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Interactions with Mr. Alan

 

(These exchanges started when Mr. Alan downloaded AKGBackup and took it on a test ride. He first wrote about AKGBackup, but some comments from both the sides led to this discussion. His words are presented here in blue font.)

 

I did look at a part of your Musings section. As a Christian (not just a nominal one by virtue of having been born in the west, but being committed to that faith after serious investigation of some alternatives) I do not believe reincarnation exists; however, for those that do believe in it, I offer this challenge: why is the progression of the soul from one earthly existence to another always seen as linear with respect to time?

What I mean is (with one eye on modern cosmology) is there any reason a person who dies today could not experience their next life in what we call "the past"? And if that is so, and they remember a little of their previous life in our time, would that make them a prophet? It's even possible for two or more of their successive lives to be lived concurrently as we see time. In fact, if you pursue this line of thinking to its ultimate conclusion there is really no need to posit the existence of more than one soul; we may all be the same person!

As I said, I do not believe any of this personally, but it came to me as an original thought while I was reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" and I have often thought that if I had the time, I could develop it into a very original novel. Certainly I have never heard anyone else suggest such a concept, probably because the concept of time and space revealed by modern cosmology is so far outside everyone's experience, especially prior to Einstein's day.


 


You have raised a very interesting issue regarding reincarnation. You see, the idea of reincarnation has been very ancient. Logically, it follows from the idea of "cause and effect" i.e. the concept of Karma. To those who do not believe in reincarnation, it may be asked, "Why two children are born in totally different circumstances?". One is born as child of a beggar and the other in some princely family. One may be healthy and the other may be sickly. If one does not accept the concept of Karma then he has to be a firm believer in coincidences. I think it is fairly easy to prove that coincidences do not occur, or that coincidence is the name given to some event causes of which we cannot guess.

Time is also a dimension of existence. A soul has to exist in a certain dimension, it cannot exist simultaneously in differnt dimensions though dimensions themselves exist simultaneously. A very basic question arises here too. Is time directional? or do past and future exist simultaneously? If time is directional, it answers your challenge. Even if it is not, at least a soul moves across it from one direction to the other. It may be visualized by taking space as example. New York and Tokyo are existing simultaneously but you will be moving from one place to another. The only difference is that with time whole of humanity moves from past to future. If in 2004, I remember about my past life, say, in 1804 then it is also possible that I am existing also in 3004 and there I might be remembering about my life in 2004. As to why future lives are not remembered, the simple reason is that because they are not yet lived in the present dimension. If this is true, even then it proves reincarnation because you cannot say that this present existence is the only one for us.

It is very easy for Astrologers to talk correctly of the past, but their predictions of future usually go wrong. Is it that we are not supposed to know much of future in the very scheme of existence?

It is said in Indian philosophy that individual souls are not different from each other and that their ultimate destiny is to merge with the Great Soul. We are all offshoots of this great soul. You can imagine a bubble in water. The water in the bubble is no different than the water outside, but it is separated by a film. It is this film which creates the impression of individuality. The moment this film dissolves the great union takes place. Now imagine a hundred bubbles. What do you call them? Are they same or are they different? Whatever the answer it is right and wrong at the same time. To one who sees the difference they are all different and to one who sees the similarity they are same. It is only a question of gestalt. So, you would find that even in India different saints described the same reality in different ways, and to the ignorant they appeared to be contradicting each other. What I think is that it is a folly on our part to try to describe truth in language (but we do not have any other option also :-)). That is why Indian tradition stressed upon "experiencing".

If you look really hard you will find that the concepts of right and wrong do not hold much water. Is there any difference between light and darkness? OR are they different manifestations of the same phenomenon?
 



A more important question than why we are born in differing circumstances is why we are born at all. Is there a purpose for life or is everything due to chance? The popular position to take in the world of science at the moment is that everything is random. Even the fact that the entire universe is obviously fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent creatures like ourselves who can ask about the point of it all, is attributed by these scientists to chance -- with the explanation that there is an infinite number of universes and only in this one does life exist, i.e. in the ones where life can't exist there is nobody to ask "why not"! At that point I say to the scientists (as one who loves science myself) that their concept of infinite universes is not, itself, a scientific concept as it is not open to being disproved if it is false! It is just an unsupported philosophical position, no different in principle from any religious statement.

Then there are the true post-modernists who have given up the idea that anything can be "true" in the classic sense of that word -- objectively true, true for everyone, true even if there is nobody to know it. They see all "truth" as relative, and local to the one believing it, i.e. "it's true for you but not for me." But their firm conviction that nothing is absolutely true is something they believe to be absolutely true! There is obviously a lot of illogic in their position!

 


The very fact that the word "random" or "chance" or coincidence appears in one's discourse means that there seems to be no explanation based on the accepted assumptions. That is why one should always take the conclusions of so called "science" with a pinch of salt. One just needs to go through the history of science to see that one day's scientific gospel was totally discarded the next day, and who knows what will happen tomorrow. The fact remains that there are many basic question which cannot be answered by science today and I doubt for the future too. Some time back I read the book "The book of the damned" by Charles Fort and it was an eye opening experience (irrespective of the fact whether one agrees with him or not).

