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Dhamma Without Rebirth?
by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

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In line with the present-day stress on the need for religious teachings to be personally relevant and directly verifiable, in certain Dhamma circles the time-honored Buddhist doctrine of rebirth has come up for severe re-examination. Although only a few contemporary Buddhist thinkers still go so far as to suggest that this doctrine be scrapped as "unscientific," another opinion has been gaining ground to the effect that whether or not rebirth itself be a fact, the doctrine of rebirth has no essential bearings on the practice of Dhamma and thence no claim to an assured place in the Buddhist teachings. The Dhamma, it is said, is concerned solely with the here and now, with helping us to resolve our personal hangups through increased self-awareness and inner honesty. All the rest of Buddhism we can now let go as the religious trappings of an ancient culture utterly inappropriate for the Dhamma of our technological age.

现代人对宗教教导强调有必要与个人相关并直接可证,相应地在某些佛教圈子里,久经考验的轮回教说在经受苛刻的重新审查。尽管只有少数几位当代佛教思想家仍走得过远,建议将此教说作为非科学予以废弃,另有一种观点已开始流行,意谓不管轮回本身真实与否,轮回的教说对佛法修持无根本重要性,因此在佛法教导中 无必要地位。有人说,佛法只关乎即刻当下,助我们藉提升自觉与内在诚实,解决个人难题。佛教的其余一切,只是一个古老文化的宗教性装饰,作为我们当今科技时代的佛法已彻底不合宜,如今可以放弃了。

If we suspend our own predilections for the moment and instead go directly to our sources, we come upon the indisputable fact that the Buddha himself taught rebirth and taught it as a basic tenet of his teaching. Viewed in their totality, the Buddha's discourses show us that far from being a mere concession to the outlook prevalent in his time or an Asiatic cultural contrivance, the doctrine of rebirth has tremendous implications for the entire course of Dhamma practice, affecting both the aim with which the practice is taken up and the motivation with which it is followed through to completion.

假如暂时放下个人偏见,直接去我们的来源查看,便会发现一个不可否认的事实:佛陀本人讲授了轮回,并且是把它作为一个基本要旨来讲授的。综观佛陀说法的经文, 我们可以看见,轮回教说远非仅是对他那个时代的流行观念或者对 一种亚洲文化构想的折衷接受,相反,它对于佛法修持的整个过程意义巨大,既影响着起始修持的目的,也影响著把修持坚持到底的动力。

The aim of the Buddhist path is liberation from suffering, and the Buddha makes it abundantly clear that the suffering from which liberation is needed is the suffering of bondage to samsara, the round of repeated birth and death. To be sure, the Dhamma does have an aspect which is directly visible and personally verifiable. By direct inspection of our own experience we can see that sorrow, tension, fear and grief always arise from our greed, aversion and ignorance, and thus can be eliminated with the removal of those defilements. The importance of this directly visible side of Dhamma practice cannot be underestimated, as it serves to confirm our confidence in the liberating efficacy of the Buddhist path. However, to downplay the doctrine of rebirth and explain the entire import of the Dhamma as the amelioration of mental suffering through enhanced self-awareness is to deprive the Dhamma of those wider perspectives from which it derives its full breadth and profundity. By doing so one seriously risks reducing it in the end to little more than a sophisticated ancient system of humanistic psychotherapy.


The Buddha himself has clearly indicated that the root problem of human existence is not simply the fact that we are vulnerable to sorrow, grief and fear, but that we tie ourselves through our egoistic clinging to a constantly self-regenerating pattern of birth, aging, sickness and death within which we undergo the more specific forms of mental affliction. He has also shown that the primary danger in the defilements is their causal role in sustaining the round of rebirths. As long as they remain unabandoned in the deep strata of the mind, they drag us through the round of becoming in which we shed a flood of tears "greater than the waters of the ocean." When these points are carefully considered, we then see that the practice of Dhamma does not aim at providing us with a comfortable reconciliation with our present personalities and our situation in the world, but at initiating a far-reaching inner transformation which will issue in our deliverance from the cycle of worldly existence in its entirety.

佛陀本人已清楚阐明,人类生存的根本矛盾非仅是我们善感于忧愁、 悲哀与恐惧,而是我们藉着我执、自缚于生老病死的连续再生模式,在 其中经受种种形式的精神痛苦。他还说明,杂染最主要的危险在于,它们是维持轮回继续之因。只要继续存在于心智的深 度层次不予弃绝,它们会拖着我们继续那缘起的循环,在其中我们的泛滥之泪多于大海之水。对这些要点作仔细思考,我们便可看见,佛法修持的目的,并非是为我们的当前个性与在世处境之间提供一项舒适的调停,而在于启动一个影响深远的内在转化过程,它将会引导我们从世俗的生存循环中彻底解脱。

Admittedly, for most of us the primary motivation for entering upon the path of Dhamma has been a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with the routine course of our unenlightened lives rather than a keen perception of the dangers in the round of rebirths. However, if we are going to follow the Dhamma through to its end and tap its full potential for conferring peace and higher wisdom, it is necessary for the motivation of our practice to mature beyond that which originally induced us to enter the path. Our underlying motivation must grow toward those essential truths disclosed to us by the Buddha and, encompassing those truths, must use them to nourish its own capacity to lead us toward the realization of the goal.

诚然,对我们大多数人来说,走上佛法之路的主要动机,一直是对自己无明人生的常规轨迹有一股啃啮于心的不满足感,而非 是对轮回重生的危险有著敏锐的警悟。然而,我们若是想彻底奉行佛法,得益于它的全部潜力所赋予的宁静与高等智慧,则有必要使我们修持的动机成熟起来,超越引导我们走上此道的初始因素。我们的基本动机必须朝着佛陀揭示的那些根本真理而增长起来,随着对这些真理的包容,以之滋养潜能,引导我们实现(解脱的)目标。 

Our motivation acquires the requisite maturity by the cultivation of right view, the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, which as explained by the Buddha includes an understanding of the principles of kamma and rebirth as fundamental to the structure of our existence. Though contemplating the moment is the key to the development of insight meditation, it would be an erroneous extreme to hold that the practice of Dhamma consists wholly in maintaining mindfulness of the present. The Buddhist path stresses the role of wisdom as the instrument of deliverance, and wisdom must comprise not only a penetration of the moment in its vertical depths, but a comprehension of the past and future horizons within which our present existence unfolds. To take full cognizance of the principle of rebirth will give us that panoramic perspective from which we can survey our lives in their broader context and total network of relationships. This will spur us on in our own pursuit of the path and will reveal the profound significance of the goal toward which our practice points, the end of the cycle of rebirths as mind's final liberation from suffering.

我们的动机藉由正见的培养获得必要的成熟,正见居佛说八正道之首,这其中便包括对业 力与轮回原理对我们生存结构之根本重要性的理解。尽管思维当下是内观禪修的关键,然而认定整个佛法修持只 是对当下保持念住,是一个极度的错误。佛法之路强调,智慧是解脱的工具,而智慧不仅必须包括对当下在纵向深度上的透视,而且必须包括对过去与未来在横向轴线上的领悟,我们当前的存在就在其中展开。对轮回原理的充分认识,将会提供全景视野,我们得以在更广阔的背景与全副的关系网络下审视人生。这将促使我们加快在这条道路上的步伐,也将为我们揭示修持目标的深远意义,即心智最终从苦中解脱时轮回的终止。

最近訂正 5-15-2009