Episode Four: Reincarnation Decoded 轮回解码
The word reincarnation refers to the concept that human beings and perhaps non-human beings consists two separable components, a physical body and a psychic entity called the soul. After the death of a physical body, the soul persists and eventually becomes associated with a new body. Though the transmigration of the soul has been widely accepted throughout history and across cultures, to most people today, reincarnation is mostly conceptual.
The immortal nature of the soul is emphasized. Over and over again, these verses remind us that the soul is immortal, the body may live and die, but it comes to be again.
The same soul which you know here will take another form and be another being at different time. So you may not know or recognize the person, but that soul is eternal.
It does not born, it does not die, having been, it will never not be, unborn, enduring, constant and prime module.
It is this indestructible, spiritual and eternal nature of the soul, that underscores the fact that the soul and the body are fundamentally different.
If there is soul, which is considered to be self born, permanent, eternal, ancient. Even if the body is killed, this is not killed. so therefore it had its existence.
the body may have the full biochemical functional capacity to move, but it can’t do so without something or someone to do the moving. The body needs the soul.
I am the soul and I have a body.
If the soul is the part that feels, provides recognition and awareness of eye, then consciousness and the source of consciousness are not mysteries anymore.
The soul is like the sun, illuminate a particular area. sometimes it is described like a lamp or a candle, the light of the candle will fill up a room, in the same way that the illumination of the soul would fill up the body.
We’re the source of consciousness and the body, the eternal soul, it is this soul which is the meaning giver to the body snd not the other way around.
the fact that the body and the soul are fundementally different makes it possible for the soul to move from one body to another. this is an essential component in the process of reincarnation.
As a men discards worn cloth to put on new and different ones, so the body itself discards its worn up bodies to take on the new ones. So that is not really a time to feel sad. we’re only discarding staff which we don’t need anymore.
this ongoing cycle of birth and death gives us a definite sense of relationship between the perishable body and the eternal soul.
the soul possess three qualities: eternal, conscious, nirvana (极乐)
How is this eternal, enlightened and blissful nature of the soul perceivable in our present body and existence? Nearly all of us long to live forever, even the tiniest creatures takes the most amazing measures to avoid death. This universal will to live is all the more remarkable when we consider that death is the most undeniable fact of life. why do we have such a deep rooted of desire for eternal existence? something that is so utterly impossible for the body to attain. Why does this deep rooted longing come from? Perhaps this longing comes from the inner most essence of our being, the soul, which is by nature eternal. We long to live forever, because we as souls are eternal.
All of us are insatiably curious. Some people are curious about celebrity gossip, others about breaking news, still others about the stars in the sky. And human beings are not alone in their curiosity. If we try to understand that curiosity in the context of being no more than physical bodies, we will come to a dead end. This insatiable curiosity originates in the soul, which is by nature, consicious and full of knowledge. All of us instinctively seek happiness, be it through humor, risk, adventure, entertainment, romance or anything else. Pleasure is what we constantly seek. Once again, we are not alone. Studies of animal behavior have shown that they too strive for pleasure. The body allows us so few avenues through which we can get pleasure, as it is the cause of much grief as well. If we were just our physical bodies, then why would we have a thirst for pleasure that we are so XXX to satisfy? Our thirst for pleasure originates in the joyfulness inherit to the soul.
We might wonder then, if we are actually immortal, full of knowledge and bliss, why don’t we feel so? The answer lies in how deeply the soul is buried. Our past materialistic actions create deep impressions on our psyche that almost entirely obscure our awareness of the soul or our spiritual identity or consciousness. Further, it is the covering of this consciousness that differentiates between humans, animals and plants.
No living being lives in vein and dies without reason. Every living being, no matter how insignificant its life may seem, takes small yet significant steps toward this evolution.
"So we maybe a human being. we could be an animal. it is a creature. and therefore all these creatures at some point will reach liberation. "
Much like buddhism, Jainism too believes in reincarnation. The sacred texts of Jainism (耆那教) lay particular emphasis on karma as a fundamental concept, closely inner linked with the philosophical concepts of transmigration, reincarnation, liberation, nonviolence, and non attachment. On account of its karma, the soul takes birth sometimes as an ant, or an animal, or bird, or human, or into the different worlds of god of demons and so on. The soul bound by karma goes round and round in the cycle of birth and death till it achieves liberation.
Reincarnation is also central in the belief system of Sikhism (锡克教). The holy text of Sikhism states that all living beings including animals have souls and the souls go through different life forms until they’re purified to become one with god. Further, it states that there are 8.4 millions of species and the soul goes through them all. To break the cycle of life and death, one has to serve the true god, and meditate on the word of god, then one will attain salvation. For them, the cycle of birth and death is eliminated.
A little further west, the ancient religions of Mediterranean 地中海 world developed quite different kinds of reincarnation beliefs. For instance, Greek platonism asserted the pre-existence of the soul in the celestial world end its fall into human body due to sin. in order to be liberated from its bound age and return to the state of pure being, the soul needed to be purified through reincarnation. In stating such beliefs, Plato shows the influence of the earlier philosophical schools of Orphism and Pythagorusim. The first important Greek philosophical system that adopted a view on reincarnation was Neoplatonism (新柏拉图主义) in the 3rd century ID under certain eastern influences.
