Background and Authenticity of the Vedas
Just as a student endeavouring to understand the intricacies and principles of chemistry would have to rely upon standard chemistry books, reincarnation which is categorically positioned under the science of metaphysics and anti-matter has to be understood and studied through the books that explain the particular subject matter. The Vedas are the most scientific, logical and well-established books of knowledge that emphatically establishes its authority over subject matters which are beyond the periphery of methodologies and principles of material sciences. “Vedas” comes from the Sanskrit root word “vid” which means knowledge. Vedas typically means All-knowledge and it contains subject matters of both material and spiritual sciences. Vedas are neither sectarian nor limited to a particular religious faith. Knowledge or Vedas are for the entire human race irrespective of nationality, religious faith, caste, creed or gender. Any human who is desirous to know about the Absolute Truth can find all answers in the Vedas. In this aspect, one might question the authenticity of the Vedas and its accuracy to enlighten about the various subject matters that it deals with. There can be two sources of knowledge namely:
- “Paurashya”- Knowledge that comes from mortals.
- “Apaurashya”- Knowledge that comes from the transcendental or the divine platform; From the Supreme Being.
One might question the accuracy of the knowledge that emanates from the intelligence and senses of a common man because our senses are prone to making mistakes and are limited in so many ways. We do find so many scientific principles being modified and altered every decade which portrays the imperfectness of our intelligence and the senses through which we try to gain knowledge. For instance, Dalton was the first to introduce the atomic structure. It was accepted for over a century but later it got replaced by Thompson’s plump-pudding model.
This was again disproved and Rutherford’s nuclear model was accepted as the authoritative atomic structure. Later on, Neil’s Bohr modified the so called authoritative atomic structure of Rutherford. When subject matters that can be perceived by our senses are prone to imperfectness, what to speak about the subject matters which are beyond our senses?
However, there is another source which is transcendental to the shortcomings of mortal beings. It is known as “Apaurashya”, or that which is not written or created by human beings. Vedas are “Apaurashya”. They have emanated from the Supreme Being Himself and thus are free from all kinds of mistakes. The profoundness of the Vedas can be understood from the facts that the discoveries of eminent scientists like Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, Newton’s theory of gravitation, the description of DNA strands and many others can be found in the eternal knowledge of the Vedas. Hence to understand the subject of reincarnation from a scientific perspective, one has to take shelter of the Vedas, the essence of which is the greatest philosophical book that has blessed the human race- Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
Having thus established the importance and necessity of the Vedas to understand the science of reincarnation, let’s unfurl its mystery by the first verse of the Vedanta sutra- conclusion of the Vedas
“Athāto Brahma jijñāsā”
Knowledge always begins with an inquiry and this particular verse states that now that you have this human form, enquire about the divine. The main point here is to enquire. Whenever one hears the word reincarnation or rebirth, one’s mind is flooded with different types of inquiries like:
- “Is reincarnation true and can it be proven scientifically?”
- “Is death the end of everything?”
- “If not, then what is it that reincarnates?”
- “What will the living entity be in the next life?”
- “Does the living entity have a choice in this matter?”
- “Can a human being reincarnate as an animal and vice-versa?”
- “Is there an end to reincarnation?”
- “What happens then?”
The path towards the understanding of the mystery of reincarnation will certainly appear to be more enlightened with the answers to these profound questions.
Is reincarnation true and can it be proven scientifically?
The answer to this very common question is certainly affirmative, but then the general notion behind this particular question is to provide empirical proofs- that can be perceived by the material senses. This has been an archaic trend in the science fraternity that all that can be perceived through our senses including the mind and intelligence, can and should be considered to be true while others that are beyond the scope of human comprehension is considered to be false. This merely shows the imperfectness of material scientists. It is similar to asking someone to prove the principles of mathematics by methodologies used in the science of cooking. Is it possible? Certainly not, mathematics and cooking are two different subjects having their own sets of rules, abbreviations, assumptions, and limitations. Therefore, should mathematics be rejected all together just based on such a foolish approach?
