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The Symbolism of Birth and Rebirth in Faith Traditions

Discussion in 'Scriptural Debates' started by adrian009, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Religious Teachers often use symbolism within the natural world to convey spiritual truths. One of the most powerful and evocative symbol is the use of the birth of a child. It is an event of profound significance in any culture. The Baha'i writings use such symbolism to describe the relationship between this world and the world to come.

    For example:

    As to thy question regarding discoveries made by the soul after it hath put off its human form: certainly, that world is a world of perceptions and discoveries, for the interposed veil will be lifted away and the human spirit will gaze upon souls that are above, below, and on a par with itself. It is similar to the condition of a human being in the womb, where his eyes are veiled, and all things are hidden away from him. Once he is born out of the uterine world and entereth this life, he findeth it, with relation to that of the womb, to be a place of perceptions and discoveries, and he observeth all things through his outer eye. In the same way, once he hath departed this life, he will behold, in that world whatsoever was hidden from him here: but there he will look upon and comprehend all things with his inner eye. There will he gaze on his fellows and his peers, and those in the ranks above him, and those below. As for what is meant by the equality of souls in the all-highest realm, it is this: the souls of the believers, at the time when they first become manifest in the world of the body, are equal, and each is sanctified and pure. In this world, however, they will begin to differ one from another, some achieving the highest station, some a middle one, others remaining at the lowest stage of being. Their equal status is at the beginning of their existence; the differentiation followeth their passing away.
    Abdu'l-Baha

    Bahá'í Reference Library - Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Pages 169-172

    One of the problems with the use of symbolism is misinterpretation. The Teacher wishes to convey one Teaching but then somewhere down the track their followers understand it to mean something completely different. I would consider the above passage is clear enough but then I've been studying these writings for years and there are other passages that provide a coherent theology and discount meanings that were never intended.

    So what are examples from the writings of your faith or tradition that use birth? What message is being conveyed? How do you know what your Teacher originally intended?
     
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  2. wizanda

    wizanda One Accepts All Religious Texts
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    By exegesis - Each can be examined against its own context, then researched with its own source texts, and then what came after it.
    Yeshua's death can be seen that even when mankind dies soon in the Great Tribulation, God can resurrect the saints after.

    In my opinion. :innocent:
     
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  3. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Exactly.

    The resurrection of Christ is an excellent example. Through Christ's death we are reborn into Eternal life. The old form perishes to give way to the new.

    Mark 2:22
    1 Corinthians 15:49-50

    Is there anything ambigious about the resurrection narrative?
     
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  4. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    In Buddhism Birth as human being is only one way to be born. Depending on the karma one accumulated in previous life, birth as human being is suffering, both for the mom and the child. Mom suffer from pain under birth, the child suffer from both the birth and of suroundings just after birth.
    Until the teaching has been absorbed and one see that clinging to life is one of the sufferings ther will be suffering.

    But then you have rebirth (not reincarnation) Rebirth is happening all the time when cells dies and get reborn. so when you are born as a baby and the body you have when you die at old age is not the same body at all. all cells has been changed.

    Reincarnation is the birth from ife time to lifetime, But we are not born only as human beings, we can be born as animals, insects, germs, even solid objects like mountains (not everyone understand that one)
    But also be born as higher beings like Devas. it all depend on the amount of karma
     
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  5. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Thank you for your post. The symbolism of birth and rebirth is very important in Buddhism. Yet there is not agreement about some core concepts such as reincarnation. You clearly believe that reincarnation as meant by the transmigration of souls is true whereas other Buddhists don't. So the question becomes what did Buddha really teach? That is the purpose of a scriptural debate.

    I agree there can be many meanings in the concept of birth and rebirth and its inherently part of life at all levels. Again for the purposes of this thread, I'm asking what the Buddha taught and how can we know.
     
