November 16 : Ensuring a Good Rebirth
Our spiritual goals fall into two camps. The first is “high status”, meaning upper rebirth, and the second is “definite goodness”, meaning attaining liberation or full awakening for Mahayana practitioners. The two are related because chances are we would not attain full awakening in this lifetime and thus need to create a series of good rebirths. Our principal goal is definite goodness, but the most imminent thing is ensuring we get a good rebirth so we can continue practising the Dharma.
When we first meet the Dharma, many want to go directly to definite goodness and skip over karma, but taking shortcuts can get us into trouble. Faith is the cause of good rebirth, and wisdom is the cause of definite goodness. Faith refers to belief in the law of karma or the functioning of our actions and their results. Understanding karma is not obvious at this stage, so we need to cultivate faith in the Buddha and scriptures that encourage us to keep good ethical conduct leading to good rebirths. There are sixteen factors we should bring into our practice for upper rebirth, including abstaining from the ten non-virtues and the three “blameworthy actions to abandon”, while practising three other factors.
The first blameworthy action is taking intoxicants, which often leads to bad decisions and mental fuzziness that makes it difficult to meditate. The second blameworthy action is wrong livelihood, which for lay practitioners includes making or selling armaments, poisons, intoxicants, pornography, or doing anything else that damages others, such as deceiving or cheating clients and customers. Harming others is the third blameworthy action to abandon. This could be harming others physically, short of killing them, like beating them up or giving them a disease through unprotected sex, or harming them emotionally.
The first of three things to practise is “respectful giving”, or making offerings to those who are worthy. Our preceptors, Dharma teachers, people who set good examples for us, and all sentient beings, in general, are worthy of our generosity. We can be generous by providing material goods, protecting others from danger, loving and supporting people in need, and sharing the Dharma with others.
Next is “honouring those who are worthy of honour”, such as our preceptors and Dharma teachers. We can even pay respect to people who are not our Dharma teachers but who knows more than we do, people with many excellent qualities, or those who create a lot of virtue. The third thing to practise is “love”, which refers to the four immeasurables of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Practising these make our minds joyful and improves our relationships. They also make it easier to practise the preceding factors by changing our attitude and lessening some of our very gross afflictions.
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