Buddhism 101: Jaded

In any case, the Buddha realized that when compared to kalpa after kalpa’s worth of lives, whatever lifestyle he could live, he probably lived it. Whatever joys and tragedies had could experience, he had experienced in one lifetime or another. He had lost countless loved ones, had many romances and so on.

While he probably had many joyful and pleasurable moments in his past lives, all of these states were not destined to last, and thus he pursued happiness again and again, lifetime after lifetime, ad nauseum.

Further, the cravings and aversion in life drove him onward, generating more and more karma, like seeds in the ground. When external conditions were ripe, these seeds would grow, and lead to future conditions, even future births. Thus he would repeat the cycle over and over again, sometimes with an advantageous rebirth, sometimes with a disadvantaged one. But there was no long-term direction. It was aimless wandering.

Finally, as the Buddha later taught, human rebirths were very rare:

The Buddha: “Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there….And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?”

Monks: “It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole.”

The Buddha: “It’s likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It’s likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world.

–SN 56.48: Chiggala Sutta

Outside of a rebirth as a human, one wanders many lives in other states, some celestial, others more hellish before they were reborn again as a human. Realizing that there was no lasting refuge in this world, the Buddha became jaded and sought a more permanent refuge.

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