Search Results for reincarnation
Also known as metempsychosis and transmigration, reincarnation is a manmade theory based on beliefs found in different philosophical systems and religions, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, African and New Age perspectives.
Reincarnation usually involves ideas of karma and grace. It’s believed that after the death of the physical body, the soul (or in some schools, temporary personality attributes) returns for another birth.
In most traditions the self is on an evolutionary path from unconsciousness to consciousness–that is, from lower to higher, or gross to subtle forms of consciousness.
In some branches of contemplative Hinduism, the soul is said to begin in the mineral world and then move upward to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Eventually it takes birth as a human being. After learning about and practicing good ethics from innumerable human incarnations, the soul may reincarnate in astral and heavenly realms before reaching ultimate liberation, awareness and bliss.
But bad ethical choices send the evolutionary process into reverse. If a human being abuses their freedom, they may reincarnate backwards into the animal kingdom or possibly further down into one of various temporary hells.
According to popular wisdom it’s often said that God provides perfect punishments and rewards for one’s deeds. So generally speaking, if one makes good ethical choices in an embodied life, one gains merit and reincarnates into a more auspicious life the next time around.
However, if one makes bad ethical choices, one returns to a less auspicious life. Again, the alleged purpose of reincarnation is to instruct the soul, preparing it for an ultimately perfect, eternal existence. The exact nature of this perfection is described differently among various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
Once complete liberation is achieved, the soul (or temporary personality attributes) no longer returns to a body, gross or subtle. This idea is expressed in an old Taoist tale, paraphrased as follows:
A man had led a dissolute life and reincarnates as a horse. After a few years the horse grows weary of being whipped by his masters, refuses to eat and dies. He then returns as a dog. Despising this incarnation the dog bites his master’s leg who has him destroyed. He returns as a snake. By now he’s finally learned his lesson. One must play out the hand one is dealt, patiently seeing it through to learn how to be virtuous. As a reformed soul, the snake avoids doing harm to other animals by eating berries and tries to keep itself out of danger. But one day the snake mistakenly dies under the wheel of a cart. Pleading his case before the King of Purgatory, he finds himself reborn a man—a reward for his good intentions (Raymond Van Over, ed. Taoist Tales, New York: Meridian Classic, 1973, pp. 52-53).
According to this view, suicide is like ‘skipping school’ (in the cosmic sense) and causes regression to a less desirable birth.
But not all believers in reincarnation would take this attitude. Some believe that the very same kind of life situation would arise again, as if the suicide is forced to repeat the same cosmic classroom he or she didn’t pass the first time around.
Meanwhile some New Age thinkers say that every life is consciously chosen prior to birth.
In most Asian religions God’s grace can mitigate or even erase the effects of bad karma, a fact often overlooked in specious critiques of reincarnation.
African pre-colonial tribal beliefs about reincarnation differ from Asian variants. African ancestors are believed to reincarnate into one or several descendents to give a particular family more power. Somewhat similar to the Asian idea, however, the African Ibo believe that one chooses between two bundles before birth – one bundle holds auspicious fortune, the other inauspicious. While the spirit tries its best to choose a favorable incarnation, a formerly evil person undergoes a difficult incarnation as a human or animal.
In contrast to the belief in reincarnation, the Old Testament says that evil actions are repaid with evil, but not through reincarnation. Evil begets evil through one’s offspring:
The Lord…a God merciful and gracious…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:7).
For when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil…not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger.
The Christian New Testament view of the body and its relation to the afterlife is expressed in I Corinthians 15; 51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1; I Thessalonians 4:14; John 3: 4-7.
Some suggest that the Catholic notion of purgatory was created as a Christian counterpart to the temporary process of punishment and purification as found in non-Christian theories of reincarnation.
» Anatman, Anthroposophy, Avatar, Cayce (Edgar), Chinmoy (Sri), Deva, Fenris, Free-John (Da), Gawain (Shakti), Hell, Hermes Trismegistus, Karma, Meno, Origen, Ram Dass, Parvati, Plato, Ramacharaka (Swami), Republic, Roberts (Jane), Samsara, Skandhas, Theosophy, Transmigration, Werewolf, Pythagoras
In the ancient Egyptian religion of the New Kingdom the ba represents, generally speaking, the individual characteristics of a person, roughly analogous to the personality.
