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Old 09-20-2011, 02:59 AM
 
Location: around the way
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
I think believing in reincarnation puts an onus on a person to try to figure out what their purpose is in the particular lifetime.

People of religious faiths that do not include the idea of reincarnation basically just have to live a so-called "good" life and will be rewarded in Heaven . . .

But people who believe in reincarnation tend to also believe that the Earthly experience is for learning . . . so it is incumbent upon the person to actually learn something of value while on Earth, otherwise, the life purpose will not have been realized or successful (from my limited understanding of the concept).
Not necessarily. Learning is important and wonderful, but it also needs to be put into action somehow. You can become the wisest, most well-learned person in history but if you don't do anything with it, it will die with you, the net effect being that you might as well have never learned anything at all. You don't get to carry it over for your next go-around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
I am a person who has figured out a life philosophy by myself, without the advent of an early religious education in reincarnation or any of the religions that espouse it.

I was raised Catholic, so had to shed all of that baggage and cobble together my own spiritual beliefs and though I got started early (in my teens), I did not actually figure it out for myself until I was in my late forties! So all of the time I could have spent doing my Dharma was spent just randomly living and trying to figure things out . . .
Don't beat yourself up too much over that. Plenty of people spend most if not all of their lives just "randomly living". Very very few of us get it all figured out while we're still young, and I get the feeling that most of those people who do find themselves looking back a few years later and saying "I can't believe how full of crap I was back then".

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
So now I am old and I am wondering about the point of my life - if I actually did anything or learned anything that would have furthered my spirituality. I have done a lot and I have learned a lot, YET I cannot think of anything that has made me a better person - a more loving person, a more forgiving person . . . in fact, through my life experiences, probably just the opposite has happened . . .

I do believe I have "helped" others in various ways, and I suppose that is "virtuous" and "good," but not as far as it helps me with my spiritual evolvement . . . I did not have to learn to help, it just came naturally . . .and I did it because I wanted to . . .
Doing good and avoiding harm as far as you're able IS spiritual evolvement. If helping others and performing acts of kindness already comes to you naturally, what else do you want? What do you think is out there waiting for you?

Actions and thoughts become habits over time. Think loving, forgiving thoughts and do loving, forgiving actions, and eventually you will become a loving, forgiving person. And if it never happens, well, it's probably better to have just been acting as a good person than to have been a genuine a-hole.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
so nothing was learned through that experience (except some negative stuff, which doesn't help me expand my self) . . .
Sounds like the thing you most need to learn is some compassion, particularly for yourself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
So, to any of you who believe in reincarnation, do you feel you are living your Dharma or that you are evolving your spirit through this lifetime? If so, please give some examples of how you feel you have evolved.

The entire point of "this" lifetime is to go out a better person than you came in and I don't think I have done that. I think I was far "better" before some pretty gnarly stuff happened to me . . . and then I became cynical, closed up, etc. I have done quite a bit of forgiveness but I do not feel my spirit has expanded the way I think it "should" have . . .
I'm curious, how do you think you should be expanding? What would you like to be that you feel that you're not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
so I basically feel my life has been a "waste," just in terms of sheer time and the people I chose to incarnate with have been no basket of roses . . .In fact, I hope I don't ever see or experience many of them ever again - in any world . . . so you can see I have had some trauma around people . . .
So maybe the lesson was to be more careful about the people with whom you associate? Jerks are a fact of life. When you can't avoid them, the best thing to do is be as kind and compassionate to them as you can manage, lest you become THEIR jerk.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
I do feel I have successfully paid back some karma . . .so that is a good thing . . .
Is there a karmic IRS that keeps track of that sort of thing? My understanding of karma is that it's not like the gold star and frowny face stickers your teacher used to put on a chart for when you were good and bad. I prefer the clunkier but more descriptive term "stuff that happens which leads to other stuff happening". Karma isn't a debt you pay off, but the actions you do and the way they effect the world. If you go around town scowling and kicking puppies, you've directly contributed to the world becoming a grumblier, puppy-kickinger place. Likewise, if you're kind and help old ladies across the street, that's the kind of world you're helping to create. The question is; you have to live in one of those worlds, so which do you prefer?

