Buddhism: Questions About Buddhist Reincarnation I
by Anura Guruge
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As I have repeatedly stated on this blog, growing up a devout Buddhist, in the early 1960s, in Ceylon, it was ‘reincarnation’, i.e., the intrinsic Buddhist belief in rebirth, that was the be-all and end-all of my Buddhism. That was how I had been brought up. Yes, I did everything else, i.e., saying my ‘precepts’, going to temple, worshiping priests, going to Sunday school, reading Buddhist texts, almsgivings, pirith ceremonies, wearing those blessed white strings on my wrist etc. etc., albeit with very little meditation, but I, always a pragmatist, knew that all of this was for reincarnation. I was, by the time I was 10, a precious ‘chubby’ (as I was exceptionally well fed), running around ‘reincarnation computer’ — thought it would be another 4 years before I would first encounter the word ‘computer’. At any given time I knew, exactly, what my reincarnation point balance was — per, of course, my own table of reincarnation points, because there is NO established system of points. Suffice to say, given that in those distant days, before the male hormones kicked in like a wild Burro on heat, I really was an angelic, exemplary (yes, exemplary) goody two shoes. I was, on merit, ‘Head Boy’ for the Lower School, at my very Buddhist school.
I studied reincarnation inside out, up against the wall. And it was then that I came to the irrevocable conclusion that it made no damn sense and I was wasting my time. Then, as I am noted for doing, I abandoned it — without a second glance. That was the end of me and Buddhism. That was way back in 1971. I was 18. In my first year at Uni. Along with reincarnation went any and all belief in an afterlife, a soul, things spiritual etc. In a way I attained the elusive Nirvana in one swell sweep. I know, for sure, with no shadow of a doubt, that when I die, I die. Kaput. THE END. End of story. No more. Nothing more. No soul. No spirit. No ghosts. Nada. Finished. That is why I am giving my body to medicine. I have no need of it. So, I have attained Nirvana on Earth — while I still have time to enjoy it. I will NOT be reborn. Of that there is no doubt or debate — as far as I am concerned. I will not be reborn. (I can see that set to music. Will make a nice song: “I will not be reborn”.)
Anyway, I wrestled with many, many questions to do with reincarnation before I gave it up as a joke. I consulted the top experts — which wasn’t hard. I bummed around in the innermost circles of Sri Lanka Buddhists. Yes, I have actually been to the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Kandy “Temple of the Tooth” and even touched the supposed real McCoy, as opposed to the replica that the masses get to see. Just Google “Guruge Buddhism” and you will see that my access to all things Buddhist was rather profound. But, nobody could give me satisfactory answers. And I refuse to believe in things if they make no sense. No, I do NOT even expect the Sun to keep on shining. The only TWO thing that I believe in without any question is that I will die and that when I die, I am a goner. Kaput. No more. Thank God. Everything else, I have doubts. Professional cynic — I am.
Anyway, have to keep this short. Crazy busy.
Buddhist Reincarnation — Question I
Being reborn as a human, next to achieving Nirvana, is the highest ‘degree’ of attainment in Buddhist reincarnation. My question is simple, but as I will demonstrate in a future post, the answer to that question will make you have doubts, immediately, as to the credibility of the reincarnation narrative. So my question. Per Buddhist reincarnation when the ‘reincarnation’ takes place, in the case of a human rebirth, is it at the time of conception or is it at the time of birth?
That is it.
Google it. You will see that others have asked it too, though probably not as straightforwardly as I just did. I first asked this question in December 1969. I asked it, as a 16 year old, in front of a room full of white clad Buddhist adults — after a funeral. The then Secretary of the Ceylon Buddhist Congress (a relative) was among those there. They didn’t answer that question in 1969 … Two years later I drew my own conclusions. Footnote. Not a single one of those present that day EVER told me off for abandoning Buddhism! I will give them that. Buddhists used to be a very tolerant bunch. They all said and hoped that I will come back to the fold when I got older. My horoscope supposedly also states that I will become extremely religious in my old age and might even become a monk! This horoscope used to be ‘read’ for me, in Ceylon. Slight problem this horoscope could never get the number of wives or the number of kids correct. So … No, I do not believe in astrology anymore either, though I did.