Questions for rebirth believers

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Laurens
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Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Laurens » Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:23 pm

I feel that the mystery surrounding topics such as rebirth is appealing for some people - to use Buddhist terms, perhaps it could be called an attachment. The fact that there is something out there that is plausably exsistant, yet currently unproven means that we can adopt our own little logical inferences and circumstancial evidence as something that is ours, our belief, something that seperates ourself from non-believers. The fact that not all people can see these little logical inferences and might reject circumstancial evidence means there is a divide between those that do believe and those that don't. Would you ever admit that there might be a little bit of pride surrounding your belief in rebirth? You know that kind of feeling that there is something out there that is reasonibly apparent or perhaps even obvious to you, that not all of us can see.

There was a time when I accepted rebirth and kamma - I felt that it can be seen in nature that things die and are reborn in various forms, and I also lapped up the cases in which people have recounted past lives etc. I recently realised that I was believing in something utterly unproven, there was no rational arguement that I could come up with to explain rebirth. For instance, the logic that 'I can see rebirth happening everywhere in nature' is flawed because a creationist would argue 'I can see design everywhere in nature' its a pattern which I had overlayed upon nature, not a reflection of nature itself. I started to wonder why I believed it, especially when rationality told me otherwise, and I realized that there was a delight in being one of those who could supposedly see the way things really are, amoung those who are blind to it. I was taking pride in rebirth, in a 'I know the secret and you don't' kind of way.

Now I'm not trying to tar everyone with the same brush here, I'm offering my perspective and you can freely take it apart if you wish. I just feel that in some cases, an attachment and a delight in being one of the minority who believes in rebirth and kamma is the main driving force behind the belief rather than any real kind of rationality. That feeling of being part of a special group takes precidence over rational thinking.

If rebirth and kamma were as accepted as the laws of Gravitation, i.e: the were was some hard evidence that these things were fact, and were no longer a matter of belief, would this affect your practice? Without that devide between those of us who believe it and those of us who don't, would the loss of the mystery surrounding it affect you? The absense of being in that special group? Do you admit there is any pride in your beliefs or not? I don't feel especially excited by gravitation for example, because it is a given and is not a belief, I suspect, however I would feel differently about it if I was one of a minority who believed it amoung a majority of non-believers, I would probably feel distinctly more passionate about it and proud to be one of the believers (obviously that is a poor example, because gravitation is real and testable, and rebirth is not testable and thus not proven to be real, but I'm not talking overly about the science, I'm talking about personal passions and feelings). What I'm trying to see is whether or not there is any pride surrounding your belief, if not then good, you shouldn't have any difficulty answering these questions. If, however you feel distinctly challenged by these questions, or you are upset that I am even asking them, then perhaps you do take a lot of pride in your belief.

Another thing I would like to ask is this (this is a question aimed more at a short term reaction); if, hypothetically speaking, you wake up tomorrow and the news the headline read 'Extraorindary! Scientists prove rebirth' how would you feel? What would your initial reaction be? Would you feel excited and filled with glee because you were right all along? If so does that not show you that you do take pride in your belief? What if the article went on to explain some fact that shattered your intial beliefs about the mechanics of rebirth and rendered your ideas falsified? Would you feel crushed that your belief system cannot function in light of the discovery? Would you simply ignore that and continue to believe what you did before regardless? All of which show some kind of pride and attachment to your beliefs.

I don't want dispassionate imitation-Buddha answers, I want the truth, from deluded beings who are subject to ignorance (no insult intended, that is, I believe the terminology applied to most of us in Buddhism) - how would you really feel? Not how Buddha would want you to feel. Maybe your feelings would be perfectly inline with what the Buddha would do, but I suspect in most cases our deluded minds would take charge in light of such revelations and we would react in a distinctly human manner.

I apologise for the challenging nature of this topic, but I feel its healthy to get challenged sometimes. If your belief in rebirth is in someway motivated by passion, is that not in contradiction to the Buddha's teaching?

