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Suggestion Post by :denny3d Category :Short Stories Author :Lafcadio Hearn Date :September 2011 Read :3622

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I had the privilege of meeting him in Tokyo, where he was making a brief stay on his way to India;--and we took a long walk together, and talked of Eastern religions, about which he knew incomparably more than I. Whatever I could tell him concerning local beliefs, he would comment upon in the most startling manner,--citing weird correspondences in some living cult of India, Burmah, or Ceylon. Then, all of a sudden, he turned the conversation into a totally unexpected direction.

"I have been thinking," he said, "about the constancy of the relative proportion of the sexes, and wondering whether Buddhist doctrine furnishes an explanation. For it seems to me that, under ordinary conditions of karma, human rebirth would necessarily proceed by a regular alternation."

"Do you mean," I asked, "that a man would be reborn as a woman, and a woman as a man?"

"Yes," he replied, "because desire is creative, and the desire of either sex is towards the other."

"And how many men," I said, "would want to be reborn as women?"

"Probably very few," he answered. "But the doctrine that desire is creative does not imply that the individual longing creates its own satisfaction,--quite the contrary. The true teaching is that the result of every selfish wish is in the nature of a penalty, and that what the wish creates must prove--to higher knowledge at least--the folly of wishing."

"There you are right," I said; "but I do not yet understand your theory."

"Well," he continued, "if the physical conditions of human rebirth are all determined by the karma of the will relating to physical conditions, then sex would be determined by the will in relation to sex. Now the will of either sex is towards the other. Above all things else, excepting life, man desires woman, and woman man. Each individual, moreover, independently of any personal relation, feels perpetually, you say, the influence of some inborn feminine or masculine ideal, which you call 'a ghostly reflex of countless attachments in countless past lives.' And the insatiable desire represented by this ideal would of itself suffice to create the masculine or the feminine body of the next existence."

"But most women," I observed, "would like to be reborn as men; and the accomplishment of that wish would scarcely be in the nature of a penalty."

"Why not?" he returned. "The happiness or unhappiness of the new existence would not be decided by sex alone: it would of necessity depend upon many conditions in combination."

"Your theory is interesting," I said;--"but I do not know how far it could be made to accord with accepted doctrine.... And what of the person able, through knowledge and practice of the higher law, to remain superior to all weaknesses of sex?"

"Such a one," he replied, "would be reborn neither as man nor as woman,--providing there were no pre-existent karma powerful enough to check or to weaken the results of the self-conquest."

"Reborn in some one of the heavens?" I queried,--"by the Apparitional Birth?"

"Not necessarily," he said. "Such a one might be reborn in a world of desire,--like this,--but neither as man only, nor as woman only."

"Reborn, then, in what form?" I asked.

"In that of a perfect being," he responded. "A man or a woman is scarcely more than half-a-being,--because in our present imperfect state either sex can be evolved only at the cost of the other. In the mental and the physical composition of every man, there is undeveloped woman; and in the composition of every woman there is undeveloped man. But a being complete would be both perfect man and perfect woman, possessing the highest faculties of both sexes, with the weaknesses of neither. Some humanity higher than our own,--in other worlds,--might be thus evolved."

"But you know," I observed, "that there are Buddhist texts,--in the Saddharma Pundarika, for example, and in the Vinayas,--which forbid...."

"Those texts," he interrupted, "refer to imperfect beings--less than man and less than woman: they could not refer to the condition that I have been supposing.... But, remember, I am not preaching a doctrine;--I am only hazarding a theory."

"May I put your theory some day into print?" I asked.

"Why, yes," he made answer,--"if you believe it worth thinking about."

And long afterwards I wrote it down thus, as fairly as I was able, from memory.

(The end)
Lafcadio Hearn's short story: Suggestion

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