Reincarnation–Fact or Myth

I have found this a very interesting topic over many years. It is not one that is treated as a serious issue particularly in the scientific community which views life as a biochemical state made up of atoms and different compounds, but with no spirit or concept of an afterlife. Since I started out as a liberal arts major and ended up with a background in physics and mathematics, I tend to bridge both worlds in my thinking. I have many books on the subject of reincarnation and have read many accounts of near death experiences in which people have been declared clinically dead and yet survived. Many of those who survived recount experiences in which they viewed their operations from the ceiling and heard themselves declared to be clinically dead. Others recount experiences of going through a tunnel toward a light in which they were greeted by friends, relatives and counselors who told them their mission in life was not yet finished.

Many of the major religions accept reincarnation as part of the cycle of life where one works out problems they have before they are accepted into a permanent state where it is no longer necessary to reincarnate. Most Christian religions accept the idea of Jesus of Nazareth as a soul worthy of resurrection without the need to reincarnate. Buddhists, depending upon the particular version of Buddhism, view the quest for enlightenment as a means to attain a state of permanent reincarnation. Buddhism is based upon the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who sought enlightenment, rather than to follow his father as the ruler of a state or region in eastern India. I have no intention of going into the various versions of either Christianity, Buddhism, or the Islamic religion. The topic is too vast for my purposes which is to discuss briefly the concept of reincarnation which is permanent state of existence where birth and death as we know it is no longer necessary. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of Buddhism which you can read if you are interested. My interest and reading has been primarily devoted to Zen Buddhism and to the Tibetan version of Buddhism.

One of my favorite books is a compilation of Zen thought, ZEN FLESH ZEN BONES, A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings(1957 and 1985) compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. It consists of a series of Koans which are thoughts designed to help the unenlightened to become enlightened. Here is an example of having attained enlightenment: MUDDY ROAD

TANZAN AND EKIDO were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous, Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Another book I found of great interest was written by a Irish Priest who left Ireland and spent ten or more years studying with a Zen Master in Japan. The book is entitled: CHRISTIAN ZEN: A WAY OF MEDITATION, by William Johnston. He was amazed that he could ask any question without fear of reproach by the Zen Master, who would usually answer much like Tanzan did in his answer to his fellow monk. William Johnston was amazed at the manner used by the Zen Master to enable the Priest to answer his own question for himself. He stated that if he had stayed in Ireland as a Catholic Priest he would never have thought through the answers to his questions in such depth.

Another author I have read extensively, was Ruth Montgomery who wrote many books on the subject of reincarnation, including one entitled Strangers Among Us(1979), and one entitled Aliens Among Us(1985). In the book Strangers Among Us, she discusses people who she calls Walk-ins, as enlightened beings who are permitted to take over the body of an adult being who wishes to depart and has given permission to an enlightened being, who has undergone many reincarnations, to come back and work on a specific task without going through rebirth, childhood, and adulthood. Ruth Montgomery started out as a journalist and turned to writing books on many topics related to reincarnation. Among her associates were Edgar Casey a medium who worked with a medical doctor to help develop cures or treatments for diseases of his time. Casey had many books written by others based upon various topic he discussed over many years one entitled Edgar Cayce on Atlantis, compiled by Edgar Evans Cayce(1968) his son and who was the Director for the Association of Research and Enlightenment.

There are so many authors who have written upon this subject that I will not attempt to name them all, but I must at least list some of the books in my personal library which relate to the topic of life and other lives.

Gina Cerminara, Many Lives, Many Loves(1963), Lobsang Rampa, The Third Eye(1956), Carlos Castaneda, The Fire From Within(1985), George Gamow, One,Two,Three Infinity,…Facts and Speculations on Science(1988), Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics(1976), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fizgerald(1962), Kahlil Gibran, The Profhet(1923), and R.G.H. Siu, The Tao Of Science, An Essay on Western Knowledge and Eastern Wisdom(1957). My list is short because it is up to the reader to explore this topic and come to their own conclusions. If you choose to explore it, you will come across many more authors, skeptics, who deny any afterlife. It is up to you. I hope you enjoy your journey.

Self Discipline and Intrinsic Motivation

The word discipline has become synonymous with cruel treatment in educational environments and in many families. This is unfortunate because a child, a teenager, or an adult who grows up without self-discipline has lost the freedom of self determination and choice. I was taught self-discipline a child primarily by my father and also by my mother. There was very little harsh treatment by either of my parents. My father and I talked extensively about many things. If I asked him what he thought about a particular subject, he would always reply, “What do you think about it?” In this manner I was allowed to think through a question and give him a reply before he unloaded his opinions on me. After I had explained what my opinion was on the subject we were discussing, he would then tell me what he thought, but not in great detail. My mother was somewhat different in her approach and we would discuss her favorite topic which was her family in Arkansas which was quite extensive. She did not get to see much of her family once she and my father migrated westward to Nebraska, Idaho, and finally Oregon where my father worked on irrigation projects. He learned his trade by doing, because neither of my parents went to school past the seventh and eighth grade. My father was raised by his father because his mother died before he was a year old. They left Missouri and walked to Wyoming. My Mother was also raised by her father from about age eleven.

By learning to think for myself and making decisions at an early age, I also learned to live with both good and bad decisions by thinking through what I had learned from a bad decision as well as a good decision. I learned to persevere in spite of circumstances and to keep a positive attitude.

