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Reincarnation means taking birth again. This is the central philosophy that determines the Hindus’ views of thinking, acting, living, and dying. It is fundamentally correlated with the belief in the immortality of soul and the theory of karma. Human soul imbibes and enlivens the human body and never dies. After the dismemberment of the physical body, it takes a new birth-reincarnates- and the quality of the life in the new birth is determined by two important factors. One is the past karmas that the human being performed in the previous birth/ incarnation, and the other factor is the free karmic will to act and mould the destiny in the present life/reincarnation.
The belief in reincarnation and immortality of the soul and its transmigration from one form to another is explained in the holy book of the Hindus, the Bhagwad Gita, in terms of discarding the old clothes to wear the new ones. Obviously this belief is a great source of strength and sustenance not only to the dying person, but also for his/her survivors. A karmic account of debits and credits that was created in the previous incarnation culminates in the present reincarnation. Such is the irony of human destiny that while he tries to square off the accounts incurred in the previous incarnation, he creates new ones to settle in the reincarnation. Thus the interminable cycle of birth and death continues.
There are numerous intriguing examples to verify the veracity of the theory of reincarnation and the discharge of karmic liabilities in all the communities across the world including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Greeks, ancient Romans, Christians, Muslims, practitioners of certain African traditions and the modern Pagans related to the New Age Movement.
Ancient Egyptians, for example, would put the worldly possessions of the dead in his grave believing that the person would need them once again in his future life after the physical death.
Carol Bowman in her book Children's
Past Lives has presented numerous fascinating examples of
children accurately remembering their past lives. There is the story of
young Chase who would get into the lap of his mother, close his eyes and
narrate his past life as a soldier carrying a gun fitted with a bayonet
at its end, his heart pounding and the hair on his arms standing erect.
He was wearing dirty, ripped clothes, brown boots, and a belt as he hid
behind a rock with the battle going on all around him.
Or, a two year old Liia tells her mother while driving over a bridge that she had fallen into the river flowing below as she was driving her car in her previous birth. There are numerous such true stories in Carol Bowman’s book.
There was this child who was afraid of water and a walk by moonlit night around the beach just horrified him. Finally, it came to light that this was because he had died in his previous life by drowning in a pool of water.
Dr. Ian Stevenson MD, Professor of Research, Division of Personality Studies, a unit of the department of psychiatric medicine in the University of Virginia has conducted extensive and rigorous research in the area of reincarnation especially in India. He has recorded his studies in his book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.
One of his studies related to a boy who remembered that he was murdered by a shot on his chest. His chest bore the birth marks that matched the description provided by him. There was another boy who was born with stubbed fingers only on his right hand. He remembered that in his past life his fingers were cut off by the blade of a fodder chopper. Dr. Stevenson has studied around 3000 such cases.
All these and more, prove beyond doubt that there is life after death and the soul leaving one body at the time of death takes birth in another form. Yet, as is the norm, nature takes precautions that people do not remember their previous lives; yet the curtain sometimes lifts and the person is able to recall his or previous births. All such incidents point to the fact that reincarnation does take place.
The Reincarnation Process in Islam
The Persians already had the knowledge and beliefs in Reincarnation long before the introduction of Islam. In the 6th Century, the prophet Muhammad received the Koran, the Bible of Islam, from Allah. Although the Koran does not make a direct reference to the Process of Reincarnation, there is an implication of it through out certain passages.
The evidence of this can be seen through the Koran: “And He sent down rain from above in Proper quantity and He brings back to life the dead earth, similarly ye shall be reborn.”
After Muhammad’s reincarnation, his teachings were passed into esoteric teachings. There are three main esoteric teachings that have been accepted into the esoteric Islamic Schools. They are:
1. The Periodic reincarnation of the Perfect Man or Deity
2. The Return of Imam (the divinity thought to Manifest Muhammad) or any spiritual leader.
3. The Return of other souls.
There is a belief among some Ism’ilis that Krishna was reincarnated as Buddha, then as Muhammad.
Reincarnation in Hinduism
Samsara is known to the Hindus as the “wheel of rebirth”, and many young Hindus take that belief for granted. The Hindu’s belief that reincarnations are mainly due to the imperfections of the soul, and are sent back time and time again to correct those imperfections. Ignorance and Desire perpetuate the need to be reincarnated. In order for the soul to purify itself, it must rid itself of imperfections and earthly desires.
The Soul is able to quit the wheel of rebirth once it is reunited with Brahman, the Absolute.
We have all heard the saying “Karma comes back to you.” The saying is basically saying that Karma is the law of cause and effect. In other words good is rewarded and evil is punished, and your reincarnated life is influenced by Karma. Depending on how you behaved in your past life, you may be reincarnated up or you may be reincarnated down, and the amount of reincarnation is limitless. This may seem like a tireless process, but successive lives are separated by periods of rest where the soul can review and contemplate its progress.
