Same Old Same Old? What’s New?

We are karmically destined
to relive Samsara,
until we realise we need a breakthrough.

— Stonepeace | Get Book

At a friendly vegetarian neighbourhood eatery, the two of us were tucking into our usual order of olive fried rice with an additional dish of stir-fried kailan (kale), when two guys entered and sat nearby. For some time, they scrutinised the menu, till the chatty boss came along, and asked them what they wished to have. They asked for the ‘chef recommendations’. But when suggested accordingly, they remarked that they had tried them already, and asked for some other dishes. As the boss further suggested, it seems as if they had tried almost everything already. The boss laughed and said, ‘If you have tried everything already, then there is nothing left for you!’ He then pointed at us and added, ‘Or you can be like them — they always order the same stuff!’ We flashed a grin back, as the guys looked on sheepishly. Actually, we are more adventurous with our choice of dishes than that. We just happen to order what we did most of the time, which the boss took particular notice of!

Which is better or worse — to be more adventurous with what’s new, or more content with the same old same old —in terms of life experiences? Either way, be it us or the other guys, we have conditioned ourselves to cycles of craving. We craved more of the same thing, while they craved more of different things. Is this not why we are bound to the rounds of rebirth? Being happy with the familiar can keep us stuck in a rut, incapable of spiritual growth, while always yearning for the unfamiliar can be just as spiritually stagnating, especially when merely seeking countless fleeting sensual indulgences, including in terms of taste. What keeps us coming back to Samsara for more? This eatery incident offers literal ‘food’ for thought! Do we return because we haven’t digested enough of the Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings that free us from rebirth, or do we return because we can’t get enough of the samsaric? The first is the more valid reason, though we ought to be more diligent, while the latter is a poor excuse.

On a related note, while chatting with a friend, he sighed with resignation, that perhaps, he is suffering from living with an unreasonable spouse as he was likewise unreasonable to her in a previous life. In other words, he thought it was just fair and square karmic payback. I replied that though it could be so to some extent, karma doesn’t always operate so straightforwardly, in a tit for tat, an eye for an eye manner, or there would be no end to it. Karmic causes, when encountering different combinations of conditions, bear variable resultant fruits. Recalling the eatery incident of eating the familiar, I remarked that there is a less intuitive and more shocking possibility. Perhaps, in his previous lives, he was already overly giving in nature, even to unreasonable persons, allowing himself to be bullied continually. His present unhappiness could well be this force of habit carried over! Whether he did bully his wife in a past life we cannot tell, but it is clear that he needs a breakthrough. Time to change — before the next life!

Negative karma is often
continually inflicted upon ourselves
when we refuse to change our negative habits.

— Stonepeace | Get Book

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