In my previous blog , I had discussed the psychological reasons for the popularity of the notion of reincarnation. I had suggested that our belief in reincarnation is a projection of our own emotional needs. Our belief in reincarnation does not require a logical or a rational arguments. In that blog , I had also mentioned that apart from individual emotional needs , our belief in reincarnation also arises from our cultural and religious belief. In this blog , I would try to analyze the reasons why our religious doctrines and cultural ethos reinforce our belief in the notion of reincarnation.

             At the outset , I would like to clarify that my views on religion, any religion for that matter , are not based on some assumed intellectual superiority. I do not think that religions and intellectual attitudes are incompatible. My own view of the religion is that it plays a significant role in shaping individual sensibilities. There are quite a few scientists who had strong religious beliefs and yet they could excel in their professions. In my opinion , the religion also plays an important role in uniting it’s followers on the basis of common sensibilities. This society building role of a religion is a historical fact. Of course , this notion of common religious identity also leads to isolationist tendencies. However , I would refrain from sociological aspects of religion and instead focus on psychological and moral dimensions of religion and its role in reinforcing our belief in reincarnation.

               I think that the principal claim of all religions is the existence of an absolute entity. This entity is variously described , in different religions , as a personification of that absolute entity. This personification has different attributes depending on the sensibilities of that particular religion. The main task of all religions is to connect that absolute personified entity with mundane lives of its followers. However , the problem with this task is that the day to day life of religious followers is in absolute contrast with the attributes of the personified deity. While the deity may be a personification of piety and virtuousness, the life of a religious follower would be exactly opposite of that. Similarly , the deity would be a personification of tranquility and peace , whereas a follower’s life would be anything but that.

                Therefore the task of all religions is two fold. Firstly , they make you aware that you are separate from the deity. Therefore you must practice certain rituals to connect with the deity.  On the other hand , religions also profess that the deity is always present in each one of us in the form of certain absolute entity. This entity , being a part and parcel of the deity , is absolute and therefore indestructible. Therefore , our religious practices are of two types. Either one can practice religious rituals and  try to connect with the deity, or one can search oneself by introspection to connect with the deity. In fact , Sanskrit word for religion ‘dharma’ has two connotations. Dharma means a code of conduct as well as a direct relationship between the individual and the deity.

         Let us see how our religious beliefs shape our belief in reincarnation. To the extent the deity is part of an  individual, the deity can not simply perish when that  individual dies. At the same time, an individual has hardly any attributes that are ascribed to the deity. Therefore the attributes possessed by that individual must have arisen from somewhere else. Therefore an individual must be made up of several parts. One part represents the divine and other parts represent mundane aspects of reality. The divine part is always pure ànd absolute. The mundane parts are always imperfect and constantly changing. Thus it is necessary for most of the religions to propose an internal dichotomy of human beings. An individual is thus blend of divine and mundane. This dichotomy is inevitable once you accept a notion of absolute deity. However , the most important aspect of religions is not just to offer this type of logical explanation. The religions are also fundamental to human beings because they offer a moral dimension to us. This is where this dichotomy plays an important role.

                      In my opinion , human beings ,as a species , are a  moral species. Our need for moral justification is an inborn need. I also believe that articulation of this moral dimension has led us to the organized religions. If this is true , then it is easy to see that the notion of reincarnation would fullfil the conflicting requirements of our psyche. The absolute and divine part of ourselves can not perish therefore it must continue to exist even after our death. On the other hand , the mundane part of ourselves keeps on changing and is perishable.  Thus the notion of reincarnation enables us to accommodate this contradictory requirements of different parts of our psyche. Now ,add a moral dimension to this notion of reincarnation and you have a theory of Karma. The activities of mundane part of human beings , that can not be reconciled within a single life time  , can always be reconciled with the help of divine part of an individual. The notion of soul as the absolute and divine part of an individual , being imperishable , can be born again . Moreover , this part can reconcile the actions of the mundane and imperfect part of that individual.

Thus the notion of reincarnation accommodates the requirements of an absolute deity ,human beings made of several parts and more importantly , the moral sense of human beings. It is therefore natural that the notion of reincarnation is supported by our religious beliefs.             

           In my next blog , I would discuss the literary aspect of reincarnation. I think it is necessary to know that the notion of  reincarnation  has inherent metaphorical template. In my next blog I would discuss the notion of reincarnation as a metaphor.



