The Future Buddha (in a Past Life)

Most of us grow up (I assume) having heard the story of Jesus on the cross. If nothing else, the topic would come up in any course dealing with medieval or Renaissance art. But fewer numbers have probably heard the one-sentence anecdote about the future Buddha found in William James’s book on The Varieties of Religious Experience. So here goes (not a direct quote):

Reincarnated as a hare, the future Buddha jumped into the fire to cook himself for a starving beggar, having first shaken himself three times so as to save any insects in his fur from perishing.

That ought to make one smile!

I think the sanctity of all life (rather than just that of humans) is the message the East offers the West. I remember Richard Gere once saying that the Dalai Lama told him the first lesson one should teach a young child is that all life, even that of insects, is sacred. So don’t stomp on that ant! (Even a cockroach, caught under the flashlight’s beam, wants to live and does its best to escape death. But I can’t go quite that far. Death to cockroaches and scorpions!)

And we all know what kids do, seemingly by nature: they swing cats by the tail for fun; they shoot birds out of trees with bb guns; they fry ants under a magnifying glass.

Not to say what animals do to each other. As Leonardo da Vinci put it: Life lives off death. That, alas, is not only the human condition but that of all creatures.

I take that back. What does a tree eat? Or a blade of grass? Or a rose? Shoot! even that ugly vulture only eats what’s already dead.

So much for my philosophical thoughts for the day . . .

Do philosophers even exist any more?

Author: Ron

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