412Re: Questions about Rebirth
- Aug 1, 2003Queston: Is it true that kamma produced many life and deaths of the
universe past can still be present within us?
It is rather disturbing, isn't it? The Buddhist descriptions of hell are, if
anything, more graphic and vivid than the Christian ones. Hell has had a
very bad press recently. One is not allowed to mention it any more
because people think you are just talking about the Bogey man.
I am not sure if it might make things even worse, but take a look at my
article: "The Way Down to Hell is Easy."
Books by Venerable Ledi Sayadaw and Mahasi Sayadaw are full of
references to the dangers of falling into the four lower realms. Not just
hell, but the animal realm is a dreadful place too, and nigh on
impossible to escape from. I once gave a talk on the Simile of the Blind
Turtle when the pet dog of one of my former supporters had died, and
he wanted to share merits with him. He was quite upset at the thought
that his beloved pet had virtually no chance of rebirth in the human
realm. A word of warning here to all pet lovers. "Never take your pet's
unswerving devotion as proof that you are wonderful."
I think it is not quite right to maintain that the seeds of past kamma are
within us, though they are dormant and can bear fruit when conditions
are ripe. If we think of a tree in the winter before it even blossoms,
where are the fruits? They are nowhere to be seen, yet the potential for
the tree to bear fruit is clearly there in the genes.
The best way to understand about latent tendencies is to imagine what
one would do if someone burnt one's house down or murdered one's
relatives. Could one maintain perfect equanimity and refrain from evil
thoughts to kill or maim those who did this? If we ask such questions it
becomes clear that to be reborn in the hellfire of anger and hatred is not
so difficult. If we die a violent death at the hands of a robber, might we
not be reborn in hell?
That is why we should not rest on our laurels until Stream-winning has
been gained. That is the only guarantee of avoiding rebirth in the lower
realms. We ordinary people are like monkeys sitting on a branch. When
the branch breaks, the monkey falls straight to the ground. Noble Ones
are like birds. When the branch breaks, they fly away wherever they
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