Buddhism & Taoism
You don’t need a soul-mate to be happy (Denis Wallez)
Do Buddhist believe in Soul Mates?
by CJ Liu
There is so much of love that I’ve yet to fully grasp and learn. For example, what do Buddhist say about love and soul mates? Even after travelling a spiritual path for the last 13 years, I keep on circling back to the same idea of Love each time with a tad bit more wisdom on my return trip. My path started out with self-love, loving without judgment, and now it’s about Divine Love and loving your soul mates without attachment.
Q: Do Buddhists believe in the notion of a soul mate? Many of the mediums (people who talk to dead spirits) believe in this idea of a soul contract that one makes before coming down on earth. The contract involves an agreed upon relationships with other souls. These agreements are for each party to remind each other of their life karmic lessons. What do the Buddhist believe in terms of our connection with our partners, family, etc? Is it random or is there some type of connection? If there is a connection, what is it?
A: The definition of “soul mate” brought by +CJ Liu involves “a soul contract that one makes before coming down on earth. The contract involves agreed-upon relationships with other souls. These agreements are for each party to remind each other of their life karmic lessons.”I do not have an easy answer to this one, so I’m afraid Valentine’s day might prove studious 😉 The easiest answer would simply rely on the fact that Buddhism (in general) rejects the notion of soul.
‘Rebirth’ (im-personal) is not ‘reincarnation’ (of the ‘same’ person). I acknowledge it may be quite hard for most people to imagine what rebirth might entail if it is not a person-based process: maybe an old post of mine might help people get an idea (http://gplus.wallez.name/SLgQ2hJGMAn).
So while there would be causal continuity from one life “before coming down on Earth” to the life on Earth, causality does not imply transfer of a soul, a personality, a person, a self, or whatever other name one might try to call it. A tendency —’embedded’ as some kind of ‘directed’ energy— can be transferred alone, without anything else than the tendency being transferred (http://gplus.wallez.name/Xaf1XqFtfcS).Rebirth does not require soul, there is no soul (because the very idea that something might be ‘permanent’ while also ‘dependent’ on a past is contradictory) thus there are no soul mates.End of the discussion? Not quite.
Obviously, the observer will have found in the above why there is no easy answer: if a stream of consciousness believes in (i.e. has a ‘tendency’ to consider true) the notion of ‘soul’ and, accordingly to this belief, also believes in the possibility of some ‘soul contract’, will these tendencies persist through rebirth?
It very well might!
If two streams of consciousness cling to each other (as if they were incomplete without one another —a delusion in itself, but that few will want to ‘test’), the tendency to feel ‘incomplete’ without the connection might persist. The tendency will usually be more richly ‘characterized’ than an incompleteness that might be filled with just any connection; it will single out a particular ‘person’, as a set of characteristics or traits identifying this ‘person’ uniquely. So if the tendency persists, it might indeed truly lead, once reborn, to only match with one particular ‘person’ (recognized as the same ‘soul’ even if that person is not, because recognition is based on ‘traits’, not on perceiving the inexistent soul directly).
For most purposes, it then looks like Buddhism agrees that soul mates are possible for a while, as a shared delusion!
But as the awareness of the streams of consciousness might increase, this mirage will not last forever: impermanence will apply and, just like impermanence is at the core of the rejection of the notion of soul, impermanence will apply to the ‘contract’. Maybe one of the soul mates will cheat on the other (or recognize someone else as their soul mate, due to limited recognition of the characteristics and traits), and suddenly the ‘contract’ will appear for what it was, a desire to reassure oneself by assuming some form of stability (among the constantly-changing and threatening world around us).
Now, as you might have guessed from the above, clinging and habits and tendencies and fake reassurance are involved… so suffering is involved. And you might have seen some in seasonal articles about singles feeling ‘singled-out’ on Valentine’s; that’s a form of suffering. Other sufferings were already mentioned, when the ‘contract’ loses its solidity, sooner or later… So, the ‘have’s and ‘have-not’s will all suffer? Yes, out of clinging to a myth… a myth promoting the idea that happiness is dependent on something or someone else.
The cessation of suffering relies on the cessation of ignorance, lust and aversion. It relies on responding to circumstances instead of assuming certainties: drop the certainty that you’ve found the one, drop the certainty that there is one for you out there (too bad you didn’t find him/her yet…), drop the certainty there are ‘forever’s… Drop the certainties!
Certainties are the greatest killers of love, and detachment is precisely what allows you not to confuse ‘love’ and ‘clinging’:
Certainties prevent you from appreciating each moment in its uniqueness, from appreciating each fleeting relationship in its richness (because you assume ‘fleeting’ is less valid than ‘permanent’), from appreciating how your partner is different today from when you met (different, thus interesting: no boredom is found in attention, boredom is found only in certainties…).
Drop the certainties! Pay attention to subtle changes, subtle signs, every kind word, each beautiful sight… and life might just turn out more blissful than you believed it could ever be!
Buddhism has one message for everyone: you don’t need a ‘soulmate’ to be happy! And you can be happy! Drop the certainties (clinging to having, or to not-having),
pay attention to what’s happening around you right here right now!