These are all questions I have asked myself, and my response? My belief was motivated by passion and not by reason, and as a consiquence I no longer accept rebirth and kamma and I will not accept them until I see for myself that they are true.

Perhaps you do have some personal evidence that affirms your belief, if so feel free to share it, this topic goes by the generally accepted notion that there is no scientific evidence for rebirth and therefore it is a belief rather than a testable scientific process. I personally doubt any personal experience such as seeing into ones past life, for the same reasons I doubt that people's visions of the Virgin Mary are proof of Jesus' devinity, no matter how convincing the experience seems to the beholder.

Laurens
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby meindzai » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:38 pm

There is nothing in your post which hasn't already been beat to death in the topic the great rebirth debate. I don't know if we need to continue beating that horse.

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:11 pm

In the Ten hindrances to enlightenment, 'conceit' is one of the last hindrances to be eradicated. Even an anagami (non-returner) has some conceit. Only the Arahant is free of conceit. The conceit at such a high level as anagami probably would be from feeling spiritually superior. So what? In a world of sleep-walkers, people caring only about their next sense pleasure fix, I can imagine an anagami would be feeling pretty good about herself.

An anagami is a very, very difficult Noble state to attain and if they can have conceit, I think a little conceit for the rest of us would not be so bad.

That said, I don't think conceit comes into play much at all regarding rebirth. How many of us can remember any past lives? Probably few or even none. It is something most of us take on faith right now, so there is no room for conceit. I think it is actually much easier and simpler to just follow some monotheist religion where reciting a few prayers and keeping a few commandments can give you everlasting heavenly existence. I think pride and conceit would come more into play among those who follow those religions, because they are the ones saved while the rest of us are doomed. Whereas, in Buddhism, we say that anyone can find out for themself and we don't have all the proof yet either.

There have been case studies done, such as those by Ian Stevenson, M.D. (from the prestigious McGill Univ., not a diploma mill) and others, but I understand skepticism regarding those.

The "designs" found in nature actually point to no creator. This is because science has shown that there is no purposeful design in the way the earth has evolved. Some species go extinct and some species evolve to traits that normally would not be seen as "progress" such as the ground mole losing its sight.

If scientists one day prove using real scientific methods that rebirth is definitely true, I would be happy. Enlightenment can come some other day. :tongue:

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby BlackBird » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:37 pm

Well for me it's a working hypothesis. I take the Buddha to be the fully enlightened one and the incomparable teacher of (gods and) mankind. I can not recollect a time in my life which has not been dukkha and I can see the positive influence the Buddha's teachings have had on my life. I can see the results of practice here and now, so I have confidence that this is the right path for me. Any elements of the Dhamma that I cannot equate with direct experience are accepted on faith.

metta
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Moggalana » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:09 pm

Are rebirth and kamma real? I don't know. That is what my rational mind is telling me, at least. But how do I feel about this? Well, I changed from a 'non-believer' to 'maybe it is real'. I can accept it as a working hypothesis. It does make sense in the context of the Dhamma, and there is also some scientific evidence (Ian Stevenson etc.), even if its quality criteria can be doubted. Does it matter? Not really. I have experienced, in this very life, the benefits of meditation. I can also see the workings of kamma, at least on a psychological level (as per Bhante Dhammika's view). I don't worry about matters like this anymore. Practice will hopefully show me the truth one day. And if not, I will have spent my life working on my ethics and cultivating my mind. Doesn't sound too bad, right?
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:16 pm

meindzai wrote:I don't know if we need to continue beating that horse.


There comes a point when one has to give up. The Horse Trainer
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:26 pm

Greetings Laurens,

The reason I believe in rebirth is much like Blackbird's reasoning, and because I see no reason why it needn't be true. In other words, without any 'direct experience', it's equally provable as it is unprovable - how to know one scheme is right, and the other wrong?. Wouldn't unjustified pride in either direction be folly?

