and intuitively grasping yourself moving on a merry-go-round. Karma, as a concept, attempts to give us this larger, more intuitive, wave-function view of the intricacies of our actions and their results. This is the conceptual utility of the notion of karma, when taken in a fully naturalistic sense.

 

Rebirth, Commonly Understood

If the notion of karma is difficult for a naturalist, the notion of rebirth is even more so. First, it should be noted that most Buddhists don’t technically believe in ‘reincarnation’ per se, but rather ‘rebirth’. Reincarnation is more of a Hindu concept which involves the transmigration of souls from one body to another.9 This apparently is yet another common misconception about Buddhism.

That isn’t to say, however, that the concept of rebirth as it is accepted by millions of Buddhists is secular and compatible with naturalism. Quite often it is treated not much different from reincarnation in terms of its supernatural-like conception. Even a pure reading of Buddhist rebirth cannot easily be thought of as purely material and compatible with modern physical science.

Given Siddhartha Gautama’s preference for addressing the challenges of this life, and given the influence of Hindu reincarnation in his time and place, it almost seems as though his notion of rebirth is an olive branch to the Hindi. He has retained a connectivity of sorts between the lives of people, but has removed transmigrating souls. Therefore, what remains in rebirth offers some concepts useful to the naturalist, even if he doesn’t share all of the ways rebirth is interpreted by all Buddhists.

 

Impermanence and Consciousness

While interpretations of rebirth vary, it can be said more broadly that Buddhists don’t believe in souls, or any sort of impermanent self. They believe our egos are the result of the coming together (aggregation) of many different individual parts. These aggregates include our bodies, our perceptions, our feelings, and our psychological dispositions. When those parts cease to be formed into those aggregations, this illusion of self ceases10. In this way, a ‘person’ is much like a rainbow or, again, a wave: simply a pattern that appears to be a discrete entity which is actually the result of accumulated intersecting parts. This much is indeed fully compatible with a modern, purely materialist view of human beings and nature. In fact, given the time in which it was conceived, amazingly so.

The most confusing thing to wonder, then, is what exactly is carrying on from one to another in rebirth? Rebirth springs from the concept of karma. We often read of one’s ‘karma carrying on to another life’. But surprisingly, when we read in detail what’s being described, it is not always the carrying on of karma to another of our lives. Rather, it is the continuation of karma (cause and effect) into the lives of others. This is what is meant by some Buddhist authors when they say “another life”.

To understand why this isn’t always expressed more bluntly, one must think again of the Buddhist concept of no-self. Think of the phrase, “my future life”. If there is truly no self, then what does it mean to say “my” in this phrase? In physics two electrons with the same properties are said to be identical; indistinguishable. In other words, and electron is an electron, is an electron. This has special consequences for statistical mechanics. For the Buddhist, a similar conception applies to our experience of consciousness.

While we may differ in our memories, thoughts, attitudes, and more, all of these things are due to impermanent aggregates (the particles making up our neural structures, inputs, and so on). The one thing we have during our lifetimes is that intangible first-person experience of consciousness. This is what consciousness philosophers call “quale” (plural, “qualia”). Qualia are “what it is like” to have experiences as a living being.

As far as Buddhists can tell, once you strip away the particular aggregates making up our personhood, this experience of consciousness is identical in all conscious beings. Like the electron, consciousness is consciousness, is consciousness. Philosopher David Chalmers suspects that consciousness may be an inherent property of the universe wherever certain systems of organization exist in nature.11 This would probably be compatible with Buddhism in my view.

This doesn’t mean that consciousness, like some sort of ghost, drifts from person to person. If that were so, then we would merely be replacing the word ‘soul’ with ‘consciousness’. Consciousness doesn’t exist without aggregates, but more importantly, wherever certain aggregates exist, so too does consciousness, as a general fact of nature – and all instances of it are indistinguishable. This conception of consciousness is one reason why some Buddhist authors don’t go out of their way to distinguish between the possible interpretations of the phrase “another life”.

Consider the following, from David S. Noss’ “A History of the World’s Religions”:

This does not mean, the Buddha said, that one who is born is different from the preceding person who has passed his or her karma on at death, nor does it mean that one is the same. Such an issue is as meaningless as to say that the body is different from the self or that self and body are the same.

Here, if we understand the conception of ourselves as aggregates, and the universality of the phenomenon of consciousness, it becomes easier to see why the question of whether or not the person passing on karma to another are the same is meaningless. The author goes on to say:

Since there is no permanent ego-entity accompanying the skandhas [aggregates], discussions as to whether the successive personalities in a continuous series of rebirths are the same or different lack point. It is better simply to know that a specific necessity (karma) leads to the origination of one life as the total result of the having-been-ness of another, and that connection is as close as that of cause and effect… It is difficult to construe, but the fundamental fact remains – that what one does and thinks now carries over into tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.12

 

Further Explanation and Similes for Rebirth

A common way of explaining rebirth is to use the example of lighting one flame with another. This is a decent approach for several reasons. For one, a flame itself is not a single thing. It is a form made up of moving particles which are continuously replaced, much like ourselves. This is reminiscent of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who, also noting aggregates in nature, said, “You cannot step twice into the same river.”13 In Complex Systems Theory, this is similar (but perhaps even more precisely applicable to persons) to autopoiesis; the process of a system which keeps its basic form but replaces itself with new material.14

In addition, while one flame lights another they are clearly no longer the same flame. One simply brought about the other. In this respect one is simply observing that lives affect other lives.

