What Reincarnates? (reconstructed)

Discussion in 'Reincarnation Questions' started by fiziwig, Feb 20, 2003.

  1. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    This is reconstructed from a thread that got lost in the changeover to the new board software:

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    Original post by Frimmin

    My question is: WHAT exactly, is it that reincarnates? If the whole of the immaterial person reincarnates, why is it that they can almost always be contacted psychically in the afterlife, where they seem to be pretty much the same person they were before.

    My working hypothesis is that the answer lies in the complexity of of the immaterial person. Buddha describes us as consisting of five skandhas: body, feelings, thought forms, perception, and consciousness. All Western schools of psychology have their own ways of labeling immaterial parts of a person. Id, ego, superego; persona, ego, Self, shadow, anima/animus; etc. Perhaps part reincarnates, and part resides in the afterlife.

    I believe that most Buddhist schools prefer not to get too specific about reincarnation, I've heard the explanation that the reincarnated being is neither the same nor different from the previous life being.

    However in Vajrayana, there's a tendency to be more specific. Andrew Harvey in "The Direct Path" writes about a Tibetan "two-drop" theory of reincarnation, that only the most spiritual part of a person reincarnates, the rest dies with the body.

    The teaching of Mongolian shamans is that there are 3 souls, suld which resides in nature after death, ami which reincarnates, and suns, which also reincarnates. I believe that some Native American systems also consider reincarnating and non-reincarnating parts of the person.

    In "Destiny of Souls" Michael Newton maintains that a part of the soul always resides in the afterlife, and it differs from a small part which reincarnates of very spiritual persons, to almost all of very non-spiritual persons reincarnating.

    What are your thoughts?


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  2. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    Reply posted by Fiziwig

    Being an empiricist I would look to reliable case histories for evidence to support one or the other of the many theories.

    The "personality" might be thought of as an habitual way of responding to internal and external stimuli. A pessimistic person is pessimistic because he is locked into certain ways of interpreting the events around him and has certain expectations of and responses to those events. These habitual thought patterns are set into place by early experiences that affirm those habits and supported by the memory of past instances where those habitual interpretations have proven correct.

    So to ask if personality survives is, in essence, to ask if habitual thought patterns survive.

    The cases studied by Dr. Stevenson seem to run the gamut from those in which the past personality is remembered but not retained intact to those in which the past personality remains relatively intact. Thus one child might remember having been a grumpy person while another might still be a grumpy person.

    Clearly memories and habits can survive. But just as clearly they don't necessarily survive. In a sense one could regard the evolution of the soul as a measure of its ability to learn from past errors while not clinging to the erroneous thought habits that lead to those past errors.

    As the soul evolves, therefore, old habits of thought which have been outgrown are cast off and the personality grows and changes. So it is not primarily "personality" that survives, but that which "owns" the transient personalities, expresses through them, and learns from them. This must, in other words, be something which is deeper than personality and upon which personality is overlaid.

    That something deeper is itself not a static and unchanging thing for if it were the soul would not be capable of growth and evolution. Yet at the core of that deeper thing is the pure consciousness which never changes. All we can conclude from the evidence, therefore, is that there is a core of pure consciousness around which certain other layers or shells aggregate. The mood I'm in today is the outermost and least permanent of those shells since it might change at a moments notice. My general personality in this life is a slightly deeper, but still impermanent shell, and there are numerous different descriptive theories about what the other shells might be like and what they are called. But in the final analysis all we know for sure is that some of those shells sometimes reincarnate and some do not. Some of those shells are fleeting and ephemeral and some a bit more permanent. But ultimately all but the deepest core is impermanent.

    But the deepest core is empty of content. It is consciousness with nothing to be conscious of and so our experience of being a "soul" arises from the accretions that we gather around that deepest core.

    At least that's my theory of how it works.
     
  3. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    Reply posted by Goldenage

    What incarnates
    What incarnates
    Dear Frimmin,
    I visited your site and liked the “internal content”.

    Regarding you question, I think both Fiziwig and Speruoc are essentially correct. For instance I do indeed recognize some of the core personas that make up my extended self (the soul) although before I encountered the lives in which they were active, I just thought of them as aspects of myself. Where special capabilities are called for they just emerge seamlessly to manage the vehicle. Also, I know for sure that parts (maybe unwanted parts) can break-off the personality at death, particularly where the individual lacks coherence as the result of wayward living, that sort of thing. However, I have reason to think that in the coherent individual, everything is retained. I “saw” this when I meditated on a couple of lives and became aware in my higher self that I had managed or created every single aspect of these representations including the related infrastructure, the “ground” so to speak. Being able to see this I could also see all the elements.

    One can maybe make an argument that the central core is “consciousness with nothing to be conscious of” but in a way that is understating the situation IMHO. At the very least, this core can be and is conscious of all that there is, through the action of its agents, most of whom have forgotten the source from whence they arose. At the most, either you, myself, Fiziwig or Sperouc (anyone) can realize the exact same thing. And when it happens (is induced) you will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt as consciousness knowing itself – self knowledge.
    Regards


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  4. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    Reply posted by kris0503

    koshas
    Vedanta pictures man as an inner essence covered by five sheaths (koshas) like the layers of an onion. The five sheaths starting with the outermost are as follows:

    (1) Annamaya kosha or the sheath composed of food. This is our physical body we identify with most naturally.
    (2) Pranamaya kosha or the sheath of vital airs or the energy body as some refer to it. This sheath corresponds to the faculties of digestion, circulation, excretion, perception and thought absorption.
    (3) the manomaya kosha or the mental sheath,
    (4) vijnyanamaya sheath or the intellectual sheath and
    (5) the anandamaya kosha or the sheath of bliss.

