I greatly appreciate your responses which greatly assisted my understanding of Buddhism and I thank you so much for your time and trouble. After this, I believe I will have a better understanding
One; What is the evidence that there is rebirth and Karma? How do we Know "subtle consciousness" exist?
Two; If there is no God, how is karma determined? Throughout history there have been evil people who thought they were doing the right thing, Stalin was deluded by conspiracies and therefore thought the purges were justified and Hitler was so ignorant, he died honestly believing what he did was in the best interest of Germany. If deluded people are under ignorance, they cannot determine their own next life, and yet you said there is no God. Who then determines karma and the next life?
Three; If one lives in ignorance and therefore must burn off negative karma in the next existence, then as a result, in that existence he may have frustrations with his situation. How is anything supposed to improve?
And lastly, Four; Isn't accepting the idea of compassion, accepting the 3 jewels on some level enough, without going into Buddhist theories which can be complicated, can you be a Buddhist by accepting compassion and discipline without karma? Or, does that just make you "like a Buddhist."
Thank you again for your time and trouble and I'm sure this will clear up any questions I have. I am very grateful for all you've done. Mc
Your qn: "What is the evidence that there is rebirth and Karma? How do we know "subtle consciousness" exists?"
A word of caution is that no one will be fully satisfied with the answers on Kamma. The Buddha had warned us that we could not fully understand kamma. But we can try to better understand kamma, that's all. Take empirical experiences. When we do something really bad, we are mentally affected. The fear and guilt confront us. This is the immediate effect of kamma. Likewise, when we do something really wholesome, we immediately enjoy the bliss of happiness. Those who live by the swords die by the swords. Irrespective of whether we believe in kamma or not, Buddhism teaches us to be good moral humans. The Buddha advised us to use our common sense and human intelligence to know what is right and what is wrong. We actually do not need any teacher to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Killing is wrong, stealing is wrong, telling lies is wrong, sexual misconduct is wrong, and getting intoxicated is wrong. These are universal truths. What is important is for humans to conduct their lives in a harmless, peaceful and fair manner.
Case studies on rebirth experiences have been documented. You can google "case studies on rebirth" and go from there. The Tibetan lamas (monks) have countless documentations on rebirth. That's how they search for their leading monks when the latter pass away. Actually, it depends on the person's mindset. If he stubbornly refuses to believe, no amount of proofs will convince him.
Your qn: "If there is no God, how is karma determined?......If deluded people are under ignorance, they cannot determine their own next life, and yet you said there is no God. Who then determines karma and the next life?"
My comment: Let's assume that there is this God who determines whether we go to eternal heaven or to hell. How does he do it? Do you think everyone will accept whatever answer there is to it? Again, it depends on the person's mindset. If one can really and honestly have an open mind, then there is hope for some acceptance based on common sense and some human intelligence. We can say, which is more plausible. To believe in an all-powerful God who has full control over our conduct, or to believe that good begets good and evil begets evil, irrespective of who one is or what one believes? Can God have all the time to judge each and everyone of us? Is it fair for God to send us to eternal hell just because we do not believe in him? Is it fair for God to reward us to be in heaven just because we believe in him, even though we may be bad? And there are millions of questions that we can ask. But does this questioning exercise lead us to any consensus? NO. Likewise, no amount of reasoning and answering will convince anyone to believe in rebirth and kamma if the person is dead set not to believe! Likewise the concept of creator God!
To answer your question, again you need to have an open mind. The Buddha's explanation of the nature of life and existence was very alien to Western mind, especially when the person has been indoctrinated since birth to believe in the Creator God. We have 2 components in us. The physical body and the mind which is the storehouse of consciousness. This storehouse is the accumulation of all our kammic force. From here I quote a passage from an article:
"As long as this kammic force exists there is rebirth, for beings are merely the visible manifestation of this invisible kammic force. Death is nothing but the temporary end of this temporary phenomenon. It is not the complete annihilation of this so-called being. The organic life has ceased, but the kammic force which hitherto actuated it has not been destroyed. As the kammic force remains entirely undisturbed by the disintegration of the fleeting body, the passing away of the present dying thought-moment only conditions a fresh consciousness in another birth. It is kamma, rooted in ignorance and craving, that conditions rebirth. Past kamma conditions the present birth; and present kamma, in combination with past kamma, conditions the future. The present is the offspring of the past, and becomes, in turn, the parent of the future."
Your qn: "If one lives in ignorance and therefore must burn off negative karma in the next existence, then as a result, in that existence he may have frustrations with his situation. How is anything supposed to improve?
My comment: It is not in the improving, but in the paying-back of past debts. Having paid up, you are free to start with a clean slate.
Your last qn: "Isn't accepting the idea of compassion, accepting the 3 jewels on some level enough, without going into Buddhist theories which can be complicated, can you be a Buddhist by accepting compassion and discipline without karma? Or, does that just make you "like a Buddhist."? "
My comment: Whether you believe in electricity or not, that does not exempt you from being electrocuted if you place your bare hand on a life wire! Being a Buddhist actually does not require one to believe in anything. It just requires one to reduce one's greed, hatred and delusion; and to have inner peace living a harmless and peaceful life. Can we do that? (Across the room I've just heard from the TV news that the Israelis have fired another of their rockets into Palestinian territories!)
See, I told you so. You are still not fully satisfied with my answers!! Just the same, have peace.