The ba was often understood in terms of the effect it had on others, not entirely unlike the New Age idea of the ‘past life review’ (where the recently departed soul allegedly sees how its good and bad actions in life impacted others).
In the vision of the afterlife described in the Pyramid Texts, the ba is said to return to the mummified body at night, essentially going to Osiris (as the god of the dead). Then it returns to the land of the living during the daytime, free to roam as a spiritual presence.¹
S. G. F. Brandon says that the ba originally connoted spiritual power.²
Depictions of the ba might be present in Old Kingdom funerary statues, although scholars debate this point. More commonly the ba is said to be represented in the New Kingdom as a bird with a human head.³
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¹ Donald B. Redford ed., The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology, 2003.
² S. G. F. Brandon ed., A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, New York: Scribner, 1970.
³ Redford, 2003.
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Church Fathers is the title usually given to those regarded as the brightest theological lights in the early Christian Church.
Influential and usually learned Christian thinkers contributing to the formation of Church dogma, aspects of their writings are often cited as supportive “truths” within the contemporary Roman Catholic Catechism.
The Church Fathers are considered exemplars of holiness and are usually, but not always, canonized. Tertullian (160–225) is a good example of a leading Christian who was never canonized.¹
The study of the Fathers’ writings is known as Patristics, although the Church Fathers fall into two periods, the Apostolic and the Patristic.
Since the 17th-century the Apostolic Fathers have been designated as those who wrote just after the New Testament period, to include Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Hermas, Polycarp and Papias. This list also includes the anonymous writers of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, Clement and the Didache.
The well-known theologian Origen (184–254) was too far interested Platonism and ideas similar to reincarnation to be taken as a Church Father. He was excommunicated by the Church but his work continues to interest scholars. And sort of slipping in the back door, as it were, Origen’s writings are often included in compilations under the heading, “Church Fathers.”
The Patristics wrote up to the 8th-century, to include Isidore of Seville (7th-century) and John of Damascus (8th- century).
Feminists point out that there are no Church Mothers, perhaps because of the sexist environment of the early Christian era. This type of discrimination persists through the ages and, so they say, remains in many contemporary religious and secular organizations.
¹ Tertullian also demonstrates that the Church Fathers could be quite harsh against their opponents, in this case, the early Gnostics. As the British philosopher of religion, John Hick, points out in Evil and the God of Love, Tertullian wrote scathing attacks against the Gnostics.
- Reading the Fathers: Clement of Rome (simuliustusetpeccator.com)
- Women priests and the Church censure of Father Bill Brennan (peaceandbread.com)
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- History of purgatory (divinelightblog.wordpress.com)
Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) was an Indian guru from W. Bengal. He was popular in the West and based in NYC until his death.
Credible in the eyes of some, listed as a cult leader by the French National Assembly Commission for Cult Investigation, Chinmoy ran a restaurant chain where devotees clothed themselves in traditional Indian attire.
Chinmoy used to write books about reincarnation and the meaning of life, as well as compose meditation music and lift weights. Not too long before his death he declared that his devotees were not allowed to marry nor have children.
To this kedarvideo adds:
That his disciples should remain single was part of his philosophy during all his teachings and not only before his passing. And this is common among all serious spiritual and religious paths and is also being practiced by most of the world’s monks and nuns. To read more on Sri Chinmoy’s life you can also check his website http://www.srichinmoy.org. » See in context
Kedarvideo’s claim is debatable. Just because someone is single does not necessarily make them “serious” (i.e. deep and close to God). And to ban marriage seems to imply that married people cannot be deep or close to God. In the eyes of most major religions this stance is both impractical and discriminatory.
When interested in Sri Chinmoy after studying in India, I attended a meeting for possible recruits. At that meeting a person who was related to a disciple called out that the disciple in question was ignoring his/her spouse and family at the expense of driving long hours to be with other Chinmoy disciples in NYC. This was my first exposure to the kind of tensions that can arise when a person embraces a new religious path that family members are not sympathetic to.
