The cycle of life – birth, living, and death – is a subject that has intrigued mankind since the beginning of time. Reincarnation, the belief that our souls are reborn in different bodies or forms long after our bodies have died, is a concept that goes beyond the world of Indian religions where it is a major tenet.
Most of us know what reincarnation is but how does it work? And is there real evidence that it actually occurs? Let’s explore the world of birth, death, and rebirth.
What is Reincarnation?
Also known as metempsychosis or transmigration, the idea of being reborn is found in many ancient culture philosophies.
Although Hinduism and Buddhism are the major religions that have brought the belief to the rest of the world, the concept had been held by historic philosophers such as Plato, Pythagoras, and Socrates.
By definition, reincarnation is the belief that living things have a soul that is reborn multiple times into new bodies or other living things on earth.
Cycle of Reincarnation
The word “reincarnation” is derived from the Latin word that translates to “entering the flesh again.” Depending on the religion, humans can come back to earth either as another human being, an animal, or even a plant.
A central concept of Indian religions, it is also widely accepted by other world religions, as well as tribal societies around the world. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, however, reject the belief.
How Does Reincarnation Work?
According to Rabbi Yeshaya HaLevi Horowitz, who was a prominent mystic, author, and Levite rabbi, there are 3 reasons why souls are reborn – you return to earth:
1. When a person has committed a sin and has not repented while he or she is still alive, his soul will be reborn to overcome the sin. He will encounter the same circumstance in his new life, but this time, he will have the opportunity to correct his past life’s sins.
2. When a person fails to fulfil the commandments in his lifetime, he will be given a second round of life to perform those commandments.
3. Sometimes, souls are not reborn for personal growth, but to serve a Divine purpose for others. He or she may be reborn to help a person, or an entire generation.
Cycles of birth, death and rebirth
Every immortal soul that is reborn has a specific purpose, and he will continue to be reborn until he fulfils his mission.
It is believed that the soul is given three chances to correct a sin or wrongdoing. When he has already lived three lives but he has not overcome his sins, then his soul is considered to be forever doomed.
So what are the factors that determine whether you will be reborn in a human being’s or an animal’s body in your next life?
According to the Bhagavad Gita, whatever you are thinking at the time of your death will determine the body or form you will have in your next life.
Another factor is the way you live your human life in the present. A person who acts sloppy and practices gluttony acts like a pig, and therefore, in his next life, there’s a high probability that he will be reborn as an actual pig.
In Vedic writings, there are about 8,400,000 lives lower than that of the human being. When a soul is reborn into an animal, such as a horse, for example, the soul will act precisely as what nature dictates.
A horse will not speak or fly because nature dictates that it is a horse. Once the animal dies, the soul advances to a higher species, until it is reborn into a human’s body once again.
Is There Evidence of Reincarnation?
An article written by Stacy Horn on reincarnation was published on Reader’s Digest, wherein the author stated that about 24% of Americans believe in reincarnation. Although actual evidence of souls being reborn do not exist, many scientists the world over have explored and studied the possibility that it might truly occur.
Ian Stevenson, M.D., who died in 2007, was a psychiatrist who founded the Division of Personality Studies at the University of Virginia. He wanted to connect phobias and differences in personalities and the supposed past lives of the children he studied. According to the late doctor, reincarnation may be a plausible explanation as to why children are born with already established personalities and phobias.
Stevenson studied about 2,500 children from all over the world, who spontaneously had unexplained detailed memories and fears. He then traveled to the scenes of reported past lifetimes to interview and investigate witnesses to try to prove the children’s reported memories. Out of the 2,500 memories, about 1,200 of the cases contained details that could be factually validated.
Of course, there were criticisms and controversies regarding his work, but many other practitioners all over the world then followed suit.
One of these is Jim B. Tucker, who worked with Stevenson himself at the University of Virginia. Author of the book, “Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember their Past Lives,” Tucker tells about the stories of toddlers who demonstrate unexplained knowledge and memories.
Among these are of one Indiana girl who woke up one day and was suddenly fluent in a dialect that the little girl had never heard before. Another case involved a midwestern 5-year-old who had the memories of and shared physical traits of a long-deceased brother – blindness on the left eye, a birthmark on the neck, as well as a limp.
All over the world are incredible stories of reincarnation. Two of these stories are so profound that they have garnered worldwide attention for their unbelievable memories and knowledge of their past lives.
1. Story: Girl in India
The first story is that of a girl in India, considered to be the best case of a past life memory ever to be recorded. In the 1930’s, a little girl named Shanti Devi from a little-known locality in Dheli made international headlines. Her case was studied by prominent individuals appointed by Mahatma Gandhi himself.
Shanti Devi shared memories of Lugdi Bai, who died a year before Shanti was born. Lugdi Bai was married and died a few days after giving birth. Shanti, at 4 years old, would tell her parents that she lived in a town called Mathura, and that she has a husband and a son, and shared details of a life that her parents initially thought of was mere fantasy. When the little girl shared her memory to her school headmaster and divulged the name of her “husband,” the headmaster located a merchant in Mathura with the same name.
The man then visited Shanti pretending to be his brother, but when the little girl saw him, she blushed and recognized him right away.
Shanti then traveled to Mathura wherein she met several of Lugdi Bai’s relatives whom she immediately recognized.
A meeting with Lugdi Bai’s parents also occurred, whom she also recognized right away. Upon entering the home of Lugdi Bai, she immediately knew where her things and room were, where she hid some money, as well as a well that had already been covered by a rock.
The investigative commission, after witnessing such events, confirmed that Shanti Devi was indeed the reincarnation of Lugdi Bai.
2. Story: James Leininger
The second case is that of James Leininger, an 8-year-old in Louisiana. His parents had reported that at only 2 years old, James had incredible knowledge of aviation. He would also have nightmares where he would be screaming that he was shot down by a plane with a red sun – a Japanese plane.
James would later tell his parents that he had dreams of being Lt. James McCready Huston, a WWII fighter pilot who was killed in Iwo Jima. He also reported that he flew a plane called Consair from a boat named Natoma.
His father, concerned about this unusual event, did some research and discovered that there was indeed a small escort carrier based in Iwo Jima called Natoma Bay. And among the list of fighter pilots assigned to that carrier was a James Huston, who had died in 1945 after his plane had been hit by a Japanese plane in the Pacific.
Scientific evidence of reincarnation may be hard to produce. However, scientists and skeptics have been put to their knees with the inexplicable coincidences and detailed information that people have of memories of their past lives.