Sunday, May 1, 2011
The next Dalai Lama
Reincarnation as a concept is now quite middle-of-the-road. Pre-Shirley MacLaine, though, it was wonderfully wild and woolly. But the spread of Hatha Yoga and the ubiquitous Hare Krishna lunch has helped it to establish a market niche, so there’s no need for me to write a primer. I’ll confine myself to examining the part it has to play in my drama of fancying myself a reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh.
To start with, reincarnation can’t involve just Vinnie and me. Everyone must be included. A tango for two does not make much sense. We have a packed house, and people are not here just to watch. We’re all whirring madly en masse, changing partners on cue. I’m going to treat reincarnation as the rule, not the exception.
Now, it follows that reincarnation must be a series of repeats. This is not about playing musical chairs. It wouldn’t make sense for the music to stop once Vincent becomes me. Nothing is likely to wear out by our continuing to leapfrog. The soul, should it exist, is undoubtedly as hardy as DNA. One reincarnation, two, or a series stretching all the way back to whenever, should not be impossible. We’re born, we live, we die and then again we are reborn. There’s a bit of ad infinitum going on.
Another feature of the process of reincarnation is that we naturally assume it to be geographically unchallenged. Should one’s rebirth involve relocation miles away, maybe in another country, we take that as a given. Those considerations don’t impede us. Would you foresee difficulties with transporting spirits across oceans and mountain ranges? Do you have a problem with being broadcast to another planet? No? Mighty! You’re my kind of alien.
Next, what about the timing? I mean, there’s usually a time lag, no? The next Dalai Lama isn’t necessarily born the instant that his predecessor snuffs it. It might take years before the right body comes along. It might be a century until the the signs are auspicious. But I suspect that this wouldn’t cause you to worry either, right? Very well, we’re motoring! Let’s move on right along.
The situation at the other end of the scale—that is, when the transition is to occur instantaneously—doesn’t faze us either. As far as we’re concerned, it can happen as quickly as it likes. Someone dies, and we don’t bat an eyelid to imagine that person reborn an instant later across the ocean.
We accept—expect—that should a reincarnation event require an astronaut’s soul to jump from a fatal accident on the moon to a baby on the dark side of the earth (Scotty, beam me up), then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid. We wouldn’t consider that as lying beyond the powers of the entity in charge. Sure, it takes light a fraction of a second to make the leap, but there’s no earthly need for souls to be so slow. Jack, flick that switch. (Hey up! For a god who we weren’t could mountains or walk on water, (s)he’s doing fine!)
Now that we’re running so hot, how about a spot of transmigration to stir the waters? You know, being demoted (or promoted) to a dolphin, because in your previous life you were so into surfing, or a pig because gluttony was your vice. Yes? You can handle that? I’m impressed. Are you up for more? We’ll just take a moment to review where we’ve got before the neck show.