So this idea of reincarnation. I was talking with my wife while we were driving back from Cayucos this morning, and we were discussing Eckhart Tolle’s idea, or his expression of the idea, that ego is responsible for the lions share of our suffering. The ego, unsure of its position and stability, constantly struggles to make itself feel important and stable and real, usually by amassing wealth or fame or power, or by gossiping about others to make itself feel better by comparison, etc.
So I was thinking about that in a kind of background way and also running a simultaneous track on the whole geologic, vast, universal time frame, just mulling about the fourteen billion years or whatever it’s been since the big bang, and how our arrival was just about a millisecond ago in that kind of mess of time, and it struck me in a visceral kind of way that there is just no fucking way that we are anywhere near the point. I mean, we as a species.
Can you picture God just hanging out for that fourteen billion years, waiting? Opening the oven door and peeking in every few million years, wondering
“Is it ready yet? Are my little humans cooked up?”
“Ah, shit. Still just microbes. Better give it another fifty or sixty million. Maybe I should turn it up to 350.”
I don’t think so.
It seems like we are just an interesting side effect, or product, of this little evolutionary machine that keeps on spinning the DNA wheel and seeing what comes up.
A point, if you will, but hardly the point.
So, that dispenses with the idea of a special soul, a special purpose for humanity. We’re just an interesting biological process, with the odd side-effect of consciousness. The consciousness is a really cool, really interesting effect of rolling the genetic dice over and over again for four billion years. But so are feathers. The much-touted eye, that would have everyone believing in a “creator” to make such a magnificent machine.
And then I thought, well, what about your buddhist idea of reincarnation? Isn’t that, at least in a western conception, dependent upon a soul to be reborn again and again? To carry those karmic seeds?
Not really, I reminded myself. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying lays it out for us- there is no continuation of the specific individual in any way after death. It’s a more general thing. It’s not ego specific.
And then I realized that in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic tradition, there is an afterlife just for the ego.
That’s the whole point for those religions. That’s why you get seventy-two virgins. A halo and wings. Streets paved with gold. A seat right next to God.
It’s all just more food for the ego.
The ego is what we must jettison if we are to evolve.
What I let it all go with was the idea that we are not nature’s only experiment with consciousness.
Just the first one.
Like a clumsy prototype.
There’s bound to be someone that can do better with it than we have managed so far.
Peace to you.
Make pain your teacher, and you will not live in ignorance.
Also, today my seventeen year old daughter got a call from a friend of hers whose parents were dealing with an emergency. She gets us to buy a bunch of food so she can take it over to them.
She’s over there now cleaning the house, tending to the kids, and fixing dinner.
Our little bodhi-satva.