In a weird way, I think belief in reincarnation is an excellent motivator for people to act morally (regardless of whether or not it's correct). It requires you to think about the consequences of your actions in the future. You have to take responsibility for the world where you'll be spending yet another lifetime*; you can't just assume that you won't be around to see it or that it doesn't matter because The Big Guy is going to clean everything up come the Apocalypse. Heaven and Hell are abstract. We can imagine what they might be like, but having never been there that's all we can do. But we know what this world is like. I'd prefer to do what I can to contribute to the best possible world I can on the off chance I'll be back again someday.

*this assumes belief in being reborn as a human under normal human circumstances and that your current actions affect your next life indirectly, not "shaving my head and giving all my money to Swami Salami will generate the correct karma to guarantee that I'll be super rich in my next life!" or being reincarnated as a roach because you took a bite out of your co-worker's sandwich when he wasn't looking, or any dumb crap like that

Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
Can anyone say how it has been for them?

I think it is too late for me to actually do anything of merit for myself . . .
Unless there is a man with a gun and the will to use it standing behind you at this very moment, you're wrong about that. There's a Buddhist saying: "Be thankful for today, because you learned a lot. And if you didn't learn a lot, at least you learned a little. And if you didn't learn anything at all, at least you have your health. And if you're sick, at least you didn't die." You can't change anything that's already happened, but as long as you're alive and awake you can always do something to make today and tomorrow better, even if only a little.

My view of reincarnation is heavily Buddhist-influenced, as are a lot of my views of things these days, and it goes a little something like this: I'm here right now because conditions favored the elements of which I'm made coming together at a certain place and time. Eventually, assuming I'm like every other person who's ever lived, I'll die and those elements will break apart. However, we know that matter and energy are not destroyed, only transformed. I have a feeling that the same applies to consciousness, although I readily admit I have no proof of that. Given that, it seems highly probable that eventually conditions will favor at least some of those elements coming back together again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Think of a life like a wave. It comes in from the ocean, ends as it crashes on the beach, breaks apart, and returns to the ocean. In the process it changes the beach, leaving a few things behind and dragging a few other things back out to sea (again, karma). After a while, oceanic forces turn at least some of that water into a new wave which hits the beach, and so on. The waves don't remember their lives as previous waves, but they keep coming all the same, and so it goes for at least the next few billion years when the sun will expand and engulf half the solar system. The difference is that we get some choice in the kind of waves we're going to be.
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Old 09-20-2011, 05:28 AM
 
34,686 posts, read 8,945,785 times
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The OP was a good and thoughtful one, as were the subsequent ones which asked valid questions. The reply posts were also good and I was tempted to say you don't need me, but there are a couple of points.

(1) reincarnation and merit. In Hindu philosophy, merit is made by various forms of worship - earning salavation through faith if you like, whereas Buddhism sidelined the gods and made merit based on good works.

However, 'imcurous' I gather that you see it as a very common question - what's the meaning of life? What can we as individuals do to add something of value. I'd say you'd already done something of value posting your question but of course we are really thinking of something that will be remembered, lat, live on. In fact we are looking for our immortality and defiance of the spectre of death. Woo.

(2) so the sort of merit you might have in mind isn't a buddhist one or rather it is but is looking for some kind of existence after death rather than wanting to NOT come back or at least not as a Lamprey. While the evidence that I have seen doesn't persuade me of an existence of an individual entity after death, either in a paradise or coming back for another crack at the exam (having forgotten everything and having to start from scratch ) An afterlife and reincarnation is possible, though not probable.

If so, since I have argued (with only rhetorical evidence, I have to admit) that at least there is no sheep or goats stuff about any afterlife and as I recall Buddha (reputedly) said even gods are subject to Karma, then there is no god to placate and singing doleful Victorian Hymns, pouring warm ghee over stone phalli or even paying out to gold plate pagodas in a nation overrun with poverty, is going to earn you nothing.

