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Lions Roar : March 2017
BEGINNER’S MIND Do I have to believe in reincarnation or rebirth to be a Buddhist? This is one of the most frequently asked of frequently asked questions: As a Buddhist, do I have to believe in something like reincarnation I have no evi- dence is true? But in fact, death and rebirth are happening to us all the time. We’ve all played with the question “When I die, who would I like to come back as?” The implication is that “I” will be reincarnated in another life. But Buddhists don’t believe in a permanent “I” or soul that goes forward from life to life—or moment to moment, for that matter. That’s why Buddhists prefer to talk about “rebirth” rather than “reincarnation”—it’s less personal. The “you” you’re currently conscious of is not a fixed identity but an ongoing pro- cess of mind and energy that is always taking new forms. According to most Buddhists, that doesn’t stop with the death of the physical body. Death and rebirth are just larger versions of an experience we have regu- larly: something stops our usual stream of consciousness (a kind of death), there’s a gap, and then we’re “reborn” as our habitual tendencies kick back in. In Buddhism, these habitual patterns are also called karmic seeds, and, planted deep in the mind, they can affect what happens after death, just as they do in the next moment. Who or what is reborn? It won’t be you, but it could be the fiction of you. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS THE THREE POISONS are the energy of ego’s three basic attitudes—for me, against me, and don’t care. All unwholesome states of mind (kleshas) are variations on these three themes. Because the poisons drive our suffering, they are traditionally depicted as three animals—a rooster, snake, and pig—at the center of the wheel of life. Passion (also called attachment, greed, or lust): Whatever feels good we want more of. Above all, ego is attached to whatever ensures its survival— physically, psychologically, or spiritually. At the same time, passion has in it the seeds of love and connec- tion, and so of the three poisons, it offers the best path to enlightenment. Aggression (aversion, anger, hatred): We try to repel anything we believe will hurt or threaten us. Because we are willing to hurt others to protect ourselves, even on a massive scale, aggression is the greatest cause of suffering. In the Vajrayana school of Buddhism, its energy is seen as wisdom when self- interest is removed. Ignorance (indifference): If you’re not for me or against me, you don’t matter. This is not the basic ignorance of solidified, dualistic reality that is the foundation of samsara, but it is what enables people to prioritize their own pleasure over the suffering of bil- lions of others. There is no real potential for enlighten- ment in this indifference. ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIERRAYFENWICK LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 32