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in a world of suffering, is rebirth a cruel fate?

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

in a world of suffering
in a world of suffering

in a world of suffering, I think & feel this way sometimes. It's natural. We experience misery & agony & torment in our lives. One lifetimes' worth seems plenty! To be reborn, again & again, back into realms of suffering - is this some cruel & twisted joke?

Here's another outlook. One that helps me make peace with the notion of rebirth.

We don't undergo rebirth to suffer karmic punishment. We undergo rebirth to experience every encounter from every perspective.

In one life, you're Jim betraying Bob.

In another life, you're Bob betrayed by Jim.

A karmic tangle resolves when Jim & Bob make peace, e.g. through truth & reconciliation.

In our spiritual immaturity, we go around behaving selfishly, acting out our negative karma. We do twisted acts in accordance with our twisted karma. We stir the drama up. Not because we're bad. Because we're acting out compulsions rooted in fearful confusion.

In our maturity, we behave more & more selflessly, acting from our essence beyond karma. This untwists the karmic knots within us & resolves the intra & inter personal dramas unfolding in reality. We peacefully & respectfully settle the drama down. Not because we're a good person. Because we've tapped into the common pool of essential goodness deep within us all.

If you find yourself in a difficult life situation - destitute, viciously abused, in a war zone, etc. - the question is: which karmic legacy do you wish to manifest?

Hating your oppressor & indulging self-pity are understandable reactions. Going eye for an eye - who can blame you? In our immaturity, our not knowing, this is what we do.

As the karmic dynamic becomes more apparent, and as we increasingly realize the unconditional wisdom of humility, honesty, contrition, & forgiveness, we stop allowing our reflexive, conditioned reactivity to dictate our attitude & actions. We act from the unconditional place within that seeks freedom from suffering for all beings. It is from this sacred place, this wellspring of universal compassion, that we can experience & share peace in any life situation.

This is the condition of the enlightened ones. They aren't more disciplined or more steeped in the precepts. Their higher self has passed through the crucible of suffering enough times over enough lifetimes to receive the graces of insight & realization. They don't consult wisdom. They embody wisdom, in their very beingness. Virtue springs from them as naturally as vice springs from we the confused.

So what do we do?

I say, emulate the virtues of humility, honesty, contrition, & forgiveness. Soften our hearts. Steady our minds. Surrender expectations & excuses, again & again. Be real. Be open. As the Dalai Lama says, "Be kind whenever possible. It's always possible."

Our enlightenment is a process. An unfolding. A function of time. Surrender the notion of becoming enlightened, and engage the moment unfolding perfectly before you. Recognize your negative reactions as grist for the mill of your transformation. Be friendly & vulnerable. Good gOd, if we could abide in those spirits, friendliness & vulnerability, we'd see an unbelievable beauty unfold in our lifetimes. I struggle mightily with that. I pray we all find our way into their warm & tender embrace.

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