The Hindu approach to the Reincarnation Cycle
According to Hinduism, each person goes through multiple lives throughout their existence. This eternal cycle of reincarnation is called samsara. When one dies, the soul is reborn, reincarnated in another body. What happens in each life is the result of what happened in the previous life. That is, you are reincarnated in a good body if you have behaved properly in the previous life according to your duty in life or Dharma. If you were good, they you are reincarnated in a higher form of life. What you do well, makes you better and what you do wrong, makes you worse. Thus, you can be reincarnated as a person of higher caste if you have been good, and if you did wrong you might reincarnate in a lower caste or even an animal.
The ultimate goal of the practices of the Hindu religion is to perfect in each life in order to get out of the reincarnation cycle, this release is called moksha. All practices and devotions of Hinduism aim to make the faithful free from the continuous cycle of reincarnations and reach liberation.
Because of the belief in reincarnation, many Hindus are vegetarians because they believe that all living beings are part of the same spirit. Therefore they consider that both animals and people should be treated with respect and reverence.
Karma is the law of cause and effect applied to the mental, moral and physical actions. The ego clings to us and identifies with objects, feelings and thoughts. These attachments cause distortions in relation to the intentions behind our actions. Instead of acting, we react. Karmas are the conditions to balance and fullfill these trends.
Dharma is the path of life, above the wheel of karma, which aligns our soul and our destiny, and at the same time arranges our actions into Infinity. That is, actions without reactions or karma.
Reincarnation is the cycle of birth and death prompted by karma. Our thoughts and actions create causes that must be completed, and this provokes our next incarnation.
Liberation means liberation from the cycle of birth and death, or reincarnation cycle. When we live in Dharma, rather than Karma, we are called to be released, or liberated.
“In Kundalini Yoga we do not care about the effect but we care about the cause, the cause has an effect and effects never occur without a cause;. A consequence will never happen if it is not preceded by a sequence. If one can be aware about the trends of the sequences, then one can take control of the consequences.”
To break free from the continuity of the reincarnation cycle, Hinduism suggests three ways:
- The path of acts: faithfully follow the dharma and perform the duties of one’s caste.
- The path of devotion: worship a god fervently and devoutly celebrate their festivals and rituals.
- The path of knowledge: through meditation discover the true nature of the soul and look into it. Try to find the Brahman, the Spirit, the Universal Everything, to join him. Usually an option consists in renunciation of material goods and pleasures, the route of ascetics or sadhus.
Read also: Do Hindus Believe In Reincarnation?
The Buddhist approach to the Reincarnation Cycle
Actually reincarnation is for Buddhists one of the most valuable experiences, since they seek perfecting the soul and they realize that it is impossible to achieve this in a single existence. They seek knowledge of this life recovering the knowledge of previous lives to achieve achieve a perfection that brings us closer to the divine.
Throughout the reincarnation cycle, the soul is reborn many times and in every life we cover a different set of lessons. No one can determine the number of lives that we need to achieve the ultimate goal, but what if yet it is very easy to fall into stagnation and involution.
There are social values that favor spiritual involution such as greed, anger, jealousy, obsession, depression and all those emotions that we know are negative in this life.
Buddhists aim to strengthen the body, soul and mind at all times, always based on the principle of not harming anyone in the process, since in reality the growth and evolution of the soul is something very personal and every manifestation of the soul is different, that’s the reason why in Buddhism there is freedom to seek or develop any path by which anyone can achieve harmony with the universe on their own way. If this was not the case then the soul would stagnate or be trapped in a prayer or a repetitive ritual to which often we can not even find a meaning.
The experience of Gautama Sakyamuni, become Buddha (the enlightened) focuses on the “Four Noble Truths”. Man must be free from pain. Therefore, it has to suppress thirst or desire of pleasure which inexorably causes reincarnations. Indeed, the thirst, which is mainly due to ignorance begets greed, hate and error, the “three roots of evil”, from which spring bad acts. The release through extinction of thirst is a long maturation that lasts many times the length of a human existence, many turns in the reincarnation cycle. It leads to nirvana, the shelter to all pain and all transmigration.
Read also: Do Buddhists Believe In Reincarnation?
Western approaches to the Reincarnation Cycle
According to the Orphic, just as the soul leaves a body, it is embodied in another. The body (soma) is considered as a prison (sema). The cycle of reincarnation has no end to the uninitiated; salvation of man consists in the cessation of these successive existences. According to Pythagoras man must also be reincarnated to eventually reach the complete purification of his self. As for Plato, he believed that certain souls have had to reincarnate even in animals to acquire the purity necessary to enter the abode of the gods. The reincarnation cycle is a slow process of purification of body and matter with a view to the progressive ascent to the divine.
The Western model of reincarnation is a reconstruction of the Hindu model, with a mix of syncretistic, esoteric and occult traditions. Reincarnation is a means of self-realization and slow ascent toward the divine Spirit. Rebirths correspond to the scale of merit; restoring justice and following a process of constant ascension.
Facing the Hindu, Buddhist or Greek models, the Western theosophical reincarnation model reveals a more optimistic view of man. Indeed, reincarnation is no longer seen as a new painful imprisonment of the soul, an infernal circle from which one has to be released, but as a new opportunity. Against the concept of the body-prison, we start to see a concept of evolution and development without regression, always experiencing reincarnation in a human body.
