Masks of the Soul by Benjamin Walker, Book Review

TK. comments: This is a good book review which reflects some questions about Buddhism. I would like to share some Buddhist teachings. First of all, the karma works because of the Alayavijnana; The reincarnation works also because of the Alayavijnana. Each of us has 8 vijnanas, and the Alayavijnana is the 8th vijnana which has the function to store everything (we have thought and done). Those have been done, either good or evil, will be stored as seeds in our Alayavijnana. Once the seeds have been stored in our Alayavijnana, they will not disappear until they come to work again which are called karma.

It means each of us has to be responsible for our past (The 6th vijnana - the conscious mind does not remember anymore what we have done in past lives, but the Alayavijnana has stored everything exactly). If we have done something good, it will come back to us in form of good thing. If we have done something bad, it will come back to us in form of bad thing. In other words, nobody judges us but our seeds of goodness or sins. The Alayavijnana will give the seeds of goodness (sins also) back to us which bring us a good life in heaven or a sad one in hell.

Is karma chageable? Yes. When a person does good things, they will be stored as good seeds in his Alayavijnana and returned in form of good things to him.

Can karma be taken off by another person (eg. guru or lama)? No. Everyone has his own Alayavijnana which stores his all seeds. It’s unique for each of us. That’s why each of us has a different life and different characters. That’s why one should not do bad things (eg. The lamas should not practice tantric sex with other’s wives or daughters). Once a person realizes that all he does will be stored in his Alayavijnana, he will try his best to avoid bad things in order not to go down to hell.

There is nothing important than Alayavijnana. Alayavijnana is important for every sentient being. Either karma or reincarnation works due to Alayavijnana. Alayavijnana is the so-called Diamond Mind in Buddhism, the goal of Buddhist practition, the target of achievement of enlightenment.

© Down the Crooked Path

submitted by GU

I used to go to a Zen monastery and some days I would sit under the shade of their gazebo and chat with a certain monk. One day told me that another monk from another monastery told him that he would return as a dog because he loved his dogs too much. This was a threat. He felt that it would be okay to come back as a dog because his dogs have a very nice a nice life. We talked about other threats, like having to come back as a dung beetle. I said that I didn’t think that a dung beetle had it so bad either. I would like to come back once as everything that has ever existed. I once watched a dung beetle, and it was busy rolling a piece of dung. I saw no sad expression on his little face. Another friend of mine said that it was better to come back as an animal than to be a woman in India. At that moment in time she was pretty angry when she learned how some women in India are treated.

What is this about religion? There are always threats, or warnings as some like to express it, and this includes all religions.

In his book, Benjamin Walker gives the history of reincarnation as well as giving a case for and against it. I just gave you a case against it in my first paragraph. It is used as a threat in order to make people become what another person wants them to become or how they want them to even act. It is used as a weapon. I don’t do weapons very well.

The belief in reincarnation, according to Walker, is that you can only work off your bad karma or sins on the material plane. Heaven, hell or purgatory cannot do this for you. Of course, as I have been told, gurus can take on your karma, but when they do they really get sick. If I could find a photo, I would show you one of a guru who got sick and whose disciple looks very well now. So when a soul has been rewarded with heaven or a hell in another realm, that soul still has to return to earth in another body to continue to work off his/her karma. Yes, Hindus and Buddhists both have heavens and hells, but most don’t talk much about the hell aspect of their religion, and some will say heaven and hell are on earth. The only difference is the Buddhist hells are not forever, even though it may feel like it.

And only a perfect being will never have to reincarnate again. See any perfect beings around? Don’t look at the gurus or the priests, etc. for they are only window dressing. Their disciples or lay members may make it to God faster than they, because from what I saw, many are more moral than their teachers and are often shocked and left with a deep feeling of betrayal. Of course, I really don’t wish to take away the fact that there are saints in this world. I have to believe this much.

