Live, Die, Repeat.

From: http://www.seemslegit.com

A Brief Discussion of Reincarnation and the World Cup of Cricket. And Heaven and Baseball, too.

My blogging friend Charles of Mostly Bright Ideas and I have been regularly sparring over the vast differences in thoughts and choices between our worlds. However, there are some moments of clarity and acceptance. During one such moment, we decided to co-author a post attempting to highlight the dissimilar sensibilities and the futility of trying to bridge the gap instead of taking a boat once in a while to admire the other side of the shore.

Large-hearted and brave that he is, Charles decided to watch the Cricket World Cup Final on April 2; a game which, I suspect, would be confusing for a baseball appreciator. Unfortunately for him, there were no live telecasts. The video stream was a torture, what with the tremendous traffic. The confusion and the exasperating streaming must have caused the nervous twitch that he immediately complained about.

PV: That’s what you get if you watch it through a medium that can get clogged with millions of visitors who couldn’t make it to the stadium or see a live broadcast. People here jostle everywhere, even in morgues, to watch their heroes play.

MBI: India really is a different place, isn’t it? Where I come from, people in morgues hardly move at all. They certainly don’t jostle.

PV: Really? Ours sometimes get a new lease on life to watch cricket before they’re re-born and come back. Do morgues there have no living people, by the way?

MBI: To be honest, I’ve never really been to a morgue. For all I know they may have Super Bowl parties and Sunday brunch. But this idea of reincarnation is intriguing. Do you think people in the West understand it?

PV: I’m not sure. You tell me.

MBI: I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but my concept is that reincarnation is a process that allows individuals to eventually close the gap between their true selves and the lives they’ve been living. It’s a kind of course correction. Our actions and attitudes either pull us closer or push us farther away from our destination. And because we’re slow learners, it may take many lives on Earth to get it right. Is that even close?

I should have listened to him when he said I’d sooner or later regret firing him.

PV: Yes, very. You must have been paying attention in your past life. When you say our actions and attitudes decide our course, you are spot on. The crux, however, is the destination. What is it that you’d want? Take birth again as a sultan with a formidable harem, or perhaps a rock star with a steely voice? Or would you rather leave all that behind and renounce this blow-hot blow-cold world?

Whatever you want, make a decision and live it. You will find yourself enjoying it in the next birth. If you have been good, the Moksha (or Liberation) will be yours. Okay, if not the next, then the one after that.

MBI: You say I’m spot on, but that answer surprised me. I thought the destination had already been decided — by the Universe, or something — and that we’re born with some mission to accomplish, but we have no idea what it is. So we spend our lives flailing around in the dark, hoping to find a path that at least takes us in the right direction. And to make matters worse, we can’t remember the lessons we learned, or were supposed to learn, in previous lives. That last part really had me confused.

PV: I knew I’d rejoiced too soon at your suspiciously quick comprehension. If you want to understand reincarnation, you will first have to understand the terms. Then it should be self-explanatory. I hope.

You previously said reincarnation is like a course correction, and that our actions determine whether we find our destination. According to the belief we are discussing, a soul, which is as old as the Universe (or something) and just a tiny part of it, sheds a body after it dies, much like changing worn-out clothes. It keeps on doing so, seeking the next mountain to climb or the next election to win, until it realises that desires are actually a means for eternal discontent. In this journey, it keeps correcting its course, or at least it’s supposed to. And it is believed that this will eventually lead the soul to its final destination, Moksha.

Oh? They're finally here, then. It's better to be born a bison than a pink Cadillac-driving struggling wannabe.

MBI: Do you find the idea of Liberation a little unsettling? Does it seem like one long boring transparent Nothingness? Similar to an eternal Heaven, only without the angels and ice cream?

PV: About the boring, transparent Nothingness minus the angels and ice cream: again, I wouldn’t know. I am still in this world with sinfully pink Cadillacs and brilliant diamonds that could blind even the brightest of glow worms.

MBI: Here’s something else I’ve been wondering. Are these beliefs about reincarnation necessarily tied to what is traditionally thought of as religious doctrine? Or are they embedded in the secular culture?

