Many Lives, Many Stories …

W.F.B. workshop in October:

Starting shakily with a description of Walking meditation Luang Phor Jaran style – which really needed some explanation of how such an exercise leads to enlightenment, Khun Suchitra began the Talk with an interrupted description of the 7 Noble Treasures. These are:

Saddha – faith

Sila – morality

Hiri – conscience

Ottappa – fear of blame

Bahusacca – learning

Caga – liberality (meaning generosity)

Panya – wisdom

These 7 forms of wealth are said to be better than worldly wealth – yet I guess that most people happily trade a little ‘fear of blame’ for material gain … We only got to look at a couple of the clauses in any detail, before heading off for the coffee break. Both Hiri and Ottappa are poorly perceived in the Western mindset, excessively wrapped up as it already is in guilt. It is an interesting topic of both discussion and practise.

After the break, Khun Suchitra forwent the seat that had been prepared and sat beautifully in a graceful posture on the floor to give the talk unaided by cushion or something to lean on.  Asians can do this with immense grace – where Westerners are wriggling from side to side. To be fair it is not easy to sit on the floor if one has not been accustomed to it from an early age; on the other hand I struggle to sit in a comfortable chair without constant shifting ….

She told several stories of Karma, both in one life time, and stretching between lifetimes. These stores form several of her books which are published under the pen name Sudassa Onkom, and are light and entertaining reads. You will see these books about town in many stores, both in Thai and English translation. It is a difficult topic for Westerners as the most uncomfortable aspect of Buddhism for them is the topic of past and future lives, and the karmic consequences that thread between them. The topic is generally glossed over with Western teachers in favour of more pragmatic meditation exercises and psychological insights. It is a pity that no time remained for Questions and Answers, for Khun Suchitra to address this issue. Having met and spoken with her a number of times I know that her responses are lively, entertaining and honestly put forth, and I wish that the audience had had the chance to see this.

While I have always stayed away from the issue of past/future lives, and Karma passing between them, it is a genuine part of Buddhism as we have it in the scriptures. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to agree with it, but it is not possible to write it out of Buddhism wholesale as some have tried, without throwing out vast numbers of the suttas. What is more, such stories, no matter if you believe them or not, are always engrossing for all audiences.


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