If I am capacity for the world and this human self, does that mean that this awake capacity is here after this human self is gone?


If I am capacity for the world and this human self, does that mean that when this human self dies, this awake space is still there, perhaps filled with something else?

The short answer is, I don’t know.

It’s true that to me, I am awake capacity for all my experiences – this human self, the wider world, change, birth and death, and so on. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

But from that doesn’t follow that this awake space will still be here after this human self dies. I cannot say. Maybe it will go away. (The capacity will still be here, but maybe the awakeness will be gone with the human self.) Maybe this awake capacity will continue, filled with different experiences. (Experiencing a life between lives etc.) I don’t know.

I personally have images that seem to be from before this human life, and I have images that seem to be from particular past lives. They feel like memories, but I don’t know if that’s what they are. People and traditions may talk about reincarnation or heaven, but I cannot know if that’s true or not. There is research into reincarnation, and they seem to find data that fits the idea of reincarnation, but I cannot know that for certain either.

And that’s a very good place to be. It’s freeing. It’s honest.

All that matter is that right now, I find myself as capacity for it all – this human self, the wider world, these ideas, and anything else happening.

Intellectual honesty in spirituality: Zen and not dead yet


The Emperor asked Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes sir,” said Gudo, “but not a dead one.”

– I heard this story almost 30 years ago but can’t find an original source right now. It seems to be quoted a lot without a source.

This is honesty. There is a huge amount of bs in spirituality, and it consists mostly of people pretending that stories are reality.

Do we know that reincarnation exists? Or the soul? Or any afterlife? Or karma? Isn’t this just what someone else has told us?

Is it something we can check for ourselves? And if not, why repeat it or pretend we know it’s true?

Why not instead be honest? Why not admit we don’t know?

There are other ways to use these concepts and ideas that seem more helpful. For instance, why not explore these concepts and ideas as projections? Why not use them as something we can explore here and now? How can I find where they fit my experience?

For instance, I can find a kind of reincarnation here and now. I notice that each moment is fresh and new and something is kind of recreated. I notice that any ideas I have of a me or I are recreated here and now. In that way, “I” am reborn. (Any ideas of continuity are just that, ideas. I cannot find it outside of my ideas. This means that reborn even in this sense is also based on an idea on not something actual I can put my finger on.)

I can find karma in that something that happens has consequences. Actions has consequences. Through how I think, feel, and act, I create habits and grooves that it’s easier to follow in the future. When I act in the world, the world responds. This is the karma I can find in my own life and check out for myself. Beyond that, I don’t really know. (Even here, I cannot really find karma, cause and effect, and so on outside of my ideas.)

What about the afterlife? I can find it in my ideas, but not outside of my ideas. I can find timelessness here, and that all my experiences happen within and as this timelessness. I notice that this human self – and the idea of time itself – happens within and as that timelessness. But I still don’t know if there is anything after this human self dies.

Of course, I know that not everyone are interested in or inclined to explore in this way. For many, holding onto ideas is comforting and sufficient. It’s that way for me too, sometimes and in some areas of life, and probably in ways I am not even aware of. That’s completely fine. But I prefer to be honest about it, at least as much as I can.


When I look for reincarnation, or rebirth, in my own experience, here is one thing I find: Images and thoughts are reborn here. There is an image in my mind of a cat I used to know. It comes up again. And although it’s quite similar in content, it’s a new image. It’s reborn. The tendency to take certain images and thoughts as true is also reborn. Mind identifies with an image or thought, for instance my father sacrificed for me. It’s gone from conscious awareness. Then the image and identification is back. It’s reborn. And that’s happening in society as well. Images and thoughts are reborn in different and sometimes new individuals. As a baby learns how to  live in society, images and thoughts from parents and others are reborn in her or his mind. And a part of this process is to watch which images and thoughts are typically identified with, and which are not, and then do the same. These tendencies for identification are also reborn in the new human. And this happens not only in childhood, but also when we grow up. It’s an integral part of learning to function as a human being in society. So rebirth happens in these two ways. First, images and thoughts are reborn here in my mind, as are tendencies to take some images and thoughts as true. And both of these are also reborn throughout society, passed on from human to human. Read More

Simple explanations



The Norwegian princess recently published a book about angels and how to contact them, and someone I know just sent me an email with a story about how I had helped her in a past life.

As usual, these things are an invitation to explore, in this case explore ways of relating to these topics, and some possible effects of each of these ways of relating.

I can dismiss it, which can be fine, but I also miss out of insights.

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A few simple things about rebirth….

It may be helpful to separate out the science, social/culture and practice sides to rebirth.

From the science side, there are some simple questions: Does it happen or not? If it seems to happen, what are some ways to explain it? (Rebirth, or picking up information from other lives without rebirth?) If there is rebirth, what is reborn? (Patterns? An entity? Something else?) There is some research looking at these questions, and plenty of room for more.

