I posted this on a Google+ community today, and I thought it was worth sharing here. Original post can be found here.
In no way am I learned in Buddhism, but I happen to have a community about karma and creativity. Here is a bit of my beliefs: Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives, based on past lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, or being reborn in a better life, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, thought, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator.
Rebirth, to me, does not only mean rebirth into a new life after death of this body. Rebirth happens in every moment, every breath, every blink of your eye, and every passing thought. I think on this scale, the Buddha was referring to karma as intention and consequences of action in this lifetime, in this moment and the next. Why put off to the next lifetime what you can do in this one? Karma is creative action/intent/thoughts. Karma is effective now, tomorrow, next week, and next lifetime. Perhaps there is no scientific proof for an afterlife, but there is very logical proof that there is death and birth within yourself and all around you in every moment.
Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, or rebirth, the teaching of karma can be utilized here and now. Why would you not want to give and take good things in your life? The consequences of these actions/intentions/thoughts start now, and will continue forever, whether forever is until this body dies or until the soul reaches nirvana, or whatever else may be out there.
Be the witness to your thoughts, and you will see this cycle of birth/death/rebirth. Be the witness to your breath and feel it all arise, and fall away. A great friend and mentor often says, “Give what you don’t need to the Earth, and let her recycle it for you.” Maybe all the answers aren’t clear now, maybe they never will be, but your intentions and thoughts and actions undoubtedly influence your future, so be conscious of them.
A close friend once told me, “Your thoughts are not your own.” and, “The truth is in mirrors.” We are all reflections of the world around us, and every thought has been thought before. Our thoughts, emotions, sensations, are not our own. We are the witness to the events and phenomena that go on in this world, in this body. There is no “I”, simply because nothing is the same. “I” am not the same person “I” was this morning, yesterday, or last year. Physically, your entire body replaces itself every ~7 years. Your cells are constantly dying and regrowing, your liver cells live for around 150 days, your skin replaces itself every 2-4 weeks, hair replaces itself every 2-6 years, etc. All the organs in your body, all the bones and muscles, are constantly replacing the dead cells with new ones. And with that, your personality, your thoughts, all change in moments, not even considering days or years. There is no “I”, no “self”, because nothing is permanent. (For more neat statistics, refer here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1219995/Believe-lungs-weeks-old–taste-buds-just-days-So-old-rest-body.html)
To me, rebirth doesn’t resonate as a new body and a new life necessarily, but a cycle in this body, in this life. Perhaps the same way that karma sticks with all this change in this body (which is only really this body for a few more minutes), works the same with another body, in another lifetime.
Safe journey to you, my friend, and enjoy the path that you’re on, as it is forever changing!