Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rebirth in Buddhism

Buddha tells us not to think too much about these questions - how did world come to be, manifestation of karma, if beings exist after death etc, because these do not lead to cessation of suffering. He said he only teaches cause of suffering and cessation of it. Nonetheless, we all think about rebirth, it is a concept that can not be easily ignored. I was raised a Hindu and hence, this concept has been a part of my life since I could remember. Now the thing that was puzzling me is that Buddhism also talks about continuation of conscience, which takes birth based upon its karmic load. I was really not able to differentiate between rebirth in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the meanwhile, I have been meaning to go to Bhikku Bodhi's lecture in Chuang Yen monastery for a long time and finally was able to go. Coincidentally, this was the topic of the day. He said something which was an aha moment for me. He clarified that the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism wrt rebirth is, that Buddhism does not recognize concept of a non-changing, permanent soul or atman, that goes through cycles of rebirth and hence attachment to this self. There is a stream of consciousness, which changes forms, like wood changes to smoke, when burnt, but no permanent entity. Hinduism considers soul as permanent and hence, also strengthens the notion of self. Soul or not, permanent or not, for me the key was attachment. If you believe in a non-changing self, there lies the attachment, which gives rise to Dukkha.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Controlling the Mind

So, I figured when I started on the Zen path, is that I needed to control my mind. If I got sufficient control over it, it will be in peaceful state all the time. I will have bliss and nirvana, and I have achieved my target. Well, seems like reality is way different! So, the mind is a phenomena, just like anything else, with its inherent nature. If you put water on heat, it will boil because of its inherent nature, same way as wood will burn if exposed to heat and oxygen. The mind will be happy when it gets something that it wants and will be sad when it gets something that it does not. There is no way around it, that is how it is programmed. So, then you would say that the answer is to get rid of the root cause - the want. Let me tell you friends - that is not easy or even entirely possible, for most of us who live in mundane world. I cannot get rid of my desire to see my family happy. If they are going through pain, it pains me and I want the suffering to end. A lot of times, when issues are related to having a job or sickness, it is not even a want, it is a need. How can I say it does not matter whether the situation gets rectified or not?

So, back to the question - I don't think it is expected to change nature of mind so much through meditation, but to understand its nature, see how it works and ACCEPT it. Resistance is what causes pain. If I can accept that my mind is sad because of conditions and there is no way to alter its state, but to accept the sadness of moment, it lessens the blow. As long as we are trying actively to change the situation (applying for jobs, getting medical care etc), we are doing what we need to do. Everything changes, and this situation will also change.

Trust Factor through Zen Practice

So, I like to plan and execute on the plan...if things don't go according to my plan, I get upset and I try hard to bring the plan back on track. My mind is conditioned to believe that it can achieve anything as long as it tried hard enough. If it did not get something, it is because it did not try hard enough. Zen has enabled me to see that if I don't get something, first of all - most of the time, it is for my own good and secondly, there are factors other than my own effort that need to come together for any event to happen. My effort is important and required, but is not the sole controlling factor. This was liberating for me, not that it made me utterly peaceful, but it allowed me to relax and let go, at-least once in a while, if not all the time. I did not have the concept of trust - that whatever is happening, is usually for the best and that every one and everything is being taken care of. Sitting on the cushion has enabled me to see that as well.