Before I begin, I always offer my respects to all of our great spiritual teachers, masters, known as Acharya’s, who have brought this knowledge to us. The information that I’ll be presenting comes from the Vedic scriptures. The Vedas are very ancient scriptures being written down five thousand years ago. However the knowledge is eternal. So prior to being written down, it was passed down orally from one perfect master to the next. And such a line of perfect teachers is known as a disciplic succession, or parampara. A parampara is necessary for the truth to descend in its pure form. We are in the parampara known as the Brahma Sampradaya and feel very fortunate to receive our knowledge through this lineage. So this is not my opinion, I’m just passing on this eternal science.
Reincarnation is a very interesting subject. More and more people are becoming interested in it. It’s also sometimes a controversial subject. It’s interesting that in America in the 1980s they took a survey and at that time they found that 23% of the population accepted reincarnation. A recent survey showed that now 60% of the population accepts reincarnation. So there’s been a great increase in receptivity; many lectures given on the subject, books written on the subject, now there are videos on the subject, etc. But even so, very few people understand reincarnation. So that’s going to be our focus tonight.
So this presentation is more educational than sensational. I think often people come to reincarnation lectures expecting some sensational event, “Gee, maybe he’ll reincarnate on stage?” (audience laughter) I don’t think so. In other words, it’s not planned. Of course, we never know. But we’re going to try to explain in a very clear way so you can understand exactly not only what it is but how it works.
And to do that, we have to understand who is reincarnating. And, of course, you can say, “Well, I am”, or “We are”. And yes, that’s true, but the next question will be: who are we? The Vedas say that we should all ask ourselves exactly this question: who am I? But, unfortunately, we almost never ask this question because we think we already know the answer.
Now certainly we all have our identities. We’ve had them our whole life. We have them in our minds, we have then on our lips, we even have them in our pockets. Meaning this is who I think I am, this is who I tell others I am, and I can even prove it: here is my passport, my documents. We accept this and so does everybody else, but is this our true identity?
And upon close examination we will find this is only a compilation of many labels, and the labeling process begins at birth. So all of us here right now, as soon as we took birth, received one of two labels: male or female. And we still identify like that today: “I’m a man”, or “I’m a woman”. At that same time we get another label according to our race: Caucasian, Negroid, whatever it may be. Our national identity can be very strong: “I am Norwegian”, “I am British”. And our family identity: we belong to this family. And actually this identity is so strong that every day on this planet one person kills another person simply because they have a different label.
And this is just the beginning; many, many labels come and go throughout our entire life. So once again at birth we’re also known as babies, then kids. We start school, now we’re students. A few more years go by, we become teenagers and then finally adults. We take up some profession in life and we’re known accordingly: doctors, lawyers, secretaries, nurses. Then we get married, and immediately we’re a husband or a wife. We have a child – now we’re parents: fathers, mothers. A few more years go by – grandfathers, grandmothers. And this is how we see our self. When we think of our self, “This is me. This is who I am”, and this continues on and on until we finally get the last label: dead.
But if we look closely, we find that this is only in relation to our material bodies. It’s true: the body is male or female, black or white, old or young, big or little. Whatever the body is, it is. That’s true. The question is: is this who we are? Every day we all take our pilgrimage to the mirror to see how “we” look.
Sometimes we’re a little disappointed. But we always come back the next day, “Gee, maybe there’s been some improvement?” But do we really see our self? So the question is, “Am I this material body?”
If we want the most authoritative answer, we should go to the revealed scriptures of the world. And there we will quickly learn: no, you’re not the material body. But this is the modern world and very rarely does anyone go to scripture to find the truth in life. However we do readily accept the conclusions of the scientists. You see, we like the scientists because they prove things.
And uniquely enough, in this case the scientists have proven in their laboratories that we’re not our material bodies. They discovered that in the human body, there’s no cell that lives more than five years. Some cells have a very short life. For instance, the lining of our stomach, those cells live five days; our skin cells, one month; liver cells, six weeks, etc. But in five years everything has changed. So if I’m looking at a photograph of myself taken ten years ago, the eyes in the photograph are actually different than the eyes I’m looking at the photograph with. They’re not the same eyes.
According to this scientific formula, if I’m thirty five years old, I’ve had seven bodies. But, of course, we all know we’re not seven different people. Everybody knows, “I’m still me”. So the changing factor is the material body and the constant factor is our self. And we’re not these material bodies.
Now at this point some people become meditative or introspective, they begin to look inside to find out who they really are. And when we look inside, what do we find? Well, there’s emotion, desire, feeling, will. It’s all very real and it’s easy to conclude, “Ah hah! This is who I really am”. But we must confirm this with scripture and especially the Vedic scriptures because they are very detailed in this knowledge.
And when we do, we find we’ve made another mistake – this is not who we are either. This is actually another material body. It’s called the subtle, mental body. Sometimes it’s called the astral body. I know some of you’ve heard of the astral body. So really we have two bodies. We’ve got our physical body and our mental body. Exactly like two layers of clothing: an outer layer and an under layer.
But the question remains, who am I? So once again we go to the Vedas and there we learn that we are in a different category of energy. Now, everything is energy, and our bodies are material energy. But we learn that we are spiritual energy, and we further learn we are a tiny little spark of spiritual energy.
We learn that material energy is temporary. And that’s very easy to see. We know all too well our bodies are very temporary. So much so we don’t even want to talk about it. “Hey, hey, don’t talk about that!” But even the more permanent things like this building; come back here in one thousand years, “Gee, where was that lecture, again?” See, temporary.
But we learn that spirit is eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. So we are eternal. We also learn that material energy is non-living. And again that’s easy to see. This table or this microphone, there’s no life. But we learn that spirit is life itself. There’s no such thing as live matter, there’s no such thing as dead spirit.
We are the life force in the body, and as long as we are present in the body, the body is called alive. But actually this is not true. The body’s dead. We are alive. And that becomes very obvious at the time of death. At the time of death we leave the body and at that moment the body reveals its true nature: it can’t even sit in a chair, falls on the floor. So we are the life force in the body; therefore our true identity is spirit soul. Spirit meaning that we are spiritual in essence, soul meaning the individual spiritual spark that we eternally are.
We never become someone else, we never cease to exist. Now, for some people this is very depressing news, “What, I’ll always be me? Gee, I thought it’d be over soon”. Sorry, it’s never over. But when we learn the truth in life, this becomes very wonderful news.
So once again, we are spirit soul. And we further learn we are part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. There is a Supreme Soul from which we all come. We are known as the atma, the Supreme Soul is the Paramatma. Now understanding this, we can begin to discuss and hopefully understand reincarnation.