Taking Birth

In my readings on Buddhism, one idea that I’ve found that is quite interesting is the idea of “taking birth”.

I first encountered it in reading Anyen Rinpoche’s Dying with Confidence last year. At one point he notes to the reader “Many of you have taken birth in the country of America”.

When I read that I paused. What a different way of looking at things. We talk all the time of the “accident of birth” and view birth as something that just happens.

But, when you take the Buddhist point of view around karma and rebirth the act of birth isn’t random. At its simplest the circumstances of your birth are conditioned by past actions and play some role in the great progression towards enlightenment (which can take many, many lifetimes).

With that in mind, it becomes logical to raise the question of what the reasons for this particular birth are. How is it helpful? What are you to learn from it? Why have you taken birth in the way that you did? In the time that you did? In the place that you did? With the parents (or lack thereof) that you did?

Whether you’re a Buddhist or not, it’s certainly an interesting mental exercise to engage in. And it certainly makes on think in a purposeful manner about something that we’ve just shrugged off as happenstance.

I don’t call myself a Buddhist (or anything really): I’m not a good joiner. But I find this a very useful mental exercise and so think about it a lot.

I don’t know that I have an answer yet. But at least I have a question, eh? That’s a start.