of the basic beliefs of Buddhism are the principles
of rebirth and karma. There now follows a brief introduction to these
topics taken from Geshe Kelsang's book, Eight Steps to Happiness:
"The mind is neither physical, nor a by-product of
purely physical processes, but a formless continuum that is a separate
entity from the body. When the body disintegrates at death, the
mind does not cease. Although our superficial conscious mind ceases,
it does so by dissolving into a deeper level of consciousness, call
'the very subtle mind'.
The continuum of our very subtle mind has no beginning and no end,
and it is this mind which, when completely purified, transforms
into the omniscient mind of a Buddha.
Every action we perform leaves an imprint, or potential, on our
very subtle mind, and each karmic potential eventually gives rise
to its own effect. Our mind is like a field, and performing actions
is like sowing seeds in that field. Positive or virtuous actions
sow the seeds of future happiness, and negative or non-virtuous
actions sow the seeds of future suffering.
This definite relationship between actions and their effects - virtue
causing happiness and non-virtue causing suffering - is known as
the 'law of karma'. An understanding of the law of karma is the
basis of Buddhist morality.
After we die our very subtle mind leaves our body and enters the
intermediate state, or 'bardo' in Tibetan. In this subtle dream-like
state we experience many different visions that arise from the karmic
potentials that were activated at the time of our death. These visions
may be pleasant or terrifying depending on the karma that ripens.
Once these karmic seeds have fully ripened they impel us to take
rebirth without choice.
It is important to understand that as ordinary samsaric beings we
do not choose our rebirth but are reborn solely in accordance with
our karma. If good karma ripens we are reborn in a fortunate state,
either as a human or a god, but if negative karma ripens we are
reborn in a lower state, as an animal, a hungry ghost, or a hell
It is as if we are blown to our future lives by the winds of our
karma, sometimes ending up in higher rebirths, sometimes in lower
This uninterrupted cycle of death and rebirth without choice is
called 'cyclic existence', or 'samsara' in Sanskrit. Samsara is
like a Ferris wheel, sometimes taking us up into the three fortunate
realms, sometimes down into the three lower realms.
The driving force of the wheel of samsara is our contaminated actions
motivated by delusions, and the hub of the wheel is self-grasping
ignorance. For as long as we remain on this wheel we shall experience
an unceasing cycle of suffering and dissatisfaction, and we shall
have no opportunity to experience pure, lasting happiness.
By practicing the Buddhist path to liberation and enlightenment,
however, we can destroy self-grasping, thereby liberating ourself
from the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth and attaining a state of
perfect peace and freedom. We shall then be in a position to help
others to do the same."
Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
For more information on Buddhist beliefs read Eight
Steps to Happiness or Introduction
to Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
If you would like to attend meditation classes near you and learn about Buddhism, visit the main website for Kadampa Buddhism which has details of Buddhist Centres around the world.
top of page
Download your free copy!