Though I am not very skilled at writing in first-person yet, here’s another short story. It’s not that I’m an unskilled writer, so I write. It’s more accurate to state that I want to be a better first-person writer so I write. Like everything human influenced in this existence we get better with practice. To help me learn in a guided and skillful way I have been taking a course from Wesleyan University in first-person writing. Hang in there, dear reader, improvement is on the way.
Last Wednesday I was hiking over the small hills to the east of my apartment with Sarva. The hills are steep in ascent and decent but they are fairly small. Perhaps just 60 or 70 meters in elevation. The first hill separates Tesorillo beach and Bahia beach while the second hill separates Bahia beach from the nudist beach. The vistas along the path are amazing. The sounds of the waves and the almost constant onshore breeze make the physical effort of these steep climbs more enjoyable than strenuous.
These two hills and the three beaches are part of a park called Parque Mediterraneo. The path is fairly maintained by the city and it’s path provides sure footedness. Sarva is anxious for the workout and I can sense there’s a lot on his mind this morning. His pace all along the boardwalk has been slightly quicker than our usual, and he’s quiet. Too quiet.
As we reach the entry to the park, passing below the welcome sign Sarva breaks the silence. “When most people in the Americas think of Buddhism, the first thing that they question is reincarnation. Even though the concept of rebirth or multiple exitstence is more generally accepted by Hinduism then it is for a Buddhist. People may think this reincarnation is impossible or false and I have had conversations on a few occasions with people who have said it is devil talk. While the concept may seem unbelievable mainly based on individual memories. That is, if I had lived before why would I have no memory of my previous life or lives?
This sort of questioning, from a Buddhist perspective, is a waste of time. It’s wrong. Not that there isn’t an answer, or that we are wasting our time looking for an answer. The purpose of Buddhism is to free your consciousness from this cyclic existence. The human experience or rather the human existence is the only level of consciousness where this freedom can be realized. Thinking, therefore must be perfected. Our efforts to enhance the mental clarity for optimal usefulness of the mind requires a Kung-fu like effort. The question of reincarnation isn’t the cause of suffering, it is the ambiguousness, difficulty, and unknowing of death and birth that cause suffering.
The Truth About Living
There may be a simple answer to a simple question. It’s not a question of — is reincarnation real? We can see and experience reincarnation in any of the thousands of examples all around us. Within the cosmos and on this very planet, we have perfect illustrations and reminders for the natural cyclic existence of everything. The more precise question about reincarnation that causes people suffering (stress) is — why can I not recall my previous lives? There are three possible answers. The first is rather simple but may also seem like an evasive response.
The easiest way for each of us to discover why we are not keenly aware of our previous lives is to ask what did you have for dinner last night two years ago? What television show did you watch six months ago. The answers to these simple questions for many people is — I don’t remember. For some people, where the daily routine is constant the answer maybe a little more substantial. It’s basic generalizations for most people, but answers with not much precision or clarity. Similarly, karma carries forward from one lifetime to the next. Your previous life may have been on a battlefield in 7th century Egypt as a foot soldier, and you may have been a homeless peasant suffering the plague in north Africa. You can’t know that level of detail. The way you act, the character of your behaviour, the basic personality has not changed much.
Comparing life from one to the next is truly wasting precious time. Though it is often a necessary step in the practice. Some people need to untie the mental knot, so-to-speak. They truly need to get a more substantial answer to reincarnation. They seek an answer that runs deeper than a simple lapse of memory. Then, for those who need a more substantial answer, let’s use karma, the duality principle of the universe.
The Evolution of a Universe
All life forms are different and even within the same species there are varying degrees of differences. Consciousness, for example. Some life forms are more conscious than others. A bird is more conscious than a butterfly, a fish is more conscious than a barnacle and on and on the comparisons are endless. We can know for certain that humans are more conscious than any other forms of life on earth. Yet, even among the human species consciousness is less for some than for others. There are some people who are not conscious at all. When we sleep for instance.
Natural evolution has increased the levels of consciousness in all species, and more so for humans. Biologically the human body has increased the ability to convert the food we eat into more energy. The increased energy means more amperage which provide faster muscle responses and cognition. At some point in evolution, thinking began. Humans emerged from animal behaviours based on instinct alone. Thinking provided reasoning, and creativity developed. The imagination, or the voice in the mind grew powerful — magically. The thinking itself is magic. Truly it is.
Everything in our lives today that improves the quality of life began as a thought. From the coffee cup you start the day with, to the mattress you lay on to end the day and everything in between is the result of a simple creative thought.
As we continue to evolve, the brain is becoming more aware, more conscious. Nutrition improves and our body can generate more energy. More energy means higher voltage which then provides faster mental ability, more thoughts, more creativity. In your previous lives, you may not have even been human. Perhaps this is your first lucky break. Even if you were human in the last conscious life, or even in the past four, five, etc. lives, it is unlikely your level of consciousness was aware.
Barely Conscious Now
The conscious ability to be aware isn’t the biggest challenge to remembering your previous lives. It’s the creative energy of the mind. The universe itself is 100% creative energy. Every molecule, and atom that make up the body and mind comes from the universe. As Carl Sagan once said, “the basic atomic energy within each of us that causes us to be human came about as the result of an exploding supernova somewhere in space. When we look up at the night sky in wonder of the cosmos we are truly looking for our origin.” This so called consciousness is little else beside creative energy.
The trail has come to the last beach on the path. This is one of the smallest beaches in Almunecar and it’s also a designated nudist beach. There’s a lot of sand and patches of pebbles. The pebble areas hold a lot of sea glass and sea polished stones. It’s quite beautiful to see.”
How Quick Minds Wander
Kimber found the sea glass to be very pretty. She took home a few pieces following a visit several weeks ago. Since then, and over the last three weeks she’s become very interested in sea glass. She researched it on the internet to find where it is coming from. Turns out there is a lot of information available on sea glass including the origins, colors, depth of etching, clarity, jewelry making, value, how to find it, when to look for it, etc. Last week she found a special vase for her growing collection of glass. Beachcombing for sea glass is an obsession.
Sarva continues the conversation. “The creative consciousness is always looking for adventure and is quickly bored. If it isn’t a sea glass distraction, it’s rumination of the past, or the favorite past-time of the mind — those makebelieve what-if scenarios. Anyone who has ever tried to stop thinking for more than half a minute knows just how pervasive and overpowering consciousness is. Imagine, therefore, how this creative and imaginative powerful thinking mind will run wild when the body dies. When there is no more distraction from the five karmas, dreams will become vivid realities and deeply complex. The karma of fears, greed, lust, anger and delusions will surface and take root.
Imagine what would happen if we never took the time and never made the effort to train and perfect our thinking mind. Without the practice that perfects consciousness with kung-fu precision death would provide unobstructed and insane mental instability. Fear, greed, anger, lust, and delusion would generate consciousness of hellish torments. Once the body dies and consciousness is free (no longer influenced by the five senses) in the bardo insanity would be certain. There, the mind, would grasp at any opportunity to escape the torment. Even if it meant birth as a cockroach.
Consciousness is the natural evolution of the universe. Though as a human it is easy to become deluded by self awareness, consciousness isn’t a part of human evolution. Humans, like consciousness are a part of the universe evolution. Quite likely, we are developing artificial super intelligence not to improve our lives as we think. Rather, artificial super intelligence is a next step in the evolution of the universe.
My previous life and previous lives are very memorable. All it takes to remember aging, sickness, and death that are the life of every birth is a well trained mind to know it’s true. The practice is all there is of any great importance for this existence.”