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Adi & Praja 144

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 144: The paradox

He didn’t have to memorize anything, because the teachings came at the same time as his questions from within him, and what he learned was immediately absorbed and became part of his being.


(the paradox)

One of the first things taught to him to think about was a big paradox. He had several teachers at the monastery, and one of them taught him that everything was immortal. The soul was immortal, the essence of each and every thing was immortal, and it had always existed, continuously taking on different outer forms. Shano could clearly see the truth of it. He knew that be looked different from ten or twenty years ago, but that he was still the same Shano. He understood that even when he and all other people had been babies, they had already been different. They had brought something from the past, and that was different for everyone. Some people were intelligent in this but stupid in that, or intelligent in that and stupid in this, or acquired skills with ease which others could acquire only partly and with great effort. So their must be an immortal soul, which continues to be born in a new body every time its old body had died. The real Shano was immortal. After a few months of training he even could remember some things of his former lives, remember some old friendship relations (his recent music teacher had been his brother!), and he could see the same of other people – at least so it seemed to him. There was no doubt about that. Now he had understood all this his teachings continued by the same teacher.

Then the next lesson after the first lesson he had lessons from another teacher, much older, and looking very wise with his respectable gray beard, who explained to him: “Immortality doesn’t exist. It is an illusion. Nothing that is now exists in the future.” Shano protested, saying that he himself existed before he was born, he was sure of that by logical reasoning. Moreover he had read hundreds of stories and reports of people who remembered their former lives. But the teacher remained undisturbed, and continued: “But don’t you see that you are not even the same as when you entered this room. You have breathed out many molecules and atoms, and absorbed new oxygen molecules, which have already become part of your blood chemicals or other organic chemicals in your body. Don’t you see that Shano who entered this room ten minutes ago is considerably different from the one who sits here now? Then imagine after, say, seven years. Perhaps not one molecule, or perhaps just one, molecule or atom will be the same as now today. Do you think the same now as before you entered this room; do you feel exactly the same as yesterday or last year or when you were five? – Listen Shano, I tell you from deep knowledge: Immortality is an illusion.” Shano could not deny the logic of what the man had just said. Then, had the other teacher been lying, telling just a story which he perhaps believed himself, but was no more than his fantasy? “We have no essential self,” the teacher continued. “It has been the greatest mistake of humankind to believe that. This believe has been the basis of all selfishness throughout the ages. And selfishness is the basis of all evil and suffering.” Shano could but agree. Then, was he himself just a heap of molecules and atoms, feelings and thoughts, playing together for some time together, creating the illusion that together they were an “I” or ego, only to dissipate at death, or actually at every moment?” Shano’s had got a red color. He wanted to discuss this to the very bottom with the teacher, or better even with both teachers. Finally, ‘who was wrong and lying, and who was right and speaking truth?’. But the teacher had no more time, and sent Shano back to his own room, just saying that what he had just said was clear enough, and that he didn’t want to comment on it further.

Well – do you know the answer? Was the one right and the other wrong, or the one wrong and the other right, or were both wrong or both right? Or were both of them both right and wrong?

Shano went back to his first teacher, and wanted to discuss the matter. He said that he had been clear enough and had spoken the truth in full responsibility as an accepted preceptor of this holy monastery.

So there he was. The very question of existence, the single most important question one could ask oneself in life, was .. ? ! … ?

In the mean time he received simpler lessons, though it would take years before he would understand them fully, by his own experience. His first teacher taught him in detail what were the stages of death and rebirth, independent of the question of whether he was mortal or not. Just like you can learn everything about a city somewhere on earth, without ever discussing whether that city actually exists. And perhaps you are told after all that that city existed only in fantasy. Still you could make long stories about that fantasy city, so realistic that the listener would become absolutely convinced of its existence. In the case of the events after dying, the in-between stages, and the events before being reborn, he learned them from the same teacher (or an assistant of him) who had taught him immortality. From the second teacher however, he learned chemistry, thermodynamics and the moving of energies through the body and the mind. He was the teacher of change, impermanence. And on the bottom, in the depth of the mind of Shano, who was attending both teachers everyday, the paradox continued: Do I never die, or do I always die, and if so, forever or only temporarily? One day a light thought came to Shano’s mind: the one teacher talks about my soul, which is immortal, the other one about my body, which is mortal. He asked his ‘teacher of impermanence’, and he answered: “No, your soul is just as mortal as your body, it ever changes.” The other, his ‘teacher of permanence’ answered: “Everything is immortal, even the dust of your body.” Well, these answers didn’t really bring him closer to the solution, if there was any. Or did they?

His lessons about dying and being reborn continued. First he was explained the experience of being very old, then the first stages of dying, the next stages, about his consciousness and the loss of it. And the reawakening of it. And what one could do after death, and about a second death after the first – because everyone dies at least twice – but usually long before rebirth. Skilled people like doctors could see death approach months before it actually took place, because (except in cases of sudden accident of course) dying is a long and natural process. The senses would become dim, and one loses the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, feel, just as one falls asleep. Only, this time, one falls ‘adeath.’ Nothing much difference, and the process is the same, Shano was told, that the only difference was that in the case of sleep one would take up the same body, whereas in the case of death one would have to build a new one – but that is a fully automatic process about which nobody needs to worry. The moment the heart stops is only the moment when the body and the soul separate (if there was a soul!?). But the experience of falling asleep and dying isn’t very exciting, though very interesting, and many people do not even realize it at first when they are dead. They just continue being themselves. Moreover, whether dead or asleep, one soon loses consciousness, and wakes up in the world where dreams are experienced. Many people, when they die, see all things that happened during their lifetime repeated in detail, like in a movie, and they watch their own life, and sometimes smile about their own stupidities. At that very moment they understand why certain mishaps and disappointments happened in their life – and that it had been the best thing that could happen.

During his training in the monastery, Shano would have to experience these things in full consciousness and then return to his body. These were the practical lessons which were but extensions of the theoretical ones. But to learn that fully would take time.

Another experience most people go through when they die, is as if they go through a long, round tunnel or tube, and a light is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes they see –

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