Reincarnation in Different Religions

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Reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me of late and I can’t quite figure out why, other than it’s a possible sign from the great unknown that it wants me to look at it. But then again, if all we ever have is just the constant awareness of the now then why would anything need to make itself known to someone for them to investigate it? Indeed, if that is all that we have, and I’ll die on that hill, then we already have the answers, don’t we? Well, no it would seem like we don’t. 

There’s plenty of proof out there for reincarnation. But there’s an even larger amount of proof that it doesn’t exist. As far as I’m aware not a single person in human history has died and come back as themselves. Except that is Jesus Christ but nobody can seem to agree on whether he actually died or not. One theory suggests he and his uncle hung out in the cave for a few days and got high as motherfuckers until the coast was clear and they skedaddled. Although to be totally honest on the Christ crucifixion I’m pretty much onboard with the theory that he survived, went west and taught about non-duality and all that lark and ended up in Kashmir, where he’s buried. You can read more about it here: https://www.indiaheritagewalks.org/blog/tomb-jesus-kashmir-roza-bal-shrine On a fairly recent episode of the podcast we spoke about a BBC documentary about it which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/tFNyiHl7-CM

The Dalai Lama; sound chap

The documentary goes into some pretty speculative stuff, suggesting Jesus was a Buddhist and this is supposed to account for his so-called ‘missing years’ when he was, the doc suggests, taken off to India and learnt about Buddhist teachings. This, they say, explains the appearance of the Magi at his birth; they knew of his earthly arrival and were sent on a mission to claim him and educate him. Now, that doesn’t sound so crazy when we consider that Tibetan Buddhists carry on this tradition to this day and it’s what happens when every Dalai Lama is born. A child is identified as a born-again Bodhisattva of compassion and they are raised and educated to carry on the line of Lamas. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is turning 87 this year and has stated in the past he’ll announce when he’s 90 if he’ll reincarnate. There’s much political heave-hoing over who the 15th Dalia Lama will be, as China currently controls Tibet they say they’ll announce who the next one will be. Nobody outside of China will support that decision though and we may well see a split in the coming years.

So what exactly is meant by reincarnation, well, how long is a piece of string? It’s twice the length from the middle isn’t it? The Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism all preach of reincarnation with slight yet important differences. In Hinduism the belief is that we all have an atman and this soul persists after death and is reborn again and again until it attains self-knowledge. This might help explain why the earth’s population continues to rise; we’re feckin eejits that can’t realise we’re all one soul because we’re too busy watching Reality TV and watching people on YouTube playing video games. We are really dumb in fairness. 

The Buddhists, on the other hand, believe there is no soul and no self so while Buddhists do believe in reincarnation there’s no self or soul that’s reborn as there is no self. But you are reborn. Yea, look, it’s a bit confusing and I’m not sure what’s reincarnated if there’s nothing to be incarnated in the first place. Unless everything is an illusion but plainly that can’t be the case as there’s no such thing as no-thing because for something to exist it either does or does not. And everything that exists exists. Duh.

Nothing is Real…man!

Buddhists will say the soul, or self does not exist and while I can see the self not existing, as in it’s a construct we build so we can live as best we can, I cannot see existence as not existing, because y’know, it plainly does exist. And anyway we, humans that is, can only experience about 0.0035% of reality so, yes, ok, while we don’t experience the fullness of existence and it may seem like our existence is an illusion in terms of the other 99.9965% of actual reality you can’t just say that everything outside of our perception doesn’t exist because, well man, it’s just wrong. Sorry my Buddhist friends, I’m all Hindu on this. 

Jainism then is a bit more like Hinduism but you need to be more restrictive in how you live, a life of asceticism is the name of the day there, along with the shared beliefs of Yama and Niyama (non-killing, non-violence, compassion, charity etc.) of the more well-known Indian traditions.

Buddhist Wheel of Reincarnation

In the three main Western religions then we have reincarnation coming into Jewish thought during the middle ages when Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism began taking root. It’s similar to the Hindu thought of a soul existing that leaves the body on death and floats around upstairs for a while before coming back to perfect its work. Some early Christians believed in reincarnation, many Gnostic sects did too. I mean, they’d kind of have to wouldn’t they since their main dude came back to life. But then things get all muddled up when the idea of the trinity comes along and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit become one being instead of three even though they are also still three separate beings but also one in the same. Yea. Try making sense of that and try sitting through religion classes in Catholic school with priests telling you that you literally have to believe it if you want to live in the clouds after you depart this mad shop of a planet.

