Yesterday a reader made a comment saying that concepts like rebirth, reincarnation and resurrection are the same because they all grow out of the desire for continuity after death. ‘Simply put, we just hate to leave the world…and want to live forever’. It’s an interesting observation but, as far as the Buddhist concept of rebirth is concerned, a rather unconsidered one. I think that all non-Buddhist after-life theories did grow out of the fear of death and the desire for continuity. But the Buddha’s idea of rebirth could not have. Think about it! All the other religions say that if you believe in the right god or do the right thing, you’ll live forever. The Buddha said that if you don’t attain enlightenment, if you don’t reach the goal, you’ll live forever. All other religions hold out eternal life as a reward; Buddhism sees eternal life as a problem to be solved. So whatever the origins of the Buddha’s teaching of rebirth, it could not have been the desire for eternal life.
The reader also asked… ‘why is Buddhism so concerned with rebirth? Is it attachment to life?’ My above comments mostly answer this question and I will just add this. Buddhism is concerned with rebirth because it is seen as a problem to be solved. To be reborn is to redie again and again and that is dukkha. Is not everyone concerned with overcoming their problems?