DoveTaler posted this comment about my possible epitaph: Do you really believe it - this re-birth stuff? Or do you think of it as a student - interesting proposition.... intellectually fascinating...
The short answer is yes. I really do believe it and not just as an interesting proposition.
Even before I began the study of Buddhism seriously, I considered this a strong possibility. Not that I have memories of previous lives, but I always wondered where certain aspects of my personality came from. Out of thin air? Mere intellectual curiosity? Where did my fascination with revolutions, especially the Russian revolution, come from? My almost automatic opposition to authority? My musical talent? My precocious literacy?
For years I have been interested in Freemasonry...(this came out of a single reference in War and Peace when I was 12 years old for heaven's sake)...and the Knights Templar...and all the Holy Grail legendry. And then Penny, my partner, has an affinity with the Languedoc, which was a central locale for Templar activities and certain Gnostic Christian movements. How to explain these odd circumstances?
As a youngster I was fascinated by the American Civil War. I even had dreams about it. In which I was simultaneously a Rebel footsoldier and a dashing behatted, grey-gloved lieutenant in the Confederate cavalry.
The Mayan civilization has also held a certain fascination for me. I have been in Mexico twice in my life. Both times I've made special trips, unaccompanied because no one else was interested, to the Mayan ruins.
You can say it's because I'm attracted to history. And so I am. But not just any history. I'm not especially interested in the history of the Inuit, for example. No, these are specific places and times. Why? I don't know, except to think that maybe, just maybe I was there.
You can say it's just a curious mind, but I ask, what drives that curious mind. When you look at them, they are bizarre things to be pursuing. After all, in front of my nose is beer, sex, food, TV, sports, politics, all the diversions a modern western society can conjure up. That's what most people pay attention to, isn't it? But nooo...I have to dick around with the most abstruse subjects.
So. (As Veronica would say.)
So. Then I met the Dharma. Now, I'm a wide thinker, but maybe not a very deep one. But if you follow the Buddhist logic of mind to its end, you see that there is no end. Or rather, I should say, if you try to trace the path of your mind to its very beginning, you see there is no beginning. The Buddhist logic says nothing occurs without a cause. And furthermore, the cause must be of the same variety. (That's not the right word, but I can't think of it just now.) In other words, an orange can't be the cause of a thought. The only thing that can cause thought is a previous thought.
So. When you get to what you think was your first thought after conception...what caused it? What preceded it? It must have been a thought. It could not have come from out of nowhere. In other words, there was thought before conception. If so, it must have been with a different body. Basically, the mind is beginningless and endless. Only the wrapping changes.
This makes complete sense to me, so yes I believe the rebirth thing. It explains to me why I might be so interested in all that goofy stuff. Karma makes sense then. Cause and effect make sense. Life makes sense, or at least holds out the possibility of making sense, if you spread it out over more than one. Life becomes fair when you look at it this way. I mean, why should I be here suffocating in luxury with millions of others living in horrifying poverty and degradation...if there's only one shot at this life thing? Why are some criminals rich and successful while honest hardworking people eat dirt? To me, that makes no sense. That makes the universe seem a capricious, even malevolent thing. I think it would mean that Nietzche was right.
This way, everybody gets a shot. More than one. We have all eternity to get it right.
I could say more, I guess, but it comes down to this: the universe never wastes anything. It's one immense recycling plant. Six billion minds being used like throwaway lighters? How wasteful.
Or one more thing which always impressed me: the Dalai Lama has said there is evidence that rebirth occurs, but no definitive evidence that it does not occur.