PV: No, they’re not tied to religious doctrines at all. That would undermine their validity, I’d say. These are concepts that have been derived from, believe it or not, a rare scientific and spiritual collaboration over centuries. They are a part of the culture in which people here grow up. Most, of course, do not waste their time in counting the previous births or the remaining ones before attaining Moksha, but almost all are aware that every action has a reaction — Karma. You keep adding to your kitty of actions, good or bad. And see if it gets you Nothingness or A Glorious Muddle. It’s entirely your choice.

MBI: But who would prefer Nothingness? I’d take the Glorious Muddle, just because something is almost always better than nothing. Or have I missed it again?

Blast this Karma. They're gaining in on me in this birth.

PV: Maybe. But I can see why you would think that way. Why pursue something you don’t know about; something that’s going to turn out to be Nothing anyway? What would Heaven be like, I wonder. It does seem to be Glorious, without the Muddle. Or not?

MBI: I can only repeat what I was taught. Or how I interpreted what I was taught. My image of Heaven was a place where the soul goes after it leaves the physical body. A place of eternal joy. All of the negative experiences and emotions linked to mortal life are gone. But consciousness remains. When in Heaven, I would know that I was there. That seems to be a strong difference. When the soul reaches Moksha, where is it? Does it even make sense to ask where?

PV: The where would be everywhere. But even that isn’t accurate. Our languages are too limited to express some of these ideas. Where is Heaven? Everywhere, somewhere, or nowhere?

MBI: As kids, we all pictured it as up, in the sky. And Hell was down.

PV: Inside the Earth?

MBI: That’s hard to say. Down, but not necessarily under the ground.

PV: It’s a different way of thinking. Completely different.

MBI: When I took Spanish in high school, the teacher told us that we would be on our way to learning the language when we stopped translating in our heads and began thinking in Spanish. I’ve always remembered that advice, yet as I read about and watch the cricket match, I can’t help trying to make sense of it by translating every play into the language of baseball. Even when I consciously tell myself not to, I do it anyway. I have a feeling that, as nations and societies struggle to understand and relate to each other, there’s a similar tendency that gets in their way. We keep looking at other people and filtering what we see through our own familiar lenses.

PV: And different religious groups do the same. I don’t think there’s a solution to that. If your concept of the afterlife is some kind of eternal reward, you may struggle to find the same thing in our notion of Liberation. If you watch a cricket match and keep waiting for someone to hit a “home run,” you will be frustrated. But I want to ask you: when the batsman hits the ball in baseball, why does he throw his bat?

MBI: I noticed that in cricket, the hitter runs with the bat. That seems awkward. In baseball, once the batter hits the ball, he’s no longer a batter; he becomes a runner, and running with the bat makes no sense. But again, we’re both looking at the other’s sport from a biased point of view.

PV: That’s true.

MBI: In baseball, a team plays a full season of games. And with each one, the players, managers, and coaches work to make improvements, fill gaps, let go of weaknesses, and build on strengths. The team hopes to eventually make its way though the playoffs and into the World Series. Would you say life, death, and reincarnation are similar to that process?

PV: No. I wouldn’t. You’ve oversimplified again. Reincarnation has nothing at all to do with baseball. However, it’s very much like what a cricket team goes through in order to get to the World Cup finals. You win the final match, and that may be as close to Liberation as you can get without leaving this Earth.

The last I remember, we'd won the Super Bowl. Is this Heaven?
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30 thoughts on “Live, Die, Repeat.”

  1. What a fascinating conversation! I love trying to keep up with two such well-schooled and disciplined minds. I also love the sports/world view metaphor. My mind is still trying to get around all the balls that got batted, thrown, or dropped…

    1. The beauty of conversations, discussions and arguments with friends is that you can pretend to keep haggling for recognition as the one with superior understanding, and yet know all the while that you couldn’t care less as long as you’re all having a good time. And learning a little.
      Visiting your virtual home always gives me that little something, Linda.

