I Don’t Believe in Reincarnation
It’s raining where I live in Minnesota today, but my mind is on the end of the dry season in Thailand 12 years ago.
I was in a truck, which shook loose our bodies and the dirt. Out tumbled a question I’d been wondering about for a while:
“What about reincarnation?”
We’d been having conversations like this for a few months. I had been working on a meditation practice and was finding a lot of benefit in it. Mostly because of the way it oriented me to what was happening right now and the clarity it gave me about myself.
Buddhism seemed like a religious practice I could finally see myself keeping. I’d always been interested in religion in the way you’re interested in what you think you lack.
I once made a project of reading the King James Bible before bed. It seemed like a natural pick after the Redwall series, and its dimensions made for an even swap in the drawer of my white wicker nightstand.
I liked some of what I read as metaphor but faltered in my self-conversion when I tried to convince my brain to file any of it as fact the way I did that Boron has 5 protons. Maybe the juxtaposition with Redwall didn’t help.
So when I asked about reincarnation, it wasn’t a challenge, it was a plea.
Ajaan Adisak heard what I asked. “I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in rebirth.”
I pressed my fingers into my thigh one-two-three-four-five while I waited for the rest of what he had to say.
“Buddhism tells us to pay attention to the present moment to see how things really are. I can’t tell from the present moment whether reincarnation has happened. But what I can tell from the present moment is that every moment is new. And in every moment I can be new. Every moment is a little birth. I know rebirth is true because I can observe it.”
I saw a raindrop on the windshield. I imagined more of them on the road, pressing the dirt into the earth, fusing them together. I imagined Ajaan Adisak’s words doing the same thing in my mind.