The science of reincarnation states that it is the transcendental spiritual spark known as the soul, that leaves the current body upon death and again enters another body. The soul is not material. It is divine, transcendental to the laws of the material world. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:
avyakto ’yam acintyo ’yam
avikāryo ’yam ucyate
“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (2.25)
Here the Supreme Personality of Godhead, addressing anti-material subject matters to Arjuna, describes the nature of the soul. The soul is described as invisible and inconceivable. This means the soul cannot be perceived either through our material senses or through the material methodologies that are incorporated in laboratories to understand the material processes of this world. The soul which is eternal and spiritual can never be understood by material and empirical means. One who desires to understand the soul and reincarnation must resort to the science of spirituality as delineated in the Bhagavad Gita and follow the principles and instructions under the guidance of a bonafide spiritual teacher. Then one is sure to realize the soul and how it reincarnates from one life to another. One can understand the presence of the sun through the bright sunlight even when the sun might not be visible to us. Similarly, despite being invisible, the soul can be perceived in the form of consciousness that dwells not only in humans but in all living entities. In addition to this, there have been many modern-day scientists who have endeavoured to find the truth about the soul and its transmigration after death. One among them is Late Dr. Ian Stevenson.
Late Dr. Ian Stevenson, the Head of the Psychiatry department in West Virginia has revolutionized the whole western world by his outbreaking researches in the field of reincarnation wherein he had found numerous outstanding instances of young ones giving vivid details of their previous lives which turned out to be true on proper verifications.
Being an eminent member of the present scientific fraternity, he did not simply reject these visible pieces of evidence simply because they appeared to be opposing the common notion of modern science. He presented his research in front of the whole world so that the truth about our existence may be known- ‘Death is not the end! ‘
Reincarnation Evidence Surprises all!!
Case of an Israeli Child who Recalled Being Killed with an Axe & Identifies his Past Life Murderer, Who Confesses
A Druse boy residing in Golan Heights in Syria claims to remember his own murder. This three-year-old child who had never left his village takes the villagers to the village where he claims to have lived in his previous life. The child also revealed his previous life name (name concealed here) to the inhabitants of the village. On hearing the name, the villagers informed that a person by the same name has been missing for four years and never returned. This entire awe-striking event was also witnessed by Dr.ElaiLasch who was working as a prominent physician in Gaza. The child pointed out to a house and said that it was his previous residence and all of a sudden, the child approached towards a man and called him by his original name. To the surprise of everyone, the child said to the man,” I used to be your neighbour and one day we had a fight. You killed me with an axe.” At this moment, Dr.Lasch witnessed that the face of this man turned pale with fear and started to behave very suspiciously. The child continued, “I also know the place where my dead body has been buried.” The child took the villagers to the exact same place and after excavation, a skeleton was found with a mark on the head which indicated of an attack with a heavy object. This was not over. The child then took the villagers to the place where he claimed the axe used to kill him, was hidden. Interestingly, the axe was found in that same spot. At this time, the murderer became anxious and finally accepted his crime. Thus, the law of the state had him punished.
Is death the end of everything?
The Western world has never restrained itself from expanding its reach to greater and more advanced technological advancements. However, it has maintained a very restricted approach to the profound understanding of life and death. ‘There is one lifetime, just enjoy it’, has been the most powerful driving force in the West that has made the people crazily run behind sense gratification.
Unlike the West, the East has been more open and has accepted since ages that death is not the end. Reincarnation has its roots in the Eastern philosophies the essence of which is the Bhagavad Gita which establishes this fact in the second chapter as follows
dehino ’smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” (2.13)
This verse clearly states that death is not the end. The Supreme Lord says that the soul passes into another body at death and continues to live on in that body. The living entity is like a traveller, birth and death are the two points that every traveller reaches whilst approaching his destination. Just like one moves on after having reached one of the many points in one’s journey, the living entity also after reaching the point of death moves on with another body.
When we start identifying ourselves with the external body which is temporary, thinking of death as the end of everything appears quite intellectually correct. However, this thinking is completely baseless and unreal because we are not this body. Our identity is completely separate from this body. The next section will deal with this important aspect.
If not, then what is it that reincarnates?
