How does rebirth occur after our death? Normally death refers to the moment when one's breathing and mental activities have stopped, and the body temperature drops. On the other hand, birth refers to the time when the baby is born. However, according to the teachings of the Buddha, our past karma is the main cause of the new life which comes about when the father's sperm cell combines with an egg from the mother. This is referred to as conception: the initiation of the birth process. Thus, those who carry out abortions are in fact committing the evil deed of killing. Why are we reborn after death? It is not inevitable that everyone will be reborn. Some may be reborn and others may not. Rebirth is caused by one's karma. With good karma we will produce good fruit. With evil karma we will suffer evil results.
If we generate good and evil karma all the time, does this mean that our cycle of life and death will continue endlessly? In fact, karma alone may not cause us to be reborn. Besides karma, defilements are needed as the secondary cause of rebirth. The major defilement is the 'love' of life. Thoughts of greed and attachment to this illusory world, with the foolish wish to live forever, plant in our deluded minds the seeds for continuous life and death.
A practicing Buddhist who wishes to end the cycle of life and death needs to let go of self-centered love and attachment to self-destructive living. This is similar to planting crops. Although we may have seeds, without water and fertilizer, the seeds will not sprout. Thus, even though we may have generated a lot of good or bad karma, without the fertile conditions provided by defilements (i.e. love and attachments), the seeds of our sufferings will not sprout. If we crave for comfort, luxury and wealth, and cling to our life, we will never break the cycle of life and death. In order to end the cycle of life and death, we must let go of our attachments thoroughly, then new life will not emerge.
To achieve this we should remember not to do evil, but to do more good. We should accumulate our merits in order to gain a good repay in the future. We should not attach ourselves to the process of life and death, but to strengthen our determination to leave this deluded, suffering world. [Recorded by Ming Dao] (Translated by Shi Neng Rong, edited by Ke Rong, proofread by Shi Neng Rong. (8-2-96))
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