Consciousness leaks. It is the reason people think there is reincarnation. It may also be the reason multiple people come up with the same idea. Take the Lightbulb, for example. There is a saying I heard attributed to William Burroughs: Ideas belong to a time, not a person.
It’s just leaky memory because we all have a certain amount of access to the big impersonal conciousness, sometimes called Big Mind.
I know that many people like the rebirth idea, but I can only surmise that is because they are attached to the idea that a little bit of themselves survives and transfers. Ah, if not the ego, please let some kind of soul transfer… alas there is only witnessing, but no witness, because that which is witnessing is impersonal.
How come there is a 14th Dalai Lama? The boys selected to be potential Dalai Lamas receive a lot of great training. One or the other might develop an “antenna” and receive leaky consciousness/memory. I believe the trick lies not in re-incarnating, but in accessing that consciousness.
And how do you access that consciousness? You access it because you understand that there is no self and you prepare yourself to tap into what Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious – or maybe we should call this the Collective Consciousness. We can develop an antenna or radar through training and some have it because of a natural genetic ability…
A friend wrote:
Essentially, rebirth makes life more like one big University where you get to keep taking “classes” until you “graduate”… presumably either to heaven or another plane of existence. And that’s all good until you ask, “What goes on in that next plane of existence?!” And, “Why is that existence superior to here and now??” Well, of course it’s superior because all is love, there’s no suffering, AND you get to have super-powers! Sounds great… or really really boring.
I think any of the training people do or talk about that is supposed to prepare them for their death is just illusion and attachment. Don’t waste your time. Instead I suggest helping that old lady across the street, or registering people to vote, or working in a soup kitchen, or in some other form reaching out. And yes, I think the idea of the Bodhisattva, who promises to help liberate human beings in every rebirth – that’s just one of many remnants of Hinduism that can be found throughout Buddhism. After all Hinduism was the prevalent religion in the time of Buddha.
Actions speak louder than words. By acting we put things in motion and when we approach the “optimum mode of being”, which is what Batchelor calls Buddha-hood, we live it out.
PS: At Upaya a few weeks ago Stephen Batchelor mentioned that in Sanskrit and Pali the term is not Buddha-nature, but Buddha-womb. That has quite a different flavor. It suggests a place where a Buddha may grow. It speaks of potential rather than actualization. The term Buddha-nature was the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit/Pali.
PPS: When I told Stuart that I think believing in reincarnation is just attachment he shot back “you say that every time“, which cracked me up!