Bhagavad Gita has well defined that death is not the end. Well, if that is true then what is that entity that reincarnates or in simple words “moves on”. People bereft of true knowledge, live their entire lives thinking themselves to be the external visible body. Consequently, one is also naturally inclined to consider relations with other people on the same basis of bodily identification. But even if one has remained ignorant of the truth of one’s identity, death appears as a strict teacher and teaches us that the body that we had considered to be our identity has to be destroyed at the last breath.
When the descendant of Bharata, Arjuna refused to kill his unrighteous relatives in the Battle of Kurukshetra due to his delusion, the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna instructed him as follows:
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.” (2.11)
In the purport of this very important verse, our eternal Diksha guru, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that only one who knows the difference between the body and the soul should be considered to be learned. The temporary body is bound to go through the following six stages:
- Sustenance (stability)
The soul, however, remains consistent and immutable throughout all of these six stages including death. This completely shatters the misconception of our identification as the material body because Lord Krishna Himself suggests not to be affected by the changes of the temporary body because it is not our real identity. Our real identity is the soul within the body which is eternal, unchangeable, unborn and unaffected by death. This is again established by the Lord in the very next verse:
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (2.12)
The Lord here completely condemns the ‘one-lifetime’ theory. Before this verse, He has already condemned the bodily identification and here in this verse, He says that in past, present, and future He, Arjuna and all the kings standing in the battle of Kurukshetra have existed eternally. Factually, their bodies in the past must have been destroyed at death but they (the soul) remained undestroyed at death and again have transmigrated to this present body and shall again take to another body after death in the battle field. However, it is also necessary to mention that this law of transmigration or reincarnation wherein the body deteriorates over time, does not apply to the transcendentally Supreme Lord Sri Krishna.
Throughout the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, The Lord has emphasized that we are not this body, but the eternal spiritual soul- part and parcel of the Supreme Lord but out of our ignorance we have forgotten our true identity and our relationship with the Supreme Lord.
Here’s a small experiment you can try for yourself
The Photograph Experiment
- Take a photograph of your childhood and place it in front of you.
- What do you observe? Do you still look the same physically? Certainly not, there has been a considerable change in the height, weight, and the overall physique. Isn’t it?
- The next question is, “Despite the change in appearance, has the individual in the photo and yourself change?” You might have grown in age but you are still the same individual. Isn’t it?
- This means that however, the body changed but you as an individual did not change.
One can at once realize that the unchangeable identity that did not change has to be the real identity and not the temporary changeable body.
Having said that, just as the soul travels from the body of the child to the body of a teenager, then to the body of an adult, and then to the body of an old person, at death when this current body diminishes, the eternal soul moves on to another body as per the laws of material nature. Moreover, the Vedic literature gives further extensive detail about the soul. The Svetasvatara Upanishad even provides us information regarding the size of the soul.
“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.”
Despite of such vivid descriptions of the soul, one might still feel reluctant to believe in the existence of the soul. Such people go with the philosophy, “Seeing is Beleiving.” However, there is another scientifically accepted approach wherein the existence of the cause is proven through the symptoms. For instance, on an overcast day, one might not be able to see the sun but the presence of light though at a lesser intensity, is enough to prove that the sun is present hidden behind the clouds. In the same way, the soul might not be visible but its existence is confirmed by the presence of consciousness in a body. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this:
yathā prakāśayaty ekaḥ
kṛtsnaṁ lokam imaṁ raviḥ
kṣetraṁ kṣetrī tathā kṛtsnaṁ
“O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.” (13.34)
If one observes a dead body one can equate it to the living body in terms of the external features. The dead body too has the same eyes, ears and nose, hands and legs. In spite of this similarity the major difference between the dead and the living is the presence of consciousness in the living body, while the dead body is simply useless because the cause of consciousness i.e. the soul has left the body.
People all over the world have accounted unusual experiences wherein they have claimed to move out of their physical bodies under some serious fatal situations- accidents, medical surgeries, etc. These experiences are termed as Near-Death Experiences (NDE) or Out of the Body Experiences (OBE). Many have accounted to witness floating above their physical body and even travelling to distant places. In many cases, people have even described the activities of their distant relatives while they themselves being either anesthetized completely or declared medically dead. Such accounts certainly draw our attention to matters that we have always ignored calling it to be just superstitious. However, scientific researches by eminent scholars have brought them to the light as realistic experiences. This is yet another phenomenon that tells us that there is something separate than this physical body- something that moves out and experiences these events.
