Learn, be reborn here,
and forget everything.
Relearn and re-forget…
— Shilashanti (Part 1)
In ‘The Snow Girl’, a five-year-old girl goes missing. Subtly but surely brainwashed by those who pretend to be her parents, who give her a new name, she gradually forgets her true parents. Her short life before was as if an immediate faded past life. Nine years later, she does not even react to her original name. Less than a decade’s time was able to disconnect one ‘life’ from another ‘life’ — within the same life.
As Heraclitus (赫拉克利特) said, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.’ (从来无有人，再踏入同河。因河非同河，而人非同人。) Every wo/man, in body and mind, and in every environment, is with each and every element within and without changing from moment to moment. Even in a continuum of change, when too far towards the other end of the spectrum, there is disconnection in memory.
Another case in point… An otherwise non-vegetarian expecting mother loses appetite for all meat (and fish), becoming nauseous if she tries to eat any. And when the child is born, he rejects dairy milk. This seems like a case of ‘within womb veg(etari)anism’ (胎里素), which refers to one already being veg(etari)an in the womb, before and after birth. Usually, this is due to the mother already being a veg(etari)an before expecting, thus naturally continuing being so when with child, also teaching the child after birth to be veg(etari)an.
However, this example goes beyond ‘within womb veg(etari)anism’. It was the other way round. It was with pregnancy, that the unborn child’s appetite influenced the mother’s appetite. We know this is so as after giving birth, the mother returned to non-veg(etari)anism. Upon closer scrutiny, this is actually ‘before womb veganism’ (胎前纯素), with the child’s consuming habit brought over from the immediate previous life. The mother even had to use brown rice paste to substitute cow milk.
How does this connect to the Snow Girl? Just as even a child is able to forget her life nine years ago, within the same lifetime, all the more is one able to forget one’s past life. With gradual introduction to bits of meat and such, the vegan boy lost his habitual preference for animal-free food and drink. It took him almost two decades before stumbling upon information on the virtues of being vegetarian, before turning vegetarian suddenly, but another ten years to turn vegan. The vegan baby was ‘missing’ for thirty years! He later managed to persuade his parents to go vegan.
This is really a horrific existential tragedy. It reminds us of the terror of spiritual backsliding from rebirth to rebirth, before attaining any form of enlightenment. Even though a previous life(long) habit of being vegan can be carried over to this present life, it can be eroded away and lost swiftly. This is why it is wise to seek the safest rebirth — in a Pure Land, where all past lives’ memories will be recollected, with all good and pure habits retained, only to be improved and perfected. Otherwise, how can we ensure there is enlightenment in one lifetime? Like ungraspable snow, if we do not get a ‘grip’ on definite self-improvement, how can we ever be liberated?
… Learn, be reborn in Pure Land,
and remember everything.
Learn more and never forget.
— Shilashanti (Part 2)
How Death Hinders Progress To Liberation
The Buddha’s Ultimate Teachings On Veganism