Reincarnation is a philosophical or religious concept that an aspect of a living being starts a new life in a different physical body or form after each biological death. It is also called rebirth or transmigration and is a part of the Samsara doctrine of cyclic existence. The Idea of Reincarnation is found in many ancient cultures and belief in rebirth/metempsychosis was held by Greek historical figures, such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato. It is also a common belief of various ancient and modern religions such as Spiritism, Theosophy, and Eckankar and is found as well in many tribal societies around the world.
”Reincarnation In Hinduism”
The origin of samsara must be a credit to Hinduism and its classic writings. It cannot have appeared earlier than the 9th century BC because the Vedic hymns, the most ancient writings of Hinduism, do not mention it, thus proving that reincarnation wasn’t stated yet at the time of their composition between 13th to 10th century BC.
Who Or What Reincarnates In Hinduism?
The entity that Reincarnates is the impersonal self what we called ‘‘Atman”. Atman does not have a personal nature, a so the use of the reflexive pronoun ”seld” is not suitable. Atman can be defined only through negating any personal attributes. Although it constitutes the existential substrata of human existence, Atman cannot be the carrier of one’s ”spiritual progress”, because it cannot record any data produced in the illusory domain of psychomental existence. The spiritual progress one accumulates toward realizing the atman-Brahman identity is recorded by Karma, or rather by a minimal amount of karmic debt. The whole physical and mental complex a human being consists of are reconstructed at rebirth according to one’s karma. At this level, the newly shaped person experience the fruits of ”His” or ”Her” actions from previous lives and has to do his best to stop the vicious cycle avidya-karma-samsara.
”Reincarnation In Buddhism”
Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent self that reincarnates from one life to the next. The illusion of an existing self is generated by a mere heap of five aggregates, which suffer from constant becoming and have a functional cause-effect relation:- The Body- Also called the material form(Rupa), Feeling(Vedana)-The sensations that arise from the body’s sense organs, Cognition(Sunna)- The process of classifying and labeling experiences, Mental Constructions(Sankhara)- The states which initiate action, and Consciousness(Vijnana)- the sense of awareness of a sensory or mental object. The five elements are impermanent(anitya), undergo constant transformation and have no abiding principle or self. Humans usually think that they have a self because of consciousness. But being itself in a constant process of becoming and change, consciousness cannot be identified with a self that is supposed to be permanent. Beyond the five aggregates, nothing else can be found in the human nature.
However, something has to reincarnate, following the dictates of Karma. When asked about the differences between people in the matters of lifespan, illnesses, wealth, etc.., the Buddha taught:-
Men have, O young man, deeds as their very own, they are inheritors of deeds, deeds are their matrix, deeds are their kith and kin, and deeds are their support. It is deeds that classify men into high or low status.
If there is no real self, who inherits the deeds and reincarnates? The Buddha answered that only Karma passing from one life to another, using the illustration of light of a candle, which is derived from another candle without having a substance of its own. In the same manner, there is ”Re-Birth” without the transfer of a self from one body to another. The only link from one lift to the next is of a casual nature.
The Tibetan Book Of The Dead describes in detail the alleged experience one has in the intermediary state between two incarnations, suggesting that the deceased keep some personal attributes. Although it is not clear what actually survives after death, in this case, It mentions a mental body that cannot be injured by the visions experienced by the deceased.
Whatever the condition of the deceased after death might be, any hypothetical personal nucleus vanishes just before birth so there can be no psycho-mental element transmitted from one life to another. The newborn person doesn’t remember anything from previous lives or trips into the realm of the intermediary state(Burdo).
If one tried to calculate the probability of obtaining the human state according to this text, and consider the surface of ” this great earth” as being just the surface of India, the odds be once in a timespan of 5×1016(5followed by 16 zeros). This is 5 million times the age of the universe.
”Reincarnation In Modern Thinking.”
”We Don’t Meet People By Accident. They Are Meant To Cross Our Paths For A Reason.”
Once the Eastern concept of reincarnation arrived in Europe And America, its meaning changed. During the Middle Ages, it was a doctrine reserved for the initiated of some occult traditions such as Hermetism and Catharism, who had taken it over from Neo-Platonism. A wider acceptance of reincarnation was promoted in the western world beginning only in the 19th century, by Theosophy, and later also by Anthroposophy. Then came the Eastern gurus, the New Age movement, and as a result, we witness a wide acceptance of reincarnation in our society today. However, its modern version is substantially different from what Eastern religions affirmed. Far from being a torment out of which man has to escape by any price through abolishing personhood. New Age thinking sees reincarnation as an eternal progression of the soul towards higher levels of spiritual knowledge. Thus what reincarnates is not the impersonal atman, but an entire which is currently called the soul, an entire which preserves the attributes of personhood from one life to next. This compromise obviously emerged from the desire to adept the reincarnation doctrine to Western thought. The concept of an Impersonal Atman reincarnating was too abstract to be easily accepted, so Westerners needed a milder version of this doctrine. Although this tendency may offer evidence for the soul’s yearning for a personal destiny, it doesn’t bear too much resemblance to classical Eastern spirituality, which rejects it as a perverted view.
The above info on the meaning of reincarnation in the Eastern religions and the nature of the entity which is reincarnating will be helpful in examing the modern proofs for it which are so popular today. While analyzing them, we need to remember that according to the Eastern concepts of reincarnation there cannot be any personal elements that could travel from one life to the next.