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Rebirth and Evolution

The writer is an IAS officer, presently posted as Commissioner of School Education, West Bengal. The views are personal and don’t reflect those of the Government.

Saumitra Mohan |

Birth and death are two subjects of abiding human interest with varying perspectives in different religions. Many believe that the next birth is linked to our actions in extant life. However, there still remain many issues relating to birth and death which continue to remain abstruse and beyond human comprehension. Hinduism, of all faiths, has the most hoary and elaborate discourse on the matter.

Many of us have often wondered if the ‘soul’ is eternal and immortal, then how is it that the human population is growing. There are various explanations.. The number of souls may be constant, but according to some, the explanation for the burgeoning population lies in the depleting biotic and genetic diversity. So, if crass animal instincts and brute nature are perceived among humans, the rationalization may lie in the declining population of other creatures.

We generally presume our earth to be the only inhabited planet, but there could be myriad other planets, celestial bodies and dimensions buzzing with life in this vast cosmos. Souls from those planets or dimensions could also be transmigrating to our planet, thereby adding to our number. Many mystics have explicated the multiplication of a soul through the simile of a perennially ‘burning fire’ whereby you can light countless candles or lamps from the one already blazing.

Rebirth in Hinduism is a reigning and running theme through all its scriptures and sects as in many other religions. That rebirth is a fact has long been proven through objectively recorded research and empirical studies as available in the public domain in the form of various books, documentaries and films. YouTube and cyber world are replete with stories and proofs from across the globe which testify to the rebirth phenomenon.

So, every animate and inanimate object which comes into this world has to undergo the continual process of creation and destruction, changing its form in the ongoing play of Divine Drama called Maya. An organic entity usually gets destroyed faster than the inorganic objects. That being so, why are we so frantically running after the putative values that we ourselves create? In spite of being aware of the temporary nature of our life, we voluntarily remain sucked in the acquisitive rat-race beyond our needs, only to lose an opportunity to invest prudently in our spiritual evolution.

Like Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Beginning ~ “We should no longer work for the material acquisitions. We ought now to be engaged in bettering the human race”. It’s high time that we, as a species, should start working on improving our capacities, consciousness and soul because it is this which goes with us into the next life. Our behavioural traits, our evolved psyche, and our learning as inscribed in our eternal consciousness (sometime referred as ‘Akashik Records’), all travel to the next life.

The different rebirth stories, as recounted by the re-born individuals, however, disprove the concept of ‘Heaven and Hell’ as we have known them. All religions have used the concept of ‘Heaven and Hell’ as an instrument to threaten and frighten the lesser mortals into submission and subordination.

Many souls, whatever their Karmas, are known to have been born immediately after their death or have remembered being in their ‘causal’ or ‘astral’ bodies for a while before choosing to be reborn. Mostly, humans are born as humans only, as none of the rebirth stories has pointed to an intervening animal birth though the same cannot be ruled out a la the Bodhisattva tales. No divine intervention towards their rebirth has been narrated by these people though mythologies say otherwise.

The idea of heaven and hell, actually, appears related more to the level of spiritual evolution which gives pain or pleasure to a being, either in this or next life or in the interregnum. The rebirth choice of an individual seems co-related to the spiritual progress of the individual concerned. Depending on the level of spiritual evolution, it is the individual who is supposed to choose his/her rebirth destination. The unfulfilled desires (Vasanas) and the carried-forward evolved predilections predispose or attract the soul to a particular family for learning the lessons it wants to learn for further advancement of its consciousness.

The dominant cerebral and psychic patterns can actually be traced to the past experiences of a particular soul. The same can be understood through the differential behavioural and cognitive mellowness of the children born of same parents in similar circumstances. Still, some children display particular qualities and extraordinary features that are different from that of their siblings.

The déjà vu feeling we have for certain things or persons, the natural feelings of likes and dislikes, are all said to be a carryover from past lives. Dr Brian Weiss, a pastlife regression therapist, has treated and cured many of his patients by linking present ailments to one of the previous births.

Many mystics and researchers have pointed to the ability of many evolved souls to communicate telepathically or teleport themselves to distant locations in a jiffy. Our mind is said to be very powerful and we still have not been able to utilise a substantial part thereof.

As we, through constant meditation and control, become capable of exploring and harnessing its unfathomable potential (remember the film, Matrix), we shall soon be able to get to the higher domains of human and cosmic evolution.

The unfulfilled desires, hatred, sorrow, pain, pleasure, envy, greed, compassion and other such deportment and demeanour of an individual determine the heaven or hell-like experience at any stage. So, at the end of the day, it is an individual who actually chooses her heaven or hell.

More than actual travails and tribulations, as depicted in the Hindu scripture Garuda Purana, the ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ are essentially experienced in our minds by dint of our own karma. The Gita says that we should dispassionately attend to our assigned duties without being attached to the fruits thereof. Only then can we elevate our souls to eventually merge with the Almighty.

The Kauravas, despite being on the wrong side of the Divine Drama, made it to heaven while all the Pandavas, except Yudhisthira ended up in hell, the explanation being that the former died while doing their duties while the Pandavas suffered in purgatory because of their various personal foibles. We should understand our part in the Divine Drama and play our role diligently and honestly with the sole purpose of our spiritual progress.

In our affection and attachment with the mundane aspects of human life, we continue to behave like ordinary creatures, still fighting for survival. We should actually be striving to add more and more uplifting qualities to our eternal consciousness by utilising the multiple birth opportunities.

The vastness of the cosmos indicates that there is enough for everyone and that those with evolved consciousness need to go beyond the ordinary and mundane to explore the unknown terrains of their consciousness and celestial multiverses. The faster we evolve spiritually, the better for us all.

When spiritually we all belong to the same Supreme Consciousness, we need not perceive our existence separately from other living beings including humans. It is this distinction between ‘me’ versus ‘they’ that results in chaos and tension in our day-to-day life. We can’t remain happy if a million others remain miserable. Through cooperative and harmonious coexistence, we can all evolve together and faster for better evolution of the human race and our cosmos.