Buddhism, prevailing in most parts of India and Asia, derive a doctrine of rebirth from the Hindus. Buddha taught that the body has a lesser soul that dies with the body but a greater soul survives and moves on.
There is a theory that Buddhism has evolved with. It is the theory of anatta, which believes that there is no personality or ego that continues with the soul as it moves from body to body. Instead, the personality breaks up into pieces that scatter, which then form with other sparks to form a new personality. The will to live evolves from the karma, taking the good and bad karmic attributes with the soul. In order to attain spiritual perfection, the soul must overcome earthly cravings and karma. For karmic reason, parents are chosen prior to the conception.
There are three unwholesome roots that must be overcome to be liberated from rebirth. They are desire, hatred, and delusion. Once these three elements have been overcome, the soul can then attain nirvana, or enlightenment or even a state of ineffable peace.
Both Hindus and Buddhists believe that the last thought at the moment of death determines the character of the next reincarnation, thus placing vital importance to die properly.
Reincarnation in Judaism
Gilgul is the Hebrew word that means transmigration, which is the passing of a soul into the next body. The Gigul is contained in the Kabbalah, the body of mystical works based on the esoteric teachings, compiled in medieval times by rabbis.
According to the Kabbalah, the early Jews believed in the transmigration of great prophets: Adam became David, who was to become the Messiah.
Other believers of the Kabbalah believed that reincarnation was the punishment for Cain’s slaying of Abel, and would only quit when all the dead were resurrected.
In the nineteenth century, the Kabbalah fell out of fashion with skeptical Jewish Scholars, and gilgul lost its place with the teachings.
Although not taught in the three main branches of Judaism – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox – gilgul is still taught by the Hasidic sect, and is now making a comeback into the Western world, with influential pop stars like Madonna and Britney Spears following the Kabbalah.
Reincarnation in Christianity
Although reincarnation is not taught in any of Christianity’s main stream denominations, some Christians who believe in reincarnation believe that there is some evidence in the bible, despite the lack of direct reference to it.
Opponents to reincarnation believe that there is nothing on the subjects of Gospels or St. Paul, and stand by the fact that only Jesus has the power to be reborn again. However, proponents find it significant that in the New Testament, Jesus did not refute the idea.
Despite these high tech and fast-paced times, more and more people are becoming more aware of their spiritual self, and more are also becoming interested in the concept of "reincarnation". What is reincarnation? And why has it puzzled and enticed people, for centuries? Well, reincarnation refers to the concept of the soul or spirit beginning a new life, after biological death. Each and every religion on the planet has its own interpretation of what reincarnation is, and this is what we're going to discuss in the succeeding paragraphs.
Where Was The Term Derived From?
According to psychic and supernatural experts and researchers, the word "reincarnation" is derived from a Latin word which means "entering flesh again". Its Greek equivalent is "metempsychosis", which if translated to English would mean "transmigration of the soul".
Contrasting Religious Views On Reincarnation?
In recent years, more and more people in the developed world have developed a great interest in topics such as reincarnation. One would perhaps see reincarnation discussed, and highlighted in a lot of movies, TV shows, books and popular songs. Let's break down how each of the world's major religions see, as well as interpret, reincarnation.
- Islam – In Islam, although many believers stress that the word "rebirth" is not directly mentioned anywhere in the Koran, a couple of passages will attest that the concept or idea of reincarnation is present in Islam. For example, one passage in the Koran says that "He sent down rain from above in proper quantity, and He brings back to life the death earth, similarly ye shall be reborn". After the prophet Muhammad was reincarnated, three concepts or teachings were accepted by Islamic scholars, and these are – The Periodic Reincarnation of the Perfect Man or Deity, The Return of Imam or any Spiritual Leader, and The Return Of Other Souls.
- Hinduism – In Hinduism, the "Wheel of Rebirth" is commonly mentioned, and
many Hindus believe that reincarnations happen, because of the "imperfections" of the soul.
This means the soul of a departed individual is sent back time and time again, to correct those
mistakes or imperfections. The soul will then be able to get out from the wheel of rebirth, once it
becomes reunited with, or meets, Brahman, the Absolute.
- Buddhism – Buddhism was noted to have taken, or derived, the doctrine of reincarnation
from the Hindus. Adherents stress that Buddha said that the body has a "lesser soul" which dies
with the body, and a "greater soul" which survives, and continues or moves on. Hindus and
Buddhists also staunchly believe that the person's last thought at the time or moment of death,
will determine the character (or quality) of their next rebirth.
Although the concept of rebirth is not directly taught in Christianity (nor is it directly mentioned in the scriptures), many Christians do believe in the concept of rebirth. While staunch Christians would say that there is never any mention of the word in the bible, in the New Testament however, Jesus did not argue, or refute the idea of "rebirth".
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