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Reincarnation: Transmigration Of Souls

By Sri Swami Sivananda

The word ‘transmigration’ means passing from one life to another. The one great and fundamental tenet of most schools of Indian Philosophy, with the exception of the Charvaka or the materialist, is the belief in the immortality of the soul. The soul passes through a number of lives for attaining perfection. This is technically calledtransmigration of souls’.


Belief in the metempsychosis or transmigration of souldates from primeval times. It is as early as primitive man. One solution of the mystery of death and a consoling thought about death is the indestructibility of the soul and its existence after death in other forms. In India the ancient Aryans found in it the solution of the age-long problem of human suffering and developed it into a very distinct religious doctrine.


The purpose of transmigration is not reward of punishment, but betterment and perfection. It prepares the human being for the ultimate realisation which frees him from the cycle of births and deaths. It is not possible to achieve perfection and absolute freedom without a plurality of lives.


Man develops tendency and aptitude in several births and becomes a genius in one birth. Buddha gained experiences in several births. He became a Buddha only in his last birth. In one birth all virtues cannot be developed. One can cultivate the virtues by gradual evolution. The baby sucks, the young duck swims. Who taught this? They are the Samskaras or the tendencies of previous births.


There had been many instances of children like Santi Devi, etc., who have narrated all about their previous lives. All these have been fully corroborated also. The children have actually pointed out their houses in which they lived in their previous lives.


Soul, retribution, transmigration, divinity were all accepted by Plato. Pythagoras also taught the doctrine of transmigration. Buddha also taught the doctrine of transmigration.


The older Egyptians embalmed their dead and buried them in the best tombs they could afford. The deceased had a kind of twin soul, one half of which remained in the tomb as long as the body continued undecayed, while the other proceeded on passport to the immortal gods. The requisite indication was given by a divine Judge, whose opinion as to destiny was final. Transmigration in some obscure form was nevertheless held by the Egyptian priesthood.


The human body is only a vesture and dwelling place for the immortal soul. The soul can certainly re-inhabit another dwelling place and put on another vesture in order to develop and realise better than before the Divine plan and purpose for it. The Creator has so planned. The soul of a depraved and corrupted human being is given another training in another body. The evolution of all beings is for a better condition. Evolution to the higher and not a deterioration to the lower is generally the law and principle of Nature. But there is exception to the general rule.


The soul armed with the little virtue and divinity gained in the previous existence enters another life to increase, develop and better that original stock. There is now a greater response of the body controlled by the soul to God, Goodness, Truth, Holiness and other attributes of God.


No opportunity is afforded to the sinner to purify himself in later births. His finite sin, if not somehow purged, precipitates him at death into endless misery. This cannot be. This is not reasonable. The doctrine of transmigration gives ample scope for the sinner to correct and educate himself in future births. Vedanta says that there is hope of salvation even for the worst sinner.


He reaps the harvest of his misdeeds for a limited period. After he has been purged of his sins, he is again born as a rational being and is thus given a fresh chance for working out his emancipation with freedom of will to choose the right path or the wrong one, and with knowledge to distinguish the one from the other.


You are responsible for your well-being or otherwise, through your own Karma or action. The diversity in individual characters, the different predilections or tendencies of the different children at their births and the inequalities of human lives can only be accounted for and explained through the Law of Karma. The Law of Karma gives liberty and freedom to an individual to grow to his full perfection.


The image of a man is reflected in a mirror. Nothing passes from the man to the image. The image is not the same as the man nor yet is it another. In exactly the same way rebirth takes place. The new being is like the image. The Karma which gives rise to the new being is like the mirror, through the agency of which the image of the man is reflected.


The enlightening influences of Yogis and Sages, their lives and teachings assert themselves more and more in the new life. The light of God is more sought after and the gravitation towards God becomes stronger and stronger. More and more the life becomes fit to see God and hear His voice. Progress advances from the existence to the next—we cannot say through how many lives—until the final and stainless state of perfection is reached and the individual soul merges itself in the Supreme Soul.


Whence have I come? Whither shall I go? These questions will be asked by every intelligent person. They are problems of life. Your present life is but one in a series of countless incarnations, though not all in the human form necessarily.


The union of the soul with a particular body is known as birth and its separation therefrom is called death, when the soul leaves its physical sheath, it transmigrates into another body, human, animal or even vegetable, according to its merits. The Kathopanishad says: “Now I will tell you, O Nachiketas, the eternal and divine mystery as to how the soul fares after attaining death. Some souls attain to other bodies, while some fall to the vegetable state according to their action and knowledge” (1-2-18).


The process of transmigration continues till the soul being purged of all its impurities and having acquired a true and full knowledge of the Imperishable Soul by Yoga attains Mukti or the final emancipation and enjoys perfect, eternal bliss by its union with the Supreme Self or Para Brahman.


According to Indian philosophy, there is a subtle body or Sukshma Sarira within the physical body. When the physical body perishes, this subtle body does not perish. It moves to heaven to enjoy the fruits of its good actions done here. This subtle body perishes only when the soul attains the final emancipation. The impressions or Samskaras, Vasanas or the tendencies are carried in the subtle body.


There are blessed souls like Vama Deva, Jnana Dev, Dattatreya, Ashtavakra and Sankaracharya who in their very first entry into the world attained a high degree of perfection before death. They are all born Siddhas. There are some other souls who will need few further rebirths for their full perfection and attainment of Moksha.


A good soul makes a good body, a bad soul a bad body. Body is an indispensable aid to the soul in its progress towards God. The body was designed by God to carry the soul on its onward march. Petrol and steam are great forces. But by themselves they cannot make the journey with a definite course and a definite destination. They must be harnessed to a machine, a running train or steamer. A pilot or a driver puts petrol or steam into the conveyance and drives and steers it towards his destination. Therefore the soul must have a body to run its course and reach its destination in God.


When knowledge of the Imperishable is attained, there is no more transmigration. Mother Prakriti’s work is over now. She shows all the experiences of this world to the individual soul and takes him higher and higher through various bodies till he regains back his essential divine nature, till he merges himself in the Supreme Self or Para Brahman.


Strive by every means to make your life better by ceaseless spiritual culture and practical Yoga Sadhana. Only by enlightenment or Brahma Jnana you can obtain deliverance from the wearisome round of births and deaths.


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This was an excerpt from the book What Becomes Of The Soul After Death by Sri Swami Sivananda.


The death and dying and the life after death has always fascinated man. We want to now the truth behind near death experiences and become certain that there really is a life after death.


Many books have been written on the subject of death, but most of the works deal mainly with the astral or other spirit world. It has mostly been the study of the conditions in the Pretaloka which is merely one among the numerous supramundane planes or lokas beyond the grave. Spiritualism, seance and the testimony of recognised mediums have for most part featured prominently in all such works.


What Becomes Of The Soul After Death by Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is a departure from the usual line in that it is based, to a great extent, upon authoritative scriptural texts and upon knowledge derived through reasoning, deep reflection and personal meditation. It throws a flood of light upon all aspects of life after death not adequately dealt with in other works. The book also gives valuable information about the different beliefs on this subject, of the various races and religions.


The book is dealing with rebirth, the soul, reincarnation, moksha, heaven and hell, karma and different lokas. It even includes death poems and death poetry, giving a complete picture and a new face of death. For more material see this link: What Becomes Of The Soul After Death.


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