illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
— yes, this sounds like a bad Star Wars title…
(intro to the series at gplus.wallez.name/h9qNiAafYx4)
Question 12, and its answer provided by the spam:
If our present existence is the result of something we could not control (from a prior life), what hope can we have related to our present situation in this life?
How do we hold on to hope for this life if our situation was predetermined for us and our present behaviors have more impact on the next life than on the present one? Doesn’t this view of our present life lead to an inevitable hopelessness? As it turns out, heavily Buddhist countries like Japan, Korea, and Sri Lanka have some of the highest suicide rates (from young to old). The top twenty most suicidal countries are almost all countries with strong Buddhist or Communist (atheist) histories.
This question is once more based on a misrepresentation of karma. I addressed all the necessary teachings in previous posts of the series.
"If our present existence is the result of something we could not control (from a prior life)," then it's time (or is it overdue?) to enquire into how to cease being a victim of circumstances, how to reclaim freedom from habits, from tendencies, from unexamined thoughts, from uncontrolled emotions and inherited instincts…
It's time to understand what unsatisfactoriness is, what anguish is, what anxiety is, what stress is, what 'suffering' is… It's time to understand what causes the unsatisfactoriness in your life, in order to start treating the causes rather than the symptoms… It's time to understand that said unsatisfactoriness might be ceased, and learn to trust and apply the antidote… It's time to figure out what the antidote is, how to apply it, how to persist with it, how to succeed, how to know when one has succeeded!
Oh look, that's the "four tasks of the noble ones" (or "four noble truths"): gplus.wallez.name/eVFH1vmfz3g
It's time to draw the lessons necessary to stop letting fear decide your life for you, to stop letting external influences decide your life for you, to stop letting stress decide your life for you (e.g. leading to defensive, angry reactions), etc.
And —hello, reality check?— maybe it's time to admit that, no, one cannot change the past… but that doesn't mean, in any way, that there's nothing to do in the present (incl. apologizing for, and mending consequences of, the past… avoiding repeating mistakes already done in the past…)!
"what hope can we have related to our present situation in this life?"
Well… Plenty of hope, if you're finally realising that the perpetual chasing for more of what you like, or for less of what you dislike, or for cheap reassurances, is just doomed to fail, as it just leads to more perpetual chasing, never to some lasting satisfaction!
But not some hope based on fantasies… Plenty of hope based on reality, and what's possible to engage with, here and now, rather than on empty promises of some other being…
"How do we hold on to hope for this life if our situation was predetermined for us and our present behaviors have more impact on the next life than on the present one?"
I already explain that this is not what the teachings on karma say. Karmic consequences typically are described by the Buddha as "arising in this life, in the next life, or one after that".
Moreover, I also already explained (3/12, gplus.wallez.name/4Gfrq3ZCDiF) that you engage with the present consequences of past deeds by shaping in the present the context!
You abandon the unwholesome, naïve and ignorant belief in determinism (karmic determinism was explicitly rejected by the Buddha), and you observe that you can learn to "react" or "respond" (presently) differently, to the same circumstances, thus freeing yourself from the past… no longer letting the past dictate your response…
You observe that some of the present situation is inherited from long past actions and views, but some of it is also inherited from actions and views a moment ago… You change the situation little by little, step by step…
You observe that no matter how long you held an object, it only takes one moment to ungrasp it and let it fall onto the floor. Maybe you find it hard to let it go, because of a cramp, or because you say "I've always done so, this is who I am, I'm following the steps of my family, etc.", or because you fear what will happen (which you've never let happen before, so you're facing the unknown)… You find it hard, you might not even believe it's possible, nonetheless it only takes one moment to ungrasp the object and let it fall onto the floor.
And in the same way, no matter how long in the past you've held erroneous views (incl. about who you are) and habits, the time to let them go is basically unrelated.
And if you understand rebirth vs. reincarnation (6/12, gplus.wallez.name/4xJR1B54hKX), then it's really about ungrasping, about letting go of views… ungrasping whatever past the mind ignorantly appropriates as one's own, in order to start engaging with the present without letting the past bias the engagement (by preferences, by habits, by prejudices…).
Since the logical fallacy of the call to authority was the basis for discussing truth (1/12, gplus.wallez.name/SxhFXNkxRdv), I could reply with a similar fallacy: the Buddha said it's doable in this lifetime, and the suttas mention hundreds of arhats… and the Buddha didn't just assert it's doable, he explained how to have it done.
"Doesn’t this view of our present life lead to an inevitable hopelessness?"
Sure, except this view is not what Buddhism teaches.
"As it turns out, heavily Buddhist countries like Japan, Korea, and Sri Lanka have some of the highest suicide rates (from young to old)."
Another example of fallacious argument: Japan ranks 30th, South Korea 10th, Sri Lanka 31st in suicides per 100,000 people in 2016 (data: World Health Organization). FYI, the USA aren't doing particularly better: 34th!
And if we look into details, an extremely high suicide rate among the elderly is a major contributing factor to South Korea's overall suicide rate. Many impoverished elderly people kill themselves as to not be a burden on their families, since the South Korean welfare system is poorly funded. This has little to do with karmic views on past lives! Poverty, joblessness, high debt burdens and other social problems—the main factors behind the high suicide rate—are rampant throughout Sri Lanka. Again, little to do with previous lives.
"The top twenty most suicidal countries are almost all countries with strong Buddhist or Communist (atheist) histories."
As if Communism had anything to do with Buddhism? Evangelism in the US will use any red flag it can, and conflate anything it wants to criticise with Communism, as basic propaganda… Let's try to maintain some sanity.
Top 20 (WHO, 2016): Guyana, Lesotho, Russia, Lithuania, Suriname, Cote d'Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Belarus, South Korea, Uganda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Nigeria, Latvia, Swaziland, Togo, India, Uruguay. [bold = "strong Buddhist history"]
Kazakhstan and India had let go of Buddhism around the 8th and 10th century respectively, hence at least a millennium ago… Kazakhstan is currently Muslim, and India primarily Hindu, so if religious views are to be blamed, aiming at Buddhism seems… inaccurate?
What appears to me as unwholesome, in this argument on suicide rates, is a spammer's willingness to blame religions he knows little about… instead of looking into his own individualism, capitalism and consumerism supportive of the exploitation of workers for pennies the other side of the world, and the appropriation of natural resources overseas without much redistribution to the locals (aka. theft, potentially through bribery of officials)…
And then pretending to give lessons about passivity and social justice (11/12, gplus.wallez.name/h6Ur5L8jzYe)? Passivity is a lot more found when one's "hope" is built on some external supposed God or saviour, and on a supposed promise of 'heaven' in the next life, than when one's behaviour is built on personal responsibility and causality in this life! Fortunately, not all Christians follow this Evangelist spammer's views.
Speaking of causality… if you like my work, please support it at koan.mu/donate.htm