Of course, these two religions, and Islam that I’ll get to later all owe quite a debt to Ancient Greek religion and philosophy and the Greeks had a few different traditions that believed in reincarnation, the earliest being Orphisim which was centred on the death and rebirth of that mad craic Greek god Dionysus, Peter Kingsley’s grá Persephone and her auld one Demeter were important in that tradition too. There’s a mighty book I listened to (The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian Muraresku) that posits a great argument that Christianity is the bastard child of the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries (which is what the Orphic tradition evolved into) and that the wine they drank was some high-octane ergot-infused wonder punch that got you off your chops and you got to chill with the head honcho of the clouds for a bit and have a chinwag with him. 

Reincarnation in Christianity

According to plenty of research he cites, women played such a crucial role in these traditions because they controlled the crops to ensure there would be some ‘spoiled’ by ergot and they knew how to made the kickass brew and this tradition might, maybe, maybe, just maybe have made its way into early Christianity but then was stamped out by the zealots because those lads are no craic and don’t like anyone having any craic. They still don’t. Reincarnation was stamped out pretty quickly too by the lads who called the shots.

Islam followed suit; we have a soul but we only get one shot at being good otherwise it’s an eternity imprisoned in the fiery brimstone of hell along with Satan and his lubed-up pitchforks. What am I saying, there’s no way there’s lube in Hell. How and ever, some sects of Islam do believe in reincarnation and there’s a group in South Asia who perform a yearly ritual where they ask for forgiveness for sins committed during previous lifetimes.  

Celtic Reincarnation

Let’s do one final one just because I’m Irish. The Celts, sure I couldn’t do an article about reincarnation without mentioning them. The Celts also believed in reincarnation, well, of course they did as Hinduism and the Celts came directly from the Proto-Indo-Europeans, and that the soul lived on after the death of the body and after a certain number of years it would return to the earthly realm and take up a new abode. The belief was so strong that money could be borrowed based on it being paid back by your following incarnation. 

Reincarnation in Thelema

Oh, Thelema is worth a mention too as it’s a little confusing. Aleister Crowley dismissed the idea of reincarnation because “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” But then again, Crowley was sure he was the reincarnation of Edward Kelley Dr. (Dr-not-a-medical-doctor) Dee’s buddy, a Russian farmer called Ivan, a chap called Heinrick van Dorn who was into some baddie magic (evil shenanigans), then Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, an Italian occultists and merchant of the craic and then, finally Eliphas Levi. Not content with having a fairly wild life himself, Crowley also had experienced plenty of other eventful ones too. Well, his higher self anyway. Fair play to him, Aiwass the lover of the craic. 

As mentioned above there’s plenty of both proof and non-proof for reincarnation. But the guy I trust on this is the American professor and child psychiatrist Jim Tucker. He popped up again in a recent episode of TaSTA where we were talking about a documentary you can watch here. I’ve seen him now in a number of documentaries and since watching the doc have been reading up on some articles about his work and listened to/watched a good few interviews with him too and y’know, the argument is really, really, really convincing that some children can remember their past lives.

At this stage I’m pretty much convinced in reincarnation, largely thanks to my belief that the one soul is all that exists and we’re all just teeny-tiny cogs in the varying sizes of larger and smaller cogs of the universe and as such it’s a God that experiences consciousness through our lived experiences. In other words, I’m with the Hindus on this. However, I’m well aware that I also want it to be true because y’know as tough and troubling and strifeful and harsh and shitty and terrible and god-fearingly brutal as life can be, it’s still wonderful to be alive and it’s not always those bad things, everything, every-single-thing we experience is fleeting and to have the awareness to experience it fully is bloody magical. So, yea, I want it to be real because I’d love to come back after I draw my last breath and do it all again. But I won’t get to; Spud won’t get to, but the conscious ever-awareness that I experience will and I’m pretty happy I got to experience it as this version of it.

Maybe I do know why reincarnation keeps making flirty eyes at me. There’s something in me that wants to know about if I had past lives, maybe I was an animal before and this is my first go as a human. It might explain why dogs and cats and horses and birds and snakes and turtles and even capybaras all seem to like me more than a fair deal of humanity does, or that’s just a bias I’m showing, actually, yea, that’s definitely a bias/projection. Regardless, I’m curious as to what the soul in me experienced before it was brought crashing down to earth in a wee rural village in Wexford. I’m bloody petrified of finding out too though. 

