Symbolic Meaning Of Reincarnation
Some time ago, I was reading a book. I vividly remember where I was; sitting on the bed in a rented apartment overlooking Bramall Lane, the football ground which is home to Sheffield United.
I cannot recall the name of the book I was reading, nor the author, but what I do remember is it had a section on reincarnation. At the time, I remember thinking the idea of reincarnation is, ‘a load of bollocks.’
That was when I was 30-years old, ill-informed, inexperienced and over opinionated. I have since re-evaluated the concept of reincarnation. Today, the idea of death and rebirth makes much more sense and answers many questions about life.
But I am still not convinced the concept of reincarnation is the indoctrinated idea that when the human body dies the soul reincarnates as another life form.
I’m not saying that this version of reincarnation doesn’t happen. In all honesty, I don’t know what happens to the soul when we die because I have no experience – or memory – of it.
From reading a ton load of ancient myths and religious texts and applying my understanding of symbolism, my interpretation of death and rebirth is slightly different to the mainstream view.
Do you want to know what I think?
Reincarnation happens in this lifetime
For me, reincarnation occurs during each life cycle. Our experiences and the things we manifest as reality is the death and rebirth of energy. Reincarnation is just a name given to describe the death of an old habit, belief or attitude and the rebirth of a new world view.
This is how we learn, grow and evolve during the process of self-development. If you choose to.
When we do lay old values to rest, we improve ourselves as individuals? As a consequence, we generally adopt a new view of ourselves, others and our environment. As a result we enjoy a better quality of life; even if the quality is just feeling better about ourselves.
Or you could say, with the death of old values, we are reborn with a new view of the world.
Of course, feelings come and go because we always have something new to learn; a new quality to adopt. Enlightened men and women know they have to do this to become complete, to know the Truth and live in the mind of the Universe rather than human mind which is programmed with falsities.
In relation to martyrdom, St. Paul said: “I die daily. This is what I think he meant by that; through self-assessment he became consciously aware of thoughts, emotions and actions that restricted him enjoying life but by giving up – or sacrificing – old habits he could be reborn. To overcome his failings, he changed his habits so he could be resurrected.
When we are children our mind is programmed with set views of the world. And we typically carry these views with us into adulthood. Furthermore, we do not like it when people tell us our view of the world is wrong.
But we cannot survive as adults with the mentality of a child. Look at the people around you that still have immature views and behaviours. How successful are they as people?
The general view of reincarnation
In Hinduism, reincarnation is called Samsara. It is believed the soul returns to a physical realm. Furthermore, the conditions into which you are born are determined by your conduct in previous lives.
Verse 2:22 of the Bhagavad Gita reads:
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless.”
Buddhism, which was heavily influenced by the pure principles of Hinduism share the same core belief about reincarnation. The only significant difference is that Buddhists see rebirth as naturally occurring rather than subject to karmic laws imposed by a “controlling God.”
Muslims also believe we reincarnate as another life form once we die. Islamic writings say judgement is decided by God who decides whether we go to Heaven or Hell in accordance with moral behaviours during our lifetime on earth. (Again I have a different interpretation of Heaven and Hell). The Islamic belief is the same concept as karma in Hinduism whether Muslims choose to acknowledge it or not.
Christians appear to be confused about reincarnation. Some Bible scholars claim the Bible opposes reincarnation because man was made in God’s image.
Others claim the Bible stories of resurrection have been replaced by ideas of reincarnation and point towards the early writing of Christianity discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls as evidence. Yet there is reference to reincarnation in the New Testament:
In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
Personally, and I don’t often say this about the Bible, but I feel the Christian doctrine of resurrection explains the concept of reincarnation in the most vivid fashion; death and rebirth occurs in this life.
The crucifixion story of Jesus is a prime example. Here we are shown that we have to make sacrifices so that old habits can be reborn as improved versions of ourselves. Jesus died a man and was reborn as an enlightened man.
Judaism – which heavily influenced Christianity and Islam – believe that five parts of the soul returns to the flesh to experience a different life. This belief is prominent in the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah which suggests reincarnation (resurrection) “happens in order to effect change in someone.”
The earlier cultures of ancient Egypt and Greece also believed in the reincarnation of the soul. Or at least this is how mainstream theologians, archaeologists, historians and the rest interpret reincarnation.
The writings of Greek philosophers including Plato, Pythagoras and Orpheus acknowledged the concept of reincarnation and said the soul is immortal.
The Greek writers were heavily influenced by the doctrines of ancient Egypt who are said to have built the pyramids as tombs to carry pharaohs into the afterlife.
Although there is some dispute as to why the pyramids were built – because many are empty – there is evidence in Egypt that the dead were buried with valuables and personal items. Egyptian funerary rituals have become synonymous with the concept of death and rebirth.
The native Indian tribes of north and south Americas share a very close resemblance with Egypt. They also buried their dead with bowls, shells, jewellery and other artefacts. Royalty were even buried with their wives and servants so they could be together in the next life – or at least this is what archaeologist suggest.
A modern view of reincarnation
It’s fair to say that most non-religious people today do not believe in rebirth. Some religious people perhaps have their doubts as well. The general view is we live on Earth and when we die, it’s game over. There is no existence for us in an afterlife.
On the other hand, Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation so firmly that they search the world for the reincarnation of previous Dalai Lamas. An excerpt from a speech given by the Dalai Lama offers this insight:
“Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.”
I don’t know whether there is an afterlife, but I keep an open mind. What I do know is that I, and most other people, need to assess our values and habits from time to time. Through the process of self-realisation we improve ourselves as individuals and create a better world for ourselves.
We cannot operate on the mental programming installed when we were children. We certainly can’t rely on the indoctrinated bullshit fed to us by the authorities in religion, education, politics and media.
In the introduction of Prior to Consciousness Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj Muharaj, the editor Jean Dunn explains the spiritual talker urges the reader to understand the Self. She writes, “he would not allow any quoting of scriptures – only personal experiences.”
The faith of a guru is based on the consciousness within, faith in one’s Self. But to discover your True Self, you have to dismantle your current Self, throw away old habits and rebuild a new you. This is the process of death and rebirth.