If we want to get another human birth after this one, we need to create the causes

Mar 31, 2022



As we all know, the Buddhist view is that our mind comes from previous lives and will continue after this one. It’s just the way it is. So if, bare minimum, I want another human body, I need to know how to get it. What are the causes?


The first step is to want it. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “Everything exists on the tip of the wish,” the thought. This is the meaning of karma: intention, volition, mental action. “I will. I want. May I.” That’s the thought that precedes everything we think and do and say. Without it, nothing would happen.


If you want to go to Italy, you’ve first got to want it. That’s the first step. But clearly it’s not enough. You’ve then got to create the causes: plan, buy a ticket, go to the airport, get on the plane.


So you’ve got to want another human rebirth. You’ve got to decide: “I’m going to die. I want to be reborn as a human.” We’re in charge of the karmic process. We’re not used to thinking that. We think it’s either a creator or good luck or bad luck that determines our lives.


So, next, what are the causes? The cause of our mind leaving this body and going to a human womb is the intentional action of non-killing. And the best way to accumulate lots of those seeds is to live in a vow of non-killing. We need one of those seeds to be triggered at the time of death, which programs us to go to our new mother’s human womb a few weeks later. Our actions determine it.


There are four ways our actions ripen in the future: as a type of rebirth, as a tendency, as experience similar to it, as an environmental result.


Not only do we want a human body, we want good tendencies, we want decent parents, a nice environment, a good education, friends, support, and the rest. So what are the causes of them? 


If we want good conditions, access to things, we need to practice generosity. If we want people to treat us nicely, we need to practice the ethics of not harming others: not lying, not stealing, not badmouthing behind backs. It’s practical.


The most powerful way to do this is to live in the framework of vows. Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that by living in the vows of not killing, not stealing, not lying, and the rest, we sow seeds of those actions in our mind twenty-four hours a day; and vows are so powerful that they put atomic bombs under the negative tendencies. “Just being good is not enough,” Rinpoche says.


But getting a nice human body and good conditions is not enough. Why do we even want them? So that we can continue on our spiritual journey. If we need access to Buddhist teachings, valid teachers, a spiritual community, how to create the causes for this?


Keep practicing now; that’s it. Live in our vows, stay close to our spiritual mentors, study, practice, meditate, purify. And want, every day, to do this!


If you want a nice 100-story building, you get all the right people – the right engineers, the right builders, the right architects, the right everybody – and eventually it will come and it will stay up. You can guarantee it because natural laws take care. You abide by all the laws, you get the result. If you plan a garden, put in the seeds, nourish them, you can tell me exactly how it’ll look in ten years. You’re not surprised by that. It’s the law of botany. It’s called science! We’re not surprised. 


The law of karma? Same. And we’re in charge of it – not the universe, not Buddha. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “Karma is like self-creation.”

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