The Path to Enlightenment, the Lam Rim in Tibetan Buddhism, is divided in three ‘stages’ or three motivations. I started out my explaining the Beginners Motivation. It is, as Lodro Rinzler says in his upcoming ‘The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation‘:
a process of getting your act together. (p. 19 in the advanced readers edition)
There is of course nothing wrong with getting your act together. If meditation makes you less likely to lash out at a colleague, get out of debt or better able to sit with your aging grandmother in her Alzheimer caused fog, the Buddhist path is helping you and still that might be ‘beginners motivation’ or ‘small scope’.
The intermediate scope goes a step further. It not only takes reincarnation for granted, but concludes from there that it’s rather tiring to keep on going back to being born, being ill, dealing with annoyances, falling in and out of love, losing people and ultimately dying.
Logical isn’t it? The idea of reincarnation may appeal to us: it gives us plenty of time to get our act together. It makes it easy to postpone doing anything serious about ‘becoming enlightened’. For many people it may simply mean getting to enjoy life again and again – all under the assumption that our next life will be as good as our present life is (that’s where the small scope comes in: making sure that next life IS at least as good as our present life).
But according to Buddhism our next life is actually not likely to be as good as our present life. We got to be a human being, quite a luxury according to Buddhist teachers, and now we’re wasting our time trying to get rich, get laid and getting angry at our colleagues. That’s all my own words, obviously.
And that anger, that greed, that desire will bite us in the ass, because karma takes our motive into account big time.
If you let that idea sink in and really take it seriously, you start to see that it’s all rather uncertain: why would I WANT to go through all that again? Sure, life may have some good things about it, but dealing with the negative stuff is also a big part of life. Do we really want those things happening again and again?
For people who really realize this truth, they make the intermediate scope their primary motivation for Buddhist practice: they really don’t want to have another rebirth ever again. This is the traditional path of the Arhat, the Buddhist saint of Theravada and Hinayana fame.
Next up in the Lam Rim is the Highest Scope (and specifically Mahayana) motivation: the Bodhisattva motivation or Bodhicitta, the mind of Englightenment.
Does that mean anything to any of you? Working on personal development to avoid being reborn?