From the social/cultural sides, the main question is: What function does it have for society and culture? How does it function as ethics, as another angle to the golden rule? Does it help society to function better? How does it seem helpful? In what ways may it be less helpful? (And what measures do we use to determine that?)

And from the practice side, one question is: Is it a useful guideline for me or not? What happens if I take it as truth? Is it useful for me if I take it as a guideline? What happens if I take it as a guideline?

Then, how does rebirth happen here now? Does it happen as a story? Does it happen within my own world of images? Can I find it outside of my own world of images? Is it here in the freshness of everything happening? (Always new, different, fresh?) Does it happen when a story is reborn and taken as true? Can I notice how a sense of me + I is reborn here now?

And also, if something is indeed reborn – as shown by science – is that what I really am? Is it content of experience? Does it come and go? Is that what I really am?

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Reincarnation as projection, guide and question


A few things about reincarnation…

As any other story, it is a projection of what is here now.

A story is projected into the past, present or future. An idea of a past, future and even present life is projected and appears solid and substantial out there. Can I notice it as just an image, a mental field creation happening here now?

Qualities and dynamics are projected into the past, present and future. Maybe a life of blessings or of hardships, and details about each. Can I find it here now? See how it plays itself out? Feel it? Welcome it?

And among these is the dynamics of rebirth itself. In what way is rebirth happening here now? Can I notice that my stories are being reborn here now? My images of myself are continuously being recreated here now. Continuously maintained, fueled, enhanced, rehearsed, elaborated, in different ways.

(Whether those stories align with data and consensus reality or not, and appear to reflect something in the wider world, they are still also a projection of something here now. I couldn’t see it out there if it wasn’t also right here.)

And as any other story, it is a guide of temporary and practical value (or not). Helpful in some situations. Less helpful in other. When I use it for myself, what effects does it have? Does it help me take responsibility for my actions here now? If so, it may be quite helpful. Does it bring stress and tensions? If so, it may be less helpful.

And finally, as any other story, it is a question.

I may have images of past lives (for me, a life as a Russian intellectual in the 1850s and 60s, and a Taoist master in Xian in the 900s? during the Tang dynasty) but did those lives really happen? If they did, was something associated with those lives reborn in this one? If so, what is that something? And if something is reborn, is there an “I” in that something? If I can’t find an I here, anchored in this human life, would there be one then?

And it is also a question for us collectively. A question we can do studies and research on. And that research may well be worth doing, especially since its findings may help us open up our current science based world view.

So the story of reincarnation, as any other story, is a projection, a guide and a question.

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Karma and reincarnation as teaching strategy


What do we know about life, death and what continues?

Well, we know for sure that this human self dies. It is gone. Never to come back. So if we take this human self, with its particular personality, to be “I”, then “I” will surely die and be gone forever, reincarnation or not.

At the same time, we see that the world of form is a seamless whole. Everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. The world of form is reorganizing itself in always new and different ways. There is no I with an Other within the world of form. Doing, but no (separate, individual) doer.

And if we look, we find that within all of this coming and going, all of this change, something does not come and go. The awareness it all happens within does not come and go. It is that which all forms happens within, to and as, including all time and space, all causality, and any sense of an I with an Other. This awareness is inherently free from all of it, so is also free to allow the appearance of it all. This is what we really are, awakeness inherently free from any of its content, free from any I with an Other, yet allowing the appearance of it all in its fluid richness.

So in this context, personal karma does not have much meaning, nor does reincarnation if we think of an “I” that is reincarnated.

There is no “personal” karma because everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. Every single little thing this human self does has causes that stretch back to the beginning of time and out to the extent of the universe. It is the karma of the world of form as a whole and does not belong to any individual entity within this world of form.

And there is no reincarnation of a separate “I” either, because it doesn’t exist. It only appears when we filter the world through a sense of I and Other, which all comes from a thought, which all happens within, to and as awakeness itself.

At most, there may be a rebirth of this alive presence with its many flavors of infinite love, wisdom, luminosity, nurturing darkness, and somehow personal and impersonal at the same time. This alive presence at the soul level, which may come in through certain soul level practices such as prayer, and which we can place our sense of “I” on if we want. But this too is within content of awareness, this too comes and goes, this too is inherently free from any I with an Other. So even if there is some form of rebirth here, it is free from a rebirth of any “I”.

So why does Buddhism, and some other traditions, emphasize personal karma and reincarnation? They are not stupid, they too must have discovered this either in their own immediate experience or at least rationally, so why do they still – sometimes – emphasize it?

To me, it seems to be a teaching strategy. A teaching aimed at a particular, introductory, level.

It is far too easy to be caught up in the words about these things… ground, awakeness, emptiness, no I with an Other. As soon as we start believing the thoughts about these things, or anything else, it quickly gets really weird.

So then it is better to encourage people to continue to believe in a separate self, with individual karma and the prospect of being reborn, because that at least invites in some personal responsibility, some measure of ethical living, the practice of thinking of the longer term and far reaching consequences of ones actions.

