What is Buddhism for?
Sharing creates emotion. Humans can’t survive without sharing, so they have very strong emotions. There aren’t many animals that take care of their children for as long as humans do. We feed them by hand for two or three years, we house and protect them until they are adults. Many animals are born and are completely independent after just a few minutes. From the day you were born, you have been sharing with other people and that emotional process was developing within you.
As a human being, your consciousness level is strongly involved with more than just survival. Survival comes from desire: desire to survive and desire to continue to survive. This power is inside you.
Human society is highly developed, so you know you don’t have to worry that a lion will attack you as you walk down the street. Your sense of security is quite strong, so your desires to survive and to continue to survive are quite relaxed, but they are still there. They are the roots of life. If you didn’t have the desire to survive and continue to survive, you would commit suicide. This is a basic power of life. “I want to exist. I want to continue to exist.”
Even if you committed suicide, you could still have that desire there.
Some people think that if you die, you stop existing. If they have too much suffering in this lifetime – physical or psychological – and they can’t handle it anymore, they want to find a way to get rid of it. The true cause is not that they have no desire to survive and to continue to survive; it’s that they want to escape from their suffering. Unfortunately, that suffering will not disappear.
Whenever you create a strong physical memory, it will stay with you into your next lifetime. Your fear of the pain will make your heart remember the physical pain. When you are reborn, that pain will be reborn with you.
When a baby is born with a lot of physical problems, or if it develops unexplained problems later on, that comes from your past-life memory. Some babies are born with a lot of emotional distrust, hurt, fear, and negative feelings; they are always crying and distant from everybody. Some babies are not like that: they are quiet, happy, and joyful. Why are they different? That also comes from the past.
Everything in the universe has a past, including your life. Otherwise, why were you born as a human? Why weren’t you born as a mosquito or a cockroach? In your past lives, you developed enough to become a human. If you don’t continue to develop yourself, you will be reborn as a human again rather than in Amitabha’s Pure Land. Humans experience a lot of suffering, but this is not the final goal for humans; you have to keep learning about life.
Human beings don’t just share emotion; they use a lot of mental power. Humans create information using logic power and language power. From information comes knowledge. From knowledge come theories, books, and education. That allows the next generation to learn the knowledge without having to discover all for themselves.
Our mental power has developed very strongly, but mental power only has one purpose: to help you survive and find emotional security. It’s not the endpoint.
Your mental power is not for thinking only about yourself. Your whole life is spent thinking about “Me” and everything around which is “My”: my car, my job, my relationships, my family, and my body. Life is always “I and my”. You never think about anything without thinking about “Me” (e.g. Why does the universe exist? Why is there life in it? Why is a cockroach born as a cockroach? Why is a mosquito born as a mosquito?)
So, we are stuck in this Ego I. Our mental power hasn’t developed enough to learn life. Instead, we learn things for survival; it’s still the root cause of our existence. To survive means to make more money, have more security, and possess more material things. The more famous you are the more people will support you. You don’t use your mental power to learn life, just to figure out how to live.
There’s an old saying that a fish born in the ocean never knows what water is. How can the fish know what water is? When it is born, the water is already there. It has no way to compare it with anything else. Even if it jumps out of the water, it only knows that it jumped out of something; it still doesn’t know what it has jumped out of.
We are the same. Humans are just a more advanced animal life-form. We don’t like to think of ourselves as animals, but it’s the truth. Apart from our thinking ability, what part of us is different from an animal? We eat, they eat. We drink, they drink. We shit, they shit. We piss, they piss. We have sex, they have sex. Basically, we are the same. It is just our ego that wants to think we are better. If you study a human baby, you’ll see that its behaviour is no different from an animal’s. The more educated you are, the more you try to get away from that animal part, but it is always there.
It doesn’t mean all humans are stuck in survival and emotion – and use thinking power only for these two – because dharma means that the truth of life has already appeared on Earth. It will only appear if a planet has a consciousness that already wants to learn life.
This post is taken from a talk by Forever Wisdom Forest on 27 November 2011 at the dojo in Sydney.