A Quote I Found Today

“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.


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