REINCARNATION AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.
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.