  6. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    The closes we come to knowing what he trully was teaching is the suttas, But as you maybe know, the teachings was given in oral tradition the first generations after buddha, and this means that some of his teachings can have been lost in translation so to speak. But the core teaching is still there.

    You said about the soul that some buddhist do not believe in the transmigration from life time to life time. Well the teaching say that there are no permanent soul that follow us. only the virtue and the karma follow from life time to lifetime. But it is still same individe that is reborn :) The study of reincarnation is not fully clear to me because when i study, suddenly i realize new things, so until i can fully give an answer Buddha would give, i must say i do not have a clearn answer to it.

    Buddhism is not just a belief based path, it is wisdom based. and to gain the wisdom is pealing of layer by layer of truth
     
  7. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    The Teachings of the Buddha were passed down through oral traditions for over 400 years until first written down.

    You may be right in regards the core Teachings being there and I simply haven't studied Buddhism enough to make any such authoritative statement.

    The truth of Buddha's Teachings is an unfolding mystery for me, as it sounds to be for you. :)
     
  8. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    I have no doubt in the teaching, but to realize it fully is not an easy task :) Even i have been on the path for 20 years i am still a novice :)
     
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  9. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    This question was not directed to me. The literal narratives in the gospels sometimes have small differences. There are also other narratives besides the literal narratives. The faith of (I am guessing) 90% of Christians worldwide hangs upon the way these narratives are interpreted! There is also figurative language used both in the gospel narratives and in churches, so its hard to tell sometimes what people mean (to themselves) when they are talking. You could think of it as the second oldest poker game. So there are ambiguities, yes; but they only begin with the narratives. One man believes he will immediately whisked into a state of eternal happiness and comfort upon death. Another believes something else. Both use the same language.
     
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  10. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I'm not too familiar and out the house so can't search the Pali, but here is a link of The Buddha's incarnations. https://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j1/index.htm ideally, there is no birth or death because samsara doesnt end. Think of it like a circle. We travel on a circle with no start nor finished. When one reaches enlightenment, They no longer go around. They understand samsara to where they are no longer attatched

    Sidhartha's cardinal birth rather than consciousness (not to be confused with soul as in Hinduism) 623 BC Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha

    As for symbolicism, I honestly don't believe it is. As long as we have consciousness, we are reborn.
     
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  11. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    Please we dont use
    Yes or more precisely, is it "real " or is it really."

    In christianity it normally breaks out either literally its real or more precisely it really happened, or it breaks out as metphorical interpretive. Serious issues with both, and both are very normal.
     
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  12. InvestigateTruth

    InvestigateTruth Well-Known Member

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    For many people, Religion must teach something extraordinary so, it can be supernatural and satisfying.
    The idea of rebirth, would be in the above sense interesting if it for example mean, the soul of a person after death takes the body of a new born person again.
    If it is just symbolic, and means that, people can be transformed spiritually as if they are born pure, there is not much supernaturality in it, is it?
    The Christian term of 'born again', and the hindu term of rebirth sound the same, but have been completely interpreted differently by Christians and Hindus.
     
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  13. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    The resurrection narrative is intriguing and has been the focus on some lengthy threads on RF. The earliest written book in the New Testament to mention the resurrection is Paul's first epistle to Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15). The first gospel accounts were not written until about 70 AD, the earliest being Mark. None of the authors of the synoptic gospels were eye witnesses to the accounts they wrote so the story probably evolved from the preaching of the apostles such as Paul. Paul of course had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus a few years after the alleged resurrection appearances, yet he claimed to have been one who had witnessed the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:4-9). The accounts of the appearances have Christ's disciples struggling at first to recognise Him and then He seems to move Spirit like through solid objects. His ascension as recorded in Acts of the Apostles 1:9-11 has Christ ascending through the stratosphere to be with His father in heaven.

    I agree that most Christians take the account literally, regardless the story appears allegorical like those in Genesis and speaks of the life of the spirit after death as well as the rise of the Church when all seemed lost after Christ's crucifixion.

