The concept of reincarnation has fascinated me since I was a teenager and I have to admit, the idea of it on the surface sounds like a bizarre idea. But so does the idea of an afterlife at all, at least to me.
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ or Reincarnation . . . describes the connection between lifetimes that establishes conscious existence as continuous rather than episodic (or appearing only when a body arises and disappearing when a body dies). Reincarnation is a subject of very sophisticated knowledge, something you are capable of understanding only in an advanced state of consciousness. So on and so fourth….blah, blah, blah
But more importantly, reincarnation offers hope to many. If we don’t get it right in this life, we have another chance the next time around. Yet, even those who believe in reincarnation admit that the vast majority of humans do not remember their previous lives. So, how can we learn from our past mistakes if we cannot remember them? We seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Given the moral failure rate of human history, do we have any reason to hope that we will get it right in a future lifetime?
I’ve also found that this crazy thing known as reincarnation also claims to insure justice.
According to the law of karma (an unbending and impersonal rule of the universe some say), we get what we deserve in every life. Our good and bad deeds produce good and bad results from lifetime to lifetime. With karma, there is supposedly no unjust suffering, because no one is innocent. All suffering is deserved on the basis of bad karma. The baby born without legs deserved it, as did the woman who was raped. We all carry our karma into each life. There is no grace, no forgiveness, no mercy. Not only is this is not good news for those burdened down with the weight of a troubled conscience, but karma also conflicts with our moral sense that some suffering is undeserved and deserves our pity and our actions to alleviate it.
Christians say that Jesus taught that no one can keep the moral law. The human heart is impure, given to wrong attitudes and actions which are offenses against a loving and absolutely good God. They also say that Jesus said he offers us forgiveness as our savior, himself paying for our offenses against God. Jesus spoke of people receiving either eternal reward or eternal punishment according to whether they accept his forgiveness during their ONE lifetime on earth.
So what do I believe? Well I’m unsure about an afterlife. I want to live the life I have, and have been gifted with. It seems ridiculous to me to view this life as just some preparation for an eternity elsewhere. I actually find that thought somewhat disturbing. Certain religions only really mentions a shadowy netherworld, silent and dark, where the shades of the dead go down into silence. It is similar to other Near Eastern views of the underworld (such as, for example, the ones in early Judaism). They leave offerings for the shades, or Rapi’uma, because they live on as we remember them. Their actions affect us today, as their choices led to our circumstances.
Personally, I focus on this world and I’m not sure about what comes after. Nobody really knows and as I’m unsure about a lot of things. Questions about morality are among the most common atheists receive from Christians. There are many variations, but the common element is the notion that some sort of gods (and often the Christian god in particular) is somehow required for moral behavior. As many times as this claim has been debunked, it continues to surface. The version I most often hear asks what incentive one who rejects any sort of afterlife could have for moral behavior in this life.
When a Christian tells me that I am going to spend eternity burning in the Christian hell, I refrain from knocking his teeth out as much as I might want to do so. Why? Because I remember being like him. I know what it was like to hold that worldview and to be convinced that I am somehow helping others by threatening them with hell. As much as I may now dislike this Christian and what he represents, I am still able to empathize with him.
Another powerful reason for a good afterlife/reincarnation and moral behavior, is the notion that I should treat others the way I would like to be treated. Many Christians mistakenly believe that this “rule” came from their bible. It did not. It predated their bible by a large margin. The idea here is simple but powerful. I do my best to treat others the way I would like to be treated, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with rewards or punishments or the fact that I’ll somehow be rewarded in the next life. It is simply the right thing to do. How do I know? Because it makes good intuitive sense and helps maintain a desirable social structure. Your Thoughts?