Aspects of the Soul: Reincarnation
Reincarnation – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Reincarnation, literally "to be made flesh again", is a doctrine or metaphysical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. This essential part is often referred to as the spirit or soul, the "higher" or "true" self, "divine spark", or "I". According to such beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the self remains constant throughout the successive lives.
Belief in reincarnation is an ancient phenomenon. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism (including Yoga, Vaishnavism, and Shaivism), Jainism, and Sikhism. The idea was also entertained by some Ancient Greek philosophers. Many modern Pagans also believe in reincarnation as do some New Age movements, along with followers of Spiritism, practitioners of certain African traditions, and students of esoteric philosophies such as Kabbalah, Sufism and Gnostic and Esoteric Christianity. The Buddhist concept of Rebirth although often referred to as reincarnation differs significantly from the Hindu-based traditions and New Age movements in that there is no "self" (or eternal soul) to reincarnate.
+++++ Eastern religions and traditions
Eastern philosophical and religious beliefs regarding the existence or non-existence of an enduring 'self' have a direct bearing on how reincarnation is viewed within a given tradition. There are large differences in philosophical beliefs regarding the nature of the soul (also known as the jiva or atman) amongst Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Some schools deny the existence of a 'self', while others claim the existence of an eternal, personal self, and still others say there is neither 'self' nor 'no-self', as both are false. Each of these beliefs has a direct bearing on the possible nature of reincarnation, including such concepts as samsara, moksha, nirvana, and bhakti.
In India the concept of reincarnation is first recorded in the Upanishads (c. 800 BCE), which are philosophical and religious texts composed in Sanskrit.
According to Hinduism, the soul (atman) is immortal, while the body is subject to birth and death.
The idea that the soul (of any living being - including animals, humans and plants) reincarnates is intricately linked to karma, another concept first introduced in the Upanishads. Karma (literally: action) is the sum of one's actions, and the force that determines one's next reincarnation. The cycle of death and rebirth, governed by karma, is referred to as samsara. Hinduism teaches that the soul goes on repeatedly being born and dying. One is reborn on account of desire: a person desires to be born because he or she wants to enjoy worldly pleasures, which can be enjoyed only through a body. Hinduism does not teach that all worldly pleasures are sinful, but it teaches that they can never bring deep, lasting happiness or peace (ânanda). According to the Hindu sage Adi Shankaracharya - the world as we ordinarily understand it - is like a dream: fleeting and illusory. To be trapped in Samsara is a result of ignorance of the true nature of our existence.
After many births, every person eventually becomes dissatisfied with the limited happiness that worldly pleasures can bring. At this point, a person begins to seek higher forms of happiness, which can be attained only through spiritual experience. When, after much spiritual practice (sâdhanâ), a person finally realizes his or her own divine nature—ie., realizes that the true "self" is the immortal soul rather than the body or the ego—all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish, since they will seem insipid compared to spiritual ânanda. When all desire has vanished, the person will not be reborn anymore.
When the cycle of rebirth thus comes to an end, a person is said to have attained moksha, or salvation.While all schools of thought agree that moksha implies the cessation of worldly desires and freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the exact definition of salvation depends on individual beliefs. For example, followers of the Advaita Vedanta school (often associated with jnana yoga) believe that they will spend eternity absorbed in the perfect peace and happiness that comes with the realization that all existence is One (Brahman), and that the immortal soul is part of that existence. The followers of full or partial Dvaita schools ("dualistic" schools, such as bhakti yoga), on the other hand, perform their worship with the goal of spending eternity in a loka, (spiritual world or heaven), in the blessed company of the Supreme being (i.e Krishna or Vishnu for the Vaishnavas and Shiva for the dualistic schools of Shaivism).
According to the scriptures, the Buddha taught a concept of rebirth that was distinct from that of any known Indian teacher contemporary with him. This concept was consistent with the common notion of a sequence of related lives stretching over a very long time, but was constrained by two core Buddhist concepts: anattâ, that there is no irreducible âtman or "self" tying these lives together; and anicca, that all compounded things are subject to dissolution, including all the components of the human person and personality. At the death of one personality, a new one comes into being, much as the flame of a dying candle can serve to light the flame of another.
Since according to Buddhism there is no permanent and unchanging self (identify) there can be no transmigration in the strict sense. However, the Buddha himself is said to have referred to his past-lives. Buddhism teaches that what is reborn is not the person but that one moment gives rise to another and that that momentum continues, even after death. It is a more subtle concept than the usual notion of reincarnation, reflecting the Buddhist concept of personality existing (even within one's lifetime) without a "soul". Buddhism never rejected samsara, the process of rebirth, but suggests that it occurs across five or six realms of beings. It is actually said to be very rare for a person to be reborn in the immediate next life as a human. However, Tibetan Buddhists do believe that a new-born child may be the rebirth of some important departed lama.
Western religions and traditions
Reincarnation has been a part of ancient Judaism since at least the time of Flavius Josephus' War of the Jews (C.E. 66-73). Flavius Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian who formerly lived with the Essene Jewish sect, writes about the Pharisee sect, "they say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, — but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment". The idea of reincarnation, called gilgul, became popular in folk belief, and is found in much Yiddish literature among Ashkenazi Jews. Among a few kabbalists, it was posited that some human souls could end up being reincarnated into non-human bodies. These ideas were found in a number of Kabbalistic works from the 1200s, and also among many mystics in the late 1500s. Martin Buber's early collection of stories of the Baal Shem Tov's life includes several that refer to people reincarnating in successive lives.
While many Jews today do not believe in reincarnation, the belief is common in Orthodox Judaism. Some Orthodox siddurim (prayerbooks) have a prayer asking for forgiveness for one's sins that one may have committed in this gilgul or a previous one.
The overwhelming majority of mainstream Christian denominations reject the notion of reincarnation and consider the theory to challenge basic tenets of their beliefs. Many churches do not directly address the issue, but indirectly, through teachings about death. A few consider the matter open to individual interpretation due to the few biblical references which survived the purging of texts considered to be heretical in the founding years of Christianity as a church. New Age Christians contend that reincarnation was taught by the early christian church, but due to bias and mistranslations, these teachings were lost or obscured. Many of the philosophies associated with the theory of reincarnation focus on "working" or "learning" through various lifetimes to achieve some sort of higher understanding or state of "goodness" before salvation is granted or acquired. Basic to Traditional Christianity is the doctrine that humans can never achieve the perfection God requires and the only salvation is total and complete forgiveness accomplished through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross wherein he took the sins of mankind. There seems to be evidence however that some of the earliest Christian sects such as the Sethians and followers of the Gnostic Church of Valentinus believed in reincarnation, and they were persecuted by the Romans for this.
Though mainstream Islam rejects the concept of reincarnation, a number of sufi groups believe in reincarnation, claiming that this concept is mentioned in the Quran (Koran), the central religious text of Islam:
This is a summary of the various religions view point of the nature of Reincarnation
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