- “I Am not the Body; I Am the Soul” – Breaking Limits with Sri Chinmoy (1earthnow.wordpress.com)
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Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) was an American who claimed to be trance prophet, psychic and healer. He also believed in reincarnation. Cayce claimed, among other things, to have lived in the fabled Atlantis, ancient Egypt, Persia and Troy.
He believed he was able to absorb information from books just by holding them near his stomach.
Cayce gained quite a following. He rubbed shoulders with the elite of the psychic world and had prominent clients like Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin. A workaholic, his own readings warned him that if he did more than two readings per day he would deteriorate. He responded by doing four to six readings per day and eventually collapsed in 1944. His alleged healing techniques involved restoring patients’ equilibrium through natural methods.
Several organizations devoted to his work and ideas continue to this day, although some critics see him as eccentric and possibly fraudulent.
- Who was Edgar Cayce? – A book review of The Sleeping Prophet by Jess Stearn (apolloandartemis.wordpress.com)
- Edgar Cayce the Sleeping Prophet (mysticfare.typepad.com)
- Edgar Cayce: The Man Who Predicted The Rise of Christianity in China (onetenthblog.wordpress.com)
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- Edgar Cayce – ‘Russia – The Hope Of The World’ By Jeff Rense 7-14-8 (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
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Deva is a Pali and Sankrit term denoting a ‘heavenly being’ or ‘shining one.’
In Hinduism the devas may refer to
- The absolute (Brahman) in the form of a personal god
- Mortal beings inhabiting a realm higher than the human sphere
- A name attached to human beings who have realized God and attained enlightenment
Regarding the third instance, whether or not individuals actually attain perfection or merely become subsumed by the power of a deva is a point of debate sparked by the traditional Catholic view of discernment along with C. G. Jung‘s archetypal psychology. Catholic mystics would probably see anyone claiming to be perfect as a victim of a Satanic influence, whereas C. G. Jung would likely frame the issue in terms of the ego over-identifying with an archetyapl power.
In the New Age movement the word deva is adapted to refer to nature spirits, spiritual forces behind visible creation, or spiritual forces behind a species—i.e. a group soul.
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In Norse mythology the Fenris is a giant, evil wolf born of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. All the Norse gods fear him, and with good reason.
The Fenris is finally destroyed by Odin’s giant son Vidar.
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Shakti Gawain is a contemporary American spiritualist and author who lives in California. Her books have sold over 10 million copies.¹ The most popular of her publications are Creative Visualization and Living in the Light, although she has penned several others. ²
Gawain writes about how she spent time working as a cleaning lady before she became a popular spiritual teacher. She believes that positive attitude and expectation create a positive reality. She also advocates an eclectic approach to living in relation to the Divine, an approach which includes prayer, chant, meditation, and the “creative visualization” of desired outcomes.
Just how effective creative visualization really is remains a matter of debate. Many visualizers’ visualizations seem to fall flat—that is, they just don’t happen. Some common explanations for the failure of a visualization to come about are “the time wasn’t right” or “I didn’t focus well enough” and so on.³
But for Gawain, it seems that her visualizations for prosperity did come about.
Sympathetic to Carl Jung’s idea of synchronicity, Gawain rejects the Eastern belief in reincarnation on the grounds that it’s a limiting man-made theory. Along the lines of the (some would say pioneering) channeler Jane Roberts, Gawain stresses the importance of living in the present while recognizing past influences.
Most recently, her website stresses the importance of balancing work and play, along with responsibilities to self and others.
I am finding a balance in my life of work and play, of my responsibilities to others and to myself.4
³ Another explanation could be that the personal desire wasn’t in line with God’s will. But we don’t hear that one too much from creative visualizers because they usually (and almost dogmatically) claim that we create our own reality.
- Simple Daily Ways to Keep Yourself Open and Curious (reinventplay.com)
Hinduism is the main religion of India, having evolved over several thousand years.
