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As Good As It Gets

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  • Tom Green
    started a topic As Good As It Gets

    As Good As It Gets

    Dear Bhante,

    In the “Buddhist Path of Serenity and Insight” Dhamma Talks (on MP3) taken from a 9-day retreat in December 1997, on Talk #9, “Bringing it all back home,” Ajahn Brahm responds to a meditator’s question on the difference between rebirth and reincarnation. In so doing, Ajahn discusses kamma, sammādiṭṭhi, upādāna and the necessary training to end craving in a most compelling manner. I’d like to quote part of his explanation:

    “One of the things in Theravada that we make a big deal about is that there is rebirth but in this life you have a human body, in this life you’ve come across the Buddha’s Teachings--good Buddhist teachings. Use this life to become enlightened right this lifetime. We always have the aspiration--next lifetime--but don’t put it off! May I become fully enlightened in this very life because the next lifetime where you are reincarnated, you might not have such good conditions. In fact, the way it’s usually taught, it’s very unlikely you’ll get such good conditions. So don’t waste the opportunity! This says so much in Theravada Buddhism. It’s unlikely you’ll get as good as you’re getting now--so we don’t talk about waiting for your future life, make the effort now, be careful now....Become a monk, become a nun. Get enlightened while you’ve got a chance. That’s what we say about rebirth in Theravada.”

    My question relates to the entire quotation, but especially this statement: “In fact, the way it’s usually taught, it’s very unlikely you’ll get such good conditions...” Are there specific suttas in the Pali Canon where the Buddha explains this teaching? If so, which suttas? Also, please feel free to offer any insights you may have. Thank you.

    With metta,
    Tom Green

  • Tom Green
    replied
    I Share Your Urgency

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    Thank you for referring me to the Anguttara Nikaya; I look forward to Bhikkhu Bodhi's new translation available shortly. Likewise, I appreciate your insights, especially the point of "being born in the wrong realm either too low or too high(!)." My own experience reveals "Dhamma is hard to come by." It is challenging "to unearth the Dhamma" in my native country due to a hodge-podge of "misleading but seemingly reasonable teachings." In the U.S. you may not be "punished for pursuing it;" however, Buddha Dhamma is just not valued. In addition, people will think you're "weird" for valuing meditation practice or for enjoying solitude and renunciation. You are absolutely correct: ariyas are next to impossible to find and the teachings are becoming more corrupted as they become "mainstreamlined." (a term coined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu). You ask a profound question: "Will the real Dhamma be available next time around?" I share your sense of urgency.

    With metta,
    Tom Green

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  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Tom,

    I think the main suttas on this topic are found in the Anguttara Ones (AN1:334+). Here is a selection:

    Just as, bhikkhus, in this Jambudīpa, delightful parks, groves, landscapes, and lotus ponds are few, while more numerous are the hills and slopes, rivers that are hard to cross, places with stumps and thorns, and rugged mountains, so too those beings are few who are reborn among human beings; more numerous are those beings who have been reborn elsewhere than among human beings.
    … so too those beings are few who are reborn in the middle provinces; more numerous are those who have been reborn in the outlying provinces among the uncouth foreigners.
    … so too those beings are few who are wise, intelligent, astute, able to understand the meaning of what has been well stated and badly stated; more numerous are those who are unwise, stupid, obtuse, unable to understand the meaning of what has been well stated and badly stated.
    … so too those beings are few who get to hear the Dhamma and discipline expounded by the Tathāgata; more numerous are those who do not get to hear it.
    The first point here is the hindrance of being reborn in the wrong realm, either too low or too high(!). Then there is the problem of being reborn among humans but in a place where the Dhamma is hard to come by. This may be less of a problem in our day and age than it was at the time of the Buddha, but there are still places where I believe it would be hard to unearth the Dhamma or where one might get punished for pursuing it. But perhaps the greatest hindrance is the lack of availability of good Dhamma teachings. The ariyas are getting fewer and farther between, and the suttas themselves are slowly getting more and more corrupted. Will the real Dhamma be available next time around? And if it is, will we be able to recognize it and distinguish it from all the misleading but seemingly reasonable teachings? As far as I am concerned the urgency is very real.

    With metta.

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