Death may mean dissolution of an individual soul from the organism in which it existed: merging back into the great pool of Ĉonsciousness. For many, the path back to the pool is more convoluted.
Reincarnation implies a reincarnating self. There is no such thing. The bundles of memories and hopes, called the ‘I’, imagines itself everlastingly and creates time to accommodate its false eternity. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
Maharaj is, of course, correct: the concept of self is illusory, and incarnation a phantasm. But actuality – the shadow play that the Collective mistake for reality – is what is being described here.
Every moment and every event of every man’s life on Earth plants something in his soul. ~ Anglo American Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton
The actions of the mind-body may impress upon the soul. Memories may ferociously hold the illusion of individuality.
Memories are a burden that restrain potentiality, as they envelop the artifice of self-image. Nonetheless, sometimes snatches of a previous incarnation may linger.
(Young children, typically between the ages of 3 to 5 years, have the strongest reportable memories of a past incarnation. Before 3 years such children commonly lack the mental discrimination and language faculty to decently describe these previous incarnation memories. From ~5 years, memories of the current life gradually smother those of past lives. There are (of course) exceptions. Strong reincarnation memories commonly occur when the previous incarnation ended traumatically.
Canadian-born American psychiatrist Ian Stevenson extensively recorded the memories of reincarnation in 3,000 children worldwide. Stevenson remarked: “Too often the children are troubled by confusion regarding their identity and this becomes even more severe in those children who, conscious of being in a small body, can remember having been in an adult one, or who remember a life as a member of the opposite sex.” Other researchers have reported on reincarnations where the particulars of memory recall have been verified; cases where the reincarnated child could not possibly have known such details. Stevenson and others have found correlations between previous lives and birthmarks or physical defects in the reincarnated, and otherwise inexplicable food and clothing preferences (and, in some cases, certain fears). In a relative few instances, such children exhibit xenoglossy: being able to speak an unfamiliar foreign language.
As far back as I can remember I have unconsciously referred to the experiences of a previous state of existence. ~ American author Henry David Thoreau
Sense of self is not intended to transcend a lifespan; nor should it. But coherence plays a complicated game, and the resonance of existence may extend in a localized field beyond the corporeal, as ghosts illustrate. A soul coming back for another round of life is termed reincarnation.
A soul grows by reincarnation. ~ English writer Annie Besant
Reincarnation may be an expansive experience in the life cycle of a soul, but considering experiences as a metric is a mistake.
One who entertains desires is repeatedly born here and there and on account of it. But one who has sated desire fully, who is a perfected soul, all desires vanish even here on Earth. ~ Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:2
Souls must reenter the absolute substance whence they have emerged. But to accomplish this, they must develop all the perfections, the germ of which is planted in them. ~ Zohar
A common myth about reincarnation – as expressed in the Upanishad (“perfected soul”) and Zohar (“all the perfections”) – is that incarnation is supposed to be progressive: that a soul matures through existential seasoning. Some Buddhists and Hindus try to get a leg up on the quality of the next life by token good deeds in the current one.
Nature is not a moral accountant, and the soul is not a pecuniary ledger. The exhibition of right action is an existence proof, not a bank deposit.
Karma is only a store of unspent energies, of unfulfilled desires and fears not understood. The store is being constantly replenished by new desires and fears. It need not be so forever. Understand the root cause of your fears – estrangement from yourself; and of desires – the longing for the self, and your karma will dissolve like a dream. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
Every incarnation presents a challenge that reflects the residual of the previous incarnation. Learning in life works as a puzzle to be solved: to progress from ignorance to realization.
Reincarnation is not about perfection in any sense. It is only about wiping the soul’s slate of needless graffiti. (Desire is part of incarnation; the issue is attachment to it. The phrase “sated desire” in the above Upanishad verse refers to having no attachment to desires.)
You are a little soul carrying around a corpse. ~ Turkish Hellenistic Stoic philosopher Epictetus