Revised: 23 Dec. 2006.
Grandmothers and grandfathers — these are not our true ancestors. Daughters and sons — these are not our true children. If you consider it carefully, our past lives are our true “ancestors” and our future lives are our true “children.”
More than any genetic inheritance, the actions of our past lives determine the shape and events of this life. Similarly, more than any genetic inheritance, the actions of this life determine the shape and events of the next one.
Therefore, what is the best inheritance we can leave our “children”? Acts of kindness and compassion. What is the best form of honour we can pay to our “ancestors”? Accepting the karma of this lifetime with equanimity, with full responsibility, without complaint.
The mechanism of inheritance is not the law of genetics, but the law of karma. All our discussions of genetic inheritance are too narrow to really explain why we encounter what we do in this lifetime. Only a concept like “prarabdha karma” (the karma that we are actually encountering now) can explain what we face in life. That explanation lies outside the empirical-materialist paradigm. We are thrust back on our own spiritual investigations to explain why we face what we do.
Whatever we face is what we willed for ourselves by our actions in other lifetimes. What we will face down the road will reflect what we are doing now. Accepting our circumstances now completes the karmic debt we owe from other lifetimes. Rendering selfless service to others and spreading loving-kindness around us provides an ample fund of merit for our future lives, a secure home from which our “children” may venture out in search of enlightenment.
An attitude of equanimity to the worldly circumstances of this life, an absence of gloating or grieving, frees us up now to turn our attention Godwards, to take it inside and focus it on the Self, its proper object.
Removing ourselves from worldly ambitions and goals, we take up our truly-human, God-focussed estate. Such, in my opinion, is the posture of him who appropriately honours his “ancestors” and provides for his “offspring” in a manner enjoined by the scriptures.