There was a TV programme on Irish television a few years ago now. It was about one of Ireland’s best-known news reporters, Charlie Bird, a fantastic reporter and journalist and a proud Irish man. The show was about looking into his ancestry and all that goes with that. Well, the look of sheer horror on his face when it was discovered he had English blood in him and not just English blood from a normal lad from say, Stoke or Birmingham, nay, poor Charlie was a direct descendant from an occupying soldier who had been given land by an English royal because he was so good at the raping and pilaging he’d done on Irish soil. Maybe it’s better I leave sleeping dogs lying in front of the fire but you know me by now, someday, probably not any day soon, but someday I’ll get around to it and get to the bottom of who I was before I became who I think I am. 

And anyway, they’re not supposed to be blood relatives. Mostly. Christ, I just know there was  some god-awful redcoat in the 1600s called Brigadier Montgomery Ramsbottom III who rounded up 50 Murphys, men, women, children, auld lads and biddies into a shed and set it ablaze somewhere in Wexford. FFS.

Sunyata

…And God is Empty, Just Like Me

Blog, Philosophy

Eckhart von Hochheim has become a big hit within these four walls I call home. Meister Eckhart was a great man for, well, you could just put a full stop there couldn’t you? What I meant to write was he was a great man for putting his thoughts about God into action. Of course, he’s one of the most well-known Christian mystics but rather than just writing down his ideas, in German rather than Latin to reach more people, he would also give lengthy sermons about what his thoughts were and the more you read up on him the more you will notice than he didn’t just stand on the shoulders of other Christian mystics that came before him, he also delved into Eastern and Ancient philosophies.  

Meister EckhartIn his own words “I have read many writings both of heathen philosophers and sages, of the Old and New Testaments, and I have earnestly and with all diligence sought the best and the highest virtue whereby man may come most closely to God…” (source)

Now, unlike most Christian preachers he would quite often use his sermons as what we’d call ‘thought experiments’ and challenge his congregations and audiences to ponder upon the being-ness and is-ness of both themselves and God. There are numerous occasions where we can read than in his sermons he would say things like, ‘I’ve never said this before,’ or, ‘the thought has just occurred to me,’ thus inviting those listening to engage with the same thoughts. There’s an often overlooked characteristic which most of the best teachers, gurus, yogis, whatever term you prefer to use, all share. They all wanted their students to think for themselves and to find God, being-ness, unity, again, whatever you want to call it, by themselves. They were more than happy to teach but ultimately it was up to the listener to do the work. It would appear that many, many people fall into the trap of following exactly what certain spiritual teachers say and end up idolising the teacher over the teachings. 

Is-ness and Being-ness

There’s two passages in particular I’d like to quote here:

Being is God…God and being are the same – or God has being from another and thus himself is not God…Everything that is has the fact of its being through being and from being. Therefore, if being is something different from God, a thing has its being from something other than God. Besides, there is nothing prior to being, because that which confers being creates and is a creator. To create is to give being out of nothing.

What is Life? God’s being is my life, but if it is so, then what is God’s must be mine and what is mine God’s. God’s is-ness is my is-ness, and neither more nor less. The just live eternally with God, on a par with God, neither deeper nor higher. All their work is done by God and God’s by them. (source for both).

Let’s have a gander at these quotes. In the first one Eckhart is saying that being is the same as God because anything that came into being not created by God wouldn’t be God and therefore just wouldn’t exist. How could something exist in God’s creation if God hasn’t created it? It couldn’t. This is Neoplatonism 101 here lads. I also like the final sentence and I think it’s something artists/writers/musicians/builders, those of us lucky enough to have a job/hobby where we create things should remember; to create is to give existence to something and to really think on that for a while can give some appreciation for how profound it can really be. For example, even just to write a song for a lover that you might only even ever play once for her is a thing of incredible, and heartfelt, beauty. To think of all the little things that had to happen for both you and her to share such tenderness and love to be inspired to write a song about that love and then to let it go out into the aether, back into the nothingness it came from. That’s just majestically mind-blowing.

