samsaranmusing: Reincarnation is a difficult concept to understand for a lot of people. Also, not everybody agrees on just how karma and reincarnation work or if they even exist… The simple fact is that so far as we know nobody has come back to tell us what happens. Is there a soul which starts with a one celled organism and evolves through incarnations into a Buddha but always remaining the same soul? How exactly does any creature other than a human being acquire “good karma”? Maybe this idea of karma and rebirth was just a myth perpetrated by the ruling Brahmin to keep the lower castes in line with promises of rebirth into a higher caste if they are good in this life?
The simple idea of each of our incarnations being a testing ground kind of like the army. Do well, get promoted, even make general someday. Do poorly, busted to private and spending your life mopping latrines. It has a simple elegance to it.
Too bad it doesn’t really make sense if we ponder it. Where did we start? As Homo Sapiens? As Neanderthal? As primitive ape like creatures? How did these creatures acquire positive karma if they had no knowledge of the Dharma? Was a primitive hunter held to the same standard as a modern man? Also, who exactly makes these judgments if there is no personal God? Does this mean that there are universal unchanging moral principles to which all men and women must adhere to progress spiritually?
What to me makes far more sense is to look at this through the eyes of modern science. Who are we really? The sum total of our memories? No, we are far more than that. We are the sum total of all of our ancestors back to the beginning of time. Our DNA is not a fixed structure the way we used to view it. We now know that our DNA is a code, a record. Only a tiny portion of this code is a blue print for our physical being. The rest consists of information. Some of this information takes the form of genetic switches. These respond to outside stimuli and switch on characteristics which are necessary for survival without requiring a thousand generation of random mutation. If you had suggested this in the 1990s as an geneticist or evolutionary biologist you would have been shunned by the scientific establishment. However, now we know it to be true. We know that cuddling babies switches on certain genes which allow them to deal with stress as adults. This is amazing because for the first time we can prove that our genes are altered not just by mutation and natural selection but by environment, even, in the case of babies, by a mother’s love and attention.
What does this all have to do with reincarnation? Well, here it is. We are our genes. The code, the “selfish gene” as Dawkins described it is our true form. Within that DNA helix is encoded the past lives of our ancestors and we are recording information now as we live our lives. To what purpose? Consciousness my friends, consciousness. Self awareness. Sagan said we are a way of the universe to experience itself and he was right. Life is self awareness. All living things are self aware right down to the cellular level.
Consciousness, this awareness of the separateness of self, does not require senses or a brain. Watch a video of a white blood cell go after a bacterium sometime. The white blood cell chases it and the bacterium flees and zig zags and hides to evade it just like a one celled roadrunner and coyote cartoon. Yet, all without brains, senses or nervous systems. They know each other exist. They know they are separate. The bacterium knows its life is in danger and the white blood cell knows the bacterium is a harmful invader. But how do they know?
Consciousness. Consciousness is the purpose of life. Meditation is a means of focusing consciousness. The ancient sages didn’t have our modern vocabulary but they KNEW. That is where they talk of the “One” and the joining, Samadhi.
The Buddha didn’t answer the question “what happens after we die?” for a very good reason.
It. Doesn’t. Matter.
We are not this mind. We are a greater interconnected being. Growing and progressing upward toward total consciousness. This life seems so important because it is all we know on a conscious [thinking] level. Yet, in our dreams, in meditation we glimpse the truth. This bundle of impressions, memories and sensation is a temporary thing like a rain drop falling into the sea.
written by George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords