Updated: Nov 2, 2019
At some point during our lifetime questions arise from deep within us. Who am I? What is my purpose earth? Is there such a thing as life after death? In this as well as future posts/articles, we will consider various sources that can shed light on these fundamental questions. We will consider the work of some prominent and well-respected doctors, scientists and researchers. We will also look at the wisdom and knowledge given by saints, philosophers, spiritual masters and the World's Religions.
We are living in a time where belief in spirituality is beginning to grow. A survey was taken in 1969 which showed that nearly 20 % of the American public believed in life after death (Gallup Poll). In 1981, another survey revealed that 23% of all Americans believed in reincarnation (1). In 1989 research analyst Walter Martin stated that “the latest survey on reincarnation indicates that more than 58% of Americans polled either believed in it or believed it to be a distinct possibility (2). According to the “World Statistics” survey published in July 1996 “More Americans believe in reincarnation than ever before, and more and more Europeans are accepting the doctrine with increasing frequency.” People living in the East are very quick to admit in their belief in reincarnation. According to statistics, four out of five people surveyed that they completely believed in the doctrine of reincarnation (3). This means that over half the world’s population believes in Reincarnation!
Why is there such a rise in a belief in reincarnation?
There are three main reasons according to research analysts. 1) A deep interest in Eastern Philosophies which is full of wisdom and offers a holistic approach to living a life of balance. 2) A growing interest in the West with the subject of death. 3) The validity of Past Life Therapy.
Over the course of history many spiritual masters, prophets, philosophers, scientists and prominent members of society have talked about the doctrine of reincarnation. If we were to take a closer look at the world's major religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we come to realize that reincarnation plays an important role. For a lot of us this concept is logical, based on justice and implies a universal law of nature that naturally and fairly applies to all of us. Without this universal law the world would seem cruel, illogical, random and confusing. Why is one child born in a wealthy family and another surrounded by extreme poverty. One born healthy and another with a terminal disease. Why are some surrounded by extreme suffering and others live a life of Joy. The doctrine of reincarnation and Karma allows us to view these questions with a much larger perspective.
The word reincarnation is composed of five Latin elements and was introduced into the English language in the nineteenth century. The five elements it breaks down to are: (re = again) (in = into) (carn = flesh) (ate = become) (ion = process). The literal meaning of reincarnation means “The process of coming into flesh again” (4).
“Transmigration is another word that is commonly used which is much older than reincarnation. This word has been used since the sixth century. It comes from Latin and breaks down to the following. (trans = across) (migr = to go or move) (ation = process of causing or becoming (5)). Transmigration is the process of moving across, from one to the other. This is referring to the soul moving from one body to another. The words rebirth and pre-existence can also be used to mean the same thing.
The concept of reincarnation and Karma go hand in hand. Karma in its basic form implies action. Every action has a reaction. “What you sow so shall you reap”. All the actions that we performed in our past lives good and bad, it’s result will re manifest in this life. We have to learn and improve on our actions in this lifetime by using our freewill. Predestination from our past actions and our freewill from this life are both fundamental factors that determine our future destiny.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from childhood, to youth, to old age, the soul inhabits another body at the time of death”. Bhagavad-Gita
The Bhagavad-Gita (Song of God) is an ancient holy scripture that was revealed over 5000 years ago. This sacred text contains the essence of all the holy scriptures. It was revealed by the divine master Lord Krishna in a dialogue with his faithful disciple (Arjun). The Gita is a timeless fountain of wisdom, knowledge, spirituality, and enlightenment written in a very poetic and easy to understand manner. It is a source of wisdom for scholars, ordinary people, religious ceremonies, and millions of individuals in India and around the world. The Gita is part of a larger sacred text “The Mahabharat” which was put in written form by the great Sage Ved Vyassa.
India has given birth to some of the greatest sages and masters in the history of mankind. The wisdom of these masters has guided the rest of the world over the course of history. India is the ancient holy land of Spiritually enlightened masters like Sri Krishna, Ram, Buddha, Ved Vyassa and many others. Reincarnation has been mentioned in the wisdom left behind by these great masters. It has been mentioned in the Holy Gita, The Holy Vedas, Mahabharat, Ramayan and other holy scriptures.
“O learned and tolerant soul, after roaming in waters and plants, a person enters the womb and is born again and again. O soul, you are born in the body of plants, in trees, in all created animate objects, and in waters. O soul, blazing like the sun, after cremation, having reached the fire and the earth for rebirth and residing in the belly of your mother, you are born again. O soul having reached the womb, again and again, you auspiciously lay in your mother’s body, as a child sleeps in her mother’s lap. (Yajur Veda 12.36-37).
In the late 19th century there was a popular scholar by the name of Richard Garbe. Although he wrote on behalf of Christianity, he believed that India was the original influence on early Greek (and eventually western) thought (6). Arthur Osborne the historian/Indologist claimed that the basic Indian practices such as religious mysticism, holistic medicine and a vegetarian diet eventually got introduced to western philosophy and literature. Osborne was also of the belief that it was the wisdom from India that allowed the doctrine of reincarnation to be introduced to western philosophers and writers.
1) George Gallup, Jr. And William Procter, Adventures in Immortality pg. 137-138
2) Walter Martin, The New Age Cult, pg. 85
3) Margot Russel, Reincarnation Today, pg. 6
4) John Algeo, Reincarnation Explored, pg .133-134
6) Richard Garbe, Philosophy of Ancient India, pg 32-56