It has no creed nor firm institutional structure, although the belief in reincarnation runs through almost every form of Hinduism.
Instead of revering one holy book like the Bible or the Koran, Hinduism relies on a variety of sacred scriptures. The oldest are the Vedas (1500-1200 BCE), with the Rig-Veda being prominent among them.
Later, the dharma sutras and dharma shastras appear (500 BCE – 500 CE). These ancient codes of conduct, numbering over 5,000 separate titles, were composed in Sanskrit. They spell out rules and regulations for a wide variety of situations. And they legitimized the caste system and the ideal Hindu stages of life (asrama). They were legally binding in India until contrary legislation appeared in 1955-56.
The Upanisads (1000-600 BCE) are an introspective set of scriptures dealing with the eternal self and its relation to temporal life.
Also important are the two epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. While the Bhagavad-Gita belongs within the Mahabharata, most scholars believe it is was added later to the epic, crystallizing various strands of existing Hindu belief.
The most important gods of the Trimurti (Skt. = three forms, sometimes loosely translated as “Trinity”) are Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Siva (Destroyer and Cosmic Dancer). But many other deities, called avatars, and their consorts are privately and publicly worshipped (e.g., Krishna-Radha, Hanuman, Ganesha, Kali).
In some strands of Hinduism the Buddha is believed to be a demonic avatar. This is probably because Buddha’s teaching challenged the Hindu priestly and caste traditions.
From the 1800′s, the Indian gurus Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekenanda, Sai Baba, Sri Aurobindo, Paramahansa Yogananda and Sri Rajneesh have been prominent. Meanwhile the Indian poet, dramatist and musician Rabindranath Tagore pioneered an innovative, internationally based ashram-style university at Santiniketan and Mohandas Gandhi, who championed the Bhagavad-Gita, has been internationally known as a key political and spiritual figure.
Related Posts » Ahimsa, Asrama, Atman, Avatar, Brahmanas, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Celibacy, Chakras, Demons, Deva, Dharma, Dyaus, Evil, Faith and Action, Fallen Angels, Gunas, Heaven, Hell, Jainism, Kali, Kama, Karma, Karma Transfer, Kundalini, Levels of Knowledge, Linga, Manu, Matsu, Mela, Nandi, O’Flaherty (Wendy Doniger), Panentheism, Pantheism, Pollution, Puranas, Q, Radha, Radhakrishnan (Sarvepalli), Rakshakas, Reincarnation, Samsara, Sanskrit, Seer, Sikhism, Soul, Tantra, Trinity (Holy Trinity), Yantra, Yoga, Yogini, Yoni
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Hell is believed to be the abode of evil spirits, and a nasty place of temporary or eternal punishment for departed souls.
In Western religions, especially Christianity, hell is typically defined as the freely chosen absence of God’s presence.
Historically, most religions exhibit some conception of hell. Wikipedia suggests the following general distinction:
The ancient Hittites believed that unresolved violations and quarrels were carried over into a netherworld where the recently deceased would be tormented by a spirit until a settlement was reached, at which point the deceased would proceed to the land of the dead.
Christian theologians generally define hell as a deprivation of God’s presence, the horrific and eternal outcome of a conscious choice to follow one’s own will instead of God’s.
Islam posits a fiery hell called Jahannam, from the Judaic Gehenna, which may be permanent or temporary.
Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism portray multiple hells, varying in degrees of horror and misery. But, as indicated above, these hells aren’t permanent. They are temporary places of punishment and purification in a long journey involving reincarnation (or some variation of reincarnation).
Many traditional Christians regard this Hindu and Buddhist view of hell as a kind of cosmic ‘detention center’ as essentially misguided. Critics of reincarnation theory say that it gives seekers a presumptuous and, perhaps, reckless sense of overconfidence.
Because reincarnation theory indicates that hell is only temporary, its critics say that believers in reincarnation might do whatever they want and wrongly believe that it doesn’t matter, that they’ll still get to heaven anyway.
Some Christians, however, believe in the idea of universal salvation where even the most hardened sinners are eventually saved. This approach is much closer to the Hindu and Buddhist view.
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