By Martin Gauthier
The survival of a part of us after the disappearance of the physical body is something that does not surprise a lot of people anymore. Since Antiquity, thinkers have tried to understand and explain to others what was happening to those who leave us behind, in order to give not only a meaning to life, but also to death.
We therefore became accustomed to beliefs that send souls to places as diverse as the Kingdom of the Dead in Egypt, Hades underworld in Ancient Greece, the Elysian Fields in Rome, Hell and Purgatory for Christians, the Sheol and Garden of Eden for Jews, Barzakh for those of the Islamic faith and the Happy Hunting Ground for Native American tribes.
In short, the departure from our world is a given, there is a transition to another world and even a destination. Religions, sects, movements and philosophical schools offer a range of options on the subject, some good, some outright bad, which are often based on services provided during the existence, in order, no doubt, to prepare us before we jump into this novel adventure.
What still surprises many of us, however, is the idea of the transmigration of the soul, especially in the West. The Hindu religion has been interested it for a long time and even exported the idea. To showcase it and wet our appetite, it exposes this concept known to most of us: karma. This Sanskrit word does not appear at a basic level to have a secret for anyone slightly interested in the human condition. It is used in all manners. Philosophers, proponents of spirituality and public opinion make use of it, jokingly or seriously.
We usually tend to link karma with fate. It is considered an inherent part of our destiny. The logic that underlies karma is rather simple and can be stated as follows: the evolving being – you or me for example – is shaped by its past actions and past lives. Karma presupposes that for every action, there is a reaction or compensation. Life leads us to make decisions that translate into actions that inevitably bring consequences to which we react and thus turns the wheel of life.
And whoever talks about past lives talks about reincarnation, a concept Hindus have placed in the heart of their religion. The Bhagavad-Gita, an epic poem of the Hindu tradition, states it quite clearly in Chapter 2, Verse 27: “Of that which is born, death is certain, of that which is dead, birth is certain.”
Hindus regard the body as a temporary material envelope from which the soul frees itself when death occurs. If bad actions predominated in the course of the lifetime, the soul comes back in a new body to compensate for them.
Although Christianity, Judaism and Islam do not espouse this way of viewing life, other movements, groups and philosophical schools accept it and develop the principle. Karma is based on two factors: the survival of what we are beyond the physical plane and the return in the flesh to continue our evolution.
Reincarnation thus implies that the soul needs to take a physical envelope more than once to complete its evolution. Why this need? It’s difficult to give a definite answer without having completed our evolution, but the notion put forward by Rudolf Steiner that the destiny of the human and of the Earth are inextricably linked due to the fact they are born at the same time is something to take into account.
As this evolution first took place in an intangible way, some spiritual seekers say that the physical portion of the being, chiselled over this long period, has reached a level of evolution and perfection the astral body is still far from having attained. It is this learning phase of the emotional portion of us that has so much impact on the physical body. Thus, this body of ours is, ultimately, only a receptacle and the tactile memory of our decisions that reflects the impact of actions decided through the use of our free will.
The dynamics inherent in karma are consequently set in motion. The results of the successive chains of causes and effect somehow elicit a return in a corporeal structure, in matter. It is a question of rebalancing the being that created an imbalance while indulging in excesses during a life experience.
This text is an excerpt from my book We only live once, available in paperback and ebook format at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk. Watch what it’s all about on YouTube. Visit Seek Publications on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.