If you read the writings of the Mahasiddhas or other Dharma teachers, the idea of reincarnation often comes up. There is talk of the six realms of existence and of the danger of finding oneself in a much more painful world in the next life than in ours if one is too careless.
All these descriptions often give the impression that belief in reincarnation is a prerequisite for yogic/Buddhist practice. Of course, the idea of endless wandering in samsara is a great motivator for Dharma practice. IF I believe in it.
But what if I don’t believe in reincarnation and simply don’t find this idea plausible or convincing even after sufficient reflection?
Then that’s not a bad thing at all, nor is it in any way a reason for not being able to practise the Dharma. After all, leaving the cycle of rebirths is only one possible motivation for practising the Dharma. But it is far from being the central core of it.
What is the central core of the Dharma?
My answer to this question is a single word: certainty.
Certainty is the essence of the Dharma.
What all Dharma practice ultimately aims at is absolute certainty about the nature of all phenomena - the true nature of my consciousness and all phenomena. The idea that I first have to believe something specific - like in reincarnation - is therefore essentially contradictory to the Dharma.
The great commonality of all Buddhas is not their belief in reincarnation, but their success in having achieved absolute certainty about the nature of all things.
The desire for truth and the willingness to question and see through everything believed in is the only condition for Dharma practice.
So it doesn’t matter much whether I currently believe that my consciousness will be completely extinguished after death or whether I believe that my mind will then continue to exist and seek the next form. The crucial thing is to realise that I only believe both, but do not really know.
I don’t know.
And this confession of my not-knowing is enough to ignite the spark of dharma within me. After all, no human being feels truly satisfied and comfortable with the idea of not knowing what comes after death. No one. Some people may not have a strong fear of it, but as soon as they are really confronted with their impermanence, they too would love to know.
This big question mark at the end of our lives is the igniter of the Dharma.
The Dharma is the teaching and practice of reality. And unlike the thousands of doctrines of salvation in all religions, the Dharma precisely does not provide a belief about what comes after death. Dharma is not a matter of belief, but of knowledge.
The promise of all Mahasiddhas has never been anything else but certainty. They are living proof that it is possible to attain absolute certainty in this life about the nature of all phenomena including death and cessation. But not as a matter of belief.
The Mahasiddhas only show us the way to find certainty for ourselves. Just as they have done.
May all beings find certainty & be free.