(It easily becomes a fear based motivation, which Buddhism traditionally is not foreign to, so we may agree or disagree with that particular approach.)

It aligns our sense of a separate I, with a conscious view of a separate I, which anyway is more honest.

If we are going to believe in thoughts, as we do until there is a shift into awakeness awakening to itself, we may as well believe in these thoughts. They do at least have some practical everyday value.

And if we, in addition to this, practice, we may eventually come to see through it all. We may discover that there is really no I with an Other. That the world of form is a seamless whole, where the local manifestations of the movements of the whole appears as under the influence of infinite causes and infinite effects. That what we really are is this awakeness within, to and as the world of form appears, inherently and already absent of any I with an Other.

And that there is no, and never was any, personal karma. No reincarnation of any I. No substance to those teachings.

Yet a great deal of appreciation for them anyway, as practical guides for a certain phase of the path.

Death and what continues


A quick look at death and what continues…

First the obvious one: Our human self, with its personality and quirks, dies. It is gone forever. At most, some of its influences on others and society continues for a while, but then that is gone too.

And another one, which takes a bit of looking: What we are, this awakeness that all form unfolds within, to and as, is free from form, space & time. It is that which form, time and space unfolds within and as. It is always and already here, whether it notices itself or not (temporarily taking itself to be a portion of its own content). This one is not “personal”, it does not seem dependent on this human self. It is existence itself, temporarily functionally connected to a particular human self.

As Big Mind, that which goes beyond and embraces all polarities, it continues on independent of any individual self. Or rather, it continues to allow form to unfold within and as itself.

Finally, maybe the least obvious one: Our soul self. This alive presence. This one that is not quite personal and not quite impersonal. Not quite in time and not quite outside of time. Not quite located in space, and not quite outside of space. This too is content of awareness, so it is possible to either identify with it and make it into an “I”, or see and appreciate it as just content, similar to the human self. If something continues on an “individual” level, and if there is a vehicle for – for instance – rebirth, it seems that this could be it.

(And finding myself as awakeness, it doesn’t quite matter. Continuing or not are just two different flavors of awakeness itself, two flavors of experience.)

Soul and rebirth



Some spiritual traditions talk about a life after death, and even rebirth, and others don’t, and as one Zen master said: I don’t know, I am not dead yet.

It seems that traditions that emphasize the soul level, the alive presence in its many flavors, are more likely to also talk about life after death in general, and rebirth in particular. Christian mysticism, Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism all encourage and nurture the soul level, and all emphasize life after death, and rebirth in the case of Tibetan Buddhism. Advaita and Zen, neither of which explicitly nurture the soul level much, both brings focus to what is here and now, and tends to discourage stories about past and future, including life after death and rebirth.

In my own experience, this makes sense. When the head center awakening is more in the foreground, headlessness, Big Mind, the awake void and all form as this awake void, then any stories about past and future are just stories, and life after death and rebirth become uninteresting. Also, no obvious vehicle for it is present in immediate awareness.

But this changes when the soul level is in the foreground, and the heart and belly centers are more awake and alive. Now, there is an alive presence here. Infinitely alive, loving, intelligent, responsive. It is transparent to the void and timeless, and yet substantial and real, even more so than the physical world. When the soul level is in the foreground, a very plausible vehicle for life after death, and rebirth, is present.

Dreams: journey and combined composer


I live in an intentional community with several Breema practitioners, and am enjoying the nourishing, warm and human connections there. At the same time, I am about to go on a journey that I know will involve my death, and there is a sense of equanimity about it, an alignment with it, and also a knowing that there is no other option.

Arvo Part, Bach and several others of my most favorite composers come to our house in the form of one person. It seems that he is coming to stay for good. He has an instrument, acoustic and with several organic looking pipes sticking up form it. It can create the sound of any instrument, and the sounds of individual instruments and groups of instruments, including a whole orchestra. The sounds are not only similar to these other instruments, but somehow the actual sounds of the instruments.

The death theme of the initial dream fragment is typical these days, with a sense of death and rebirth at several levels and in several ways.

The composer who is a composite of my favorite composers (and all other composers it seemed), is similar to his instrument which is able to reproduce all other instruments. There is one which contains many, and the individuality of each is maintained, along with the infinite variety that emerges from the access to and interactions of all of these individuals.

It is also similar to a dream some months back of someone playing computer role games shifting into having access to innumerable characters at once, either as pure or as freely chosen composites with characteristics from many.

This is what happens when we explore and become familiar with more of our many subpersonalities and identities, release some of the blind and fixed identification with some, allow some that have been disowned, and find that they are each available in a more fluid and free way.

From being chronically attached to some, and equally persistently pushing others away, there is more of a free access to many of them… in their individual form, or as a combination of qualities from several. (I can’t really say that my life is a good example of this, but the possibility may be awakening in me.)