Bhagavad Gita states
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ’parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (2.22)
How this process of reincarnation occurs and what are the laws governing this will now be discussed.
An Account Of Near Death Experience (NDE) Or Out Of Body Experience (OBE)
This is a true case study of Jazmyne Cidavia-DeRepentigny of Hull Georgia who had died on the surgery table in 1979. Her experience had been published in “BEYOND THE LIGHT”
Here’s what she had experienced:
I must say that this experience was quite unsettling to say the least. I was floating over my body. I could see and hear everything that was being said and done. I left the room for a short while and then returned to where my body lay. I knew why I died. It was because I couldn’t breathe. There was a tube down my throat and the medical staff did not have an oxygen mask on my nose. I had also been given too much anaesthetic.
In my out-of-body state, I’m using my mind to try and make my right arm and hand move – my arms are extended parallel to my physical body. I want my right hand to move, any thing to move. I was trying to pull the tube out of my mouth. I looked down at my face and tears were streaming. One of the nurses blotted the tears from my face but she didn’t notice my breathing had stopped, nor did she see me next to her. At this point, I’m trying really hard to make my physical arm move, but it’s like my whole body is made of lead.
In most of the NDE’s experiences, people have claimed to experience themselves to be separate from their physical body. As in this particular case, the patient could actually see her physical body, and even listen and witness everything that was happening there. These experiences certainly sheds light on the presence of the soul.
What will the living entity be in the next life?
The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna begins the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita by telling His devotee and friend Arjuna that the true identity of a living entity is not the temporary body but the eternal soul. This is the beginning of knowledge. At death, the body diminishes but the eternal soul simply moves onto another body. We are the spiritual spark called the soul which is housed within this machinery.
hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (18.61)
This body is simply a machine within which we (soul) are housed. There are two kinds of coverings around the soul:
The Gross (external physical body) made of five elements- earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
The Subtle body (inner intangible body) made of mind, intelligence and false ego.
At the time of death, the gross body diminishes but the subtle body remains undestroyed and the soul encaged within this subtle body is made to enter into another gross body as per the consciousness developed by that soul at the time of death.
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail.” (8.6)
The Lord here is instructing Arjuna that whatever one remembers as per one’s developed consciousness at the time of death, one is sure to attain that type of body in the next life for sure.
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas. Thus, he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another.” (15.8)
Consciousness starts to develop from the time a living entity is born. It is developed over one’s life time as per the actions that we have performed throughout our lives and the associations that we have had.
Vedic scriptures state that this entire material world is made and governed by the three modes of material nature namely- modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance. It is by the union of the eternal time and the three modes of material nature that innumerable activities originate. It is the association with one particular type of mode of material nature that builds our consciousness and as per our developed consciousness, we tend to act. As per the actions performed one has to suffer or enjoy the reactions of those actions. The Bhagavad Gita vividly describes about the type of life one attains to at the time of death in relation to the three modes:
- When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains to the pure higher planets of the great sages. (14.14)
- When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when one dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom. (14.15)
If in the current life form, one has abundance of any of the six opulences namely- fame, beauty, wealth, knowledge, strength, and renunciation, it is due to the result of pious activities in past life and the lack of any of these opulences is due to the result of one’s impious activities. One might argue that any of these qualities might be gained by one’s hard work in this lifetime itself. But then think a step ahead, numerous people are sincerely trying their best to become rich and famous but how many of them have been successful like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet? What is the reason that only some out of the many succeed? This cannot be explained without the law of karma and its reaction. For instance, you happen to visit a shopping mall which has all varieties of clothing. It is not very difficult to accept the fact that the more money you have, the more expensive clothes you will be able to buy. If you have less money, you will have to be satisfied with the cheaper ones and perhaps if you have no money then you won’t be allowed to take any of the clothing. Similarly, if one has not earned through proper discharge of actions, one is not entitled for anything in life. It is this very law of karma that also decides the afterlife of the soul and that what kind of body one might get- human or animal!
