What do we gain knowing re-birth?
by Swami Prasad Sharma
(Dona Paula, Goa, India)
What do we gain knowing re-birth?
In my article - Life making a case for re-birth - I have shown that I am convinced of my re-birth and also the continuity of my spirituality from previous life. Some children also talk about their previous life (usually between 2 to 8 years) and don’t feel that they are re-born; rather they carry the identity of a previous life while their innocence prevails. Gradually, the former identity fades in the face of the present family members because the physical body they have now is not valid anymore for the relations of their previous life. Such children don’t adopt spirituality necessarily. They are just an indicator of the happening of re-birth.
The concept of re-birth is not acceptable to the majority of people. Because the soul is neither matter nor energy, it is just a determination at the end of one’s life that becomes the cause for the next life. It can’t be perceived by the senses or detected by scientific instruments.
The chain of birth after births is not acceptable to the mind, particularly when it doesn’t know how to get rid of it. However, the process is: first, adopt righteousness and leave selfishness; secondly, acquire knowledge to realize the soul; and thirdly, devote oneself to a personal god and service to mankind, as a part of the devotion to please God or satisfy the soul.
After self-realisation in 1977 (See: Death - a great spiritual teacher, indeed!), I studied the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita (SBG) thoroughly for confirmation of my spiritual experience. In the SBG (Chapter 4, Verses 1-9), Lord Krishna proclaims while explaining the continuity of teaching the eternal philosophy to Arjun that he had explained it to the Sun God at the beginning of creation. Arjun is surprised, how is that possible when Krishna was born during his times only, i.e., long after the moment of creation. Lord Krishna explains that there have been many lives of both himself and Arjun in the past about which only He himself knows. His incarnations are from time to time for the purpose of establishing righteousness and destroying the wicked people, while other people are re-born for their unfulfilled wishes, or to complete their spiritual progress. Whoever is convinced of this fact becomes immortal, but it happens in the last life of a man on attaining the stage of self-realisation.
We find many stories of earlier lives of Lord Buddha as Jatak tales with various acts of righteousness. In these stories it is shown that one reaches the stage of self-realisation after several lives adopting these good qualities. In the process one also gets released from the Karmic effects of earlier lives. One need not to feel discouraged considering that this process takes too
long (a matter of several lives). One happens to get attracted to real spirituality when one has already adopted righteousness to a fair amount, or when one is distracted from spirituality.
In self-realisation, one happens to know the ultimate truth about oneself and God and the futility of fulfilling selfish desires. At that stage no desire is left so there is no re-birth for him. Moreover, such a soul has already experienced the taste of wealth, name and fame and other desirable pursuits in earlier lives. When the body is not permanent or eternal then why crave for such things again and again?
In another scripture, Kathopnishad (Chapter 2, Verses 1-4), it is said by the Lord of Death to Nachiketa that desires of the last moments related to worldly cravings or spiritual advancement become the seed for the next life. Needless to say that there is an infinite number of pursuits related to family, revenge, wealth, name and fame, and true knowledge.
Till self-realisation one is pursuing one’s mission. It is only after self-realisation that one develops compassion at heart for the whole of creation (living as well as non-living). Internally one’s body enjoys one’s own self, i.e., the physical body with the spirit or a personal God. This is only the true love remarked by saints. Such a person casts away all kinds of differences and sees the expansion of his own self in each one and everywhere. This is also the quality by which God is known, only that the power to create the world is the extra quality of God.
Now coming to the point - what do we gain knowing re-birth?
Naturally desires are the root cause of our re-birth till enlightenment. But no wise person will opt for re-birth because life is full of uncertainties, pains, sufferings, competitions, hatred, etc. Also there are instances when one has to suffer for one’s good deeds. It is only out of mercy to mankind that one could appear doing God’s service. Jesus Christ did it in the best way for our sake and spread the glory of the Father among us.
Nobody except a self-realized soul who is not able to render service to mankind in his present life could opt for re-birth to do God’s service only. Service to God is to promote righteousness and to encourage establishing a relationship with a personal God.
There is a strong feeling in the self-realized souls for avoiding re-birth for some time and it vanishes after realizing that it is their bound duty to show the way to others, possibly in this life or in the next life. After covering the knowledge path one has to devote oneself to the welfare of mankind to feel not only satisfied but also blessed.