“If you think such a theory (that there is a soul that exits the body at death and re-enters another upon birth) constitutes the Buddha’s teaching, you are even more foolish than someone who picks up a roof tile thinking it’s a gold coin.” ~ Dogen
“All other lives are not separate from you yourself. Where can you reincarnate? A grain of sand contains all time and space. When will you reincarnate?” ~ Henry Shukman
Description: Henry begins this teisho by filling in on what he had been doing during January — a sesshin in Germany and a retreat at Esalen in California. He then addresses some sangha feedback regarding a passage on reincarnation from Yamada Koun’s “The Authentic Gate”. He outlines three types of reincarnationism, one being “ tripartite reincarnationism” which is the form most familiar to us, which posits a sort of ‘you’ slipping out of the body at death and slipping into another physical form based on performance in the previous incarnation. It has three facets:
1) You are reborn repeatedly; 2) Ethical standards determine rebirth; and 3) There is an escape, and escape is good/desirable. A second, less well-known type refers to the necessary re-embodiment of the soul in every available life form before it is reborn as a human and then returns to the company of the Gods. A third type is where one becomes earth, then cloud, then rain, then seed, then vegetation, then that which feeds on the vegetation. In this third type, there is no notion of escape! We all go around happily (or unhappily).
Buddha’s perennial teaching, that body and mind are in fact one, confirms that there is no escape. Though this is true, we must be careful not to fall into one of the two great traps: annihilationism and eternalism. Annihilationism is the notion that death is the end. Done. Over. Eternalism is the idea that upon death, we shed the body and re-enter another one. These are both wrong. All other lives are not separate from you yourself. Where can you reincarnate? A grain of sand contains all time and space. When will you reincarnate?
“This decaying body is the fact of Nirvana” – Henry Shukman
NOTE – due to technical difficulties, this episode’s recording cuts off in the middle of Henry’s Trinidadian Shango story.