“If you want to know your past life, look at your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.”
-Padma Sambhava, 8th century teacher who introduced Buddhism to Tibet.
This quote is often circulated, but seldom given the correct attribution; most sources list it as a Chinese proverb (which it may also have become in more recent times).
It means a great deal to me as I start to open the book of my past lives. Instead of finding past lives from my present condition, I’m learning about my present condition from past lives. I am still impatient, impulsive, too willing to create my own (bad) explanations for things and prone to get so lost in those explanations that I lose sight of just how much truth I can really digest in one go.
I went from a soldier in 1915 to a life in the 20th century seeking truth, but chasing after shadows; that arc has continued in this life. I spent most of the 20th century as a truth seeker. But I’ve been blinded by desire to know the truth when I lacked wisdom to do anything with it. I was like a gorilla with a bookshelf full of Proust.
If you desire truth, you’ll find it, but you won’t know what to do with it. I desired truth and I got plenty of it; several lifetimes worth of shards that I’ve been trying to put together in all the wrong ways, in fact.
Now what shall I do, except to either teach a gorilla to read Proust, or to discard the truth and begin anew with no presumptions? The joke was on me and only now, so many decades later, I get it.
In my next life, I’ll either be a very wise person, or a very well-read gorilla.