  2. Thank you for sharing your interesting conversation with us Priya. I love how talk of morgues, reincarnation and cricket got into the same post.

    I must say that I agree with Bronx Boy, or maybe perhaps I’ve lived here so long I take it for granted that players drop the bat when they run (doesn’t that help one run faster?)

    1. No! Not you! Bats are supposed to be run with. At least that’s what the cricketing world (read — real world) knows. Rest is all bunkum. (I am hoping Charles is going to let me get away with this. And so are you).

    1. It’s been our pleasure all along, Amy. Thank you for the appreciation. One day, the world will hear about your prototype recommendation, and it’ll wake up.

  3. This post by you and Charles is delightful, Priya! I love how you wrote that you were “trying to bridge the gap instead of taking a boat once in a while to admire the other side of the shore.” Your words are always so poetic and lovely.

    1. Thank you, AA. The post was a delight to write. Learning the nuances of writing and expressing well from none other than our ‘mostly’ bright Charles is always an honour. And you get an approval from a joyous person like you is an added cream topping.

  4. Thank you P!
    That was the first post on WordPress I have found interesting enough to read all the way through… As an atheist I felt like the white coated umpire standing watching the path of the ball with an eagle eye… So far no wickets have fallen…

    1. I should be the one thanking you, Dave. It’s the for-keeps kind of appreciation one grins through the day with.

      Perhaps the dibbly-dobbly will surprise you one day. How long will the wickets stand? Unless eternity is an option. 🙂

      1. Hello Priya,
        I am embarrassed to say that I had to Google ‘dibbly-dobbly’ to find out what it meant. It’s good to learn something new!
        I watch cricket mainly for the beauty of it. For me slow Test Match Cricket is best. It’s a mainly colour thing… I like the red ball and the white outfits. Not keen on the coloured ‘pajamas’ with all the stripes and advertising…
        And also, Well Done India!

      2. Well, don’t be embarrassed, Dave. I also had to Google it when Charles first mentioned it. Yes, he is from the US and will probably not even know the difference between a medium pace and yorker. But he knew the dibbly-dobbly. (That’s some credit to his excellent research skills).
        I grew up in a world when ODs were picking up, but test cricket was still The Thing. I chose ODs because they got over in a day. But any genuine cricket lover appreciates the slow pace of a test match, I’ve observed. White or striped uniforms regardless!

        And I graciously accept your wishes on behalf of the entire nation. We did play well this time.

  5. I find the idea of reincarnation fascinating, though I’ve never been entirely sure whether I believe in it or not. A part of me does. I sometimes see something in a bird or animal and wonder if it might be someone I knew… and then I feel a little silly for having thought that – but then, why not? I was born into a Jewish family and brought up with that faith but I don’t practice it anymore, rather I seem to have gone back to some beliefs I had as a child which are very different from any organised religion that I know of.

    Is it the Hindu belief that a soul is somehow kept within the sphere of the original family or circle, in some way? So for instance, your brother might have come back as a new baby in the family? Or is the belief that the soul goes into the ‘best’ vehicle (body) for its next karmic stage?

    1. I wouldn’t know how one believes in these things, Val. Anything vague and intangible and ‘insubstantiable’ leaves an unending room for possibilities and doubts. Perhaps that is the attraction I feel intrigued with. And this very blurry premise makes some take a more defined and definable path.
      Reincarnation is as unknown to me as the Christian Heaven is. But from what I have heard and read, it is supposed to indicate the eternal quest for perfection. Perfection in this case being going back to what created you. Nature, if you please. Why that happens, why a tiny bit, a cell-like thing called the soul detaches itself and goes to live the Glorious Muddle, I do not know. Even as I write, I feel like a tiny, inconsequential, unknowing entity. There is so much out there that we do not comprehend. Much like the phenomenon of bibbies not seeming to mind endless supply of humongous seeds through their tiny beaks.

      Organised religions have been organised by humans. And humans err.

