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I began the meditation by thinking about what will happen after I have died. I will take rebirth, and the nature of the rebirth will be decided by the karma that ripens at that time. I have a vast amount of negative karma from my many past lifetimes of negative actions. It is probable that negative karma will ripen, and I will take a lower rebirth, as an animal, a hungry ghost or a hell being.
I realised that the sufferings on these beings is far far greater than I can experience at the moment. My human body protects me from most of the negative karma I have created, because the karma cannot activate while I have a human body. It is not a suitable basis to experience the suffering of this karma. But once my human life has ended, and I am reborn in hell, I will not have this protection, and my heavy negative karma will be able to act on me, and cause me incredible suffering and torment.
An image came to mind of feet paddling in a shallow sea. The sea was suffering, and it being shallow indicated that it was not so bad. My human life meant that the water was not deep. But in my next life the water will be very deep and dark, and the sufferings will be hugely worse. I developed a fear for that rebirth. I felt strong aversion for the prospect of the suffering to come. I imagined it like an ear-ache, which is pretty much the worst pain I have experienced in this life so far. I tried to imagine a really bad ear-ache, magnified countless times. I was filled with dread.
I recognised that I can purify my negative karma and avoid this suffering. I remembered Shantideva’s advice, that if something can be done about a problem, there is no need to worry about it. And I realised that what he means is not that we develop complacency, but that we get stuck in and apply the remedy to solve the problem – just don’t get upset about it.
But I remembered that the object of this meditation is to develop fear of lower rebirth, so I returned to the feeling of dread and aversion for the suffering of future lives, and remained on that feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May I and all living beings gain a strong appreciation for the suffering of future lives, and in so doing develop the motivation to prevent it from arising.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will look out for suffering, and recognise that it is nothing compared to the potential suffering in store for me in my next life and keep an awareness of my feeling of dread and fear.