Rebirth of a departed soul is said to happen in accordance with the level of one’s spiritual evolution. Just as a scholarly university graduate, who would not like to go back to the playschool, an evolved human soul generally does not take birth as a subhuman entity. Any other birth would not do justice to his elevated nature. So, a human being does not generally have rebirth in lower beings like insects, plants or animals because his higher consciousness would be incapable of manifestation through lower forms.
Our highly evolved consciousness, as existing at the time of our death, can only be expressed through human birth. If our thoughts and desires are very rudimentary and more in the realm of lower order of living beings, we shall reincarnate as an animal or other lower beings. As a mango seed, when planted, would not attain fruition as anything else but a mango tree, similarly the life germ of a human soul has its defined basic nature leading it to manifest as such, given the availability of ideal conditions required for its growth.
Every living organism, as we know, derives the basic building blocks for its manifestation from the same elements including earth, water, fire, ether and wind. Different seeds, saplings or living beings derive the same basic inputs from nature for their growth and sustenance, yet they grow differently in accordance with their immanent nature and consciousness. We come from and return to the same elements of nature, something which often appears magical to many of us. As such, all living beings are interconnected, deriving sustenance from each other.
How does a banana tree produce bananas or a rose plant yield rose flowers despite getting the same “building materials” from nature? What spells the difference between seeds or saplings? We can cross the existing seeds or saplings, but are still not capable of creating a new life-form or explaining the basic functioning of a cell or an atom. Why does a unicellular zygote shape up as a multi-cellular human being in a pre-programmed fashion? This is a mystery?
The birth of a Plato, Einstein or a child prodigy presupposes their existence in a germ or a subtle form capable of manifesting under certain conditions. All our powers of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking, intelligence and reasoning are contained by this invisible germ called ‘soul’ which manifests itself under ideal conditions. Otherwise, there would be no difference between a dead and living body. It is the soul which animates a physical form.
The theory of genetics can explain the biological phenomenon, but it can’t explain the difference of intelligence of the offspring from the same parents under identical conditions. The differences in our individuality are explained as the outcome of the varied spiritual evolutions, while our personality is influenced by the material circumstances and genetics.
Reincarnation as a lower being remains an impossibility unless one’s consciousness gets so degraded and attenuated as to come close to the nature of the lower beings to take birth as such. That is why, many among humans devoid of any human emotions or thinking capacity, are found to be akin to animal nature. Many remain so unconscious that they go through life as an automaton or a zombie who cannot think beyond basic survival, just like animals.
Many of these humans, being at the lowest level of consciousness, are happy to merely survive. They indulge in animal pleasures, far removed from the uplifting avocations that distinguish a human from an animal. After all, how do you expect an individual remaining content throughout his life just eating, defecating and procreating? Most of these people are at the beck and call of others, quite comfortable to be at the receiving end of the social hierarchy. But that is something which creates a balance in the society; otherwise it would result in chaos.
The Creation does not envisage the existence of many leaders. If all humans are at the same level of consciousness, societal equilibrium would break down. So those at the lower level of the spiritual pecking order help complete the matrix of the material world by doing the jobs assigned to them in their respective positions in the hierarchy, thereby affording an opportunity for the higher souls to indulge in spiritual exercises. As they are not cognitively equipped, they mainly do the physical chores while those up in the order are more into the cerebral and thinking roles.
It has been suggested that the human body is nothing but a function of its various organs. This is not true. Science tells us that motion generates motion, but it does not tell us as to what bodily function creates a thinking mind or various human emotions.
Defining a human body merely as an outcome of organic functions is like putting the effect before the cause which is very illogical. Like every other form of life, germ or seed, the human soul manifests itself when right conditions for the same are available. It is the differentiated soul consciousness which provides an individuality to every human being.
Those who deny the existence of the soul believe that something could come out of nothing, which is not true. The Semitic religions including Islam, Judaism and Christianity or Zoroastrianism believe that the soul was created at the time of Creation and granted immortality by God. But this argument does not hold. After all, anything which has a beginning has to have an end like the human body. Science tells us that everything which exists in the end must have existed in the beginning.
In Genesis, it has been stated that God created man out of the dust and blew the breath of life into his nostrils. This itself presupposes the existence of the dust, God and the breath. If God creates the soul, why does He create so many varieties of characters at different levels of mental, physical and emotional capacities? Why does He differentiate among various human beings? Why can’t He make us all the same? If we were to believe this, a wrongdoer or a criminal should not be penalised as it is God who made him as such and he can’t be faulted for the crimes that he commits.
Unless we answer this question satisfactorily, the Almighty would appear very unjust. It only shows that the souls have the individuality of their own which explains the differences between human beings. If we accept the existence of a soul today, it must have existed since the beginning of time. In fact, the creation of the soul itself presupposes its existence as part of the Supreme Soul, something the Vedanta has underlined. Hinduism believes the ‘soul’ to be part of the Universal Spirit, manifesting itself through countless births and rebirths as part of an evolutionary process to eventually merge with the latter.
As a drop in the ocean has the same quality as the ocean itself, similarly the human soul has the same basic nature as the Supreme Soul. However, as the drop remains minuscule in comparison to the ocean, we are no match to the Supreme Soul because of its unfathomable nature.
But through our selfless action (Niskam Karma), we can slowly evolve eventually to merge with the Supreme Soul to reflect in His glory. So, if we want to move up the order, we must purify ourselves through uplifting thoughts and actions to realise our true nature.
The writer is an IAS officer, presently posted as the Commissioner of School Education, West Bengal. The views are personal and don’t reflect those of the Government.