Much of the problem that I see in discussions on "rebirth" occur when it's wrongly conflated which other notions such as 'bhava' (becoming). To me personally, belief in "rebirth" isn't an essential part of my practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, and I feel the Dhamma holds up well even without it. As I mentioned in another topic recently, the Buddha taught bhikkhus only about practice in this life, not about what is to be done post-death... so practice of the N8P in this lifetime needn't be any different on account of one's views about rebirth, and beyond that, what will be will be, regardless of what we believe.

That said, rebirth may be a good morality teaching for some people, which encourages them to do good and avoid evil.

See: MN 60: Apannaka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Just one other thing to add to the mix which you might not have considered... those who tend to get most upset and most riled up about rebirth denial, tend to either be (1) those who cannot explain to themselves precisely why they believe in rebirth and get upset because their shaky beliefs are being challenged; or (2) those who are very heavily invested in the notion of rebirth - namely bodhisattva-aspirants, to whom their entire epic spiritual path becomes virtually meaningless in the absence of rebirth. That has been my observation anyway... sometimes it helps to understand where people are coming from. Others are simply bored of the 'issue' by now, and rightly so.

As for kamma (which you mention in passing) and its result (vipaka), I have no doubt about the validity of these. See my post here if you want to know why: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2690

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Annapurna » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:46 pm

Laurens wrote:I feel that the mystery surrounding topics such as rebirth is appealing for some people - to use Buddhist terms, perhaps it could be called an attachment. The fact that there is something out there that is plausably exsistant, yet currently unproven means that we can adopt our own little logical inferences and circumstancial evidence as something that is ours, our belief, something that seperates ourself from non-believers. The fact that not all people can see these little logical inferences and might reject circumstancial evidence means there is a divide between those that do believe and those that don't. Would you ever admit that there might be a little bit of pride surrounding your belief in rebirth? You know that kind of feeling that there is something out there that is reasonibly apparent or perhaps even obvious to you, that not all of us can see.

There was a time when I accepted rebirth and kamma - I felt that it can be seen in nature that things die and are reborn in various forms, and I also lapped up the cases in which people have recounted past lives etc. I recently realised that I was believing in something utterly unproven, there was no rational arguement that I could come up with to explain rebirth. For instance, the logic that 'I can see rebirth happening everywhere in nature' is flawed because a creationist would argue 'I can see design everywhere in nature' its a pattern which I had overlayed upon nature, not a reflection of nature itself. I started to wonder why I believed it, especially when rationality told me otherwise, and I realized that there was a delight in being one of those who could supposedly see the way things really are, amoung those who are blind to it. I was taking pride in rebirth, in a 'I know the secret and you don't' kind of way.

Now I'm not trying to tar everyone with the same brush here, I'm offering my perspective and you can freely take it apart if you wish. I just feel that in some cases, an attachment and a delight in being one of the minority who believes in rebirth and kamma is the main driving force behind the belief rather than any real kind of rationality. That feeling of being part of a special group takes precidence over rational thinking.

If rebirth and kamma were as accepted as the laws of Gravitation, i.e: the were was some hard evidence that these things were fact, and were no longer a matter of belief, would this affect your practice? Without that devide between those of us who believe it and those of us who don't, would the loss of the mystery surrounding it affect you? The absense of being in that special group? Do you admit there is any pride in your beliefs or not? I don't feel especially excited by gravitation for example, because it is a given and is not a belief, I suspect, however I would feel differently about it if I was one of a minority who believed it amoung a majority of non-believers, I would probably feel distinctly more passionate about it and proud to be one of the believers (obviously that is a poor example, because gravitation is real and testable, and rebirth is not testable and thus not proven to be real, but I'm not talking overly about the science, I'm talking about personal passions and feelings). What I'm trying to see is whether or not there is any pride surrounding your belief, if not then good, you shouldn't have any difficulty answering these questions. If, however you feel distinctly challenged by these questions, or you are upset that I am even asking them, then perhaps you do take a lot of pride in your belief.