                            THE MYTH OF REINCARNATION.

           In my earlier blog , I had written about my intention of writing my second novel on the theme of reincarnation. I had mentioned that , in my forthcoming blogs , I would be discussing various aspects of the idea of reincarnation. In this blog , I would try to deconstruct reasons for the popularity of this idea. I think there are two different aspects to this popularity. First aspect is that there is something inherently appealing about this idea. This intuitive appeal needs to be looked into. The second aspect of this popularity is that this idea somehow  reinforces our religious beliefs. This compatibility between religions and reincarnation also needs to be looked into.

               In this blog , I would discuss the psychological implications of our  acceptance of idea of reincarnation. In my next blog , I would discuss religious implications of this idea of reincarnation. Ever since , I decided to write a novel on reincarnation , I have been thinking about it. As mentioned in my earlier blog , I was surprised to realize that , at some subconscious level , even I wanted to believe in this idea. Considering the fact that I profess to be a rationalist , I was rather taken aback by this realization. The only explanation that I can think of this internal contradiction in my thinking is that the idea of reincarnation appeals to me because it , in some sense , embodies in itself , some of my subconscious beliefs. I am going to take up these beliefs and try to understand , how they get transformed into this idea of reincarnation.

               First belief that  tempts me to believe in this idea , is that of notion of self. I am sure that readers would agree with my observation that each one us have this notion of permanent self. All our thinking revolves around the belief that self is permanent. We can not think about anything without any reference to our own selves. All our concepts and all our thoughts are defined in the context of our own selves. If we , each one of us , did not have this notion of self , we would not be able to formulate any thoughts. A thought exists because a  self exists. To our subconscious mind , self is always present. It is this permanence of psychological self  that is responsible for the appeal of the idea of reincarnation. To our subconscious mind , self is permanent and therefore eternal. It is this misguided notion of eternal nature of our psychological self that finds its expression in this idea of reincarnation. If self can not die then it must persist in some indestructible form. Therefore our subconscious mind weaves this narrative of soul and it’s reincarnation.

           The second reason , why the idea of reincarnation appeals to me , is that it offers some escape route to my unfulfilled wishes. A human mind can be rightly described as collection of all kinds of wishes. In terms of psychology , one can say that the self expresses itself in the form of wishes. A fulfillment of our wishes is the engine which drives our life. In view of this primacy of wishes in defining self , it is natural that unfulfilled wishes could play havoc with our mental health. Therefore a human mind has to create some explanation which can make its  unfulfilled wishes bearable. This , I think , is the reason why the idea of reincarnation appeals to all of us. Through the the belief in reincarnation , our subconscious mind finds solace that all our unfulfilled wishes may be fulfilled in some unspecified future of reincarnated self.

               The third reason ,why the idea of reincarnation appeals to me , is that it fulfills our sense of justice. All of us have an  inbuilt sense of justice. Though , it’s articulation and it’s practice varies from person to person and culture to culture, the fact is that we ,as a species , have an  inborn sense of justice. However , this instinct is in direct conflict with not only the way this  world runs ,  but it is also in direct conflict with our own wish fulfillment driven behavior. Each one of us comes across all kinds of inequities and inequalities. Of course , each one of us has a simple way of allowing our inborn sense of justice to find its expression. That way consists of fighting all these inequities and inequalities. However , our mind seeks an easier way to deal with this. It justifies its inaction and acceptance of these inequities and inequalities by invoking this comforting idea of reincarnation. This operates at two levels. Firstly ,it allows us to focus instead on our attempts to fulfill our wishes. Secondly , it absolves us from responsibility of letting justice prevail. If the reincarnation is really true then law of Karma would prevail eventually. Justice delayed , according to this philosophy , is not justice denied. Rather justice delayed , according to this philosophy , is a poetic justice.

        Thus there are three very deep rooted reasons why the idea of reincarnation finds itself so popular. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting that the idea of reincarnation is wrong. Our scientific knowledge has not reached a level where it can either prove or disprove the notion of immortal soul and it’s reincarnation. All I am suggesting is that all of us , including myself , would want to believe in this idea and that too for wrong reasons. How do I reconcile my rational mind with my subconscious mind ? I think I will find the answer only after I finish this  novel.

        In my next blog , I would discuss how our religious beliefs have influenced this idea of reincarnation.