Christian approach to Reincarnation and Resurrection
So far we are speaking of “belief”. Indeed, reincarnation is not an usual subject to scientific evidence. Although there have been experimental tests, these tests aim to establish, on the one hand, a psychic memory or certain psychic traces of past lives; And on the other hand, experimental communication with “disembodied” spirits awaiting reincarnation. You can not reject the existence of “memories” that can not be explained by the subject’s experience and his current existence. However, the hypothesis of a previous life to account for them is only a hypothesis among others. The attribution of certain psychological characteristics from birth to a previous life is even more hypothetical. There are other plausible explanations for these phenomena. On the other hand, there are still inexplicable facts in the present state of science, the hypothesis of reincarnation as an explanation, however legitimate it may be, can not be said scientifically proven. When we talk about the reincarnation cycle, it is an object of belief, adherence is a personal choice, as it is in a Christian perspective faith in the resurrection of the body.
But we have to understand well the differences that separate them, as well as the global perspectives in which they reside. Against the cosmic law of reincarnation, the Christian faith states indeed the promise that God makes man out of resurrection:
According to the Christian faith, the body is not a negative element of the human being, which is to be released; it is an integral part of his humanity. Therefore, it is not about to take another drop in another existence. Human life is one: it is crucial for every person, composed of spirit, soul and body. Christianity underlines the dignity, loved by God, of the person and of human life as well as the weight of his freedom.
But that God who wants and who personally knows each human being, is a God of love that will rise everyone as he raised his Son. Because passion-resurrection of Jesus Christ death has been definitively overcome, man has been released from it, and this makes reincarnation not objected. For his passion, Jesus took upon himself the karma of humanity and freed it. No doubt that the man who has to approach God through a life of faithfulness is still subject to death. But the only death is bound to lead to a new life, which includes a new existence even for the body . The resurrection at the end of time will lead to completion of the plan of salvation created by God for all humanity through history. In the resurrection of the dead, God will work for all men, the way he did in the morning of Passover with his Son Jesus. The elect, even in their bodies will be formed with the endless life of the risen Christ.
Therefore, the belief in reincarnation is incompatible with the Christian faith in the resurrection. They are different conceptions of God and man, history and the world. If a choice between them is necessary; this option is a matter of faith.
Read also: Do Christians Believe In Reincarnation?
Conclusions: The Reincarnation Cycle and Enlightenment
Contrary to what many teach on the subject, there is no urgency for us to attain enlightenment, or to complete our cycle of reincarnations. It is not “better” to evolve rapidly in a few lives that evolve slowly over many lifetimes. Reincarnation is not a challenge, and it is not necessary to reach the goal of evolution as quickly as possible. We are not “trapped” in the cycle of death and human rebirth. The physical world is not a hell-hole to escape. God is not getting anxious for us to achieve it.
From the perspective of the Spirit, there is no time. Time is just a perceptual phenomenon for us, while we live in our physical form. Souls literally do not care how many thousands of years it takes to go from one level to another in the reincarnation cycle. The passage of time in human terms, is to the soul, irrelevant.
We would also like to add a further insight to certain teachings: souls are not usually reincarnated immediately after death. Usually there is a period of several years between one life and the next, during which the soul is recovered, considers the lessons learned from the past life and plans the next.
For example, if the goal to achieve was overcoming a moral defect, such as pride, that keeps us to evolve, perhaps the way to do that would be scheduling a series of lives where poverty and wealth are experienced alternately, or experiencing other circumstances that give us the chance to overcome this defect and to conquer the virtue opposed to it, as is humility.
Once conquered the goals within the same evolutionary cycle, in the spiritual plane we program a new cycle and new goals for a less demanding evolutionary ascent, because of the values and virtues conquered earlier.
All human lives that make up each reincarnation cycle, are usually scheduled for a same gender, in order to make it engraved in the being the characteristics acquired in that cycle as a man or woman, then comes another cycle of reincarnations with a change of goals and therefore sometimes a change in gender.
The main goal of the reincarnation cycles in human beings, is to better understand and learn to love God in all forms of Nature, overcoming and conquering spiritual defects that are stopping us.
It can be said that the soul is reincarnated in situations, cultures and circumstances that will provide appropriate interactions with the right people, to learn the necessary lessons. Sometimes, people may appear to be the cause of the problems, and people can act rudely or cruelly. In such cases, these lessons are based on some very difficult circumstances that the souls around us provide, in one form or another.
Suppose a cycle begins with a program for the conquest of patience, prudence and complementary similar qualities; that implies overcoming impatience, irritability, irascibility, etc. You may come to use this program in five lives, you may use it in ten, twenty or more. It is not limited, it depends on one’s own efforts. And this number of lives, make a cycle of reincarnations. Of course, in the same cycle of life, you have also acquired many experiences that will develop your intelligence and mental power, while gaining positive qualities that contribute to your progress.
Suppose you have already completed several cycles, you have reached a certain degree of intellectual progress and developed a mental capacity, but you are lacking the most valuable achievement in spiritual progress: Love. You will have to start a new cycle of incarnations to overcome selfishness, deeply rooted in the human soul, a trunk from whose branches come out other many imperfections, such as envy, greed, vanity, jealousy, pride, arrogance, and so on. How many lives may it take to overcome all these imperfections and acquire brotherly love? Many or few, depending on the degree of imperfection in which each is located and the effort you put into it. Those who believe that achieving salvation or glory in one lifetime, have you ever thought about what is salvation and what is glory? Do you know the number of imperfections that still crawl deep inside? Do you consider yourself so perfect as to reach that sublime state in the short time of a few years?
It should come as no surprise to learn that we have had a past life, or many past lives. The only people who have not lived a previous life are the ones at the beginning of the cycle of rebirths. The only ones who are not coming back after this life are at the end of the reincarnation cycle.
Reincarnation is the norm for all human beings. It is universal. That’s what we’re doing here.
Video: The Cycle of Birth and Death: Understanding Reincarnation and Samsara
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