Many years ago, while lying in a fluish state of fever and delirium, I asked myself if I was so ill I might die. A voice inside me matter-of-factly answered, “No.”

“Who said that?” I asked the voice.

“Your soul,” it replied.

“Wow,” I said. “Hi.”

“Hi,” my soul said back to me.

Now it’s 2021 and I am reading in the paper about Jalue Dorje, a Tibetan-American Minnesota teenager who was identified at the age of 2 as a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist monk. Specifically, he is the eighth Terchen Taksham Rinpoche, a Buddhist lama whose line goes back to the 17th century.

No one has ever knocked on my door and told me I’m the newest version of a person who has lived many times before. I’m not expecting that to happen, but if it did, I hope I get to inherit his or her record collection. In that last sentence, I didn’t know which pronoun to use. For Tibetan monks, the reincarnated appear to always come back Tibetan and male. I’d hope my soul would want to expand its horizons and come back with a different background. Though I love Maine, I wonder what it would be like to grow up as a girl in a landlocked state like Vermont. Though I’m certain I have an immortal soul, I’m not so sure I believe in reincarnation. But what does that matter? It is satisfying to know there is something infinite, not finite, about me, and if I don’t know what happens to my soul after I die, I’m literally, albeit slowly, dying to find out.

I doubt my own ego and personality will carry on. Reincarnated monks do not necessarily have the same personal qualities as those that have come before.  And I do think I’d like to take a break from myself. I like who I am, but to be this me forever popping up onto the landscape means I’ll always prefer not adding ketchup to my scrambled eggs. For one lifetime, I’d like to disgust those around me by squirting a big gob of ketchup onto my scrambled eggs and swirling the gloppy yellow and red contents all around the plate.

To my surprise, I know some people do not believe they have a soul and think we all end up as worm meat. All five major religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, do not agree with such pessimistic thinking. Socrates, too, logically concluded our own immortality and swallowed poison to prove his point. I’m not willing to die to prove my point. That’s too dramatic.

What I will say is that believing in my immortal soul, my old friend, is as easy for me as believing in the Divine, which I glimpse when I look into the depths of that pink paper plate dahlia now blooming in my garden. What but a wonderfully creative Divine Soul could have created that dahlia? And what else but a wonderfully creative Divine Soul could have created  me, eight versions of Terchen Taksham Rinpoche and you?

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