Do you struggle with believing in rebirth and karma?

A student writes:

As I age I have become increasingly aware of the proximity of death and I fear it to be round the corner all the time.

Lama Shenpen: 

It is around the corner all the time – staring us in the face but we don’t have to fear it. That is what Dharma practice is all about – finding the courage to face life and death with equanimity.


I struggle with the concept of life after death. I find it hard to reconcile my ‘disbelief’ with trying to follow a Buddhist path as the concept of rebirth is so integral to the Dharma!

Lama Shenpen:  

Yes it is.

Many Western Buddhists struggle with this. It is not so much that we have to believe in life after death as to give up our belief that life ends at death.

Instead, we need to be honest about the fact we are unsure what life means anyway and that is what we are looking to Dharma for… That is what we want to understand and when we do, we will understand the true nature of our being – which was never born and so there is no question of it dying.


I try to relate to karma but I find skepticism creeps in.

Lama Shenpen:  

There is much to consider when thinking about karma.

The most important thing is to link into our intuitive sense that it matters what we do and what kind of life we lead. It matters how we treat people and what sort of attitude to life we adopt.

Why do we take it as given that all this is important and that other people are important?  Logically we cannot prove that. But everything in us tells us that is true.  We lead our life following gut feelings, heart feelings and intuitions about what is good and true. Karma fits into that.

If we believe our heart connections with others are important and somehow inescapable, then we will not act in ways that are karmically harmful to ourselves and others. That is all you need really.


Lama Shenpen’s students are all studying the Living the Awakened Heart Training – a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at