“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)Download this episode (right click and save)
Reincarnation is a little difficult to believe. After all, we have no memory of past lives. I don’t remember coming out of the womb in this body, but I take the information on the authority of my parents. I extend faith to accept information in so many areas, but reincarnation seems a little far fetched.
Shri Krishna explains it brilliantly in a single Sanskrit verse, found in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that there is a constant changing of bodies. The change occurs to the composition of matter, while the individual inside remains the same. The individual is the conditioned soul. At the end of life, there is simply another change, into a brand new body, or collection of material elements.
The changes are happening constantly, but unless we juxtapose snapshots from moments separated by a significant length of time, the shifts are difficult to see. The living entities in this world are nothing but spirit-body combinations, and from different snapshots we can see not only the proof of reincarnation, but also of the eternal nature of the soul.
Yup, those pictures are of me. I know, I was very cute as a baby. Thank you. I was adorable. No need to gush, since I am obviously not that way anymore. I was cute, but I could barely do anything. I smiled sometimes, but I was also a crier. My parents used to pick me up and carry me around the house to keep my attention diverted. Otherwise, I would cry for no reason.
That was a different life that I have no memory of. Nevertheless, it did happen. The difference is represented by a certain type of body covering my individuality. Though I am no longer an infant, I can’t say that this period of my life never occurred.
That’s where I started to learn things. No longer completely dependent on my parents, I could walk on my own, talk to friends, turn on the television, and even read books. I learned the alphabet and simple mathematics. That was a good time in my life. My ability increased a little bit, and that facilitated increased exploration of the world around me. Again, I don’t remember everything about this period of my life, but it did happen. The spirit-body combination changed compared to the time of infancy.
We can include adulthood in this snapshot. This is where I became somewhat independent. I could play sports. I could run for lengthy periods of time. I could eat whatever I wanted, because my metabolism was so strong. I had a job that I went to every day, and a loving family at home. I started having children of my own, bringing in new spirit-body combinations into this world. This was one of my favorite periods, since I had independence and also maturity.
4. Old Age
Alas, youth and adulthood cannot last forever. Time takes its toll. In old age, I started to wear down. I could no longer eat the same foods. I could still move around, but not with the same alacrity. My skin and hair started to show signs of old age. It’s funny, because on the inside I still felt young. I felt like I had just as much life in me as I did when I was younger. This spirit-body combination is guaranteed to manifest for anyone who remains alive long enough.
This is where I change into another body. Time to start anew. Where do I go exactly? From where does that next body come? What type of elements will cover the soul? The determination is made by karma. All the activities I did while in the various snapshots of spirit-body combination, good and bad deeds - I will reap the fruit at some point in the future.
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
At the time of death, my consciousness gets measured. Whatever state of being I quit the body with, that state I attain in the next life without fail. The subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego come with me. The travel is like the air carrying aromas.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
The same person who perfectly describes reincarnation has made an interesting offer. Anyone who thinks of Him at the time of death no longer has to take birth. They don’t go through varying snapshots anymore. They get a spiritual body, one which is conducive to the practice of pure devotion.
Thoughts of Krishna are easy to maintain at the time of death if they are regularly present in the prior stages. That’s why more important than knowing reincarnation is knowing the person in charge of all the laws of the material science, the person from whom everything has come. In this age especially He is best known through the chanting of His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
For reincarnation to understand,
Take life’s snapshots in hand.
Like in infancy with abilities few,
In boyhood running after body grew.
In adulthood at independence’s height,
In old age weaker in strength and sight.
At time of death to a new body go,
Never again if Shri Krishna to know.