Q: So, here’s my take away from your writings. First of all, Buddhists don’t really believe in the idea of souls… it’s just tendencies maybe created by a former version of yourself that still linger in the environment that you end up resonating with. So… others out in the environment share a delusion that a soul mate completes them. In this delusional mindset you meet another person who also believes in this same delusion. You have a relationship based on this idea. Both of you miss the whole point, which is that you alone are loved, perfect, whole from the start. The certainties that we cling to cause us suffering and get us out of the present. Is this in the ball park what you are saying? If so, I like the ideas and concepts. Hard to do in practice. Lots of conditioning (movies, holidays) not to mention a human biological drive for us to procreate and gain stability. For me personally, they feel more like intellectual ideas that I want to believe and do believe at some level, but are hard to muster in real life.
A: The whole question in a way, +CJ Liu, is: do you believe that Awakening is possible in practice, or not? For if it is, then what you describe as intellectual is also very practical and possible… [Of course, if you don’t believe Awakening is possible, then Buddhism is the wrong path for you anyway
Q: I’ve been thinking of your comments over the last 24 hours. I do believe awakening happens in practice. And I believe that spirituality can be practical. Here’s where I have netted out. I do believe at a spiritual level about presence, the delusion (attachments) you refer to, and that we are all complete and perfect. So, there is no problem with my intellect getting it and even believing and wanting what you are suggesting. However, after reading your post, I saw my husband and gave him a hug. It was love. Perhaps, a shared delusion. But, there was authentic unconditional love. And your post left me thinking about why my heart hurt even though my mind was satisfied with your answer, which is the context of my comment about the difficulty. If you still have the energy and interest, here are the things that I’m still curious about. 1) I understand that there are different Buddhist paths, which one do you follow? 2) where does divine love and human love fit within the ideology and path that you are following?
A: My question (about the belief in the possibility of Awakening in this life) was serious and meaningful, and I am glad you took the time to think it over.
In truth, my presentation of the teachings may indeed appear ‘intellectual’ at times.
But, to me, this is about calling a hammer a ‘hammer’ and a screwdriver a ‘screwdriver’ rather than calling both of them ‘tool’. In the midst of surgery, I believe anyone would prefer having a surgeon who ask for the right tool by the right name, rather than “hand me the tool, please! No, not that one, the other one!”
Well, if we are to cease suffering, it seems clear to me we need to know what we’re talking about. There is no improvisation in solving a problem that has plagued most of humanity for most of its history: if the solution was trivial and effortless, I think we would know!
I also believe we are quite indoctrinated by our environment (and modern media and 24/7 plug-in do not help this trait) to “act first, think later.” Our environment promotes the primacy of emotions, of “feeling right” (or safe or whatever) or “doing the right thing”… Our environment does not promote so much “thinking straight”… But I believe the brain is a powerful tool. Not the only tool but to discard (or minimise the use of) our brain is a waste. Again, in the midst of surgery, who would want a surgeon arbitrarily deciding that (s)he would not use half the tools at his/her disposal, “just because”?
So I think there is no separation between what is intellectual and what is practical (http://gplus.wallez.name/gDhi2GokSjR): what is ‘practical’ when tackling a hard problem is to mobilize all available resources! This means the ‘intellectual’ part is neither the whole story nor a pointless detail that can be safely ignored or used minimally.
In relation to your husband (and to your question #2), I am happily married so I can relate to your experience but love and clinging are two different things! There is no contradiction between detachment and love, quite the contrary in fact, as I commented in the post at http://gplus.wallez.name/1MbfaYEhnNt
Detachment is precisely what allows you to evolve with the person you love, rather than become more and more blind to the new person arising in front of your eyes (because you cling to the now-outdated ‘image’ of the person you met a while back).
Detachment is what allows you to support the loved one in their evolution and growth, rather than clinging to the ‘safety’ of who you (thought you) ‘knew’.
Detachment is what allows you to be happy the day kids leave the nest, rather than afraid of loneliness and fearful for them.
Examples can be multiplied endlessly…A lot of people think Buddhist detachment goes against love, it is very much the contrary.
If you have the time (1h10), I suggest watching Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on “Love & Relationships”, at httpv://youtu.be/FgGMIn4ktLQ?t=5m5s It is both funny and enlightening (and will conform to you that I’m not just weird in promoting that detachment very much goes hand to hand with deep love (by opposition to a mere ego-boost from a love-story)).
I think clinging to a particular school of Buddhism is just that: clinging. It might temporarily give some sense of certainty (while deconstructing other signs of ignorance) and stability might support practitioners for a while, so if people temporarily need to label themselves with a particular school or tradition because it supports them and gives them strength and resolve, great! But I’m beyond that stage, and (depending on circumstances) my posts easily advocate in favor of Theravada, Madhyamaka and subsequent variants, different forms of Zen, Tibetan schools (including tantric) and even Pure Land! I focus on responding with the appropriate tool, rather than picking the tool before I even face the problem… So there was an answer to your question #1, but there isn’t any more. My school nowadays is in ‘sharing’ and ‘helping’. That’s ‘labels’ enough, I think 😉