I’ve read that Zen Buddhism is as much about unlearning as it is learning. It offers a process of removing “the veil.” We can begin to see the world with fresh eyes, without all the interpretation and beliefs we’re accustomed to glopping on top of everything. I think all religion, at its best, strives to offer a path to a new perspective. There’s a saying about this. Before studying Zen, mountains and rivers are mountains and rivers. While studying, they are no longer these things. Further down the path of enlightenment, they are again mountains and rivers.

Yet, I’m not ready to abandon my thinking—the jurisdiction of my “little I”—altogether. Like my Zen master pointed out, I need it and her. What would I write about if not for the realm of ideas? How would I get it written? But I can see the importance of coming back to the present moment, which offers an alternative state of awareness: my true nature is more than a “little I.” Maybe, then, she panics and lashes out because it is like a death for her—and what if I never come back? Inevitably, I do. Something draws me away from “the now”— some dissatisfaction or distraction. I return to the thoughts, and my “little I” is reborn. These cycles of awareness may happen a few times a week, or many times a day.

When I started this exploration of Buddhism, I thought the concept of reincarnation was cut and dry: a person’s body died and their consciousness or soul would appear in some other life form. I would be me, only looking out from the eyes of, say, a turtle. But this path encourages realizations inside of realizations. Now I see, like karma, it can be more subtle, and more complex. Perhaps Buddha was referring to cycles of awareness when he said every life contains countless deaths and rebirths. The thoughts and actions in one affect the thoughts and actions in the next, and so on down the line, because nothing arises independently. The influence of each of our lives ripples out based on how we live. Jews have history and story passed through generations, Christian’s call it “eternal life,” and Buddhists see a web of interdependence in which a separate self is an illusion. In all of them, our existence continues to matter long after the body is gone.

8 thoughts on “Reincarnation

  1. Indeed. Otherwise we are stuck with the reality of the futility of death….What a waste. Since we cannot abide that thought we make up myths and legends about the other side of dying. Never knowing for a certainty, we quickly learn to live the good life now and make the most of every day for ourselves, our family and our world finally giving credence to the idea that, “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.” Outside of passed down myths and legends and philosophies, I know nothing about what is on the other side but I know that God knows and, to me, that’s all that’s important. I’m not being judged. I am simply being the best way I know how to be in honoring Life and expressing it in my own unique way.

  2. I like your little i’s….we have seen so much through them/it. 🙂

    Ever since there were humans (I presume), we have dreamt of life continuing beyond death. But our longing extends far beyond our individual lives. We want to live in a world without pain. It’s interesting to me that the Bible, for example, doesn’t really give much detail about what eternal life will be like, but it does speak of a news heaven and earth….a perfect earth, I’m guessing, like what we were originally created to live on.

  3. This discussion of reincarnation and life after death reminds me of a wonderful book titled The Teachings of Silver Birch. Likely it is quite different from anything you have read before. Silver Birch speaks to us from the world of spirit about the purpose of reincarnation and the meaning of life, and he sheds light on what the afterlife might be like. Whether you believe in spirits or not, when you read this book, you will intuitively know that it speaks the truth.

  4. Corinna,

    I have had much contemplation following your final paragraph about perhaps the cycles of awareness being countless experiences of deaths and rebirths in a person’s lifetime. It does not bother me, being a non-believer in eternal life, that my very existence will sever itself at death. I have felt it is enough for me to live my life here the best I know how…..but there has always been that continuous need in me for growth and change. So this concept of cycles of “death” and “rebirth” has very much intrigued me. Reading and responding to this One None blog has initiated several cycles for me as I continue to hone my own personal beliefs….my own theological underpinnings. Now your writing and your understandings of what you have experienced have pushed me, once again, into a new AHA, And isn’t it fitting that it is a time of rebirth in the bigger setting around us. Happy spring……may it eventually reach down and touch all of us who have endured the long winter.

    Peace. Merrill

    • Thank you, Merrill. I am a big fan of Aha! moments, and am so pleased to have been a part of one for you. Happy Spring. I took a long walk today. It was chilly, but the sun was shining.

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