I've always thought that Buddhism has this whole reincarnation thing ever so slightly wrong. You probably know the rules, if not the specifics; if you're good, you come back a more intelligent being and have a better chance at becoming enlightened; if you're bad, you come back as, I dunno, a less intelligent human (or a very smart fox) and you have a poorer chance of becoming enlightened. If you're really bad, you come back as something that has no chance of becoming enlightened, like Dick Cheney or my idiot neighbor or maybe a centipede. But here's where I think we have it just slightly wrong. According to Zen, we're all enlightened already. We're all just sort of waiting to realize it. So if even Dick Cheney and my idiot neighbor (who is an idiot) are enlightened, then we owe an apology to centipedes everywhere. Besides, the whole universe is nothing more than a Buddha-making machine, and we're all going to realize we're enlightened sooner or later, so the whole higher-reincarnation lower-reincarnation thing doesn't make any sense. It's just ever so slightly wrong.
Here's the other reason it's ever so slightly wrong: We're all everybody else already. I've thought about this for a long time, and it's the only thing that makes any sense. I know we all think we're individuals, having individual existences totally cut off from everyone else, but that's an illusion, folks. Sorry. The truth is we're all one great big organism, from us to aminals to centipedes and even the surliest of surly little rocks. We're all having different experiences because the nature of Life is to exist, but in the end we're really all made of the same stuff, and it all comes from the same place. Which means I'm you and you're Dick Cheney and Dick is a centipede and the centipede is my idiot neighbor. (Which, frankly, would make him much easier to deal with.)
Once I turned into Brother ChiSing for about half a second. Or took a peek out of his eyes, anyway. I remember he was talking and I was totally fascinated with his hands. Probably because they weren't the same hands I was used to hauling around. So I watched the hands go up and down and move around in illustration of some point, and then I lost it and I was back in my own head again, staring at my own hands. Which was fine, too. They're nice hands.
No doubt some of you will wonder if I've become totally unglued at this point, but unfortunately I haven't. I have it on excellent authority from my psychiatrist of choice (who, being Indian, believes in reincarnation) that people who begin questions with "I may be crazy, but..." probably have not become totally unglued. Which is good, because I've been seeing this guy lately. Or rather, seeing out of his eyes and experiencing what it's like to be in his head. It all started when I flipped over to the classical channel on the radio while KEOM was playing this truly horrible radio show, "Words You Never Heard." You'd think I'd be all over a radio show about rare English words, but the woman who narrates the thing has a voice that sounds like pieces of broken glass being tossed into an electric fan and I just cannot, repeat canNOT listen to her. So I switched channels, and the classical channel was playing a Mozart contradance, and just like that I was in somebody else's head for a couple of seconds.
The guy--I am sure it is a guy--was attending some fancy party in an era that is certainly not ours. The first time I dropped in on him, he was thinking about how great it was that part of being a gentleman is knowing how to dance, because he hates these fancy parties, but he loves to dance. He thought himself too old to be dancing with the sweet young things, but he was fine with dancing with the older ladies, and in fact was looking for a widow, someone with kids, because he just found out his only brother was killed in a (the word battle should go here, but the word battle doesn't fit; I've tried duel and skirmish and even tragic blimp accident but I haven't found anything that fills up the space) and he has to think about who he'll be leaving the estate to when he dies, which he imagines will be soon, he's nearly fifty and he can't imagine he'll make it to sixty, no one does that except the king God save him, and then I was back in my car, wondering what in hell just happened.
A one-off for this sort of thing would have been fine, but I dropped in on him again a few days later at the same party. He'd lost his wife in childbirth many years ago and had never remarried. He managed an estate, which was a full-time job, apparently. He didn't seem like a bad guy, perhaps a little on the religious side. No name yet but I'm working on that. This and a few other tidbits I've picked up. Oh, and at some point I realized he wasn't thinking in English. I could understand him perfectly well, but it wasn't English; it was something Germanic-sounding. I'm pretty sure I don't speak German, except for the ever-necessary "Ein bier, bitte."
So there are three possibilities, here. One is that I've flipped my wig. Two is that the creative part of my brain is working overtime on some story I haven't started writing yet. But I do think that the most likely is that this dude, whoever he may be, is--well, not a past life; I think that's ever so slightly wrong, but I won't get into this whole thing about time being arbitrary and all of history happening at the same moment--but a past expression of experience that I seem to recall rather clearly for who knows what reason.
One thing for sure is that listening to Mozart contradances at six in the morning can be dangerous to your grasp on the present day. They should come with warning labels.