Matters of Life and Death
by Romana 05/03/2015
We are all born, live for a while, and then die. I'm not disturbed by this at all, but western culture does not want to discuss this simple fact. Impermanence does not bother me either, but many blank this out. We build our infrastructure to last fifty years, but that time often seems to fly by fast; then people are surprised when things fall apart. Scientists have observed that not just living things are impermanent, but planets, stars, galaxies, and perhaps even the universe itself will change and die. We are but tiny specs in a grand cosmic landscape, who have evolved and suddenly awakened to ponder this. People struggle for answers, but enlightenment does not come easily. Enlightenment is the advanced ability to see existence as it actually is, beyond what is seen, felt, heard, smelled, and tasted.
Sanskrit has a word for this: dukkha. This word is not easily translated, but it describes the messiness of reality, especially impermanence, suffering, selflessness, and a quest for nirvana, the primordial state where dukkha vanishes. Our created reality, the universe, is called samsara. It is composed of dualities, subdivisions of reality that create apparent opposites. The separation of nirvana and samsara is a false duality, since nirvana and samsara are an essential unity. Dukkha, as confusion, arises when beings seek to fight every inconvenience in life, as if they were continually being picked on. One should stop to ponder, that it is not a reward when good things happened, and not a punishment when bad things happen.
I believe that frustration of life, dukkha, arises from the consequences of karma. Though I was once highly opposed to this idea, I now see karma at work everywhere, as part of the creation process. Karma can also be described as spirit, soul, intellect, or the subconscious. Karma is a kind of memory of events and emotions that have occurred throughout eternity, as creation waxed and waned in cycles. Karma drives all evolutionary processes, from universes down to microbes. Living karma is the same as instinct. Karma has evicted us from nirvana. We want to have interesting experiences as living beings, but we get lost in a maze of complex possibilities. It is said that a fully-enlightened being, such as the Buddha, can see all the threads of karma in action. For the rest of us, it is not always evident how past actions come back as current consequences. Religions have always urged people to lead better lives and follow basic rules; however, it is not always evident that leading lives of virtue, integrity, ethics, and so forth is a better choice than the opposite. The threads of karma are intuitive and invisible, but the misery and suffering is not.
I think everyone is born with karma. It shows up as one matures with personalities that were not predictable by any process that unenlightened beings can devise. One's karma previously was part of another body, or bodies, that lived and died just like us. I now believe the last act, in the after-death-state, is to deliver karma to a new body. If one has improved their karma in life, one can live on in a sense; otherwise, one's karma will experience a confused rebirth. This is the way I think reality evolved, without the help of any omnipotent being. This is neither bad nor good; it is just the way things are.
I don't believe there is any grand scheme beyond existence itself. I think karma even contains our basic reproductive drives. The purpose of reproduction is to create bodies for future rebirths, so that beings can continue to try to resolve countless leftover issues.
Wars have been fought throughout eternity as shortcuts to solving our problems. Dictators have come and gone, but we have not eliminated them from out planet. I don't think killing and revenge, including capital punishment and even suicide, have ever solved the root of problems, or ever will. It is well-known that revenge always leaves a perpetrator totally unfulfilled. Destroying bodies does not fix the underlying conflicted karma, which will just get new bodies, anyway. Some people even think there are wars like ours in celestial realms, but karma makes this impossible. Dark angels arising in paradise would send themselves to a lower realm, such as ours, or even to a hell, wherever their karma best fits them.
In the Buddhist model, negative karma is marked by excessive anger, greed and delusion, which are called the Three Poisons. Negative karma seems to have gripped our world, leading to despair, suffering, famine, and disease. We all carry the seeds for fatal illnesses, since our genes are not perfect. The negativity in the world degrades everyone's lives.
Who will help us? Beings in hells certainly won't help us. Such beings that there because of overwhelmingly bad karma; their unfortunate existence matched their bad attitude. Animals will not help us, especially since we are creating more suffering for them, which is a karmic debt on our part. Beings in celestial realms will not come to our aide. They cannot exist in a realm like ours, overrun by anger, greed, and delusion. We can't pass the buck; resolution is up to everyone of us. However, karma is not about simple rules, so exceptions happen.
I think we need to embrace the Three Antidotes: love, generosity, and wisdom. This can only be done in a mindful life, using meditation (dhyana,) and contemplation (samadhi.) We are not alone in this endeavor, since we have each other, and our universe is probably filled with similar beings. While celestial beings will not directly help us, their advanced wisdom is available to people using higher meditation practices. Tibetans have documented this in numerous volumes.
I get tired if I do things the wrong way repeatedly, but I see a world culture that seems to be stuck in repeating or destructive cycles. There is never a war to end all wars, just serial wars. We need to stop reinventing the wheel in countless, frustrating episodes of life. Where is the wisdom of memory and history? Our advanced knowledge can show us how senseless and contrived all the battles of past times actually were, but we seem ignorant about the causes of present wars. I don't easily forget, but our society seems to have a shortness of memory. Ultimate truth can only be gained by contemplation, not getting stuck in cultural processes. Fear can keep beings stuck in uncomfortable lives, but dealing with inconvenience is the road to enlightenment.
I have also observed that intangibles seem to be more real than tangibles. When I die, I will leave all my material possessions behind, but my pain and conflicts will go with me.
Hope can spring from recognizing alternate possibilities to destructive behaviors. Controlling anger should be like a prime directive. I believe we also have spirit guides in our midst who are called bodhisattvas, human beings like us, but more advanced in wisdom. Some bodhisattvas are tracked by religious groups, but most are not. Some leave instructions how to find their rebirth in a new life. They are identified as infants, by picking out their predecessor's possessions from an assortment of gifts. Bodhisattvas are like angels without wings, who help us by example, but do not save us.
I think Jesus the Christ was a bodhisattva. Notice that Persians brought the Christ-child gifts to identify him. The Christ has probably returned many times, as either a man or a woman. Sex and gender are features of minds with bodies; karma only contains memories of both possibilities. I made a bodhisattva vow, to return to help others. Perhaps, in a not-so-distant age, my returning karma will impart much-needed wisdom to our struggling planet.
I have tried to express what Buddhist philosophers explain repeatedly cannot be put into words. These concepts were borne of my personal suffering. Even if what I say seems far-fetched, I think my advice is meaningful, People should use meditation and contemplation first for themselves, before they can even think of helping others.