First of all sorry this blog entry is a day late. Sometimes work, school, and life combined can get in the way. Those of you that do this plus have children, well, I don’t know how you do it!
Today I’d like to talk about a topic that is important to me: the afterlife. Specifically, this will lead into revealing the truth about the concept of reincarnation. But before we get into any of that, I’d like to talk about my beliefs.
As is no secret to most of you, I grew up in a Hindu household. My parents practiced Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion). This very clearly and obviously was not my path, even from a young age. As I reached adolescence, I very strongly identified as an atheist, and as all teenagers do, cynically rebelled against the practices of my family.
This led into a foray into many other forms of philosophy, but I fell in love with existentialism. I loved it’s concepts of life being an illusion and to embrace life here and now. Fast forward to my adult life, and I find myself ironically more a Hindu than anything. The ancient concepts of Vedanta said exactly what Nietzsche said, that all life is a great illusion, and the only truth is that we are all one, and connected. There is a great story of the Buddha:
A traveler came from afar to visit the Buddha.
“Wise Buddha, I have studied all religions and philosophies, and I strongly am an atheist. Yet no one can answer me, is there a god?”
To this Buddha replied:
“Of course there is!”
The man left agitated.
Another man approached the Buddha later and spoke:
“Wise Buddha, I have been devout and in service to god my whole life. Yet no one can answer me, is there a god?”
To this Buddha replied:
“Of course not!”
The man left dejected.
Buddha’s disciple who had heard this was quite confused. He asked the Buddha why he would tell one man one thing and another man the opposite.
Buddha explained that both these men were living an illusion because attachment to any idea is not the path.
He told them exactly what they needed to hear to steer them on their path to enlightenment. If we have a closed mind in any aspect, then we cannot be open for the truth to move through us.
It is in this manner that I won’t say I believe or don’t believe in god. This doesn’t mean I’m undecided either. What I do know is that Vedantic truth: that we are all connected and reality is an illusion.
This brings me to the concept of reincarnation. Many religions have their take on the afterlife. Unfortunately, many people exist solely for the afterlife, using their actions in this life as a barometer as to whether or not they will reach their idea of heaven, whatever it may be.
Just like other religions, reincarnation on the surface seems to be the same way. Do good things, get good karma, come back as something better. Do bad things, get bad karma, come back as something worse.
Again, I cannot emphasize this enough. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. Karma has no judgment. There is no good and bad. There is only cause and effect. So if we are coming back, then how does it work? Is it random? How are we coming back?
All things are made up of energy. I don’t even necessarily mean subtle or psychic or spiritual energies. I just mean energy, period. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. When we die, our energy has to go somewhere. So our bodies disappear, and our energy become something else. Perhaps it becomes another person, or animal. Perhaps it becomes a rock. Perhaps it becomes part of a star. But the thing is, that energy, those particles of light, do not experience space and time as we do. In fact, time does not happen linearly. Our energy can come back in any form, in any time, and indeed it does.
So what does all this mean?
Well that means that you die, and you may come back as your great granddaughter. It may mean you come back as your father. It may mean you come back as your best friend, your dog, or a person you’ve never met from 1812. In this life if you were a victim, you may come back as your aggressor. And in fact, you will. You will actually experience all possibilities. Light energy is not constrained to the same boundaries we are. To a particle of light traveling from the sun to a person’s eyes, there is no passage of time. It leaves the star, travels, and arrives, all simultaneously.
These are strange concepts, but I think much like the idea of karma being misunderstood, so has the concept of reincarnation.
Yes, you will come back. Yes, you will live many lifetimes. The difference is that there truly is no “you”. There is only oneness, wholeness, or god. We are all connected, because we are all everything. There is a Mahavakya (great statement) in Sanskrit:
Tat Twam Asi – Thou art that.
We are everything, and everything is us.
So the next time you ponder about the afterlife, just let it be a ponder. What’s more important is to live this life, practicing more sattwic values. Be kind to yourself and everyone, because ultimately, you will be everyone and everyone will be you.
See the divine in all things. This is the path.