Now the Druids have a different view of transmigration, “which is it is to experience the different spheres, to learn to distinguish between good and evil, and to learn to appreciate and choose the good. The soul does not become extinct to perish on the death of the body, nor go to any place of torment, but after living for a time with the departed ancestors, it enters into another state of existence in another body in another sphere.” I much prefer the Druid view and think it more reasonable even though rather endless, which I really don't mind.

Reincarnation is also supposed to be a progression, but then why haven’t we seen much progression? After all it has been a very long time for some souls, who, when hypnotized claim that they lived in Atlantis. Since I have only known of a few really good souls, I think that this process is a little slow.

Walker then gives cases of reincarnation, but then he pulls the rug out from under them by exposing some of these cases. The potential Dalai Lamas, he says, can be coached to pick the right items that had belonged to the last Dalai Lama—and this without anyone really realizing it. Or maybe there are akashik records, as some teach, akashik meaning ‘ether’ which constitutes a cosmic library where everything that was ever thought or had done is stored. So when people who speak another language or talk about their past lives under hypnosis they are tapping into these records. These are only a couple of explanations that he tosses out. Never does he say what he really believes, but I would love to know.

Critics of reincarnation oppose it on moral and religious grounds. Well, I can also criticize hell on moral grounds. What kind of God would send someone to hell for eternity for what harm he/she has done in a short lifetime? Or for not believing?
Critics also say, “How many people change their behavior due to the belief in reincarnation?” Good point. As for me, I often wondered, "Why do the gurus just get worse with this teaching?" (Of course now I know after reading the Science of Yoga.) But how many people change due to the teaching of hell? Well, there are those who fear it and do what is right. I had a Buddhist monk tell me that he didn’t do such as such because he didn’t want to go to hell. Then I had a Christian say, “Don’t you want to become a Christian just in case we are right?” Why would I want to do anything out of fear? Why not do the right thing because it is kind or because it is the right thing to do? Why would I even love God out of fear of going to hell? An atheist friend of mine said that to do anything for fear of bad karma or for fear of hell is actually immoral. When you think about it, it she is right.

Critics of reincarnation also say that it makes people callous to the sufferings of others. This is true because I have seen this myself. But Christians are also callous to the sufferings of others. I know a young man who hung himself when he was a Jehovah’s Witness, and the Jehovah's Witnesses said that he deserved to die because he was going against their teachings. We can see this in all religions some of the times.

It is also said by critics that “if the gods have placed a man in a situation of inferiority, it hardly behooves others to try to change the order of things.” Well, I have heard this also being expressed. I was told that since it is their karma, we don’t want to interfer with it, they should work it out by themselves. Whether the West wants to admit it or not it has the same attitude towards the poor and in other cases. Westerners don’t say it is their karma, they say that the poor are just lazy and so deserve what they get. The critics may scream “caste system” in regards to India, but we have our own here.

Walker makes an interesting statement: “The most important and effective of all these measures is said to be faith in the grace of God. All the major religions emphasize the redeeming virtues of faith. This concept, known to the Hindus as bhakti, meaning God’s grace of compassion, was introduced into popular Hinduism through Christian sources in about A.D. 300. Sincere faith following sincere repentance wipes out the effects of sin, frees man from the burden of karma and from the bondage of eternal rebirth. (So that is where they got the concept.)

God’s grace overrides karmic destiny. Karma is founded on law, bhakti is founded on love. Karma is divine justice, bhakti is divine mercy. And for men of faith God’s mercy is greater than God’s justice.”

I am not actually against this belief, and I do like what the early church historian Origen said, “Because of divine mercy all creatures will in time return to God, purified, redeemed and perfected.” This also includes the demonic hierarchy as well as Satan.

Most of all I liked what Albert Einstein said, “"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power that is revealed in the incomprehensible universe forms my idea of God."

As for me, I know that there is a Universal Consciousness of love that permeates everything and is non-judgmental. Other than this I don’t believe that there is anything else that you can know for sure or that you even really need to know.


  1. Q: Is it normal for Buddhism followers (e.g. monks and other strict followers who are looking for enlightenment) to be involving in worldly things as working, writing e-mail posts and performing daily routines?

    A: For Hinayana – No; for Mahayana - Yes.