Does the living entity have a choice in this matter?
When the eternal soul out of its own free will comes to this material world, it is immediately entangled in the stringent laws of material nature. But is that all? Does the soul have no choice to decide its afterlife? If the laws of the material nature are alone the deciding factor, then is the soul not accountable for its future? No! that is not the case. Certainly, the living entity which is the marginal energy of the Supreme Lord has the independence or the free will to decide its future both in this life and the next life. Every living entity has been given the free will to choose the path that it wants to lead. Everyone is free to lead as per the instructions of the Lord or against the instructions of the Lord. One must know that success and happiness are attained only when we lead as per the instructions of the Supreme Lord because He is the Creator of this Creation. We often resort to blaming at people or at times God for our miseries, but that is not correct. The Lord has already given His divine instructions and has personally taught the right way to live in this world. It is completely up to us whether we want a prosperous future or a suffering one. Our next life also is in our hands. If we have built our consciousness like that of animals then we are bound to get an animal body in the next life. Srimad Bhagavatam describes the life history of a great king by the name Bharata, who had to accept the body of a deer just because he had developed an attachment with a deer in his previous life and quitted his body thinking about the deer. The Vedic literature describes 8.4 million types of bodies and the soul may be forced to take to any of these bodies as per one’s activities and consciousness developed. This rare human form of life which most of us just waste after sense gratification without knowing of its true purpose is obtained after the transmigration of all types of bodies that we see in the lower species namely- plant, aquatics, animals, insects, birds, reptiles, etc. This rare human form has been gifted with special facilities to fulfil special responsibilities. It is only through this human form that one can attain that Supreme secret mentioned in the Vedas which is not possible in any other living forms- freedom from the cycle of reincarnation!
Is there an end to reincarnation, and what happens then?
As per Vedic Injunctions, the soul being part and parcel of the Supreme Lord is qualitatively similar to the Lord. The soul is sat-chit-ananda (eternal-conscious-blissful). Since it is the inherent nature of the soul to be in a state of bliss, it seeks bliss even in this material world too. However this very place, where it tries to seek bliss is a place of misery. The Creator of this world Himself says in the Bhagavad Gita:
mām upetya punar janma
saṁsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (8.15)
Unfortunately, not knowing the truth, the soul under the spell of Maya, is engaged under various activities that entangle it completely and results in the repeated cycle of reincarnation. As discussed earlier, one must act diligently in one’s lifetime so that the next life may be suitable. Nevertheless, this is not considered highest because even if one gets the body of a billionaire or even a demigod like Brahma, one is bound to suffer the four miseries of this material world namely-birth, death, old age, and diseases. The highest intelligence is to know the Supreme Secret by which one can transcend this process of reincarnation and be free. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this, there is no doubt.” (8.5)
The Lord had earlier stated that in whichever state of mind one quits his body, one gets a similar type of body in the next life. Therefore, if we can think of Lord Krishna at the time of death, immediately we can regain our original transcendental state as pure soul and can return back to Him.
The Lord again states in the fourth chapter of Bhagavad Gita:
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (4.9)
Here the Lord has revealed the secret to get free from this bondage of repeated birth and death which is called reincarnation.
Hence one must use this human form to understand about the Lord’s transcendental nature of His birth and activities as mentioned in the revealed scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam. In this present age, where people have no time at all, the Lord has been most merciful as this can be achieved simply by chanting the Holy names of the Lord:
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”
The result will be that one will immediately get freedom from this material world and will get the chance to go back to the spiritual realm where the soul originally belongs. In the spiritual world, the eternal soul will be engaged in the divine loving service of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna in His personal abode, Golaka Vrindavan which is free from all the sufferings of the material world. It is full of transcendental bliss and the soul serving Sri Krishna is its original constitutional position. Thus, the soul having followed the path of pure bhakti in the material world will attain the Supreme success of breaking the chains of reincarnation- repeated birth and death and will attain to the lotus feet of the Lord in the eternal realm of Gokola Vrindavan which is full in sat-chit and ananda.