Mystery of Our Being
All major faiths of the world offer some way to address the primordial fate of our souls. Many provide elaborate explanations to answer eternal questions such as, “Where do we come from? And where are we going?” The mystery of our being is a widely debated subject that never fails to fascinate.
Numerous religions hold the belief that rebirth is part of the cycle of our existence. From the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to modern day Hindus and Buddhists, some aspect of reincarnation is standard within their cultures. Reincarnation, in simplest terms, is the belief that when one dies, even though their body decomposes, their soul is reborn in another body. Essentially, someone who has lived before can live again and again. And the body they the take the form of doesn’t necessarily have to be human – it can be of an animal or even a plant. In some tribal cultures in places like Africa, members avoid eating certain animals they believe carry the souls of their deceased loved ones.
Perhaps it is Hinduism, which holds reincarnation as a fundamental principle of spiritual insight that best describes the repetitive cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
According to Hinduism, the soul can have the pleasure of experiencing many lives. This repetitive cycle, known as punarjanma, originates in a realm where the soul exists between a place of death and birth.
At this stage, the soul is readjusting and preparing for its next birth. The type of birth it will experience and the merits that will come with this new life depend entirely on karma, or past actions. It is the joint connection of the mother, father and the soul that create a body and a life for the soul. Conception is considered the exact moment when the soul enters the new life. During pregnancy, the soul begins to fully inhabit its body. At birth, all past lives and memories of past lives are hidden from consciousness. This cycle of rebirth can only come to an end when past karmic actions have been fully resolved. When this occurs, the soul can live on without having to take a physical body. However, it will take thousands of lives and extremely pure, good-intentioned living to achieve this.
In the Western world, such beliefs as those held by Hindus were marginalized for many centuries. Today, the spiritual landscape across the globe has changed and such ideas are gaining interest and popularity.
According to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, a staggering 24 percent of Americans believe in reincarnation. That’s a huge change from just a few decades ago when something so rooted in Eastern philosophy had limited recognition.
With Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama’s writings on bestseller lists, the work of people like Edgar Cayce gaining popularity and Eastern culture in general having a wide-ranging influence on the West, it comes as little surprise that there is popular interest on the subject of reincarnation. But that’s not to say that the roots of belief in reincarnation weren’t planted here long ago. Benjamin Franklin was a firm believer in reincarnation and so were Emily Dickinson and Winston Churchill. The witty and telling epitaph on Franklin’s tombstone reads, “I look upon death to be as necessary to the constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning.” Historically, the vast amount of contact between Eastern and Western cultures has been integral in spreading principles and beliefs in reincarnation. It is even believed by some that Alexander the Great formulated many of his spiritual beliefs based on teachings by Buddhists.
Belief in reincarnation varies vastly from culture to culture, but one aspect that is often in common between them is belief in animal reincarnation.
Animal Inside Us
One of the most fascinating aspects of numerous African tribal cultures is belief in pet reincarnation. Often, the belief is thought of as reincarnation by choice, where the soul chooses to be reborn in the body of the animal that represents the tribe.
In the case of the Zulu people, belief in reincarnation as an animal is much closer to that of the Hindus, where the soul takes the form of an insect or other small animal, then lives numerous lives as various animals until it finally inhabits a human body. According to Hinduism, it is possible to attain a human birth, and then go back to animal birth – this is usually a punishment for living an immoral life. In Native American and Inuit culture, the spirit of animals are given great importance and are said to serve as guardians who assist humans attain power and wisdom. In the present day, there are numerous groups and pet owners that are dedicated to tracking and exploring the “new” lives of their former pets. Numerous members of a group known as Lighting Strike claim that they found animals in shelters that were the reincarnations of former pets. They were able to determine this by finding striking similarities in the personalities and mannerisms between their deceased pets and the shelter animals.
There is little doubt that Eastern philosophy, with its often high degree of respect for animals, has much to do with a wider interest and acceptance of belief in pet reincarnation.
In the Western world during the last several decades, it has become increasingly popular to deviate from standard religions and instead, combine multiple religious practices that suit a wider range of desires and interests. With Eastern religions gaining popularity, it is only natural that aspects of those religions like reincarnation do as well. While the subject of the mystery of our being poses many thought-provoking questions, reincarnation offers at least a partial answer to those who are willing to accept its tenets.
Ultimately, those who seek out the divine science of reincarnation are likely looking to answer the most difficult questions in life like, “Where do we come from? And where are we going?” Many have claimed that the journey to find such answers has taken them on incredibly challenging and revealing adventures. For example, one recent story described a patient grieving from the loss of a loved one deciding to visit a psychiatrist. According to the patient, while placed in a state of hypnosis to try and cure her depression, she “accidentally” began accessing memories of previous lives – some which were shockingly different from the life she leads now. The experience was nothing short of a life-changing awakening for her. Today, she finds herself among millions of others in the world who believe deeply in reincarnation and seek a total understanding of who they really are.