Another thing I would like to ask is this (this is a question aimed more at a short term reaction); if, hypothetically speaking, you wake up tomorrow and the news the headline read 'Extraorindary! Scientists prove rebirth' how would you feel? What would your initial reaction be? Would you feel excited and filled with glee because you were right all along? If so does that not show you that you do take pride in your belief? What if the article went on to explain some fact that shattered your intial beliefs about the mechanics of rebirth and rendered your ideas falsified? Would you feel crushed that your belief system cannot function in light of the discovery? Would you simply ignore that and continue to believe what you did before regardless? All of which show some kind of pride and attachment to your beliefs.

I don't want dispassionate imitation-Buddha answers, I want the truth, from deluded beings who are subject to ignorance (no insult intended, that is, I believe the terminology applied to most of us in Buddhism) - how would you really feel? Not how Buddha would want you to feel. Maybe your feelings would be perfectly inline with what the Buddha would do, but I suspect in most cases our deluded minds would take charge in light of such revelations and we would react in a distinctly human manner.

I apologise for the challenging nature of this topic, but I feel its healthy to get challenged sometimes. If your belief in rebirth is in someway motivated by passion, is that not in contradiction to the Buddha's teaching?

These are all questions I have asked myself, and my response? My belief was motivated by passion and not by reason, and as a consiquence I no longer accept rebirth and kamma and I will not accept them until I see for myself that they are true.

Perhaps you do have some personal evidence that affirms your belief, if so feel free to share it, this topic goes by the generally accepted notion that there is no scientific evidence for rebirth and therefore it is a belief rather than a testable scientific process. I personally doubt any personal experience such as seeing into ones past life, for the same reasons I doubt that people's visions of the Virgin Mary are proof of Jesus' devinity, no matter how convincing the experience seems to the beholder.

Laurens


Laurens, how could I be proud.

To see beings walking around dreaming or sound asleep, to deeply care about them and to realize my inability to wake them up as he could, that is humbling.

So why should I be proud.

But I am inspired. And as bold as it may sound,- I am confident.

:buddha1:
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:45 am

Laurens, I usually stay out of these discussions, but I see you're "reasoning" yourself into a tighter and tighter corner, and I feel compelled to help before you descend into madness. For some reason, you prefer to believe in something intangible you call the Law of Gravity. I don't know what kind of scientific background you have to cause you to make such a preposterous claim, but I have a former background in engineering and physics. In other words, a practical background, not theoretical. I had to work with things upon which people's lives depended. With the "Laws" of Gravity (I assume you mean Newtonian Laws among others,) these are not exactly laws but description about how reality behaves under certain conditions. And as you might know, these laws are incomplete. Surely you know this. Observations concerning gravity are the most slippery of all, Newton's were revised by Einstein's theory's which explained Mercury's perturbations, Einstein's holes were rectified by Quantum gravity theories, string theory further refined it, but still a complete understanding eludes us. The Newtonian first Law for example, gives us a telling insight. The gravitational equation says that the force of gravity is proportional to the product of the two masses (m1 and m2), and inversely proportional to the square of the distance (r) between their centers of mass. Mathematically speaking,

F=Gm1m2/r2

Fine as far as it goes, except contrary to perception, gravity may not be a pulling interaction, but a pushing interaction between two objects by external forces forcing them together.

So what do you believe? That if you drop a hammer it will hit your foot? Obvious, but is it being pulled or pushed?

No one can tell by watching the hammer. The end result is the same. Sore toes.

F=Gm1m2/r2 A string of numbers which describe an interaction between two objects. Is this what you choose to believe over a phenomenon which has been witnessed, verified and taught by the Samasambuddha and many of his followers?

Your choice. The bottom line is this choice giving you peace of mind or vexation?

I have walked that very path Laurens. And I've seen dozens of others do the same. It really doesn't bear productive fruit.

Just an old guy trying to spare a younger guy some trouble. Ignore if you want. I promise it won't hurt my feelings.
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Guy » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:01 am

Hi Laurens,

Don't believe in rebirth! Instead, remember your past lives!