Since I spent my adult life from age twenty five onward as a public school teacher, a school administrator, and as college professor, my early training by both my parents affected how I approached teaching. I met many professors who expected one to feed back answers that they thought were politically or ethically correct. Many of my classmates would try to guess what kind of answers they thought the professor would approve of and award them with a good grade. This kind of approach always struck me as foolish. If I found this kind of professor I would risk it all in spite of the consequences. In a literature class we were to read all of the books by a certain author and write a paper on his or her world view. I chose to read and review all of Earnest Hemingway’s books and to write a paper on his works. I discovered that the Professor did not like Hemingway because he supposedly loved war. He graded me according to his views. I later took a graduate class from another professor who spent much of the time on group dynamics and had the class role play different roles people assume when in a group discussion either in the work place or in family groups. We would assume roles such as fact finders, the crowd-pleaser, who tries to make everyone feel good, the negative person who finds fault with everything. and so forth. I found this class to be of great value and incorporated it into my classes both in the public school and in college classes, particularly in teaching Philosophy of Education. I required the students to relate their readings and papers to how they saw themselves as teachers and how they related to their students. I told them they would be graded not by trying to guess what I thought, but by what they thought. I had to specify in great detail what I expected as far as spelling and punctuation and took off points if I received junk which I did from several of the students who had gone to school when the philosophy was not to correct spelling, sentence structure and content because it might harm a person’s creativity. My own daughter and step-daughter suffered from that approach. My step-daughter would send her papers to be read by her mother and myself. We marked them and critiqued them extensively. Her writing improved dramatically and by the time she completed her masters degree she was a great writer.

I adopted a method when teaching fifth grade of having my students write one page in a spiral notebook on any subject of their choice. I would read and correct their writing and then they would write their corrected copy on the right hand side of the page. When we had parent teacher conferences, I had a visual example to show the parents of the progress their child had made during the year.

Self discipline has to be nurtured at home and in the public schools. Rude behavior does not have to be tolerated in the public schools because a parent or parents have not done their job. Children can be taught to respect other people’s property and to behave in public and in other people’s homes. There is nothing worse than to have friends whose children run wild when they come to visit. The idea of logical consequences is a great way to instill self discipline in a child. If your child’s behavior is unacceptable you can expect some privilege to be removed for a specified period of time. Choose something that is particularly important to the child so that the message is received. Whatever the choice by the adult when choosing a logical consequence, it must be fair, consistent, and logical.

Finally, when an adult has attained self discipline, they have also attained intrinsic motivation which results in doing whatever task arises with a minimum of instruction or supervision. These adults are highly sought after in the work place because they can be relied upon to do their job thoroughly with little supervision.


Motivating the Unmotivated

Having spent many years teaching all levels of students, the most important task is to discover what a person values and then build upon it. For example, suppose you have a student who shows no apparent interest in what you think is important. What do you do? You need to take your time and observe what he or she does when there is no assigned task. This may take time even as long as three to six weeks, but the time and patience you bring to the task is well worth it to the unmotivated student. Motivation comes in basically two forms, intrinsic or internal and extrinsic or external. Many parents focus their efforts on extrinsic motivation such as rewards for doing a task, by paying money for getting good grades. In real life this rarely works when there is no one around to reward you.

My primary technique in working with young students, say at the fifth grade level was to choose an unmotivated student to run an errand for me. I never believed in keeping students in at recess just because they were struggling at reading or math. Another technique that worked wonders was to have every student convene the class for a week. They talked about whatever subject that concerned them. This did more for the so called unmotivated student than anything I ever tried. So many times the only student who gets a chance to run and errand or lead a class discussion are the kids who are already stars. On one occasion one of the members of a class was upset because the class never agreed on anything. I rarely intervened, but on this occasion I told them that I could decide everything for them and tell them what to do. They agreed as a class that they preferred to discuss their problems themselves.

Intrinsic motivation is what makes the difference between success and failure in life. It does not have to lead to wealth, but it can. It does not have to lead to an executive position. A person in whatever occupation has to have a sense of pride in their work and to value what they do in life. Intrinsic motivation comes from what a person values. Extrinsic motivation is a device to get a person to do something whether they value it or not. To discover what a person values, that is their intrinsic motivation, spend time observing what a person, either a child or adult does with their own free time. Rewards for improving intrinsic motivation should be subtle, and not closely related to the desired outcome. After all, what you desire in a person is for that person to become what we call self actualized, that is able to function without depending upon external motivation.

Many corporations follow a line and staff style of leadership which is modeled after a military style of organization. A basketball player made a suggestion to the coach George Raveling at USC. George responded, “Son, I will tell you what my mother told me. When I want your opinion, I’ll tell you what to say!” Unfortunately, the line and staff form of organization does not work in all corporations or in many kinds of institutions where cooperation and personal responsibility are needed or valued.

I had a question from a viewer about how to acquire the motivation to exercise on a regular basis. This question involves intrinsic motivation. Setting a schedule on paper and checking off the times one exercises is one way of developing the required motivation. Also, varying the routine helps. For example, I have several exercise machines I can use to vary the routine. Whatever you do, do not stress your body and injure yourself. Gradually increase the time of your routine, but if you are sore, take a break. Both women and men need to do strength and aerobic exercise. Some people jog to condition their bodies, but jogging over a long period of time leads to worn out hip and knee joints.