Home Discussion Forum In Tibetan Buddhism, no distinction is made between rebirth and reincarnation?

In Tibetan Buddhism, no distinction is made between rebirth and reincarnation?

We use the terms interchangeably. I’m not sure why some Western Buddhists think there’s such a big difference. Just because it’s a little different than the Hindu idea of reincarnation, doesn’t mean it’s not reincarnation. Rebirth fits the dictionary definition of the word “reincarnation.” When you die, your consciousness continues.


  1. As far as I am concerned they are the same. I think it is the belief of Tibetan Buddhism that a person is almost immediately reborn,. Most westerners who believe in reincarnation , including myself believe we spend some time in the spirit world before returning.

  2. I’m a nice person and i think there is good in everyone and that everyone has potential. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt but you’ve long since worn that out in me. I’ve already explained that they’re different things.
    You can’t say plantains and bananas are pretty much the same thing just because they’re from the same family and they’re long and yellow, they’re still different and the same is true for rebirth and reincarnation. You’ve been acting like a child on here attacking others beliefs both religiously, politically, and otherwise. I say a child because when children learn something new its the focus of their attention for ages and they rub it in everyones face, and you’ve asked so many questions on this single topic simply just to ‘rub it in’. I’m sorry if you’re going through something in your life right now but taking it out on other people solves nothing.
    Also one temple does not speak for all buddhism, so maybe your tibetan buddhist temple does not distinguish but just about all others do, so sorry. As i’ve read through m ny of the other answers on your various questions i’m not the only one who says this and whose come to this knowledge.
    I wish you luck and i hope you feel better.

  3. Jack, you keep insisting that this is a ‘western’ distinction. It’s NOT. Korean, Chinese and Japanese Buddhist masters made the distinction LONG before any westerner even considered the differences. Chan Master Sheng-yen, Zen Master Roshi Suzuki ShunryÅ« (Shunryu Suzuki), Kalu Rinpoche, Bikshuni Ayya Khema, Ch’an master Hsuan Hua, Seon Master Samu Sunim, Dae Soen Sa Nim Seung Sahn and many other teachers from the East taught the use of the term re-birth, we didn’t invent the term ourselves.
    To answer your question though, the reason is one of prudence. As I have stated before, reincarnation, as accepted by most westerners and as is taught in Hinduism, is about the self (atman) leaving the dead body and entering a new one. In fact, the Hindu Bhagavad Gita states: “Worn-out garments are shed by the body; Worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. New bodies are donned by the dweller, like garments.” This shows the belief in the non-ending self. This significantly differs from Buddhas teachings because two of the core teachings of the Buddha are “Anatta” or “not-self” and “Anicca” or Impermanence. When you add them together, the Hindu idea of a permanent self that goes from body to body goes against Buddhist teachings. Even the idea of a permanent, unchanging consciousness goes against Buddhas teachings. The consciousness in a being arises, collapses and arises again moment to moment. The consciousness that arises in a new being is neither identical to, nor different from the consciousness of the old-being, but it is not permanent.
    You ask what the difference is and why we make a distinction? The reason is that most western Buddhists, and in fact most Buddhist is general, practice Mahayana or Theravada Buddhism. Most of these practice some form of the Dhyana school (Zen, Chán, Seon, Thiền, etc…) A fundamental teaching is that there is no self and a statement such as the one you made, “When you die, your consciousness continues.” Goes against the core teachings. As a practice, We ask ourselves, “Who am ‘I’?” So, we would generally answer your question with a question. Who is the ‘You’ that dies? What ‘consciousness’ is there to continue? Thus, for us, the term reincarnation stresses the ‘I’ and is synonymous with ‘self continuation’ or ‘permanent-self’ notions of other religions, the antitheses of the Buddhas teachings. On the other hand, rebirth is free from any notion of self and thus preferred.
    Additionally, another reason for specifically using rebirth as opposed to reincarnation is because the average westerner that doesn’t understand Buddhism will automatically assume reincarnation means the returning of the self in a new body. (The Hindu concept, if you will.) Since this is, as I have demonstrated, fundamentally incompatible with Buddhism, we use a term that distinctly differentiates the two.
    That said, understanding that you and others who practice your form of Buddhism understand the differences but choose to use rebirth and reincarnation interchangeable is fine. It doesn’t bother or offend me. I only answer your questions because you ask them and I have an answer to offer. It’s not out of displeasure or discord. Likewise I hope your question is posted simply out of curiosity as to the differences in expression and not a bitterness towards our differences.
    I hope this helps.

  4. Yes, but ONLY in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is Vajrayana Buddhism, which makes up only 6% of Buddhists worldwide. It is a relatively recent development in the history of Buddhism as a whole.
    The Buddha taught, among the three marks of existence, the doctrine of anatta, or “no soul”.
    Reincarnation involves a soul.
    Rebirth does not.
    The reason Tibetan Buddhists use the terms interchangably is because they either reject, or, more often, are ignorant of the doctrine of anatta.
    As a Dhammayutika (Theravada) Buddhist, the interchangable use of the term is immensely irritating to me.


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