    I had been thinking more of Jesus speaking about being born again in the Gospel of John 3:1-7 when writing the OP but the resurrection of Christ is arguably the more important example of rebirth.
     
  14. CG Didymus

    CG Didymus Well-Known Member

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    Could you comment on 1 Corinthians 15:
    Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep...

    12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead...
    Whether it's true or not isn't the big question. As always, is it being told to the people as if it is true and not as something that was meant to be taken symbolically?
     
  15. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    The Gospel writers lived in a completely different world to the one we inhabit today. They weren’t writing historical accounts. They wrote stories to inspire the faithful. The line between between reality and mythology was blurred and required no distinction. Besides there is an abundance of clues it’s different from actual events. Consider the contradictions of NT accounts along with Christ’s disciples at first being unable to recognise Him. Christ seems to take on a spirit like existence after His resurrection moving with ease through walls and solid objects.

    Paul who wrote so passionately about having seen the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4-9) converted long after Christ’s appearances to the disciples and subsequent ascension.
     
  16. CG Didymus

    CG Didymus Well-Known Member

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    This is how Luke opens his gospel...
    1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
    2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
    3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
    4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
    There is always the verse where Jesus supposedly said that he is not a ghost but has flesh and bone. So it's hard for me to believe that the early Christians and the gospel writers weren't intending for their gospels not to be taken as historically true. Without the resurrection the Fundamental Christian doctrines fall apart. So then what does being "Born-again" even mean? They take it as being born into Christ, to have the Holy Spirit living in them, and to be assured that they have eternal life. But, if Paul says that if Jesus hasn't been resurrected, then he's saying that their hope for eternal life isn't true.

    It's all part of a package deal. Jesus resurrected. He conquered death. The person is then born-again by believing that is true and has eternal life. If the resurrection isn't real, but only symbolic, then the thing that gets them "reborn" isn't real.
     
  17. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Luke the alleged companion of Paul though modern biblical scholarship brings that into question, particularly due to conflicts between the accounts within the Pauline epistles and Acts.

    Authorship of Luke–Acts - Wikipedia

    The author is simply saying he's written down the stories he's heard.

    John 20:31 provides a different perspective on the motivation for the gospel accounts.

    As per my previous post, the author makes no distinction between historical fact and embellished story telling.

    I don't see being born again as being totally synonymous with the resurrection. By being born again, one lives their life in accordance to the teachings of Christ.

    As repeated stated the resurrection is a vitally important part of the Christian message from a Baha'i non-literal perspective. The Christian fundamentalists and Baha'is simply understand the gospels differently.
     
  18. CG Didymus

    CG Didymus Well-Known Member

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    Here's what Billy Graham's site says about being "born again".
    A born-again Christian is someone who has repented of their sins and turned to Christ for their salvation, and as a result has become part of God’s family forever. All this takes place as God’s Spirit works in our lives.

    You see, by nature we aren’t members of God’s family, and we don’t have any right to inherit eternal life. The reason is because of our sin. We have rebelled against God, and because of that, the Bible says, we are “separated from the life of God … due to the hardening of (our) hearts” (Ephesians 4:18). No, you may not see yourself as a bad person (and you probably aren’t)—but in God’s eyes even one sin is enough to keep you out of heaven.

    But Jesus Christ came to save us and to make us part of His family forever! He did this by dying for our sins on the cross and by conquering death through His resurrection. You see, as a human being you were born into a family—and nothing can ever change that. But when we come to Christ we are spiritually reborn into another family—the family of God. The Bible says to Christ’s followers, “You have been born again … through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
    Somewhere Paul makes a big deal about being saved through faith and "works". So living in "accordance" with the teachings of Christ isn't exactly what being "born again" is to the Billy Graham type of Christians.
     
  19. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Here is what the Baha’i writings say about being born again:

    Born Again - Bahaikipedia, an encyclopedia about the Bahá’í Faith
     
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