Coming and Going
By following the teachings of the saints, we begin to release the attachments that bind us to the world. We abstain from actions whose consequences might force us to take another birth. While acknowledging that the idea of reincarnation is difficult for many people in the West to accept, Dr Johnson points out how a little reflection will prove it to be the only rational explanation of some of the most complicated questions of life. For example, why does an elderly invalid live on for years, a burden to himself and others, while a healthy child has to die suddenly?
“Only reincarnation offers any satisfactory explanation. To explain it as the inscrutable decree of a deity, arbitrarily interfering in the affairs of human life, is to invite despair and unbelief. As a matter of fact, the parents are to understand that the child, due to his own past actions, was from the very beginning allotted just that brief span of life, and they must be thankful that the child was ‘loaned’ to them for that brief period. The child, due to his own past actions, had been allotted just that length of life and no more. That time being finished, he had to go. His short life was only one scene, just a brief appearance, upon the stage of his career. This little act had to be played. It was also one episode in the life of the parents. When the consequences of past actions of both parents and child were paid, there was no further need for the child to remain there, no more than an actor should remain on the stage when his act is finished.
“Again, why do some people enter this life with such terrible handicaps, while others, apparently less worthy, are born in the lap of fortune? Why are some children born with superior intelligence, while others are hopelessly dull? Why are some born with criminal tendencies, while others come into life with a lively sense of purity, justice and love? These and a hundred other questions press themselves upon us all, and they have no answer, except when seen as a direct consequence of our past actions which resulted in the need to take another birth.
“Each one comes with a definite program outlined by himself, as a consequence of the actions committed by him in the past. That program he must carry out. When the last act of that program has been performed, the scene closes. The end comes. It must come. Moreover, the end cannot come until the last act of his life has been performed. He then passes to another life. There again his future is assigned to him on the basis of his own earnings. In this manner every individual marks time in the grand calendar of the ages. The only thing that can ever bring this monotonous routine to an end is the meeting with a true living spiritual teacher. When a man has this opportunity, it implies a good fate karma and that the supreme crisis of his long career has come. His deliverance is close at hand.”
Some actions bring about minor repercussions, others produce more significant consequences. Sometimes the consequences of an action may be on such a large scale that they cannot be borne in one lifetime. We then have to be reborn to reap the full consequences of those actions. For example, one person intentionally throws acid in the eyes of another person and blinds him. The one who threw the acid might well have to take another birth to face the consequences of what he did. Because the action was intentionally destructive, the unavoidable result will be some sort of unfortunate experience and could even result in the person being born blind. This is strict justice, brought about as a direct result of what the person did.
One cannot escape the consequences of one’s actions even if the deeds are done secretly. The consequences of all actions have to be experienced by the doer at some point in time. If we are born in certain specific conditions, it is not because of some arbitrary fate or random predeterminism. It is the direct result of what we have done in the past. In the same way, whatever we are to become in the future will be the direct result of what we do now.
Numerous books have been written on life after death and the subject of reincarnation. Many people are familiar with the studies of doctors and psychiatrists who have conducted research on people who have clinically died and then come back and told of their experiences. Some psychiatrists who have experimented with hypnosis find that when the patients are asked to go back to the time when they were in the womb, they occasionally regress even further, going back to a past life. There are numerous accounts of people all over the world who remember former lives or who possess particular virtues or skills at a very young age that normally would take a lifetime to learn. Such examples indicate a carry-over from former lives.
As suggested in the previous chapter, when a person dies, different experiences may await the soul. Being reborn on earth is only one of them. Reincarnation implies that the soul may have to return to this plane of consciousness to account for deeds done in the past.
It is not the purpose of this book to prove whether or not reincarnation or life after death exists. The reader can do his or her own research, for a lot of material on the subject is available. As with the rest of the subjects that comprise the teachings of the saints, blind faith in this area is not required. One should make a thorough inquiry into every aspect of the teachings and this subject is no different from any other. The issue of reincarnation should not bother the reader. One need not believe in reincarnation or in life after death to benefit from the teachings of the saints. In theory we may accept that there might be some truth in this way of thinking, but the only way we will ever be sure of it is by going beyond the limitations of our own physical selves and experiencing whether the statements are true or false.