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The Secret of that Endless Round of Rebirths


I note that today is Tenzin Gyatso’s seventy-seventh birthday. I understand he’s mulling whether on his death, sooner or later, to incarnate as the Dalai Lama for a fifteenth time. (As the Chinese have the Panchen Lama safely, as it were, in hand, and he, the Panchen Lama, is the one who actually gets to find the next Dalai Lama, I suspect if the venerable does decide he’s not going to return, things could get messy down here on the earth plane…)

Me, today I tried to sign up for Medicare. I know what I want to do. Yes to part A, no to part B – for now.

But, I screwed up the password.

No kids around to help.

So, it all waits ’till tomorrow…

In the meantime I find myself thinking of life and death, and death a bit more than life.

Last weekend I was at a workshop offering ministerial trainings for Zen Buddhist priests, when a co-leader opined that the Buddha never taught physical reanimation when he spoke of rebirth. I’m pretty sure that’s not so. While the Buddha clearly taught there is no essential self – he also pretty clearly described past life memories. It seems, despite what some of us might prefer he taught, it seems Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha of history did indeed suggest you and I are on a trajectory of rebirths until we finally get our butts off the cycle…

Let me be blunt.

I’ve watched too many situations where, due to dementia or other terrible things, it is painfully obvious the “I” is a fragile thing, and that there is no part of it that isn’t subject to disintegration given the right circumstances. Like, say, death.

So, while I admire the old guy more than I can ever say, and consider him my guide, I have to take the birth death and rebirth situation as all happening in this one life.

When the body falls apart, all sense of the “I” is going to be gone.

Consequences will continue.

No doubt.

But.

It will not result in a consciousness that has some direct continuity with the person typing these words out.

But… That hardly says it all…

One dimension of a universe that has several, maybe many more…

And…

This leaves us with the preciousness of the moment.

Filled with all those previous lives. Child in a family that moved all the time. Zen monk as a teenager. Marriage one, a flickering moment. Marriage two, no longer. Each with trails of consequence sad and wonderful. Bookstores. Marriage three, enduring, thirty years plus now. Koan practice. Zazen. Lots of zazen. Unitarian Universalist minister. Zen priest and teacher.

Dark brown hair. Grey hair. Clear flesh. Speckles on the arms and face.

And…

Endless cycles of time and space. Mine. Yours. Ours.

Five hundred fox lives.

Five hundred grace filled lives.

First Dalai Lama. Fourteenth Dalai Lama. And, perhaps no choice. Fifteenth Dalai Lama.

All

This moment.

And, a world of possibilities in each life.

As we open ourselves with as much honesty and heart as we possibly can.

Not, as another of my teachers, Dogen Eihei tells us, rushing out to the world, comparing it to ourselves, judging, accepting or rejecting.

But, rather, allowing it to come to us, to inform us, to be us.

Me.

So connected.

In this moment all those past and future lives reconcile.

And an intimacy is discovered

So connected.

That truly is

a peace that passes all understanding.

So connected.

The secret of that endless round of rebirths.

  • Lewis BrightHeart Headrick

    One of the few advantages of a Buddhist is being able to say, “In a previous life…”


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