Here's one of the videos up on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles page. It's all about reincarnation.
I want to create a brand of Buddhist evaporated milk called Reincarnation Evaporated Milk!
Here is one of the videos that are linked as a related video. This guy's response is based on the notion that if you believe that there is a realm other than the material one, then there is life after death.
Here is a supposed contrast/comparison between the Islamic and Buddhist perspectives that's really long. These guy's understanding of Buddhism is vastly different from mine. So much so that it would take far longer than I care to spend to explain how.
Here is an NBC report on the subject with Deepak Choprah making more money for himself by promising his readers life after death. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just do this myself.
I got this in the email the other day:
"I have studied the Nishijima version of Shobogenzo quite a lot years ago. Master Nishijima's attitude towards rebirth/reincarnation is essentially the same i myself hold, however i took and take objection to his persistent opinion that the teaching of literal rebirth is not Buddhist. I have studied Dogen quite allot and must come to the conclusion that for Dogen literal rebirth is clearly part of his Buddhist view (it has nothing to do with the Senika view of eternalism). Like i said my own opinion about this matter is essentially the same as master Nishijima's but that view should not be forced upon Dogen, it is not appropiate and i feel that master Nishijima does exactly that. When reading Dogen we should try to think like an ancient Japanese monk who viewed the world in a Mahayana Buddhist way and take what we can from it in our modern world without trying to alter aspects of it that seem alien or even superstitious to us.
"Anyway master Nishijima persistence on this view somehow put me off his Shobogenzo, that is just how my flawed mind works. It has been years since i have studied his version of the Shobogenzo and i feel i would like to own the Shobogenzo again so i was really excited about the Kazuaki Tanahshi's version until i read your blog. The same things that bother you about this translation would bother me to! So i'm considering to buy the Nishijima version again instead. It has been so long since i have studied it so:
"My real question is: Does the Nishijima version sneak in some of his what i feel are modern views about rebirth/reincarnation or is the text as literal as possible and reflect Dogen's teachings purely?
"I severely respect master Nishijima and mean no disrespect at all, he is a great teacher."
Nishijima Roshi leaves all of Dogen's references to rebirth within Shobogenzo just as they are in the original. People are getting reborn all over the place in that thing! When people questioned Nishijima about this during talks, he always explained that these references were meant metaphorically, not literally. However, within the text of his translation he never alters any of these references, nor does he even add any footnotes saying they are metaphorical.
To me, the more direct questions are 1) What do we today mean by "literal rebirth" and 2) why does it matter if Dogen believed in it or not?
In the case of the questioner, the answer to #2 is he wants to know if Nishijima's translation is reliable. The answer to that is, yes, it is. So is Kaz Tanahashi's fine translation.
But I think for most people #2 is important because we regard Dogen as a religious authority. If Dogen agrees with other religious authorities like Deepak Choprah on the question of literal rebirth, we can feel that much more relieved. As Mr. Choprah has learned, people will pay good money to be told by a religious authority figure that they will live forever. People have paid damn good money to hear that from religious authority figures for a very long time and in cultures across the globe. It is quite a reliable strategy for making a living.
But Deepak Chorpah doesn't know anything more about life after death than you do, dear reader. Dogen didn't know anything more about life after death when he was alive and writing than you do either. I also do not know anything more than you. Unlike the "she" in John Lennon's song She Said, She Said, I do not know what it's like to be dead.
("She" was actually Peter Fonda, out of his mind on LSD who said this to Lennon while they were tripping together in the Hollywood hills. I was once in line at Ralph's grocery store in West Hollywood with Peter Fonda. He was alive. But after Ghost Rider his career was dead. Perhaps that's what he meant?)
I don't necessarily think that Mr. Choprah is cynically exploiting his readers by telling them lies. He says what he says in order to create a reassuring feedback loop from himself to his readership and back again that helps relieve his own fears of death. This is also a time-tested strategy and appears to work for some people.
Onto question #1, what do we mean by "literal rebirth?"
The late e-sangha said this about me in reference to the above: "Brad Warner is a materialist i.e. he denies rebirth; and therefore, the only conclusion he can assert is that the mind is merely an ephiphenomena (sic) of brain activity. That is principally why knowledgable (sic) Buddhists take issue with him. That being so, he isn’t teaching Buddhism, but instead teaching a Worldly dharma that he and his teacher call 'Zen'.”
As I said before (I think), I do believe that the mind is the product of brain activity. That's what epiphenomena (not ephiphenomena) means. But I also believe that brain is an epiphenomena of mind activity. The mutual inter-relationship causes both to appear.
But that's beside the point. The e-sangha guys believed in literal rebirth. For them it was very important that others also believed that. If they thought someone who claimed to be Buddhist denied literal rebirth, they labeled them non-Buddhist and tried to cast doubt upon them by using phrases like, "That is principally why knowledgable (sic) Buddhists take issue with him." There is no evidence I am aware of that any knowledgeable Buddhists (whoever they might be) take issue with me about my stance on rebirth. It's good to be careful of vague unattributed claims like this in general, by the way.
But what in Heck's name is "literal rebirth?" When you really come right down to it I suppose it means, to most people, that someone is telling them they'll live forever. Literal rebirth means that someday I will actually die as a person in some place and I will get reborn in another place as another person, celestial being or animal.
This is not what Buddhism teaches. Well, it's not what the kind of Buddhism I teach teaches anyway. There is no "literal you" to get "literally reborn." This is the heart of the argument.
And Dogen is pretty clear that there is no "literal you." So the idea that he taught anything like what most people in the Western world mean when they use the phrase "literal rebirth" is absurd.
Does that make sense?
You'll forgive me in a year or so, I hope, when you see the above article reworked into part of a book.