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Volume 7 no 1

The Voice of Bliss

How do we come to be born? What makes us the way we are and our relationship with our parents? Where we are heading for? While others may speculate about them, the Buddha had already expounded on the answers to these questions. If we had known them, perhaps we will recognise the importance of making this whole process better for ourselves. Perhaps, we will also recognise that we owe it to nobody else but ourselves.
Where did I come from?
Arriving and departing according to the karma

Human beings come from the mother's womb and go via the earth. That is obvious to all of you. As to where we come from and where do we go to after death, we need to understand that we are human beings because in our past lives we had cultivated the Five Precepts and the Ten Virtuous Deeds, therefore we are born into the human realm. If we cultivate this life and wish to go to the Western Paradise after death, that is also possible. It is also possible to go the Eastern Paradise or ascend to be celestial beings. Or, because of foolishness one can be reborn into the animal realm, or of greed and attachments into the realm of ghost, or of cruelty descend into hell ..... anyone of the six realms is possible. Thus, while sentient beings transmigrate within the six realms life after life, there is only one principle, "In birth arrive through one's karma, in death depart according to one's karma".

Rebirth is a condition created by 3 parties

It may seem odd, but rebirth takes place because of dead people.

Each of us bears a soul or otherwise known as consciousness. Human beings have six sense organs, namely, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. These are called the Six Roots. (because they link the body to the external world) When they encounter sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch or any phenomena, they give rise to the six-sense consciousness, namely, eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness and mind-consciousness respectively.

When the eyes see a flower, this gives rise to the eye-consciousness. The sense-consciousness gives rise to differentiation, for instance, that this is a white flower, that is a red flower or this is a green leaf, etc. When the ears hear a sound, the ear-consciousness distinguishes whether it is from crying, laughter, an aeroplane or a motorcar. When the nose smells a scent, the nose-consciousness distinguishes whether it is fouling, fragrant or sour. Similarly, the tongue is able to differentiate between a sour, sweet, bitter or spicy taste. The body-consciousness refers to the differentiation in touch such as that of a flower, a human body or a cup, etc. And, the mind-consciousness refers to our thoughts.

In addition to the six sense organs, the six kinds of contacts with the environment, and the six-sense consciousness, there is yet another consciousness. For example, when our eyes see a person, we wonder who that person is. "Let me try to recall. Let me take a look at him. Let me search through my memory." This 'me' is the seventh mind-consciousness. The seventh mind-consciousness is also referred to as the 'I', the master. But, where do we search for that person whom we have seen? It is none other than the field of the eighth mind-consciousness. In here is stored the virtuous and evil seeds that we have sowed. They are like a video and we search for that person by playing back the video.

When people die, the six sense organs no longer function. The seventh mind-consciousness leaves the body, and carrying with it the eighth mind-consciousness in search of the conditions for rebirth. This mind-consciousness, which is invisible and an intermediate existence between death and conception to the next life, is also called a 'transient-being'. For a period of up to 49 days, this consciousness shall search for the conditions for rebirth to the next life. Within this 49-days period, if one is well cultivated in his life, he either attains liberation immediately or is reborn in the Western Paradise. On the other hand, if he had committed many evil deeds in his life, then he descends to hell immediately upon his death. The effects of the retribution from a person's karma lead to transmigration in the 6 realms of existence. If one had followed the virtuous path, then he will be reborn in the realm of heaven, or in hell, if he had committed evil. In general, people commit a mixture of virtuous and evil deeds. Therefore, they have to wait for the appropriate conditions to arise during this 49-days period before rebirth to their next life can take place. But, if a person had not cultivated, then it is very difficult for him to be reborn as human being.

How does a human being come about? When a person dies, his seventh mind-consciousness brings along his eighth mind-consciousness and is transformed into a 'transient-being'. People are reborn into this world as human beings from this transient-being. Thus, human beings come from the aggregation of conditions of three parties, namely the 'transient-being', father and mother, to be reborn into the human realm.

5 types of offspring

It is normal to expect kinship between parents and their children. Loving parents and filial children are the basis for a warm and harmonious relationship. However, there are exceptions to this norm. According to Buddhist sutras, there are five types of conditions under which people are born to their parents:

1. They are reborn into the family to pay back their indebtedness to the parents. For example, the child is filial, obedient and diligent in his studies or at work. Regardless of the financial situation, he would provide for the needs of his parents.

2. They are here to seek the return of what their parents owed them in the past. This might be due to the parents owing unsettled matters or debts to the child incurred in their past lives. Thus, not only does the child not bring fortune to the family this life, but the parents have to spend a lot of money on him. For example, the child may be sick very often thereby causing the parents to incur a huge amount of medical expenses, or other situations where the parents have to spend a lot of money on him and driving them to financial difficulties. Some of them may even cause the family to break-up or the death of family members. Some may become incapacitated and cause the family to run into huge debts or even bankruptcy. These types of children are reborn to their parents to seek the return of their dues.

3. A child may be born into a family to return the benevolence that his parents had accorded him in his past lives. In this lifetime, everything is smooth sailing for the child and he is successful in his studies and career to bring honour and pride to the family. Hence, he is here to repay kindness of his parents.

4. They are here to seek revenge on their parents. Perhaps there might be hostility between the two parties in their past lives. The parents might have hit the person; insulted him, ill-treated him, or treated him unfairly. He could not forgive and forget. For example, he would beat up his parents, ill-treat them, or even to take their lives in return for what they owed him in the past lives. Hence, he is reborn into the family to seek revenge.

5. They merely borrow the mother's womb to be born into this world. The great sages and virtuous men, monks and nuns, the Bodhisattva path cultivators and the Buddha belong to this category.

If there is hostility between parents and their children, the parents have to sincerely repent and perform meritorious deeds in the name of the children. Parents should not bear hatred and anger but to treat them with compassion and loving-kindness. Then, the situation would slowly improve and the animosity would soon dissolve.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre