Sunday, 17 August 2014
Belief as agency rather than absolute - do you believe in reincarnation? + Tiffany Aching.
We'll get to Tiffany Aching in a minute.
I reckon anyone making use of the insights and practices of Buddhism has, sooner or later, to decide what they think about reincarnation.
I don't "believe" in it, by which I mean that I think it is so unlikely that it is not a useful or helpful concept for me to live with - though it may well work well for others.
I am treating reincarnation as a belief, an "either/or" sort of concept, or at best, a "may be/probably not" framework. Either you do or you don't believe in it.But belief doesn't have to be an absolute; it can be an agency you use to do something important for yourself.
I was in conversation recently with a very special and longstanding friend of mine. He has a medical (i.e. a scientific, rational) background alongside an open and enquiring mind. I think he is one of the wisest people I know - which statement would make him snort, I am sure.
He told me that a long time ago he realised he was blaming his parents for everything that he felt was wrong with himself and his early life.
As you do, or as many of us do from time to time.
So he took up a working belief in reincarnation. The work involved was thinking himself through to a different sense of self; if he was a soul (spirit, whatever) born into his current body and his current life, then neither he nor his parents had any control over who and where he was as a child.
For about ten years he used a belief in reincarnation to work through his resentments and deal with his blaming. When he had done so, he found the belief simply fading away. It had been an agency which, consciously and deliberately or not, he had used to heal himself.
Until I guess he reached a more existential position in which, as Tiffany Aching might say: "This I choose to do. This I accept responsibility for."