We live in a times where conflicting narratives abound. It can sometimes be difficult to know who or what to believe. There is a desire for truth but exactly whose truth are we referring to when we say I want the truth. Is there a THE truth, the one and only unequivocal truth or should we speak of A truth. People imagine themselves to be in possession of the facts. If you think even a little about it, “facts” have a measure of interpretation to them. We could measure event flow, but beyond that there is some interpretation.
What can I say about my circumstances that is factual?
In the context of physical plane manifestation, I am living in a house in rural Brittany, I receive a small pension and use some of my time to type on this thing which I call a keyboard. I do gardening and do it yourself works in the house. I cook dinner most evenings. How I find myself here is open to any number of conflicting narratives. An outside observer may not know about the pension but if they were looking at me through binoculars what I have just written would be consistent with their observations. This is the Realm of Like This.
If they were snooping on me via my blog or some other means they could try to figure out “where I am I at” or “where I am coming from”. Their interpretation of that is unlikely to be 100% objective. They could construct some narrative or other. This narrative would be divergent from the one that I might construct.
It is extremely unlikely that they will have read everything that I have, that they understand what I do. I’ll wager that there is not a single being on this planet who comes close to having studied all the things that I have. Some people will have studied a lot more than me. I am pretty specialised in my knowledge set. Some of that set will of course overlap with the knowledge sets of others; the natural sciences part in particular. I doubt many of my erstwhile colleagues have read Aleister Crowley nor checked his various tabulated correspondences.
I have had a dream which suggests that I am an incarnation or a manifestation of this chap, Bakula. He was a close disciple of Buddha and is said to have been one of the sixteen arhats.
Immediately two conflicting narratives spring to mind. 1) It was just a dream and 2) It is true. There are of course many others, which might proffer levels of complexity and over interpretation. The first narrative has very little implication and is therefore readily acceptable. The second narrative has much wider implication especially if you put the thinking cap on. It is less acceptable because arhats are not meant to re-incarnate, they are supposed to achieve nirvana in perhaps the land of the pure abodes. Yet there are, other teachings that suggest free beings do indeed on occasion incarnate. Indeed, the Tibetans have recognised incarnations of Bakula.
“Ven. Bakula Rinpoche died while in India on November 4, 2003.
He lived one of the more interesting lives of a Buddhist lama. Born into a royal family of Ladakh, India, he was later recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat – one of the Sixteen Arhats (direct disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha who had tremendous spiritual realizations).
Bakula Rinpoche had a keen interest in Mongolia and Russia from a young age, and while other Tibetan teachers were going to the West, Bakula Rinpoche said, “Everyone is going to the west – it’s easy to go to the west.”
After Rinpoche worked as a minister of the Indian government under Indira Gandhi, he began to travel to Mongolia and the USSR, where he helped re-open ancient monasteries and organize Buddhist peace conferences. In 1990, was appointed as the Indian ambassador to Mongolia for a period of two years. When he arrived, Mongolia was still communist, but during his stay – which lasted more than 10 years – it became a free country, so Bakula Rinpoche could travel freely and work to revive pure Buddhism.
After the fall of Communism in Mongolia, Bakula Rinpoche established monasteries and nunneries, hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama, invited Lama Zopa Rinpoche several times, and granted ordination to many Mongolians. He retired from his position as ambassador in 2000.
Interestingly enough, according to Mongolian folklore, there was a long-held belief that Bakula Arhat would one day come from India to revive Buddhism in Mongolia. Perhaps it wasn’t folklore.
On the 26th February 2008, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has confirmed Thupten Ngawang, a child born in Nubra, Ladakh as the reincarnation of Bakula Rinpoche. The child is a bright little boy born on 24th November 2005 and has been chosen from among several children.”
If narrative 2 is correct, then a part of my shared essence was found in Ladakh. Tibetan Buddhism entertains that different parts of a master’s essence can manifest, mind, spirit etc..
Because of the myriad of implications of narrative 2 it would be unacceptable to the minds of many. Could you imagine those people with whom I have gone out on the lash with imagining me as the reincarnation of a Buddhist “saint”. These guys don’t drink ten pints of Stella Artois in one sitting, smoke Marlboro Lights or skin up spliffs. If you have been mean to me, it would be even harder to accept that you have been mean to a reincarnating arhat.
You may have noticed the dropping penny. If the penny does drop what happens then?
Over the years many people have dismissed what I have told them, gotten angry with my suggestions and offended at my words. In most cases I have been wearing black Levi’s. If I had said the same things wearing the robes of a Buddhist monk, would their reaction have differed? Probably. If I was called Rinpoche, would they have been so pissed off? Maybe. Many people have tried to beat me and get one over on me. Would narrative two have implications for their recapitulation?
We base our interpretation of the world on our narratives which may be far from accurate. But people genuinely believe that they know more than they do in very many cases. You may have noticed that I take the piss out of self-diagnosed omniscience from time to time.
How good is the basis set of narratives upon which you interpret your experience of living?
Do you have any conflicting narratives?