A continuation of What if Reincarnation is Real? that focuses on the notion of random reincarnation as a tool that provides good guidelines and motivation for living a “good” life. The notion here is that the choice of a guiding philosophy is not so much about what is right, or wrong, or provable. Rather, it is a matter of what works best, in the light of reason, as well as faith.
Originally published 2014
Random Reincarnation as a Moral Compass
Whether or not the theory of Random Reincarnation is true in reality, it provides a mechanism for decision making that is in the best interest of society and the seventh generation of grandchildren. There are two aspects to that theory:
- We will be reborn, randomly.
Will definitely be reborn — but it could be as anyone, at random, anywhere in the world.
Therefore it is in our best interests to make a society that provides equal opportunity to everyone, so that no matter where we start, we have a chance to discover our talents, build on them, and make our maximum contribution.
- We will be free (aka enlightened), when all are free.
There appear to be people who have achieved solo enlightenment. If I ever meet one, I’ll report the experience. But so far, everyone who appears to us to be at least nominally enlightened has become a teacher. Maybe that’s because the others have left. Or maybe it’s because once you develop a heart of compassion, you can’t simply step free of muck and leave others wallowing in it. You are compelled to help others, as well. One good reason for doing so is the prospect that you will be coming back, at some point. Helping others, therefore, maximizes the chances that there will be people to help you, in a future life.
Now then, whether we are actually reborn randomly or not, that line of thought helps us to put ourselves in others’ shoes. What if I were born black? Or female, especially in other part of the world? As it happens, I was born into a family at the low end of the economic scale — not into total poverty, but into relative deprivation. All of the people in my life cared, however, so emotional abuse I experienced was minimal, and unintended. The education I got was mostly the result of one very determined, long-suffering friend of my mother’s, who took me in after she died. That education is the foundation for the success I’ve had in life, and for my ability to think clearly. So many of the good things I have experienced can be considered the result of luck of the draw, more than any other factor.
On the spiritual side, things are pretty equivalent. I was born into a society and an upbringing that had me just about as screwed up as it is possible to get, with respect to sexuality. And without healthy sexuality, true spirituality is nigh unto impossible, in my view. So here I am at 64, finally free of the traumas that locked things into place, but still trying to overcome the habits left over, and at an age when the “mating dance” that was a natural part of the college scene is a distant memory.
So I’m a lot better off than many in this world (although not as well off as some). But it’s pretty clear to me that the world could be a lot better place to live in than it is. It took me most of my life to work through my initial traumas, and mine are miniscule compared to things that many others have experienced. I sure would love to create a world in which emotional trauma is minimal, and the opportunities for a decent livelihood, emotional connection, and spiritual growth are widespread and maximized.
Such a world would, in effect, be a Garden of Eden. But as I dwell on the state of the world, I find myself less than happy. On the other hand, by focusing on myself and my immediate surroundings to the exclusion of all else, I can be happy. But for others to reach that state, there is a lot of emotional trauma to release!
It’s a matter of focus, of course. The bottom line seems to be:
- Happiness seems to be about accepting the world as it is.
(Especially by avoiding the news and being grateful for the world around me, now.)
- Improving the world it is about making easier for more people to achieve that state of happiness.
- Being able to do both is one heck of a tricky balance — but a necessary balance to achieve, I think.
At work, I’m a “usability gadfly”. I’m always trying to improve the product. But I’m still trying to find a way to be positive while I do that, much less be positive about life in general:. (When I’m trying to make improvements, I’m seeing the empty part of the glass. When I’m being happy, I’m focusing on the full part. The question, of course, is how to do both??)
Now then, back to reincarnation. The philosophy of Random Reincarnation says that is necessary to improve the world, to the degree that one is able. At the very least, it means releasing one’s own traumas, so they’re not passed along unintentionally, like a flu virus. At the same time, it necessary to learn to be happy. (If you’re happy, you can make the world a slightly brighter place for everyone you meet, and that makes the world a better place, too.)
So the theory of Random Reincarnation says both that one should improve the world, and one should also be happy. Clearly, that’s a pretty tall order! But it’s also a pretty darn good definition of a “good” life.
What about “Directed” Reincarnation?
The philosophy of “Directed Reincarnation” says that rebirth is not random. There are two flavors: Fatalistic Reincarnation (you deserve it) and Deterministic Reincarnation (you choose it).
In the Deterministic model, you basically created a script with all of life’s important events pre-determined, as though you were signing up for a role in a play. There is, of course, a semi-obvious absurdity here: What cloud were we all sitting on when we wrote the script?
Now then, it is at least remotely possible that, as a disembodied spirit, we hovered around and chose a family to be born into — perhaps being attracted by a vibration that matched our own. In that scenario, personal growth would be valuable, because we would naturally be attracted a higher-vibration environment the next time around. But to imagine that we somehow co-created the entire script of our lives is to defy logic.
So even if one takes initial circumstances of birth as a matter of choice, the life events that follow has more to do with chance, in my view. In that case, it is how you respond to the circumstances that matters.
The good part about the deterministic model is that it helps to give a person some sense of control, which is an important antidote to being a victim. On the other hand, it’s at least as much a ticket to ride the blame train: “You chose it. It’s your own fault. Suck it up and deal with it.” To someone who is depressed about the events they experienced, that sort of philosophy is no consolation at all. And even though the admonition to “deal with it” is both correct and well-intended, it is almost impossible to hear that message in the midst of the perceived negativity that surrounds it.
A better model, to my mind, suggests that life’s events are essentially random — the probability of adverse events may be improved in good circumstances, but they are not eliminated entirely. But, again, it is how you respond that matters.
In general, that is a pattern of behavior that can be learned — but at the same time my own experience has shown that there are deeply-held conceptions of self-worth that are literally stored in the body — rather than the brain. They can be accessed, surfaced, and released, but until that happens, they tend to predispose our reactions in ways that are all but fully pre-determined. In the absence of such “behavior locks”, however, the ability to respond in a positive way can be learned.
Becoming a wonderful human being, then, is a two-part process: 1) Eliminating or avoiding such “behavior locks”. 2) Learning the best and most effective mechanisms for responding to circumstances.
Since the locks are built into the body at a pre-verbal stage, before consciousness has developed, it is impossible for us to avoid them. That is a matter of environment. What we can do is eliminate those that have formed (a process of deep inner work). Then we can learn. (That is why role models and mentors are so important. But it helps to have fertile soil — i.e. a personality that doesn’t have a lot of “Behavior locks”–or rocks — in it.)
Engaging in that process can keep us from passing on the behavior locks we inherited, creating a better environment for the next generation. For some of us, the awareness and inner growth came about so late in life as to be almost irrelevant to the current life. So the best we can do is to improve life for the next generation.
In other words, it’s important to make the world a better place.
But the big issue with both flavors of Directed Determinism is that they are a recipe for complacency. They do not provide any rationale for endeavoring to make a better world. It is sufficient merely to be “good”, by whatever standard you believe in (fatalistic), or to choose wisely next time (deterministic) .
Of course, it is possible to define “good” as making improvements in the world. But the idea of Directed Reincarnation does not contain any intrinsic push in that direction. Random reincarnation, on the other hand, encourages social and environmental activism, as a matter of “enlightened self-interest”. So again, I find it preferable source for guidelines on living a “good” life.
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