So it comes down to the atheist meaning of life - whatever is meaningful for you. Whatever you can contribute, even if it is restoring church frescoes or gilding buddhas, which makes them at least look nice.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:00 AM
 
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I believe I am living out some karma and I also believe my spirit has evolved in this lifetime. For one thing, I am actually aware of my soul which was not the case for most of my lifetime.

imcurious it seems you do know better now and you can try your best just to be on the right path for you, whatever that is. You're not dead yet so don't give up.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:00 AM
 
Location: earth?
7,288 posts, read 10,385,789 times
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I have actually gotten a lot out of this thread. It has made me think about some things, seriously. I don't have time now to respond in detail, but I do plan on doing so when I get a chance. It is a big undertaking, so it might take a while. Thank you to all who have contributed!
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Old 09-21-2011, 04:48 PM
 
3,803 posts, read 4,810,854 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pamelaBeurman View Post
You're wrong about one thing. It's never too late to do something of merit.

That being said, honestly, I don't think any of us really know if we've learned what we are meant to learn in this incarnation until it's over.

In order to know, we would need total recall of our past lives and the mistakes that we need to learn from. Personally, I may have the occasional "overlap" of a past life but that's all.

I think that if we live a good life, do our best to improve ourselves and help others in need, we're on the right track.

Simplistic view perhaps but it works for me.
i agree!
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:49 PM
 
Location: Logan Township, Minnesota
15,511 posts, read 12,538,435 times
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Not many years ago, I thought that when I reached the last curve in my life I would go into it at full throttle swing around the curve on 2 wheels and hit the end of the road with a crash look up and say, "Man, that was one helluva a ride, when can I do it again?"

Now that I am actually in the last curve, I am entering it with caution, have my lights on, going at the minimum allowed speed and look forward to the end of the road so I can finally park, and not have to face the traffic again.

I do not believe Allaah(swt) would ever be so cruel he would make a person return to earth, once they have broken free of this physical Dunya we call life.
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:55 PM
 
Location: earth?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodrow LI View Post
Not many years ago, I thought that when I reached the last curve in my life I would go into it at full throttle swing around the curve on 2 wheels and hit the end of the road with a crash look up and say, "Man, that was one helluva a ride, when can I do it again?"

Now that I am actually in the last curve, I am entering it with caution, have my lights on, going at the minimum allowed speed and look forward to the end of the road so I can finally park, and not have to face the traffic again.

I do not believe Allaah(swt) would ever be so cruel he would make a person return to earth, once they have broken free of this physical Dunya we call life.
I respect your beliefs, but this PARTICULAR thread is about reincarnation, from the perspective of serious believers . . .
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Old 09-21-2011, 07:34 PM
 
2,379 posts, read 2,608,917 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imcurious View Post
So, to any of you who believe in reincarnation, do you feel you are living your Dharma or that you are evolving your spirit through this lifetime? If so, please give some examples of how you feel you have evolved.
I am forever learning... I think that's actually "evolving."
I've also hurt people in my life, including myself, & I've regretted it so much I became depressed.
Trying to heal that is how I'm evolving... Questioning incorrect thoughts that produce harmful feelings & behavior. And discussing it in forums like this or with others in person also helps me & hopefully them too, to heal.

Now, I'm trying to stir up enough passion & desire to pursue goals I've been procrastinating about. I know I can do it... but I need to find reason that will push me when I feel like giving up.
I want to be happy! I think that's part of evolving or part of being spiritually alive! As you mentioned, though, it's not just about me me me... Well, it is always selfish- but there's a smart & stupid selfishness (as Peck wrote about). Smart selfishness sees the big picture... past, present, future, self & others... & consideres what's best in light of it all. Stupid selfishness considers a limited view (like what will give me comfort/pleasure right now).

We'll never reach perfection in this life... (& if we did, we wouldn't know it! Because we're not all-knowing). I think the purpose of life is striving for the best of all possibilities (through both intellect & intuition/spirituality)... & never giving up - finishing strong!
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Old 09-21-2011, 07:53 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
12,905 posts, read 18,475,202 times
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I can't say I'm a believer, but to me it seems the honest desire to do good (and the burning regret towards the end for not having done better despite having done lots of good) show all the hallmarks of genuinely good person.

I'm thinking if Ganesha dues come to get you after your last harrah you won't have anything to worry about, Imcurious.
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Old 09-23-2011, 03:26 PM
 
2,379 posts, read 2,608,917 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chango View Post
I can't say I'm a believer, but to me it seems the honest desire to do good...show all the hallmarks of genuinely good person...
Yeah... except one's definition of "good" may conflict with another's.
Also, what's good (best in the long run) is often only discovered hind-sight. Yet, applying BOTH intuition & common sense help.
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