Implications of the Rebirth Process in Daily Life and in Society

Revised August 23, 2022

1. Unless one develops abhiññā powers via meditation, the rebirth process cannot be “proven” with certainty. Yet, mounting evidence for it cannot be ignored either; see “Evidence for Rebirth.”

  • Putting that question aside, let us look at some mundane implications IF the rebirth process, as described by the Buddha, is correct.

2. The first thing to realize is how short this life of 100 years or so is. It is unimaginably small. Scientists say that our universe has been there for about 14 BILLION years. But the Buddha taught that life has no beginning. Either way, 100 years is a blip in the cosmic time scale.

  • Looking at world history, most calamities of war could have been prevented if people understood how short this life is. Where are those emperors and kings today who sacrificed so many human lives to capture another country or to maintain their powers?
  • Because of their atrocities, they are most likely to be in the lowest of the apāyā.
  • For the briefest time of enjoyment and power, they accumulated so much bad kamma to spend billions of years in total misery.
  • What significance would race, color, ethnicity, religion, beauty, money, etc., have in one’s actions if one understood that all those are not only temporary, but one could be on the other side in the next life? This is a topic that is worth contemplating a lot.

3. Let us take the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis because it is making headlines these days; one could take any other conflict. According to Buddha Dhamma, two effects come to play here.

  • One in either camp will develop a mindset to hate the other side, take revenge for some action, etc. If they have any kammic energy for the human “bhava,” they will come back to the same place with matching “gati,” looking for revenge; see, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati + ichcha” + “Sama + uppada.”
  • The other aspect is for any bad action one does in such a conflict is going to have consequences RELATED to that act. When person A kills or harms another person B, A becomes indebted to B. One way to “pay back this debt” is for B to be born as a child to A; see, “Kamma, Debt, and Meditation.” Isn’t that the biggest irony of all? A Palestinian (Israeli) becoming the child of an Israeli (Palestinian)?
  • Either way, the conflict will continue for a long time unless both sides realize the folly of it all.
  • This is true for many other conflicts that have been going on for generations. Most of the characters involved have likely been the same. They are too much “involved” in the conflict and cannot free their minds from it.

4. Let us take another example of a slave owner in the old days. That person made a lot of wealth by exploiting those slaves, but for how long? At most 100 years. Where are those slave owners now? They would either be in one of the lowest four realms OR could be a slave himself somewhere, possibly to a former slave.

  • It is easy to extend this analysis to many other cases; it is a good idea to contemplate such things. It makes one understand the true meanings of anicca, dukkha, and anatta. That is unfruitful to do immoral things to achieve a brief moment of sensory pleasure, where the consequences can play out for much longer in a future birth.

5. Yet we strive for a quarter of our lives to go through the basic educational process (which is the only part that makes any sense in the long term) and the rest of our life to “accumulate things and prestige.”

  • We do not stop and think about how the last years of our life will be, let alone about future lives. By the time we get to such accomplishments, our senses start degrading. No matter how much money we have, we will never be able to maintain our physical appearance or the level of sensory pleasures to our liking.

  • The problem is that we are too busy to contemplate such issues because we are in a frantic struggle to “make money for survival.” Whatever vacation time we get, we would not want to spend that time for contemplation. Instead, we go on a trip or do some such activity to “enjoy ourselves.” But when one returns from a vacation, it feels like one needs another to recover from those hectic activities.

6. There is another reason that people do not want to even think about such things; it could be depressing. But I can say with conviction that once one understands the “true nature of this world,” it WILL lead to a peaceful state of mind. It will also be easier to get into samadhi and jhānā.

  • The reason is that as one understands anicca, dukkha, and anatta (the futility of doing immoral things to gain sensory satisfaction in a world that is INHERENTLY not set up for that), one GRADUALLY loses attachment to worldly things, and this makes the mind peaceful; this is the root cause of niramisa sukha; see, “Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Niramisa Sukha?”.
  • Nibbāna or “Nivana” or “cooling down” is not like any sensory pleasure. Rather, it is a relief. A good analogy is the following: suppose someone has a migraine headache; then the day that headache disappears, that person will get a HUGE sense of relief. It is not a sensory pleasure but a feeling of well-being that is hard to express.

7. I can give one example to make this point. Many people who start understanding anicca, dukkha, and anatta, realize that they do not watch TV or go to entertainment events as much as they used to. This is not something they do deliberately, it just happens. They would rather enjoy a meditation session at home or read/listen to Dhamma. It may be already happening to some of you.

  • The mind cannot be forced. It just takes the better path, but the mind has to be exposed to the better, correct path. This is why giving true Dhamma is the best giving.

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