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Fundamentals of Buddhism

Today we are going to continue a theme that we
began two weeks ago when we talked about the teaching
of karma. We are going to consider the results of karma in
the next life, in other words rebirth. But before I begin to
consider specifically the Buddhist teaching regarding
rebirth, I think we need to spend a little bit of time on the
concept of rebirth in general. This is because it is a
concept which many people have difficulty with,
particularly over the last few decades when we have
become increasingly conditioned to think in what passes
for scientific terms, in what most people would naively
believe to be scientific terms. Thinking in this way has
caused many people to discard the idea of rebirth as
something that smacks of superstition, that is a part of an
old-fashioned way of looking at the world. So I think we
need to redress the balance and create a certain amount of
openness to the concept of rebirth before we treat
specifically the Buddhist teaching on rebirth.
There are a number of approaches that we can take
to what we might call outlining the case for the reality
of rebirth. One line which we might take would be to
recall that in almost all the major cultures of the world,
at one time or another, there had been a strong belief in
the reality of rebirth. This is particularly true in India
where the idea of rebirth can be traced back to the very
earliest period of Indian civilization where all the major
Indian religions, be they theism or atheism, be they
schools of Hinduism or non-Hindu doctrines like
Jainism, believe in the reality of rebirth. Similarly, in
other cultures there has been a belief in rebirth, as for