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Rebirth / Reincarnation

by Nitya

All of our past experiences are stored in our subconscious mind. This storage of experiences is necessary for our day-to-day life. The recollection of these experiences is memory. We would do many foolish things without our memory. All of our daily activities would be new and fresh each time. None of the development we see around us would exist. It would feel as if we were hitting a hard wall all the time, yet we would not even have any complaint or problem with that.

 

"Smoke, night-time, the dark fortnight, also six months of the southern solstice, attaining by these to the Moon, the lunar light” the YOGI returns.

Gita . viii . 25

We recollect our experiences as memories, so that we can become so-and-so experts in such-and-such professional fields. We can study and learn to do things better. Years of effort have brought us to the present standard of living. We developed from the cave life or a forest life to a modern life full of facilities. In winter, we no longer run to the southern part of the world from the north. In summer, we find comfort with air conditioning. We have power sources to keep us in light during the darkness of the night. The major source of all progress is memory. It is hard to imagine life without the power of memory.

 

All of our thoughts and actions are supported and influenced by our past experiences. We act according to the information we picked up earlier. We remember most of our yesterdays and days before. It seems that today is the continuation of yesterday. Even this present moment is presented by the past. It is like a chain without any end.

 

Often we see death as an end to this unbroken chain. Is it really? Even if death is an end, why do we fight here so much? Why can't we co-operate to live and allow to live? We all know that those who died took nothing with them. They couldn't even take their bodies.

 

O Fire! O god! Knowing, as thou do, all our deeds, lead us by the good path for the enjoyment of the fruits of our deeds; remove from us all crooked sins. We offer thee many words of salutation.

Isa Upanishad. 18

Death may be an end of this body but not of me. This death is happening always. I am changing my body every day. Cells die and are born every day, even if we look at the internal organs alone. The body I had in my childhood no longer exists. The body I have in my youth will not last to old age. My thoughts, ideas, characters and behaviors now are not the same as during my childhood and youth. But "I" am the same person regardless of all these changes. If "I" am not the same it will be harder to recognize these changes in me.

 

Death cannot be an end if we think about birth and life here. We are all born in different families and different times and places. No two are the same, not even twins. Our life's circumstances, nature, needs, wants and our body sizes all are different. Some of us suffer from birth. Some are fine at birth but in life experience difficulty. We can't say our parents are solely responsible for our births. If they knew that we are going to live our life like this and become the person we are, they might not have even desired us. All parents want to see their children grow "the best way. They may be partially responsible for our birth, but they are not the main cause. Earth, water, and all sorts of minerals are there for a plant to grow, but the growth belongs to the plant. All sorts of healthy foods are in front of a person who fasts, but he or she is not willing to eat.

 

Most of the ancient teachings, especially yoga and Vedanta, focus on the importance of this Willingness. Both of these teachings say that this power of will is the cause for everything. In other words, they say that the lack of will power leads to ignorance. Ignorance is the cause of birth, death and all the suffering in our lives. Those philosophies agree in the same way about the cause of life suffering, but they seem to differ about its solution. Yoga says that only the direct experience of the reality of ones Self will solve our ignorance. Vedanta says the right knowledge of ones own reality is the best solution for birth, death and its sufferings.

 

According to these philosophies, birth and death are times of transformation. Life is a period of time which the Soul (Jiva) uses to fulfill its desires. Self (Atman) has no boundaries or limitations. Originally Self has no birth or death. It is an eternal truth. Somehow the ignorance around it started to feel the individuality that separated it from Universality. This individuality of body and mind of the self is called Jiva (Soul). A Soul has needs, wants and desires. A lifetime may not be enough for some souls to fulfill their desires. A Soul which has desires but doesn't have a physical body to fulfill its desires is called Spirit.

 

According to the nature of its unfulfilled desires, the states of spirits are many, such as Gods and Goddesses (Devas and Devadas), Bhoothas and Prethas. A Spirit will take a body and come to life again as its intensity of desires. Each spirit chooses birth in an exact place where it will get the chance to pursue its desires.

 

All our past unfulfilled desires are stored as a seed, which will start to grow wherever the right soils and right climates are available. Until it finds the right place, it remains in seed form. Once a spirit attains a physical body, it is called jiva, or the soul. From the time of birth, the soul starts to work with the body. It may show interest in many things. Some of the souls, according to their desires, will be talented enough to make achievements in different subjects such as arts and sciences.

 

Life is a wonderful working field for one to fulfill all desires, and to realize the real nature of ones own Self. The average Soul will take life for granted, and add more desire to his or her life. This will only increase ones miseries and suffering in life. As long as there is a healthy and strong body, we postpone facing reality. We like to think that death is not anywhere near us and is not for us anyway. There is a good incident in Mahabharatha. A unknown voice asked, ?What are the wonderful things in the world?”. One person only was able to answer the question the righteous person Yudhisthira. He said, 'Every day and day after day, animals and human beings are passing out of life, but we don't think of death, we think that we shall never die. What can be more wonderful than this?

 

The intelligent Self is neither born nor does It die. It did not originate from anything, nor did anything originate from It. It is birth less, eternal, un- decaying, and ancient. It is not injured even when the body is killed.

Katha Upanishad I. ii.18

As time passes, the body becomes unable to fulfill the desire of the soul. Instead of fulfilling the desires, the body starts giving problems. Once the body is not useful for the soul, the soul starts to withdraw from the body and decides to get another one for its needs. The departure of the soul from the body is what we call death.

 

There are choices for each person: how do we want to lead our lives? We can ignore life altogether, or we can use will power to desire the things we want, or we can use will power to understand ourselves and our lives.

 

Those who lead a life that is full of desires and individual motives, that is full of fatigue and wearing of the mind and body, their birth is called rebirth. Those who lead a Divine life of selfless service and end the life of desires, their birth is an incarnation or reincarnation. But those who annihilate all the desires, not allowing any desires to enter in, know the nature of the Self. S/he becomes one with Truth. Such a Soul (here it is better to call it Self) will not have any rebirth, or any question of coming back to life.

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