The basic most question, in my opinion, is how should I live. That I am born is beyond any doubt. So, even if it was possible to know why? it would not be of much use. Buddha had a list of 11 questions which he refused to answer because he termed those as unnecessary questions. Some of the questions were - Is there a God? Is there reincarnation? Is there a heaven or a hell? Is there a soul within a living being? etc. etc. These questions are really false questions because no matter what the answer it does not change anything in your life. If Buddha or Jesus said, "There is a God", would it make any difference in the way I am living? No. So, the only relevant and real question is, "How to live"? or "What I need to do to live better?". Rest is all b...s....
 


Buddha's list of 11 questions he would not answer preclude most of the ones that I think are important. As I understand it, what you believe about those questions makes a huge difference to how you will live your life. If he really said that the answers to those questions make no difference, I must disagree with him 100%.

Just yesterday I was reading an article about a theologian from Paraguay who has written his thesis on the subject of why Paraguay suffers from "fatalism", the belief that nothing I do will make any difference so why should I bother? His research traces the roots of Paraguayan fatalism to two origins: the influence of Islam on Catholicism in Spain, which the Spanish then brought to South America, and the interaction of that philosophy with a similar fatalism inherent in the native Paraguayan culture. You can see the results in the fact that the tiny Protestant community in Paraguay has an income 10 times higher than the national average (not that any of them are rich!) and produces most of the food. My wife, who has family there, took a car tour of some of the interesting sight like Itaipu and Iguasu, and her driver said as they drove through a protestant village that was obviously better off than most other villages they had driven through, "these are the Mennonites - they live well because they work hard. But most of us don't like to work hard."

What you believe DOES make a difference. It is very noticeable that the rise of democracy and industrial development in Europe began in the countries that adopted the protestant religion after the Reformation, because their belief was that you are responsible for your own "fate" through the decisions you take. In other words, your actions do influence your own future and that of your community and the world.
 



It seems you missed my point about the 11 questions of Buddha (no offense intended). You do not believe in reincarnation and I believe in reincarnation, why? Is it not because of our conditionings and background? We can say that we have examined the issue and taken a conscious decision, but deep down we are still influenced by our conditionings. You get convinced by arguments which favour your conditioning and I get influenced by arguments favouring my conditionings. Words of Jesus carry more weight for you and Buddha's for me, why? The answer is of course, conditionings. This is human beings' normal pattern of behaviour in such cases. It is said in Hindu philosophy that unless you know or experience yourself, any truth remains false for you. How do I know for sure that Buddha was right about reincarnation? I might trust him but I cannot absolutely discard the possibility that he might be wrong.

Hindu philosophy does not put any value in beliefs. It does not matter what belief you stick to. After all what is belief? When you say that you believe in God, it means you do not KNOW whether there is any God. Otherwise there was no need to say you believed. You do not say, "I believe I live in Canada", do you? Things which are known do not require any belief. You know that is all. All beliefs, without exception, are hindrances to knowing the truth. Beliefs give you a false impression that you know and thus hinder the search for truth. Truth becomes a ready made commodity for believers. It is not so easy my friend. Just examine your beliefs. Do you really KNOW them? Do you KNOW there is a heaven or a hell? Do you KNOW we have soul? Or are all these things taught to you by someone else. I think it is not too difficult to see that almost all of our beliefs come from outside. Hindu philosophy lays stress on knowing yourself and that is why Buddha did not answer those questions. He would have been reinforcing certain beliefs and he did not want to do that.

You say beliefs do matter a lot. It is true but only unto a point. As far as normal living is concerned, they do matter. It is because they are like programs and we act according to these programs. But I am talking about something deeper...about growth as a human being. Having earned a lot of money can be called growth, but has the rich person grown as a human being? Has he become happier? Has he become more peaceful? Has he become more loving? Does he sleep better?

The example you gave seems to suggest that fatalism keeps people poor or prevents them from working hard. It is not true. There are many really rich and hard working people who believe in fate. What really happens is that a lazy person or society covers up its laziness with the help of fatalism. If I am a lazy person I would try to find out some excuse for not working and fatalism provides a wonderful excuse. It is wrong to conclude that because of fatalism I have become lazy.

Indian philosophy says that you, and only you are totally responsible for yourself. There is no Messiah or saviour who can save you or give you the truth on a platter. If you are suffering from bad luck it is because you must have done something which caused this bad luck. How does belief in fatalism prevent one from working towards a goal? If you really believed in fatalism you will work really hard to prepare a better future for yourself. Fatalism has sadly become a refuge for people who do not want to take responsibility of themselves.

The same belief can inspire two diametrically opposite lines of action. You believe in one and only one life. Now what would you do? Would you work hard to earn a lot of money and fame, or would you stop running after material riches and spend your life trying to live a peaceful life? Would you earn money honestly or by any means? Does belief in God inspire love OR hatred? Does this belief makes one a better person? Does it make a person more honest? Does it make you a killer or prevents you from killing?

Do you get my point? Beliefs are nothing but a screen or a ruse. It is true for any belief. A belief can be interpreted in a way so as to suit one's temperament. So, ultimately beliefs do not matter at all. It only takes a deeper look from opposite angles to understand the futility of beliefs. They have done more harm than good to humanity.

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 The discussion started on the subject of reincarnation, so I think I must provide these links with lots of reading material on this topic :

 

http://www.perfectmemorials.com/info/resources-on-reincarnation.php

 

 

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