In reference to one of my recent posts on my spiritual beliefs a friend asked me what I believed about reincarnation.
Now this wasn’t an easy question because first there are, in my opinion, a lot of misconceptions about reincarnation and second it’s a lot more complicated than people think.
Let me deal with the misconceptions first. I have no belief and have seen no evidence that people are reborn as animals or that whatever spirit is in an animal is reborn as a human. Life is about learning, and I don’t see how you can learn anything in even higher animals (okay maybe dolphins) let alone lower ones. I have read lots of transcriptions of past life regressions, I have seen “past” lives that occurred in the future, even a few on other planets, but I have never seen anyone remember their life as a dog, snail or cow. As far as I can tell souls are never reincarnated into animals.
Next, a lot of people seem to have this conception that the minute everyone dies they are immediately reincarnated. Not how it works. Unless you’re the Dalia Lama you’re usually not getting put right back into a waiting embryo the moment after you die. The afterlife is actually quite complicated. ( I have included a flowchart as it would have taken me 2 pages to explain, if you have questions please forward them to me. However, one of the more interesting points you may notice is that there is no Hell, but there is a purgatory.)
Now let’s say you make it through the many levels of the afterlife and want to be reborn, as it is the most effective way to learn and progress spiritually. But it’s an involved process. You have lots of choices to make. Where to be born. When (since linear time is an illusion you can actually be born prior to your last life) to be born. What lessons are you going to learn? What obstacles are you going to face in life? Will you intentionally have a personality trait that is not common to your soul (usually you will pick a situation that will provide genes and environment suited to your personality, and it makes the whole question of nature vs. nurture infinitely more complex…but sometimes you don’t and you pick some trait that is not natural to your core being). And then the trick of finding parents who meet all of your requirements. (One of the advantages to this belief is that when your teenager screams “I never asked to be born!” you can respond, “actually you did, and you were the one who picked me”.)
You choose all the major events in your life. Including most of the crappy ones. You only have yourself to blame. Primarily because those terrible incidents are often a chance to see how you react and learn from them. (However, this shouldn’t be taken as a chance to blame the victim though. A lot of times people, those with more enlightened souls, will lead a life with greater challenges and suffering often to teach other people compassion and empathy and it’s up to you to learn from it. If you ever look at someone’s suffering and say ‘well, they asked for it’ this is clearly one of those times that was designed to teach you compassion…and good lord did you fail).
Now while you don’t bring in memories from past lives on a conscious level, you do carry all that baggage with you. Small and large personality traits are often formed through lifetimes of experience as much as from this life. Fears that develop early in life are a key example—many phobias may have more to do with how you died last time than what has happened this time. Other traits, deep seated traits are also carried over from past lives. If you spent a dozen lives as a woman and are spending this life as a man then giving up many of the feminine energies that your soul has been drenched in for the last dozen lives (and I mean that in the Taoist sense of masculine and feminine energies, that neither is superior and not exactly equivalent to gender, but are highly correlated) then the odds of you being a homosexual in this life is probably pretty high. Other tendencies are not as variable as gender and sexuality—for instance some people just don’t learn and fight the good fight in every lifetime, which if not done in the latter half of the 20th Century or onward will likely get you killed in unpleasant ways; which in turn would lead to a martyr complex in this lifetime. The goal of reincarnation is to push past our personality traits and bad habits that we’ve acquired over the years and become something more enlightened (in my fictional example, learning to fight the good fight without the holier-than-thou attitude that comes with it).
Finally we come to the issue of karma—which is something grossly misunderstood. Karma is not a law set in place by God. He doesn’t punish. Why? Because to him, this world is just our bad dream. If you killed someone in a dream would you need to go to jail and/or seek forgiveness? No. So God doesn’t need to forgive us for what we’ve done in this dream, because from his perspective it never happened. And he certainly doesn’t see a need to punish you. So where does karma, and the punishments it brings (not to mention the benefits), come from? Us. We see ourselves as less than worthy, as guilty, as wrong, as sinners…and so we put ourselves in positions to be punished for our failings. Now you may try to object and point out psychopath, mass murderers, the Obamas, and the people who green light half of the shit we see in the theaters as sick cruel monsters who are devoid of conscience and morals. They may be in this life (and half the time dealing with a brain that is defective—in which case it’s like driving a car with a brake line that was cut, you’re not exactly responsible if you hit some one) but their soul (and their ego) do know right from wrong…and their ego will punish them for it in their next lifetime. In this case the trick is to realize that you are not your worst inclinations (which come from your ego) and that this is all not real, thus you don’t need to seek forgiveness. But in the meantime seeking forgiveness, and more importantly forgiving yourself, in a non-masochistic way would be called for.
That’s reincarnation 101…any questions?