Making pragmatic use of the idea of reincarnation and rebirth

Jeg liker å se på dette og alt annet som projeksjoner. Kan jeg finne gjenfødelse her og nå? Ja, jeg finner at for meg så gjenfødes min verden og dette selvet hele tiden. Det “dør” som det var og gjenfødes som noe nytt, selv om tankene innimellom sier “det er det samme”. Så ja, for meg er gjenfødelse reelt. Og det er ikke viktig om det finnes gjenfødelse eller ikke på den måte folk flest tenker på det.

– my answer, in Norwegian, to a question in a Buddhist group on social media

I recently joined a Buddhist group on social media, just to see what’s going on there.

Someone asked if reincarnation exists, and a discussion ensued arguing one side or the other.

To me, that’s missing the point a bit, and I prefer to take a more pragmatic approach.

DOES IT EXIST IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE?

Yes, it’s an important topic in a conventional sense. Does reincarnation – as most people think about it – exist? That’s a question for science. There is some research that suggests that it may exist, but other explanations are possible, and a lot more research is needed for us to say anything more about it.

THE EFFECTS OF THE IDEA

Then there are the practical effects of the idea of reincarnation.

What happens when we hold that idea as pointing to something real?

In the best case, it can help people act with a little more kindness and with a little more consideration of the effects of the action. (To others, to ourselves here and now, and possibly ourselves in the future.)

In the worst case, it can be used to justify social injustice, inactivity when faced with suffering and structural problems, and so on.

FINDING IT HERE AND NOW

I like to explore any ideas as a projection.

Whether it’s “out there” or not, it’s (also) here in my immediate experience.

Can I find reincarnation in immediacy?

What does it point to here and now?

I find that to me, my whole field of experience goes away (dies) and is reborn as something else. It happens every (imaginary) moment. The wider world and this human self continuously dies and is reborn in a different form.

I have a mental representation of what just was, and it’s different from my mental representation of what’s here now. (I also notice that these mental representations are always behind, even the one that supposedly reflects what’s here now is about the past. What it points to is already gone.)

This is impermanence. If my whole field of experience, including this human self, is ephemeral, can I more fundamentally be any of it?

When I look in immediacy, I find that I more fundamentally am something else. I find I more fundamentally am what it all happens within and as.

How do I go about exploring this? I have mostly used a combination of basic meditation (notice and allow) and different forms of inquiry (traditional Buddhist sense-field inquiry, Kiloby Inquiries, Big Mind process, Headless experiments).

IN ANY CASE, IT’S NOT WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

It may be worth mentioning that there is a distinction between reincarnation and rebirth. Reincarnation is often meant to refer to an “entity” (soul etc.) that reincarnates. And rebirth i more of a rebirth of patterns, not of an entity.

To me, it doesn’t matter so much since in either case – whether we talk about patterns or an apparent entity – it’s not what we most fundamentally are.

Similarly, when I explore reincarnation/rebirth in my sense fields here and now, I am exploring something that’s happening within and as what I am. None of it is what I more fundamentally am.

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