The Story – a new baby
Three weeks earlier my fellow gaijin friend and his wife had their first baby. I was visiting him at his Kyoto sandwich shop to offer congrats and enjoy a Reuben sandwich. My friend and I met each other as actors in a Japanese improv theater group. We were both gaijin who were pretty emerged in Japanese culture — I was practicing medicine in national acupuncture clinics and did Kempo (a Zen martial art) and he had married a Japanese woman and had opened a this local New York sandwich shop in the beautiful city of Kyoto. Both of us considered ourselves Buddhists, of sorts — each in our own heretical way but he was a bit more orthodox and evangelical than I was.
My friend was proudly showing me a picture of his new cute baby. I smiled and in my preposterous style said, “It is amazing to think that this cute daughter of yours was possibly a toothless, ugly, old woman gagging to death about 10 weeks ago” [alluding to the reincarnation doctrine found in Japanese Buddhist].
My friend looked shocked and a bit angry. “Ah, come on,” I said, trying to ease him, “let’s say it took her the classic 40 days to reincarnate after dying, add the last 3 weeks and you’ve got 10 weeks since she last died.” My friend just rolled his eyes and did not respond.
Well, over the years, I have gotten a little better at being careful to guard people’s emotions and to time my philosophical challenges and little better. That is why I appreciate blogging so much — listeners can turn me off and on whenever they want. 🙂
Reincarnation is not a native concept to Buddhism but snuck back into most popular forms of Buddhism as well as many scholastic forms. Below is a quote from a main Hindu text and the inspiration for my illustrations and this post.
“Those whose conduct here on earth has been good will quickly attain some good birth—birth as a Brahmin [priest], birth as a Kshatriya [prince], or birth as a Vaisya [merchant]. But those whose conduct here has been evil will quickly attain some evil birth – birth as a dog, birth as a pig, or birth as a Chandala [untouchable].”
— Chandagoya Upanishad Part Five, Chp X vs. 7 (600s BC)
This post came to mind while reading: Why I am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey by Stephen Asma (p. 21). The illustrations I have above are meant to make fun of the silly doctrine of being reborn as a “lower” form of life if you are bad — a pig or a dog.