Jazz Prodigy and Rebirth
Take a look at this video: Bolivian prodigy stuns jazz world at age of seven, from BBC
Then ask yourself how you would explain 7 year old Jose Andre’s incredible talent?
Jose’s father seems bewildered –
“I didn’t know jazz before” he explains, “its as if he was born with a Jazz chip inside him”.
And right there you have the struggle to reconcile two of the most common explanations of why we are how we are,
– Nurture – its what he has been exposed to (but its not a jazz family!), and
– Nature – its in the genes (the jazz chip)) – but why just him?
Both explanations come up short when compared to what they are actually witnessing.
“I don’t know how to explain how it came about. Its as if the jazz was already inside him” – Jose Andre’s father
How would you explain Jose Andre’s prodigious talent?
Buddha explained that talents like this are carried in the mind from previous lives. That mind is not a bi-product of the body, but more like a guest moving from one body to the next in life after life, just as a bird might fly from one nest to the other.
The subject of the mind is at the very core of all Buddha’s teachings, and whilst it is possible to gain tremendous benefit from many of his teachings (such as love, patience, meditation) without a belief in past and future lives, to really unlock the power of Dharma, as Buddha’s teachings are known, then an understanding of the nature of mind or consciousness is essential.
What is the mind?
According to Buddhism the mind is a formless continuum, with each moment of mind being born from the previous moment, going all the way back to the beginning of this life and then beyond to previous lives. This view shows how important what state of mind we generate now, in the present moment is, because it is from this present mind that our future mind, our future feelings and experiences will arise.
“If you realise your own mind, you will become a Buddha; you should not seek Buddhahood elsewhere”
– Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. Quote taken from Understanding the Mind by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
The subject of mind is very vast and profound, and Buddha gave many different teachings and methods to help us understand our mind. One method is to consider where the tendencies and traits we have in this life come from, what it is that informs our character. This is why I thought this video was so interesting.
Real life cases
As we have seen from the family and friends of Jose Andre, neither genes or nurture seem to hold all the answers. And if you research you will discover that even identical twins with identical genes born and raised in the same family can be very different from one another (recently a campaign to eliminate prejudice towards gay people on Facebook featured identical brothers, one was straight and the other gay).
Contemplating examples such as these and thinking about the origin of our own and others characters, our likes and dislikes, our tendencies and capacities, it becomes clear that positing an origin in previous lives makes a lot of sense. And that who we are now is in part the consequence of actions or minds we generated in previous lives whose effects are still being felt . This relationship is called karma; but thats another blog post!
Because the nature of mind is such a big subject I will come back to it many more times in the future, but today I just wanted to share some food for thought from this video as a taster to build on.
If you would like to read more about the nature of mind, there is a great chapter in the book, Transform your Life, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
As always I would love to hear your comments, views, experiences on this subject, so please do share in the comments section.