The second quote then addresses that age-old question of why are we here? If God is life then we’re here living life because the being-ness of living is God itself. It’s almost too simple and yet too deep to really fathom isn’t it? But like Eckhart explains, God’s existence and our existence is the same, it is existence, so they must be one and the same. Our being-ness and is-ness is the same then as the Big Cheese’s. God, Twitter

But Being-ness and Is-ness, well, it’s not exactly tangible is it? OK, I can smack myself in the face and I’ll feel it thus proving I’m alive, to myself anyway, but if we sit down and meditate and really investigate the bejaysus out of is-ness and being-ness it’s not a thing that’s touchable, like my pretty face is anyway. But it’s still there, there’s still an is-ness or a being-ness to that being-ness. And indeed, it self-reflects because it knows that it’s there. We’ll come back to this self-reflecting later, for now let’s look more at emptiness.

Of course when you dip your tootsies into Buddhism the idea of ’emptiness’ is going to come up a fair amount. And it seems to be something that Westerners in particular seem to have a problem with. Even back in Eckhart’s stomping days, the late 13th and early 14th centuries, he wouldn’t have termed what the Buddhists call ’emptiness’ as that. For the most part he used terms like ‘silence,’ ‘stillness,’ and even ‘desert’ for example. If the argument that the Western mind is ‘more logical/rational’ then trying to rationalise ’emptiness’ is always going to be problematic. But we can all appreciate what ‘silence,’ ‘stillness,’ or ‘desert’ could mean in the context of deep contemplation on the mysteries of existence.

Tathātā

Buddhadasa BhikkhuIn Buddhism there’s a term, Tathātā, which has been usually translated as ‘thusness’ or ‘suchness’ and it’s the same as this being- or is-ness that Meister Eckhart spent so much time wrestling with. In Buddhism it’s seen as the absolute nature of things before even ideas or words concerning them exist. So, it is the is-ness of is-ness, again we see the characteristic of self-awareness here.  There’s a nice quote on the Wikipedia page regarding Tathātā that comes from Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, a perennialist and reinterpreter of Buddhist doctrine. Look him up, his rejection of the idea of rebirth rattled a few cages a few years back. Anyway, he said:

When tathātā is seen, the three characteristics of impermanence, dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and no-self are seen, emptiness is seen, and specific conditionality is seen. Tathātā is the summary of them all — merely thus, only thus, not-otherness.

In other words then, is-ness and being-ness is what there is. It’s all there is.

As you’ll no doubt be aware from listening to/watching the podcast, I’ve developed a major grá for Rupert Spira over the last few months and around seven years ago he put out a video about what we’re grappling with here; is-ness and being-ness. 

Matter and Consciousness

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to dissect everything said in the video, do have a watch if you have the time after reading, but here are some thoughts about it. He begins by saying that is-ness is what everything and every object shares in our existence. And this being-ness is a kind of emptiness/void. This is the dreaded ’emptiness’ I wrote about above but here Spira says that it’s a first kind of emptiness. Matter is mostly empty, we perceive it as not being that but science will tell us that the space around atoms is mostly empty and while not empty in the sense of a vacuum, the space is  actually occupied by waves, perceived as points when observed. So, we can say then that matter is energy vibrating, it is a kind of emptiness yet we perceive it as matter. Bizarre isn’t it?Rupert Spira

Spira speaks about this is-ness and says there’s another characteristic though, that this is-ness is known by the objects, people, beings etc. So, is-ness has awareness. Is-ness, or being-ness is self-reflective, i.e. being-ness knows of its own being-ness.

This then is a second kind of emptiness. Consciousness knows of its consciousness, there is no matter involved, only self-knowing of its knowingness. He says: 

The emptiness of matter, which is made of being and the emptiness of thought, or knowing, which is made out of pure consciousness.

But that creates a question; where is the line between these two things? Well, there’s isn’t one. It’s the same as what Meister Eckhart says above, that our being-ness and is-ness is the same as God’s being-ness and is-ness.

Spira says about this:

“The reality out of which things are made, pure being, matter, and the reality out of which knowledge or the mind are made, which seem to be two; I, the inside self, made of mind and you, or it, the outside world, made of matter. If we explore them both, they are both empty…these two emptinesses are identical.”

He goes further and explains that space is what the mind occupies while matter occupies time. Both of which are ‘approximations and both are, as such, empty as well‘.

To end the video he explains that the experience of love (mind) and beauty (matter) are what happens when these two different aspects knowingly experience themselves. And who could argue with that? When you love something you know exactly what it is to feel and to be alive. The same goes for seeing or experiencing a moment of beauty.