“When reincarnation arrives in Greek philosophy in this person Pythagorus we think, it comes in that crystalized form that took many centuries to develop in India, and again that’s some indirect evidence. It’s good we can get seems that the doctrine came from India into Greece.”
Perhaps the most colorful explanation or story about reincarnation comes in the dialogue of Phaedrus where the soul is analogized as a carriage drawn by two horses. One is the dark horse, full of spirit and energy but hard to control. And the other, a white horse, who is easier and also full of spirit but more obedient.
“In the Phaedrus reincarnation story, he imagines the soul upon bodily death, ascending up to heaven. As the soul rises, it can gain a glimpse of a beautiful field of what Plato calls forms, so perfect beauty, perfect justice and so on. And there’s a possession of Gods watching this field, and as you rise, you can join that possession and if reason is in supreme control, it seems the carriage can rise and can stay there. and that would be like loses or moksa (从灵魂中得到解脱) in an indian doctrine, escaping from the cycle of reincarnation. But if the reason is not in good control and the horses are doing what they want, they’re gonna lose interest in that field of beautiful forms, it’s not something that they can really appreciate and so they pull the carriage back down and the soul goes back to another incarnation.”
In Greek terminology, psychosis (精神病) gets translated as reincarnation and katharsis (净化) as purification. And to finally escape from the cycle of reincarnation, is the substitute for moksa. So purification is the goal. It seems that for Greek philosophers, their intellectual activities and religious practices were all efforts to purity their souls. So when they were reborn, they would be born into better human reincarnations.
“Plato actually spells out the hierarchy of people. He thinks that the best incarnation is to be a philosopher, a lover of wisdom and of beauty. and that if you’re a good philosopher, you’ll eventually escape human life all together and live with gods and perceive the forms.”
According to the Greek philosophy, our present life is actually a preparation for the after life. Plato says it quite clearly in his book Phaedrus, philosophy is the preparation of death. What is death? What happens to us when we die?
Vedic (吠陀) wisdom answers this profound question by outlining broad principles that shape the soul’s journey after the body dies. The three stages of the souls postmortal (死后的) journey also establish the process of reincarnation. The soul leaves the present body, it travels to the location of its next body and then it enters the next body. According to this model, the soul is concealed by our physical body which is referred to as the gross material body and the subtle body which consists of the mind, the intelligence and the ego.
“One of the great contributions of the texts like the Bhagavad-Gita and more largely schools of Samkhya (数论派) and Yoga is that there’re three distinct things that they recognize. the material body, the subtle body, and third thing that they recognize, I do believe it’s not something that widely discussed in western philosophy and theology and therefore not discussed in western science, is that they recognize consciousness is entirely separated from that.”
Reincarnation is therefore something like taking off an old suit and putting on a new one. just as the type of suit we wear is usually determined by our taste and our budget. The soul’s new suit is determined by its desires, its attachments and the karma it is required.
Similar to the belief systems of the Greeks, as detailed by Plato, the 8.4 million species of the world are arranged in a grated hierarchy with aquatics and plants of the bottom, and humans of the top. Those toward the bottom are limited and depend on nature’s arrangement to be elevated to the higher levels of the hierarchy. Thus, this hierarchy serves as the pathway for the progressive reincarnation of the soul.
But this changes when the soul gets a human body. Why? Because the human body allows the soul to express its free will. The capacity of the human body to redirect its consciousness from a material to a spiritual level, offers the soul an opportunity to escape the cycle of reincarnation and attain an eternal life. When we attain this destination, the mystery of reincarnation is unraveled.
Death transcended (超越), eternity reclaimed.
The soul equipped with this knowledge can reside with the ever loving or attractive absolute truth. This is the final destination of the soul.
The fact is that many cultures of the world have believed in reincarnation and continue to do so at present.
“You don’t have to fear death, but you certainly don’t need to rush to it either. It will come when it’s time.”
Global expansion of European colonialism and the Arabian faith also let to disbelieve in reincarnation further west and in the western eyes parts of the east. But we can still infer that the principle of reincarnation has enjoyed wide spread acceptance throughout most of known human history and presents a global intellectual appeal. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet and father of the transcendentalism (超验主义) movement in the 19th century said the soul comes from without into the human body as into a temporary a boat and it goes out of it and you it passed into other habitations, for the soul is immortal.
Tracing back humanity thought footprints about reincarnation from early antiquity to the present day, across a wide spectrum of time, faith, civilization and great thinkers, at least one thing stands to reason, the idea of reincarnation has always existed and is deeply intwined with man's philosophical journey. If we agree that our body is peripheral (外围的次要的) to our core identity, all bodily differences stand exposed as inconsequential. We may have been born and bred in different races, classes, nations, cultures or even religions, but all these catagories apply only to our bodies. Beyond these bodies, are our souls. A sense of awareness that life is an unending continuum, in which death is a milestone that we have past many times before, helps expand the horizon of our consciousness, far beyond death in this lifetime to be ultimate destination of eternal happiness.
This reincarnation world view offers us freedom from materialism, bodily discrimination, fear of death and the agony of bereavement. Us is an age characterized by a zeal for freedom and a willingness to sacrifice anything for that end. Maybe it’s time to direct that zeal toward gaining all these freedoms and sacrificing whatever preconceptions stand in our way.
As the saint Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner once said, just as an age was once ready to receive the Copernican theory of the universe, so is our age ready for the idea of reincarnation to be brought into the general consciousness of humanity.
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