There are those who debate whether there is any such thing as a previous life. But frequently we refer to a person’s “inborn” character and “natural born” talents. These are unconscious acknowledgment that people are the accumulation of the experiences and habits of their former existences.

When we come into this world, we grow up under the slow but subtle influence of how we see our parents and others close to us behaving every day. In time we go to school where our teachers and friends help to further solidify our views and way of thinking. No matter what the origin of our disposition, the self, both of body and mind, is shaped by surrounding influences. In Buddhism an analogy is made with the way in which the fragrance of burning incense clings to our clothing.

Our habits are the accumulation of all the things we see, hear, and learn each day. The ancient Chinese book of documents (Shu Ching) says that our habits form our character.

We can be grateful for all the help and support that we receive, and treasure the present moment by being aware of constant change in our lives. As followers of this path, we become more willing to show kindness because we recognize that we do not exist alone.

For a worthwhile, happy life, we have to make the most of it, and be in harmony with everyone and everything around us.

by Rev Nikkyo Niwano