With Metta,

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4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:03 am

{{{groan}}}
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby bodom » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:08 am

Bubba that was an excellent post thank you.

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The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby BlackBird » Sat Mar 13, 2010 4:43 am

tiltbillings wrote:{{{groan}}}


This appears to be some sort of prototype smiley.

;)
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:04 am

BlackBird wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:{{{groan}}}


This appears to be some sort of prototype smiley.

;)
Yes, well, I am the bad one, but this subject is enough to cause any number of anomalous behaviors in otherwise sane people.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:29 am

tiltbillings wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:{{{groan}}}


This appears to be some sort of prototype smiley.

;)
Yes, well, I am the bad one, but this subject is enough to cause any number of anomalous behaviors in otherwise sane people.


"sane people"!?!?! Huh! Speak for yourself! :tongue:
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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:42 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
"sane people"!?!?! Huh! Speak for yourself! :tongue:
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This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby ground » Sat Mar 13, 2010 6:00 am

Laurens wrote:The fact that there is something ...
The fact that not all people can see ...

You are advocating "facts" but you are not stating the grounds of something being a "fact".

Laurens wrote:I recently realised that I was believing in something utterly unproven, there was no rational arguement that I could come up with to explain rebirth.

Someone who does not rely on reason may subjectively transform belief into knowledge. Someone who does not rely on reason but does not manage to transform belief into knowledge may be plagued by subjective doubt.
Someone who relies on reason exclusively neither has doubt nor belief but just "knows" in some contexts and just "does not know" in other contexts because he knows what renders something a "fact".
Considering our every-day behaviour there is much we rely on although we never questioned or proved it simply because this reliance entails perceptible successful action with reference to our every-day goals.

Kind regards

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby sattva » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:01 pm

i recently listened to a talk by Joseph Goldstein on the subject of Right View from the Satipatthana Sutta and in it he talks about rebirth. I found it a good talk on the subject. I believe it was part 39 (if not, then part 40). You might find it interesting. Check it out:

http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/6162/

For a different perspective on the subject, go back several hundreds of years before tv, videos, films, books, etc, and ask a person who was born and grew up on a tropical island that never has snow to believe in snow and they wouldn't believed in it if you told them about it. Not only that, but even if you could show them a photo and tell them about it, it would not be totally comprehensible. How could you explain the way snow feels, how quiet it makes the world around you, how it crunches under your feet? One winter in New England and they would understand snow. One experience of reliving, not remembering per se which is intellectual, but reliving a death and you feel differently about the notion of rebirth.

If we don't believe in rebirth than our options die with this life and it would be very hard indeed to follow the Buddha's path. Most of us who practice may not believe we will go all the way in this life. We practice both for this life and beyond. It would be difficult to continue through the difficult times when practice seems dry if we didn't see the big picture.

Besides, I think there is some evidence for rebirth. On that talk by Goldstein, he plays a tape of a small child who recited suttas in an ancient dialect. Personally, I heard of the topic of rebirth and read books on the subject when i was a teen and these were not from Buddhist sources. Today i am 56, so it isn't a new idea even in western culture. If it were somehow proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that rebirth was true, there would always be people who wouldn't believe it, just as there are people today who believe the Earth is much younger than scientists say. Maybe, i would feel pride that i was right if rebirth were proven. That would probably follow with despair when people ignored that proof. I guess the reality is that we can gather the information for ourselves, be open to possibilities, ask ourselves who and what we trust, and sometimes, decide it is alright not to believe or disbelieve when we really just don't know.

Anyway, i wish you well and hope that you continue to practice even for the here and now. :namaste:

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Guy » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:08 pm

:goodpost:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

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Re: Questions for rebirth believers

Postby Fede » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:09 pm

Oh Lordy-loo...Please don't let MatSalted get a hold of this thread...!

(Those of you familiar with the other website I frequent (and Moderate!) will know what I'm talkin' 'bout!!)
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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