For purposes of seeing rebirth from a naturalistic point of view, a more useful simile would be the commonly used example of pressing of a signet ring into sealing wax. This notion is used to show how causation (karma) can carry on, without any transfer of substance.15

When we think about what’s happening with the sealing wax, we can see that a mold is being formed. Molds can carry that pattern forward. If we were to extrapolate this common Buddhist simile for rebirth into what we know of the naturalistic world, we could say the following:

A person (his choices, actions, words, etc.) affects his environment. A person is also affected by his environment. His thoughts, memories, and even personality are all affected by environment. When a person affects the environment, that environment can go on to affect the very nature of another person. In this way, the environment is like the sealing wax; a mold. This mold can then reproduce similar patterns in nature, be they in the environment or in neural structures, or more.

Again, complex systems often reveal many repeating patterns in nature. In Chaos theory, this might be akin to repeating patterns found in fractals. While these are much more uniform, predictable, and exactly duplicated, there has been shown a general fractal-like activity within natural systems.16

Does this mean that my nephew is actually Elvis reborn? No. It just means that his persona will be somewhat affected by growing up in a world that once contained Elvis. Maybe he might one day store in his mind the words to Heartbreak Hotel – words (patterns) which also resided in the mind of Elvis, and now many others. But even if he doesn’t, we’ll never know the many subtle ways his mind has been affected by the minds of others through the causal nexus that is karma.

If a person is the pattern of information created by the formation of neural systems in the brain, and if those patterns can be recreated from one brain to another, and since there is no impermanent soul, then what does it mean when we find parts of one mind echoing within another? Certainly, this notion doesn’t vivify the version of reincarnation as commonly accepted by many, but it is at the very least food for thought, even for the naturalist.

 

Rebirth for the Naturalist

But this would mean that rebirth isn’t simply linear, going from one particular person to another particular person. Instead, rebirth is happening between multiple personas all the time. Indeed, this is exactly what some Buddhist authors suggest in saying that we are never the same person from moment to moment; we are constantly being reborn as our natures change from the effects of karma (the causes and effects from all people’s choices).

If naturalists get past their immediate knee-jerk reaction to what appears at first to be pure mysticism, they can then begin to see many of the subtleties of Buddhist concepts, which offer some insight and perspectives on important notions relating to life in a universe of ever-changing composite materials.

 

Conclusion

The naturalist might then wonder if all of this is just some poetic way of phrasing things. He might wonder what the purpose is of going through the gymnastics of sorting out the mystical from the natural in the various renditions of these concepts.

First, many of these concepts relating to karma and rebirth are useful, even profound, in grasping what is perhaps a more existential and unbiased philosophical look at our world and our lives. Secondly, the real benefit in Buddhism are its applicable practices relating to meditation, mindfulness, and so on. It is a shame that many naturalists get overly distracted by concepts like rebirth to the extent that they miss the opportunity to learn about these other practices.

We should realize that, although much is made of rebirth in the western descriptions of Buddhism, many Buddhists see it as a relatively minor footnote. If we can at least see the truths within some interpretations of karma and rebirth as relating to a materialist universe, it might help us move on and focus on the core of Buddhism, which is the practice of mindfulness and the ethical notions found in the eight-fold path. If we do so, we can then take the time to get a clearer picture of those elements within Buddhism which are every bit as applicable and useful to the naturalist.

 

 

Endnotes

  1. Victor J. Stenger, Quantum Quackery (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  2. Denis Dutton, Delusions of Postmodernism (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  3. Kalama Sutra, Anguttara Nikaya, Tipitaka (LINK, 22 April 2006); Wikipedia, Kalama Sutra (LINK, 22 April 2006); DT Strain, Question Everything (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  4. Wikipedia, Stoicism (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  5. Religious Tolerance, Taoism (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  6. David S. Noss, A History of the World’s Religions (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall 2003), 174-175.
  7. Matthew Bortolin, The Dharma of Star Wars (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005), 112-113.
  8. Alexander Berzin, The Mechanism of Karma (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  9. Wikipedia, Rebirth (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  10. David S. Noss, 176.
  11. David Chalmers, Consciousness and its Place in Nature (LINK, 22 April 2006).
  12. David S. Noss, 177.
  13. Samuel Enoch Stumpf, Philosophy: History & Problems, Fifth Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill), 13.
  14. Alder Fuller, Autopoiesis and Dissipative Structures (Euglena Edu: LINK, 22 April 2006).
  15. David S. Noss, 176.
  16. Florent Gabon, Tino Kluge, Daniela Mancuso, Andreas Putz, Fractals and Dynamic Systems (University of Wales, Aberystwyth: LINK, 22 April 2006).

 

 

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