The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Teachings of the Buddha: A Way to a Fortunate Rebirth

by Bhikkhu Bodhi
October 22, 2013
Tue, 10/22/2013 - 10:30 -- bbodhi

This week’s theme from The Teachings of the Buddha is “A Way to a Fortunate Rebirth.”—Editor’s note

In his account of his “noble quest,” the Buddha says that when he gazed out upon the world soon after his enlightenment, he saw that sentient beings are like lotus flowers at various stages of growth within a pond. While some beings are like lotuses at or near the surface of the pond, capable of awakening merely by being exposed to his world-transcending teachings, the vast majority of people who encounter the Dhamma are like the lotuses growing deep below the surface. These lotuses benefit from the sunlight and use its energy to sustain their life, yet still need time to reach the surface and blossom. So too, the great multitude of people who hear the Buddha’s teachings and establish faith must still nurture their wholesome qualities with the radiant energy of the Dhamma before their mindstreams become mature enough to attain direct realization. This process ordinarily requires many lives, and thus such people have to take a long-term approach to their spiritual development. While practicing the way to liberation, they must avoid a rebirth in the unfortunate realms and win successive rebirths blessed with material security, happiness, and opportunities for further spiritual progress.

These benefits, the enhancing conditions for spiritual development in the Dhamma, come about by the acquisition of puñña  or “merit,” a word that signifies the capacity of wholesome action to yield beneficial results within the cycle of rebirths. According to the Buddha’s teaching, the cosmos, with its many realms of sentient existence, is governed at all levels by immutable laws, physical, biological, psychological, and ethical. The process by which sentient beings migrate from one state of existence to another is likewise lawful. It is regulated by a law that works in two principal ways: first, it connects our actions with a particular realm of rebirth that corresponds to our actions; and second, it determines the relations between our actions and the quality of our experience within the particular realm into which we have been reborn.

To continue reading Bhikkhu Bodhi’s introduction on “A Way to a Fortunate Rebirth,” click here.

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