I have come to understand that within the practice the subject of Reincarnation is one with many faces. In listening and reading I find that there are varying opinions regarding Reincarnation, most holding it as a an important under pining of basic Buddhist teaching while some apparently struggle with the concept of a ‚Äòself’ continuing as a separate unit cycling thru incarnations more or less intact and Karmically imprinted from self knowing state,(sentient being) to self knowing state(sentient being).
I am new to the Buddha’s’ teachings, (less than a month now), so I thank you for your patience and forbearance. Before discovering Buddhism I had a deep leaning to the spiritual and in time came to understood and firmly believed in the connectedness of all things and the fact that nothing is really what it appears. Nature has shown us that on sub atomic level and now string theory promises even stranger realities. (realms).
As to the question of Karma. Just a week or so ago I read an explanation given to describe the ‚Äòself’ as being similar to a wave on the ocean. A momentary and fleeting thing separate but connected, not apart from but rather somehow fleeting and distinct, but not separate of the whole. Is there room in the Karma Conference for a thought that just maybe after our fleeting existences of self knowing as sentient beings in whatever realm in whatever eon our karmic experiences and energies are returned to the great well of Karma to the benefit or detriment of future sentient beings and that I need not cling to a vision of ‚Äòself’ to understand that Karma is as much a sharing in all things and a possible benefit to all things independent of requiring to retain some, to whatever degree, for myself? Wouldn’t this fit with the non-self and still maintain the importance of practicing the dharma in relation to Karma?
I find this thought deeply warming as it allows me then to work toward acquiring the good Karma in the NOW to return it and diffuse and release it where it is then made a part of all other Karmic energies. As I, like all things, then return does this not give great hope that with each incarnation of any sentient being in any realm we have the ability to contribute to the Buddha hood of each other by sharing from this common and universal well of Karma? Why must I see the accruing of good Karma as not something to be shared freely toward future enlightenment of some other sentient beings enlightenment, we are all together working toward this goal and have been for eons. With this then even those who appear trapped in their bad Karma have hope and a compassionate hand up.
We are not separate, the task is not one of self so why would I view Karma that way? Could it perhaps be that progress of all sentient beings toward enlightenment is thwarted simply by clinging to retain even a little of our good karma for our ‚Äòpersonal wealth and future happiness’? I do know that this idea is one that may appear on the surface to relieve an individual from Karmic responsibility, but I do not see it that way. To me, even as a beginner, most precious to each of us should first be the other and not putting forth right effort and right mindfulness in working for the common best interest of all sentient beings everywhere is really not an option.
So you’ve been looking into Buddhism for less than a month now? Looks to me like you’ve got a really good start.
I suspect your wave analogy came from here: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1182., and it’s one of my favorite metaphors for rebirth too. We are, in fact, all interconnected, and there is no “self” as we usually understand the word. We are all one down deep.
I think your question really boils down to “Can karma be shared, or is it purely an individual thing?” And I’ll answer you: I don’t know. There are groups of Buddhists (and others) who believe that merit can be shared (or even transferred to the dead). There are subtle differences between karma in general and merit specifically, but that’s a discussion for another time. Personally, I’m not a believer in the sharing of merit, but others are.
If you really get into the idea of karma and rebirth and anatman (no-self), then your unique combination of past karma IS you, the only real “you” that exists. Your ancient accumulation of good and bad and history is what makes you be you. Of course, if we really are all interconnected, then wouldn’t some mixing and sharing take palce?
Generally, I prefer the idea of Bodhisattvas, or those who are devoted to bringing about the enlightenment of everyone, without exception, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. They aren’t giving up their own karma, they are teaching and sharing their enlightenment by bringing others up to their level, leading by example.
Again, I’m not sure what I think on this. It’s a hugely deep concept, and I have to say, this is an area I haven’t thought about or researched very much. With luck, one of our readers will be able to enlighten us.