      I don’t know if my brother is expected to come back within the family, whether it is a part of the religious belief. But it’d be a good idea! I could get back to the many unfinished arguments with him. 🙂

  6. Priya: I can always count on learning something here at Partial View but in this post especially, you and Charles are Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire – dancing delicately in each others words, tapping out in perfect harmony the differences in your lives. It was magical to read. Thank you.

  7. Priya, This is my second time through.
    Ironic: second time reading your blog, second time reading this awesome collaboration.

    Having commented on Charles’ copy first, I had struggled to find what I really wanted to say. When I came here, I found that Souldipper had said it, just so!

    A prototype for world peace. The literal phrase from my most favoite bumper sticker: WHIRLED PEAS.

    I hope Charles doesn’t mind that I’d only put my second-most favorite bumper sticker in his comment stream. LOL

    You both made my day. As long as there are two people in the world who can have a fun talk about morgues without being disrespectful, there is hope for us all.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    1. Mitch, you are very kind.

      Working with Charles is like learning even though you just feel you are having a good laugh. And it must precisely be the reason both these posts have been able to come out so well.

      Thank you for your visit and your beautiful comment. You have, in turn, made my day.

      PS: May I borrow WHIRLED PEAS for some future date?

      1. My pleasure, Priya. “Visualize Whirled Peas” is a real slogan, I suppose it’s fair game in editorial context 🙂

        Oops, that’s supposed to say “fair use”. LOL

        Cheers,

        Mitch

      2. Ah! Then we’re good. 🙂

        By the way, did you visualise whirled peas when you first heard this? I did, and found it to be a strangely disturbing vision. But then, most new things can be unsettling, no? 😀

        Cheers, too.

      3. Priya, the first time I saw that bumper sticker, I was laughing too hard to even imagine what whirled peas must look like.

        I see the words and they strike me funny.

        Cheers,

        Mitch

      4. I know what you mean, Mitch. Somethings are simply funny. Period. I am so tickled with “Visualize whirled peas”, that I found myself grinning this morning during an obnoxious drive for even-more-obnoxious grocery shopping. Thank you.

  8. Commented on Charles’s post at some length 🙂 but it was mostly the Hindu religion part , so I did not get to say more of what I really wanted to say…didn’t know you had posted it here too..so here goes!

    I love your blog, Priya, and there are very few blogs I can say that about. Charles’ is one, and the rest I could count on my fingers. The blogosphere is a big place, but it is seldom one comes across gems like this.

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I believe the world is a better place for having you in it.

    1. Damyanti, you humble me. Every time I visit your blog, I feel at a loss of words — for your stories evoke such deep, overwhelming feelings.

      I suppose we, the gems, can all scratch each other’s backs and do that with an assured confidence because we know it’s true. Thank you.

      1. I don’t know about me being a gem, but you certainly are one.

        And an inspiring one at that, cos my latest post has somewhat of a take on reincarnation, or a sort of thought on life and death and body and youth when one has lived past nine decades.

        It would be interesting to know what you think of it 🙂

      2. What I think of it? I love it! You say so much with so little. It is a beautiful collection of just the right words. http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/u-is-for-under/

        Though I am not sure of my opinion being of much pith regarding reincarnation or, indeed, anything that the Sanatana Dharma has talked of, I do believe there is some sense in the ‘skin’ and ‘body’ being just a means to hold the real, endless ‘thing’.

  9. I think it has been said in much more beautiful words aeons ago in the Gita:

    Vasansi Jirnani Yatha Vihaya Navani Grihani Naroparani
    Tatha Sharirani Vihaya Jirnanyanyani Sanyati Navani Dehi

    I heard them as a child from my grandmother on her deathbed and the words have stayed with me.

    But I’m a doubting Thomas, and sometimes I wonder if it is a false consolation the ancients invented to save us from the fear of vanishing into the darkness.

    I guess I’ll have to wait until it is my time to find out 🙂

    1. It must have been an extraordinary experience, being by your grandmother on her deathbed.

      “..sometimes I wonder..” Sometimes is good, Damyanti. Unless we question, there won’t be answers! You seem to have arrived at answers in your own way. And that is what matters.

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