What is the process of reincarnation?
Reincarnation, known in Sanskrit as samsara, is a very openly discussed subject these days. Shirley MacLaine went “out on a limb” on this subject and made popular throughout the United States. Now nearly every television script has standard statements written into it such as “See you in the next life,” or “I must have known you in a past life.” The TV serial “Quantum Leap” is a great example of a program that is bringing this knowledge of a one soul inhabiting many bodies to the forefront of mass consciousness. I talked with Shirley a few weeks ago in San Francisco and told her what a fantastic job we all thought she is doing in spreading this knowledge, and assured her that she has the full support of Hindus.
Reincarnation, yes, carnate means flesh. The word reincarnate means to “reenter the flesh.” We Hindus believe the soul is immortal and keeps reentering a fleshy body time and time again in order to resolve experiences and thereby learn all the lessons life in the material world has to offer.
There have been many recorded out-of-the-body experiences. These have been researched by scientists, psychiatrists and parapsychologists during the last decade and documented in some very good books. Even science is discovering reincarnation.
Yes, we Hindus believe in reincarnation. To us, it explains the natural way the soul evolves from immaturity to spiritual illumination. I myself have had many lives before this one and expect to have more. Finally, when I have it all worked out and all the lessons have been learned, I will attain mukti. This means I will still exist but no longer be pulled back to incarnate in a physical body.
I would like to explain the process of reincarnation in a little more detail. When the soul leaves the physical body never to return, the soul does not die but lives on in another subtle body called the astral body. The astral body lives on another plane of consciousness called the astral plane. Here we continue to have experiences until we are reborn again in another physical body as a baby. The soul chooses a home and a family which can best fulfill its next step of maturation. Hindus understand the natural growth of all humans as they experience evolution because they know these facts. After enlightenment, however, we do not have to re-experience the baseness of human existence but go on in evolution in our other bodies. As an example: After we graduate from school we don’t have to-nor do we want to-re-enroll in the fifth grade. We are beyond that in understanding.
If you choose to use answer number three, be prepared that it might lead into a very interesting discussion, and you might want to invite your new-found friend and the little group that has perhaps gathered around to further pursue reincarnation over a cup of coffee or tea.
Reincarnation is a vast subject and there are many books written about it. Get them and read them. They will enlighten on the subject you and keep you informed. We would be happy to send you pamphlets on karma and reincarnation, which gives the central facts of our Hindu belief and a book list, names of authors, publishers, etc. You should also know that most all of the worlds religions believe now or once believed in reincarnation. Even the early Christian church believed in reincarnation. But an early King Justininan took it out of the Bible to affect better control of the people. Even now many Christians are attempting to get back to those early teachings.