Have you ever wondered who you were in a past life? If so, you're not alone. Some estimates and polls suggest roughly half of the world's population and about a third of the US population believe people live more than one life. Reincarnation is a belief commonly found in world cultures and religions.
Reincarnation General Definition
If you believe in reincarnation, it means you believe that after your body dies, your soul or essence is reborn into another body. This process is also known as the transmigration of the soul, and many people believe souls reincarnate through multiple lifetimes. This cycle repeats until your spirit reaches enlightenment or perfection.
The purpose of reincarnation is the continuing evolution of the soul towards enlightenment or return to oneness with Source energy (sometimes referred to as God, Spirit, or Divinity). During its evolution through lifetimes, the soul seeks to experience and grow from those experiences until it learns all it set out to learn.
Some souls choose to recall certain aspects, talents, or skills learned in past lives that will aid it in the current incarnation. Many believe child prodigies are such souls. They return with a conscious or subconscious recall of skills learned in one or more previous lifetimes. The personality, gender, and looks may change from one incarnation to another, but the soul is always the same eternal energy that strives to evolve.
There are varying beliefs about reincarnation that break down the soul's journey. The Hindu belief system encompasses all life forms in the reincarnation process for a more complete experience. The one underlying kernel that is shared by all reincarnation belief systems is the soul's ultimate destiny, the return to God as a co-creator.
Religions and Philosophies That Believe in Reincarnation
A large percentage of religious belief systems embrace reincarnation as the natural order of the soul's progression. Historically, the majority of the world's cultures embrace the ideology of reincarnation. The various religions that believe in reincarnation include Hinduism, Taoism (evolution of soul), Pagans, Druids, Esoteric Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism. Ancient cultures where reincarnation was a common belief include ancient Norsemen, Native Americans, and the Celts.
Jewish Reincarnation Definition
The Kabbalistic esoteric mysticism of gilgul (revolving or cycle) of souls is different from Hindu and other reincarnation belief systems. The Jewish belief is the exertion of free will and not a pre-determined life of specific events or situations. There is no karma, just the objective of soul-perfection.
The goal is the fulfillment of the 613 mitzvot within one lifetime. The soul reincarnates until it achieves this single but challenging goal. In this belief system, this goal is all about the soul having 100% free choice in every decision and movement through life. If the person had a past life recall, this would prevent the purity of free choice. This caution protects the purity of fulfilling all 613 mitzovt in perfection!
Hindu Reincarnation Definition
In the Hindu belief, the purpose of reincarnation is the playing out of karma, or the belief that your choices and actions in this life will return to you in the next life in a manner that balances the energetic scales. For example, someone who is an abuser in one life may return as an abused victim in another. This is purely a cause-and-effect process. The past life action caused a present life effect. There is no right or wrong, simply a cause.
In Hinduism, the soul is immortal and must repeatedly reincarnate into the physical body until it has perfected its being and reaches moksha, liberation. This is a release from the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth known as samsara.
Buddhism Doesn't Teach Reincarnation
It surprises people to learn that Buddha didn't teach or believe in reincarnation and only used it as a parable. The Buddha believed in the anatta or anatman (non-self, no substance). He taught that there is no permanence to the individual self and self doesn't survive after death. This is the liberation and freedom The Buddha taught. However, most modern Buddhists believe in reincarnation.
Native American Definition of Reincarnation
The Native American belief in reincarnation is a mixed bag of ideologies that are dependent on the tribe. For example,
The Huron believe everyone has two souls. When the body dies, one of the souls stays with the corpse until the Feast of the Dead is finished. At that time, the soul is released and reborn. The other soul travels to the village of the dead where it resides.
New Age Metaphysical Reincarnation Meaning
Metaphysical and New Age belief systems view karma as a cycle or balancing of energy that occurs over the course of all the lifetimes of an individual soul. It is believed that over thousands of incarnations, your soul has experienced everything within the spectrum of the human experience. Until your soul has experienced everything, the cycle remains in place. Once you've lived every type of life and experience, then is your karmic cycle is complete.
This is the only way the birth, life, death, and rebirth cycle can end. At that point, the soul ascends and is able to move on to a different set of experiences that aren't of the physical existence on Earth. Karma in this type of belief is nothing more than a natural law. Some people believe the return cycle is guided not by the soul but by the karma met and accumulated by the soul.
The New Age reincarnation belief system embraces the idea that upon death, when the soul is in-between incarnations, a life review is performed with your spiritual guide/advisor. If the soul is advancing satisfactorily from one lifetime to the next, then it has earned the right to decide its next incarnation. This decision is made with the assistance of spiritual guides. The soul can be advised, but ultimately, the choice is the soul's alone.
Another popular reincarnation belief states when the soul fails to learn the lessons of its last life, the right to choose is forfeited and the decision is made for the soul. There are several difficulties with this belief. The most glaring one is the circumventing of free will. Many believe God bestowed free will on the soul expressly so the soul could exert free will and by that free will, ultimately return to God. Only then can the soul join God as a true co-creator.
To suggest that anywhere within the soul's evolution process, it can be denied to use its free will is impossible since even God doesn't interfere with the soul's free will. Therefore, it has to be surmised that each soul is responsible for its own choices and decisions to reincarnate, just as it makes choices and decisions in a physical life.
If you accept the concept that the soul is a part of God and is working its way back to God, the soul is much wiser than the human personality it's manifesting through. The soul would, therefore, choose the necessary path for its greater growth. Unfortunately, the soul often creates what is recognized as evil when exerting its free will. The soul must learn and desire to exert its free will in a God-like way. Until that happens, the soul is considered rebellious.
Reincarnation Definition of the Soul's Journey
The reincarnation process is about the soul's journey and how the soul grows and evolves. The definition of reincarnation concludes that the soul's incarnation cycle must achieve an evolution to become a whole entity that is complete and ready to return to the Creator (God).