The Choice before Rebirth

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Kevin is now in his mid-fifties. If asked to describe his life, he would say that it has been tough; but happy. If pressed further, he may even share the reason behind this. He could not remember much of his childhood except that his family did not own much but he was raised in a loving environment. Despite this lack of childhood memories however, he could clearly remember the time before he was reborn.

He is not sure is being ‘reborn’ is the right term to use. Before he took human form, he had no identity. He was limitless and connected to everything. This limitless realm is given many names; God, the One, the True Self, Buddha Nature or Cosmic/Divine Consciousness, among many others. Being reborn seems to be like taking a small part of the ‘whole’ and limiting it to a small body and mind, the ego. Remembering this limitless form sometimes makes his body and mind feel like a prison.

clear close up cold cool

This ego appears to be a separate existential self but it is not. Not in reality. He was just fixing himself a cold drink and looked at the ice cubes in the tray that he just removed from the fridge. The individual ice cubes appear separate but really, they all came from and are made from the same source. He laughed when he saw himself as the water which was limited into a small ice-cube in the process called ‘rebirth’.

But the most important memory is the choice presented to him even before he became this personality called ‘Kevin’. He could choose to be born in a wealthy family where he could have everything that money can buy. He would never have to worry about finances. But the limitless mind, full of wisdom, could see that the ‘limited self’ would likely end up over-indulging in excesses. The wealthy parents would be selfish, critical and prone to anger. Therefore, being raised in this family environment would make him impatient, calculative and selfish. He would live in comfort and attend many fun parties but he would not be happy. He did not have to worry about money but he would worry about many other things. Every negative events, no matter how small, will bring him mental anguish. Anger, worry and disappointment would define his life. His mind would be like an exposed would, easily hurt even by just a soft touch.

The other choice was to be born in an average family but with wise, compassionate and loving parents. He would grow up wearing hand me downs from relatives. He will not get the toys or enjoy all the food that he wants, but all this would not bother him because he would be raised to understand that every situation, no matter how it appears, would have a positive and negative side. The love from his parents far outweighs all the other things he will never enjoy. He would not have much material things but he would have an abundance of happy times with his parents. He would learn to develop equanimity and keep his mind happy and in peace. The wisdom he would gain from his parents would become a shield that protects his mind from negative circumstances; and the shield would grow stronger day after day, even after his parents returns to the Divine.

He understood that wealth is sought after because it is believed that wealth can bring happiness. His limitless mind could see that this assumption is untrue. Because human beings are ignorant of the true causes of happiness, they cling to the hope that wealth will bring happiness. It is a more tangible goal and everyone else seems to think it is true. Kevin laughed when it dawned on him that wealth appears to be an easier goal to achieve than enlightenment!

His limitless mind saw that being born in the average family environment would give him direct experience of the causes of happiness. He would learn the wisdom and understanding from his parents from childhood and build a strong foundation.  His parents would be a living example of the true causes of happiness; wisdom, awareness, compassion, kindness and contentment.

These memories often bring a smile to Kevin. He had money problems in many occasions in his life but never once did he regret the choice made. He faced all his problems steadfastly and with a clear mind. He could often see the positive side of seemingly negative events. Once he lost his job and saw it as an opportunity to take a break. Subsequently, he found a better paying job with shorter hours!

Kevin thought of his son, David, who is already in his twenties.  David is wise for his age and seems to be happy all the time. Kevin could see that the choice he made had also benefited David and that too brought joy to his heart. Kevin had passed on the wisdom he gained from his parents to David. This inheritance is much better than wealth.


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