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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
81 SPRING 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly will be praised by the wise, live without anxiety, and when they pass away they will have no regrets. If they are correct and there is no life after this one, they’ve made a pleasant abiding for themselves here and now. If they are incorrect and there is a life after this one, they’ve cer- tainly set themselves a good direction and can certainly look forward to reap- pearing in a pleasant destination.” He uses an analogy from dice and says, “They have a lucky throw on both counts.” He goes on to discuss the oppo- site effect for an unvirtuous person, who will “have an unlucky throw on both counts.” This is the Buddhist version of Pascal’s wager. jan chozen Bays: I look at this as a biolo- gist, a scientist. That’s what I trained in before I went to medical school. From the point of view of physics, energy is neither created nor destroyed, at least as far as we’ve been able to tell so far, and that certainly applies to our physi- cal energy. I ask people in our death and dying classes to consider the calcium in their teeth and bones and to project it backward into time. Where did it come from? They can see the milk they drank and the cow that gave the milk, and then they can see the cow eating the grass and that the grass came from other decay- ing organisms, and on and on. It goes all the way back to very soon after the Big Bang, when calcium, as far as we know, originated. The next question, then, is how many lifetimes has our calcium lived through, how many living organ- isms has our calcium passed through? It’s an infinite number. Project that calcium forward in time, so after we die and are cremated or put in the earth and decay, what happens to our calcium? It’s not destroyed. It goes forward into the air, the soil, the plants, and more living organisms, including lots of people, so the calcium in our body could be calcium from Jesus, from the Buddha. A rational materialist can understand that. We go on to consider what you could call our psychic energy, the energies that are of the mind ground, however you want to frame them. You could call them personality, psyche, or whatever Buddhist terms you might have for such energy. But it is energy. You walk into a room and you can tell if somebody’s just had a fight there. It’s not imaginary energy. Wouldn’t the same principle apply to that energy? Why would psychological energy not also continue along with the carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and so on? We know, for example, that anger can be passed from generation to genera- tion. We know that if you’re angry at the store clerk, that some real energy gets passed around from the store clerk to the people who come afterward. If this energy continues after our death, then what is our job? Many people today are trying not to pass on pollution to the next genera- tions, on to the seventh generation, as the Native Americans say. What about the pollution from psychic energy? It’s clear that our job is to clean up that energy too. Whether we pass it on in a future life as a new, clean so-and-so or pass it on to “someone else,” it’s our job to pass on the best inheritance of energy, the least-polluted energy we can. Buddhadharma: So the first law of ther- modynamics is a statement of rebirth? jan chozen Bays: It is. Buddhism is math- ematics. And when you add to that the collected research on children who can remember past lives, there’s some pretty darn good evidence there. Frank ostaseski: People have been ask- ing me for thirty years, usually on their deathbed, “What’s going to happen after I die?” I have lots of ideas, but I have no idea if any of them are true. I’ll find out. Buddhadharma: Or you may not find out. jan chozen Bays: If your consciousness continues, you might find out. Frank ostaseski: There is a quote from a piece on the Internet by a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, Carol Hyman, called “Living and Dying: A Buddhist Perspective.” In it, she says, “If we learn to let go into uncertainty, to trust that our basic nature and that of the world ➤ continued page 82 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906x10 firstname.lastname@example.org for fullschedule and updates visit: www.kagyu.org KARMA TRIYANA DHARMACHAKRA North American Seat of His Holinessthe Gyalwa Karmapa TibetanBuddhist Teaching andMeditation Center KTD wishesyou ahealthy andprosperous Year of the EarthOx KHENPO KARTHAR RINPOCHE MARCH 6-8 Machik’s Complete Explanation LAMA TASHIDONDUP APRIL 10-12 Four SakyaOral Instructions on Freedom from Attachment