ESSAYS

ABOUT REINCARNATION

The whole reincarnation thing doesn’t make much sense. The Vedas teach that after death the mind is transferred to a new body and a new set of circumstances that will facilitate our progress toward moksha (a.k.a., enlightenment). Apparently, we’ve been bouncing around for lifetimes unconsciously seeking freedom. To make it worse, according to scripture, it’s actually not the “I” that I believe I am that bounces around. It’s a bundle of conditioned tendencies developed over lifetimes.

 

Of course, all of this just sounds like a fable to motivate believers towards liberation. Nobody really knows for certain what happens after you die because logic can only takes us so far. Still, it’s fun to speculate. For example, maybe death is simply like changing the TV channel so that one moment you’re a cowboy in a spaghetti western and the next moment you’re one of those blue creatures in the movie, Avatar—same insecure halfwit, just a different look. 

    

Of course, none of this really matters when you consider that any memory of a past life and who or what you were would be totally erased. What’s the point of contemplating reincarnation if you can’t even remember any of your past lives? So really all we’re doing here is having a little fun thinking of all the possibilities for post-death. Furthermore, all of this speculation becomes of no value once you know who you are. Once you know who you are, reincarnation, life and death are just more of the same dream.

    

However, based on actual worldly experience, reincarnation might simply be interpreted as what we inherit from our parents. We are just Mom and Dad parts, not only in physical appearance (e.g. “I have my father's steely eyes.”) but also in personality attributes, tendencies and talents. Each of us at birth inherits a genetic ancestral map with the only difference being which tendencies we choose to develop and which ones we ignore. A certain hereditary skill in one century might result in someone becoming a cabinet maker, while in another, a web developer.

 

We like to identify with our interests, but they too are really just more Mom and Dad parts which they inherited from their parents and so on—a thread that goes back thousands of years. Once we are able to see ourselves as part of this ancestral thread, we can see that our “reincarnation” has actually occurred over generations through various bodies. Reincarnation, then, isn’t something mystical, but something that is actually identifiable via our family tree. 

    

We can also see that what I am isn’t the independent “me” I believe myself to be. After all, I did nothing to become “me.” Everything is just happening on its own accord via some mysterious momentum. We are all just part of a much larger system—Ishvara’s world.  

    

Can you see that there is no separation between “you” and your great, great, great, grandfather? Can you see that none of it is even your fault? “You” are just a link, and “you” are just happening by no will of your own. It’s all impersonal. From this perspective there is no reincarnation, there is just a continuous manifestation based on attributes from an ancient genetic thread. This is the bizarre world we live in. This is maya, where nothing is at it appears and ignorance is hardwired to hide the truth. 

The Broken Tusk is the website of author, Daniel McKenzie who writes essays and books in the context of Advaita Vedanta.

© Copyright 2021 Daniel McKenzie

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