Thus, this loop of karma and destiny binds us and we remain entangled in it. The only way through which we can nullify our give and take account and destiny is through sustained and regular spiritual practice
The Gautama Buddha’s Dhamma is phenomenal. Once, he was giving a sermon to his monks. They were in a forest with many trees. The Buddha bent down and took some leaves from the ground and asked the monks “Monks, which is more; the leaves I am holding, or the leaves on all the trees in this forest?” The monks replied that there were more leaves in the forest, on the trees. Then the Buddha said, “All that I’ve ever taught you is as much as the leaves in my hand. What I haven’t told you is as much as all the leaves in all the trees in this forest. I haven’t disclosed all that I know, because it’s not conducive to your emancipation from Samsara. Follow my Dhamma and strive to realise Nirvana. What I’ve taught you is enough knowledge for your salvation”.
He also gives the simile of the man who is shot by an arrow. The arrow needs to be pulled out immediately. However, the ignorant man says that he first wants to know who shot the arrow, what sort of arrow it is, is it light, is it heavy, what’s it made of, etc. All the while he is bleeding and nearing death. Instead of pulling out the arrow, he is wasting precious time and would die soon when he can easily pull out the arrow and have a longer life.
What is this life we are living? The maximum lifespan of any person is maybe 100 years. During that time, what’s really most important is how peaceful one’s life has been. How peacefully one has lived, and one way of achieving that peace, is to “let go” and not cling to anything. Whenever we cling to something in our mind, we suffer. Isn’t that obvious? With some speculation, one realises how realistic and true this is. If there is a glass of water in front of us and we take it and hold it, eventually our hand is going to get tired and hurt and we must put the glass down. Similarly, we must let go moment to moment of whatever arises in our mind, without clinging.
Rebirth is a phenomenon very important in Buddhism. Why are different individuals born in different circumstances, with different abilities and different family set ups? Why is every person unique? From where do musical prodigies like Mozart come from? How are some individuals full of genius and are acutely gifted? It’s because they have been cultivating those abilities in past lives prior to this life.
The Buddha has stated that we have had differing relationships with every person in existence as of present, dating back to infinity. We have been men, women, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, etc when taking all our lifetimes stretching back in time. There is also plenty of evidence to prove that Rebirth exists. It’s not mere speculation. Imagine the profundity of what this means. If I take myself as an example, I’ve had eons of lives before this birth. I always feel I’ve been with the Dhamma in my previous births. I was born to a family very close to Buddhism. My Grandfather taught me a Buddhist Pali stanza which was quite complicated which I could fluently recite by three years. I had memorised it before I turned three I believe. Also, for each of my birthdays, my family would organise Pirith to be chanted on the morning of my birthday. They did this every year until I turned 18 or so. The Dhamma has always been very close to my heart.
And now we come to a very important teaching of the Buddha -- the theory of Karma. The following paragraph is taken from the Internet. It’s a very apt description of Karma. “The Law of Karma is infallible and everyone invariably is subjected to it. Sometimes we are oblivious to the fact that most of our lifetime is spent in undergoing destiny which is created by our karmas or deeds in our past births. As per the law of karma, every positive deed which we do, generates a ‘merit’; while every negative deed results in a ‘demerit’ which subsequently we need to repay by enduring happiness or unhappiness. All major events in our life are predestined – for instance the family that we are born into, to whom we will get married to, etc. During our day-to-day interactions, we are either settling an old account or creating a new one. If an account is not settled in the present birth it is carried over to the next birth.
Although, we are not consciously aware of the give-and-take karmic accounts generated in our previous births. In our subsequent births, we may or may not be equipped to settle our destiny and the paradox is that at the same time we are creating new karmic accounts. Thus, this loop of karma and destiny binds us and we remain entangled in it. The only way through which we can nullify our give and take account and destiny is through sustained and regular spiritual practice. In understanding the Law of Karma, we can see how spiritual practice can be useful to even those of us who have absolutely no spiritual interest and who only wish to be immersed in worldly pursuits.” Hypnosis and also past life regression are modern methods used which prove that Rebirth exists. Also NDE’s (Near Death Experiences where people supposed to be clinically dead are not completely dead, and live to tell the tale). Dr. Brian Weiss and Mira Kelley are involved in helping people heal in this birth by taking them to their past lives and helping them clear out negative energies (through hypnosis), that may be hampering their current happiness which is rightfully theirs. Anita Moorjani too had a profound NDE. She has written a book “Dying to be Me”. You can find much information on these remarkable people through the Internet and YouTube. Their books and publications are available on Amazon.com through the Internet.
Another very interesting phenomenon is that according to the Buddha, our Planet Earth is not the only abode of existence. There are 31 planes of existence. Some of them are Deva realms (where Gods and Goddesses reside). However, even a heavenly being’s existence is finite. After their karma has been spent, they too disintegrate from those realms and are reborn as a deva again or as a human being, depending on their karma. The Buddha has said that a human birth is precious and rare. One has to have done a lot of good karma to be born a human being. A human birth is more precious than being born in a deva realm because one has to be born human to fully realise Nirvana.
The Buddha’s teaching on the method of meditation is a topic all by itself. In brief, it is the path to complete knowledge and complete wisdom. Wisdom is the natural by-product of meditation- especially Anapanasati meditation (meditation on the breath). When the mind is concentrated, it naturally gives rise to pure wisdom. One cannot reach these concentrated states of mind overnight. It takes years, even lifetimes, to cultivate concentration -- unwavering concentration.
Wishing you a Happy Poya with Metta!
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