The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

EVOLUTION, KARMA, AND REBIRTH 93to their development in other lives? Think of Mozart, composingminuets at the age of five, and publishing sonatas ateight. 10If life after death does exist, you may ask, why is it so difficultto remember? In the "Myth of Er," Plato suggests an"explanation" for this lack of memory. Er was a soldier whowas taken for dead in battle, and seems to have had a neardeathexperience. He saw many things while "dead," and wasinstructed to return to life in order to tell others what theafter-death state is like. Just before he returned, he saw thosewho were being prepared to be bom moving in terrible, stiflingheat through the "Plain of Oblivion," a desert bare of alltrees and plants. "When evening came," Plato tells us, "theyencamped beside the River Unmindfulness, whose water novessel can hold. All are requested to drink a certain measure ofthis water, and some have not the wisdom to save them fromdrinking more. Every man, as he drinks, forgets everything." 11Er himself was not permitted to drink the water and awoke tofind himself on the funeral pyre, able to remember all that hehad heard and seen.Is there some universal law that makes it almost impossiblefor us to remember where and what we have lived before? Oris it just the sheer volume, range, and intensity of our experiencesthat have erased any memory of past lives? How muchwould it help us, I sometimes wonder, if we did rememberthem? Couldn't that just confuse us even more?THE CONTINUITY OF MINDFrom the Buddhist point of view, the main argument that"establishes" rebirth is one based on a profound understandingof the continuity of mind. Where does consciousness comefrom? It cannot arise out of nowhere. A moment of consciousnesscannot be produced without the moment of consciousnessthat immediately preceded it. His Holiness the DalaiLama explains this complex process in this way:The basis on which Buddhists accept the concept of rebirth is principallythe continuity of consciousness. Take the material world as anexample: all the elements in our present universe, even down to amicroscopic level, can be traced back, we believe, to an origin, an initialpoint where all the elements of the material world are condensedinto what are technically known as "space particles." These particles,in turn, are the state which is the result of the disintegration of

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