    Part one, for Hinayana - No;
    For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to break free (liberation) from the cycle of births and deaths (reincarnation) to transcend the three realms (Hinayana 小乘), and eventually to achieve the ultimate Buddhahood (Mahayana 大乘).

    The reasons why a Buddhist practitioner is called Hinayana are: they view the worldly phenomena are indeed impermanent thereby virtually all things change and would become empty, thus human life is meaningless and full of sufferings; they have decided not to have more future lives, though they have faith in the Buddha’s teachings that everyone innately possesses the Buddha nature; therefore after Buddhist cultivations to eliminate self-view and self-attachment, they would be able to terminate the cyclic births-and-deaths to achieve the state of nirvana after death, which is not nihility.

    In order to successfully substantiate the practice of eliminating self-view and self-attachment, they practice tranquillity and insight 止觀 [samatha and vipassana], as well as detach themselves from the worldly affairs and the general public; they are determined to attain the Fourth Fruit 四果and become an arhat 阿羅漢—the highest achievement of Hinayana as soon as possible. They would certainly simplify their possessions to a begging bowl and keep three sets of kasaya (三衣一缽) and have shaven hair. From their appearances, the public would understand that they are sangha who are full time Buddhist practitioners, and they were not allowed to do business dealing or keep money during Buddha’s time.

    We can conclude that Hinayana practitioners will definitely not be involving in worldly things, this is the first reply.
    Shalom Tseng

    1. Part two, for Mahayana - Yes.

      The Buddhist practitioners who aim to achieve the Buddha’s ultimate teachings would choose the Buddhahood-Way (Mahayana). Apart from the basic knowledge and observations of the Liberation-Way, they pursue further to foster correct comprehension of the prajna wisdom 般若智慧 (the second round of the dharma transmission that focuses on the general and specific introduction of Buddha nature - Alaya vijnana) and to get enlightenment in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings.

      Thus, the Mahayana practitioners will not seek for nirvana as the Hinayanas do. Instead, they would choose to stay within the cyclic births-and-deaths to transform their defiled karmic seeds through cultivating their daily deeds, speeches, and thoughts.

      They also understand that the worldly phenomena are indeed impermanent, and virtually all things change and would become empty; yet all these impermanent manifestations are substantiated by the Buddha nature. So the major difference between the practitioners of Mahayana and the Hinayana is that the former would knowingly experience the Buddha nature alive via cultivating the prajna wisdom, while the latter would transcend the three realms and attain the state of nirvana without actually knowing what exactly the Buddha nature is!

      The Mahayana practitioners are to experience and purify all the stored-seeds in order to complete the fifty-two stages of the bodhisattva cultivation (the third round of the dharma transmission) and eventually to bring forth the ultimate Buddha wisdom (All-Seed-Prajna 一切種智). Among all cultivation methods, both the dharma 法and the auxiliary dharma 次法 are equally important for every practitioner.

      The Mahayana practitioners are not necessarily clothed as sangha; on the appearance, they are the same as laymen and earn their own living like ordinary people; it is because they have to accumulate enormous amount of merits and virtue (次法) to facilitate their path to attain enlightenment that leads to ultimate Buddhahood. They do not accept offerings from others, but keep contact with the society. In doing so, they experience all situations to bring forth the flow of karmic seeds and gradually transform their seeds and latent seeds through mindfully observing the functional distinctions (how and why) of the six sense-roots 六根,six- sense-objects六塵, and six-vijnanas六識 (eighteen sense-realms dhatavahs 十八界).

      So the Mahayana practitioners are to involve with the society during their daily lives, but their major focus will still be on the Buddhist cultivation rather than the usual subjects of money, position, fame, and luxury etc.

      Note: 1. The Hinayana practitioners merely focus on the cultivation of deeds and speeches, while the Mahayana practitioners must include that of their thoughts.
      2. The statements here are simplified for easy understanding, more elaborations will be given upon request.

    2. I will rearrange these two posts and copy for my blog. Thank you A LOT, Shalom Tseng.