What use is all this knowledge though? Well, if being-ness and is-ness and our knowledge of our own is-ness and being-ness is the same as God’s being-ness and is-ness then we can engage with it in three simple ways.

The first is to pay attention to sounds, pick something you hear often, birdsong or cars in traffic for example. When you hear them, pay attention to the moment and simply be present. Feel your body, witness your thoughts without judgement, do whatever it is that makes you feel there in that  moment.

The second is to just stop, engage with one, or more of your senses and say, I’m here and be present. Another is a meditation I made for myself based on Peter Kingsley’s mêtis because “when we live [the illusion] to the full, to its furthest limits, we are nothing but reality fulfilling its own longing” (source). Let’s ignore the ‘illusion’ word though, that’s not my bag at all. I sit or lay down and I say to myself ‘I see, I feel, I think, I taste, I smell, I hear’ as a mantra, repeating and repeating and repeating and doing the things I’m saying seeing, feeling, thinking, tasting, smelling and hearing. It’s not an easy meditation but when it all syncs up together, everything simply is.

Meditations

Blog, Buddhism, OmniSyn

Daniel Ingram in his book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, defines ‘awakening’ as:

…awakening is about understanding the fundamental nature of all sensate experiences, and what they happen to be is ultimately completely and utterly irrelevant to awakening. Thus, very awakened beings understand something fundamental about whatever arises or however their lives manifest, that is, its impermanence, emptiness, luminosity, groundlessness, or however they wish to describe it. However, they have no more knowledge about the specifics of the world than they have acquired in just the way that anyone else acquires knowledge about the specifics of the world. They can even have all sorts of psychological baggage to deal with, and this is probably the norm.’ page 116-117

 Well, I may as well start with something difficult to get my teeth into eh? Anyone who listens to the TASTA podcast will know that Tommie and I are taking on the mantel of the Baptist’s Head amazing twosome, Duncan Barford and Alan Chapman, and trying to plough our way to enlightenment on a fast track. Currently it’s very much a scatter-gun approach but we’re blind men in the dark and once we get to grips with finding the door and even the lightswitch for the room we’re in we’ll probably, maybe, become a little more organised. Or maybe we won’t. I don’t know. Does it matter? We’re playing it by ear at the minute. Sure, it’s nice to travel on the comfortable train and get to where you’re going but sometimes you just have to get on the next train that arrives. Let’s make a note Tommie, maybe we should try more 30-day challenges, like our Star Ruby thingy from a while ago.

 

Back to the quote above though. I’d said on the podcast before that this book really wasn’t singing to me at the beginning. And that’s on me, I just didn’t, and indeed, don’t know a whole lot about Buddhism. I had to put it down and thanks to both Tommie and a listener, can I namedrop D. here? Let’s leave it at D. in case he doesn’t want his name here, anyway, thanks to both I’ve been able to learn plenty more about it and going back to the book it feels like new eyes are on it and I’ve a bit more of a foundation to build upon.

from: https://bit.ly/38GR1ya

Awakening, for me, must be the end goal of all this magic(k), consciousness hacking, psycho-technology whatever you want to call it. Honestly, calling it magic still doesn’t sit well with me. Images of Paul Daniels and David Copperfield just flood my head when I see that. I’m into this because I think there’s a road to enlightenment/awakening/individuation or whatever you want to call it. Basically, I think you can be a pretty decent human if you get yourself in order and be a better man. That’s my goal here. Simple as that. But as usual the simple things are pretty difficult to get correct.

Awakening, as Ingram say above, is ultimately the understanding of our sensing of reality. The knowledge and realisation that everything, every single moment is temporary and our moods, feelings, wants, needs, whatever, are the same. Knowing, or learning, that every moment is sacred is mind-blowingly humbling because it’s in those moments that we appreciate our transience and by embracing that we get a fleeting touch with the eternal.
Does that make sense? By being alive right here, right now and seeing it, really seeing and experiencing it; that’s touching the surface of the waters of eternity, that great big Sea of Infinity.
For some reason though we’ve come to think of those who are ‘awake’ as somehow smarter, more intelligent than then rest of us. This is a mistake here according to Ingram. It’s that old thing about the teacher and the student. The teacher can only really learn to teach from his students as y’know, every student is different and must be taught in a different way so you can share what knowledge you have with them. And just because someone is enlightened/awake certainly doesn’t mean they’re any more intelligent than you, they’re just a bit more wise when it comes to knowing their place in this mad universe.