the major religions that hold a belief in reincarnation

Biological death is defined and accepted. Winstead- Fry points out

that within sensory science, death is the termination of certain biophysical

functions. “We can empirically confirm the existence and ending of life.”

( 163) The criteria for brain death are accepted as proof of biological

death. Of course if one considers the human being and the human body as

one, then death must be a definite ending. But what about those who

believes the soul never dies? There is the belief that the body is like a set

of clothes the soul changes when the body gets worn out. Can the human

body be considered such a worthless object? Many say no and yet others

The debate about death is in the question of existence after death. It

is not possible at present to recreate or validate existence after death using

our senses. This is why there is so much of an interest in near-death

experiences. Dr. Morse and his team have proven that a person actually

needs to be near death to have a near death experience. The team

compared seriously ill people with those near the brink of death and

people who had near-death experiences were clinically dead at the time of

their experience and ‘were brought back from the dead.’(183) This is the

closest one can get to death ; therefore, it is reasonable to use these

Near- death phenomena are as old as recorded history. Such an

experience is reported in Plato’s Republic, written in the fourth century

before Christ.(Blackmore 79) The phenomenon is wide spread. Over eight

million adults in the United States have claimed to have a near- death

experience. Dr. Stevenson believes that by him writing books it will

encourage more people to share their experience. He believes many people

may not share their story for fear of ridicule.( Santos F1) Mr. Underwood

reveals that one in three people who recover from coming close to death or

becoming clinically dead reports having a near-death experience. (245)

Some critics argue that the near- death experience results from the

brain’s response to distress. They claim that the brain reacts to the threat

to the body so that fantasies and memories of the ‘childhood flood the

consciousness’.(264) However, if the skeptics were right the experience

would be unique to the individual. We know what the brain is capable of,

but to say that the content of every brain is the same is farfetched.

There are common components in experiences described

irrespective of differences of the people who experienced it. The sense of

being dead, being in a tunnel, meeting people of light, life review and the

presence of light. These people were different in age, nationality and

It is recognized that every human being is unique. Then, why

should everyone’s brain produce the same images? Children and adults

differ in the memories they gather and the way they comprehend the

world, yet their core experiences were the same. Therefore, the argument

of the brain flooding one with past memories does not seem logical. Some

argue that the experiences contain cultural and personal marks of those

who have them. Then the near- death experiences of Hindu’s would differ

from those of Christians and Americans different from Japanese. But here

too the core experiences were the same.

There is obviously two sides of the story. One must look at both

sides with careful eye and determine for themselves what they believe is

true. This is where the idea of reincarnation comes in. Because it is

incorporated in so many religions, you find an answer to a question which

you truly want to know the answer to and do not abandon your faith in

Reincarnation is detected in many religions. Reincarnation is

normally thought of as a Hindu philosophy and it is traced back to

Hinduism, yet it can be found in Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and in

In Judaism, reincarnation is known as Gilgul. Though it has a

different name it has almost the exact same meaning. Gilgul was a

dominant teaching in Judaism for over three hundred years. Cabala, a

book of Judaism which is often studied by Rabbi’s, one of the holy books

of the Jews which talks of reincarnation. Rabbi Steinsaltz (Cranston 181)

is an authority on the Cabala. He states:

According to Cabalistic doctrine, the Torah contains not

only manifest but also hidden truths: the same transcendent God

whom the Bible celebatres as supreme king and law giver is, from

the mystical also an infinity of divine knight that exists as the

foundation of every human beings soul. For me, every soul is an

emanation or spark of the divine, and its ultimate purpose is to

rejoin the God it came from….I hope to demonstrate the secrets of

the Cabbala- which rationalistic Rabbi’s of the nineteenth century

dismissed as dangerous magic- are fully consonant with traditional

This view is also held by a large group of Orthodox Jews known as

the Hasidim. Reincarnation is universally taught among them. On the

other hand, the soul, it’s life and immortality are rarely mentioned in the

Old Testament. There is also no direct denial of it either. In the Book of

Job(14:14), Job plainly asks “ If a man dies will he live again?” but

receives no answer. So in the Old Testament, reincarnation is not ruled out

it is just not brought up as a major point in the book.

On the other hand, if one were to look into the Bible, the question

of like after death is brought up and answered. Professor Macgregor

Reincarnation is one of the most fascinating ideas in the

history of religion, as it is also one of the most recurrent themes in

the literature of the world. It is widely assumed to be foreign to the

Christian heritage, and especially alien to the Hebrew roots of

biblical thought. That assumption is questionable…. It has

persistently cropped up in various crannies along the Christian

Way, from the earliest times down to the present. It has also

It is understandable that Christians today frequently object to

reincarnation because for some it provides an excuse to postpone salvation

for the next life. To make it more confusing for Christians, Protestant’s

and Catholics have different views as to what happens after death.

Protestants believe that after death they are asleep until Judgment

Day. Those asleep in the grave include people before and after Christ.

They believe that when Jesus returns that they bodies of the saved are

transformed and glorified. On the contrary, bodies of sinners are burned

eternally. Some also think that between death and Judgment Day there is

Catholics have an entirely different view point. They believe that

damned souls go immediately to hell. Those who gain salvation still

require purification and then go to heaven. And finally the saintly go strait

to paradise. Because of this conflict and confusion Christians often look to

Reincarnation to explain the mysteries of death. In the Bible, Jesus states,

“ Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” ( John 8:56-58)

Another example from the Bible says, “[ As Jesus] passed by, he saw a

man blind form his birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘ Rabbi, who

sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ” ( John 9:1 -2)

Christianity has obvious connections with reincarnation as it does

with Hinduism. In Christianity, Jesus is the incarnation of Godhead, the

Christian trinity. In Hinduism, Krishna is the incarnation of Vishnu, the

Hindu trinity. Both Jesus and Krishna were of royal descent and were born

of virgins. Also Krishna was brought up by shepards and called the

Shepard of God while Jesus was worshipped by shepards and called the

Good Shepard. Because of all these similarities, Christian missionaries in

India thought that the Hindu’s were coping their religion. Only later did

they find out that Hinduism began hundreds of years before Christianity.

The theory of reincarnation is so common in India it is hardly

The acceptance of rebirth is so widespread in India that its

philosophers and religious teachers felt no need to prove the

doctrine, anymore than an instructor in our society would spend

time demonstrating that day follows night, and night day. (227)

Just as reincarnation pervades Indian thought, it also pervades the

Bagavad- Gita. The main story of the Bagavad- Gita is of Arjuna and

Krishna and the manner Krishna teaches Arjuna all of lives philosophy

while Arjuna awaits a war among all of his relatives. Krishna tries to teach

Arjuna that fighting them will not really harm them for their soul will

always live on. Krishna states to Arjuna, “ It is said the soul is invisible,

inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should

not grieve for the body .” ( Text 25) Krishna was trying to convince

Arjuna that he should not fear for them for their soul would not die and

once the body died the soul would continue to live. “ As a person puts on

new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material

bodies, giving up old ones and useless ones.” ( Text 22) It is obvious

reincarnation is a large part of Hinduism. But as in any great philosophy

or theory there is still an argument as to who first came up with the idea.


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