|Reincarnation - Are we Born Again and Again?
What does reincarnation mean? This is an age old question often discussed, and often considered by the world's greatest minds, and most of the world's religions. So what does it mean?
The meaning of Reincarnation
Simply put, reincarnation means the rebirth of the soul in another (new) body. Reincarnation (from the Latin meaning the taking on of flesh again) is the occupation by the immortal soul of a new body after the death of the former body.
What Hinduism Believes
Hinduism has reincarnation as a basic tenet of their belief, and espouse that the human spirit returns to this life again and again as it strives for perfection. The idea that the soul reincarnates is intricately linked to the principle of karma (see below).Hinduism teaches that individual souls, known as jivaatmas
, pass from one plane of existence to another, and carry with them samskaras (impressions) from former states of being. These karmic memories (like data on a hard disc) on the soul are taken to the next life and result in a causally-determined state of being. In Hinduism and other religions, liberation from samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth, is considered the ultimate goal of our earthly existence. This liberation is known as Moksha, and once reached, the soul ceases to reincarnate.
Beautifully put by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, 'activity that has become destiny is Karma'. This means Karma can be considered the total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of that person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny. Actually, There are three types of karma, sanchita karma, or the sum total of past karmas yet to be resolved; then prarabdha karma, that portion of sanchita karma that is to be experienced in this life; and kriyamana karma, the karma that humans are currently creating and will bear fruit in the future.
What Other Religions Believe
The principle of reincarnation is found in almost all religions of the world. It was a prominent feature of Christianity until about the 6th century. An early Church father, Origen was an adherent of reincarnation. Origen taught the pre-existence of the soul -- the concept that the human soul existed already before birth. "The soul has neither beginning nor end... [They] come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives" (De Principiis). The Bible also still has many direct references to reincarnation (Mt 11:14 and 17:12f and John 9,1 ff, ie.) . Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the returning prophet Elijah in Matthews 11:14. In the Old Testament, , David writes in Psalms 51:5 (NIV) 'Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.'
Reincarnation is prominent in Judaism and the Kabala (gilgul, Ibbur). In fact, in all oriental religions such as Buddhism. Jainism, and Zoroastrianism, reincarnation forms a basic building block of their sacred texts.
In ancient times, Classical Greek Philosophy (especially with Pythagoras) and as part of the Elysian Mysteries, reincarnation was a central theme akin to the Hindu thought. In fact, reincarnation, when viewed in broad terms, appears a universally accepted fact of our lives.
But If We Lived Before, Why Can't I remember it?
In literature as well as religious thought, the major objection to the principle of reincarnation is that people cannot recall having lived before. A simple answer to that (taken from Swami Vivekananda) is that we do not recall our infancy; yet it existed. Also, there are many books and therapists today that can assist one in remembering a past life. In fact, such an exercise will be found in the Net-Life section of www.net-planet.org .
Reincarnation and the New Age Movement
Taken simply, there is a universal belief that we are all rays out of the divine, and having ourselves the divine quality of free will, we have experienced life in its many forms. When we contravened the natural rules, we created karma, and until those contraventions are corrected, and realized, we are obliged to incarnate again and again.