    This structure of man assumes that the inner sheaths can control the outer sheaths and are therefore more important than the outer sheaths.

    A variant of this classification describes a human as being made up of three 'bodies'. First there is the gross body (Sthula sharira) which corresponds to the food sheath and material aspect of energy sheath. Next is the subtle body(kshyushma sharira) which is composed of the subtle portion of the energy sheath together with mental and and intellectual sheaths. And finally, there is the causal body (karana sharira) which is composed of the sheath of bliss. Incidently, the causal body is thought to be the carrier of impressions/memories(samskaras) and intentions(vasanas) from one life to the next.

    That brings us to the question what reincarnates. Clearly, it is not the physical or gross body. We see it disintegrate when the person dies. The innermost essence is described as pure consciousness. It is immutable and unchanging. That leaves the subtle and causal bodies to reincarnate. I think that it is the causal body that reincarnates since it is the holder of memories and intentions.


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  5. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    Reply posted by Goldenage

    What incarnates?
    Dear Kris,
    Yes you are of course correct and I did not mean to give the impression that I thought any part of the physical reincarnated. But just as I think bits can “detach” so also do I think the essence can and does indeed incarnate. What otherwise is on-the-ground self-realization if not the visitation and manifestation of the innermost essence, the realisation of the true self? What then otherwise would Krisna be?
    Regards


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  6. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    Reply posted by Frimmin

    Wow!
    Thanks, everyone for your insights. Wonderful, well-thought, intelligent responses.

    Shells covering emptiness, multiple personas for the souls, remembering versus being a past persona, the koshas—Great stuff!

    One particular idea I'm toying with is that the will, or a significant amount of it, is part of what reincarnates.

    I've had a number of experiences of talking with persons on the other side. Saints and holy people seem very "complete,"but some of the more troubled, less realized souls seem very "stuck," —unable to move on—until helped with prayer for their healing. It was sometime after this, that I read that Mary had told one of the visionaries in Medjugore that it is important to pray for souls in purgatory as "they have no free will." This corresponded with what I was seeing, but I couldn't understand why this should be so, until I began to accept reincarnation.

    So here's another part of my working hypothesis: a soul's will reincarnates in proportion to its attachment to existence on earth, which can leave the persona/shells/koshas in the Afterlife somewhat fragmented, with little will of their own. Or another way of looking at it is that more spiritual souls have more spirit or will, enabling the persona in heaven to be fully endowed with will as well as the re-incarnate persona.

    I'm also thinking of Return from Heaven in which Bowman says that less evolved souls tend to be more subject to karma than more spiritual beings which plan their reincarnation more carefully.

    Or maybe not?

    Kris, how does this square with your idea of the causal body?
    Robin, does this resonate with your "coherent individual" retaining everything?


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  7. Dal Cais

    Dal Cais New Member

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    I'm sure others have studied this much deeper then I, and are much more eloquent, but here's my 2 cents for what it's worth.

    Trying to understand the exact same question, I took it to the most basic level I could. What is the difference between a living person and a dead body?

    Electrical impulses in the brain signaling the various organs and functions of the body.

    It's probably a very simplistic conclusion. But without electrical activity in the brain the body dies. Electricity is energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted. It's just a guess but maybe the "Soul" is an as yet undiscovered form of energy. This form of energy does not have a personality, but is able to store memory.
     
  8. fiziwig

    fiziwig moderator emeritus

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    In many of Dr. Ian Stevenson's 3000+ cases of children who have independently verifiable past life memories that could not have been obtained in any "normal" way a large percentage of those cases have the feature that the child inherits some aspects of the personality of the previous incarnation. Whatever constitutes the soul, therefore, must also include something that preserves at least some aspects of the personality.
     
  9. Artzab

    Artzab AS2

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    I used to think of this quite a few years ago. If cosmology/quantum physics can be any help to the mystery of reincarnation as we are essentially all atoms/stardust and if the same stuff people are made of made up of the same stuff as rocks, then maybe these past life memories are the energy that carries on to the next life. Sometimes I think a more interesting question to ponder is exactly what particle of energy reincarnates or manifests as a person in a current incarnation?


    My guesses are anything from atoms to electrons to photons to even k mesons, but who really knows?
     
  10. Kohr-Ah

    Kohr-Ah New Member

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    At the end of Reincarnation and Biology Stevenson speculates that the thing which reincarnates is not personality, but individuality. That is something larger and contains information obtained in previous lives. Bodybuilder may have bigger muscles in his next incarnation, someone who has learned to speak fluent spanish may find it easy to learn spanish in his or her next life etc. Personality doesn't survive and people have different personalities in different lives.


    I believe that Stevenson's view is close to truth. Perhaps soul is like an actor and various incarnations are his roles. Always the same actor(soul) but different roles(incarnations).
     
  11. PowerofSoul

    PowerofSoul New Member

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    This is always interesting.


    I like the Buddhist view, more commonly called rebirth. The soul is a continuous stream of conscious perception. We ARE change. Reincarnation or rebirth fits the universal law of impermanence, and it is just another form of change.
     
  12. Deborah

    Deborah Executive Director Staff Member

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    An interesting older thread for reflection - does anyone have something to add to the discussion?
     

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