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Reincarnation



Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, from the University of Virginia, is an authority in scientific research on reincarnation. He investigated many reports of young children who claimed to remember a past life. He conducted more than 2500 case studies over a period of 40 years and published 12 books, including Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation and Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect. Stevenson methodically documented each child's statements and then identified the deceased person the child identified with, and verified the facts of the deceased person's life that matched the child's memory. He also matched birthmarks and birth defects to wounds and scars on the deceased, verified by medical records such as autopsy photographs, in Reincarnation and Biology.[38]




Reincarnation


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Some skeptics, such as Paul Edwards, have analyzed many of these accounts, and called them anecdotal.[40] Skeptics suggest that claims of evidence for reincarnation originate from selective thinking and from the false memories that often result from one's own belief system and basic fears, and thus cannot be counted as empirical evidence. Carl Sagan referred to examples apparently from Stevenson's investigations in his book The Demon-Haunted World as an example of carefully collected empirical data, though he rejected reincarnation as a parsimonious explanation for the stories.[41] Objection to claims of reincarnation include the facts that the vast majority of people do not remember previous lives and there is no mechanism known to modern science that would enable a personality to survive death and travel to another body. Researchers such as Stevenson have acknowledged these limitations.[39]


Ian Stevenson reported that belief in reincarnation is held (with variations in details) by adherents of almost all major religions except Christianity and Islam. In addition, between 20 and 30% of persons in western countries who may be nominal Christians also believe in reincarnation.[42] One 1999 study by Walter and Waterhouse reviewed the previous data on the level of reincarnation belief and performed a set of 30 in-depth interviews in Britain among people who did not belong to a religion advocating reincarnation. The authors reported that surveys have found about one-fifth to one-quarter of Europeans have some level of belief in reincarnation, with similar results found in the USA.[29]


Reincarnation, also known as rebirth, transmigration, or metempsychosis (Greek) is the philosophical or religious concept that the non-physical essence of a living being begins a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death.[1][2] Resurrection is a similar process hypothesized by some religions in which a soul comes back to life in the same body. In most beliefs involving reincarnation, the soul is seen as immortal and the only thing that becomes perishable is the body. Upon death, the soul becomes transmigrated into a new infant or animal to live again. The term transmigration means passing of soul from one body to another after death.


Reincarnation (Punarjanma) is a central tenet of the Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism; as well as certain Paganist religious groups, although there are Hindu and Buddhist groups who do not believe in reincarnation, instead believing in an afterlife.[2][3][4][5] In various forms, it occurs as an esoteric belief in many streams of Judaism in different aspects, in some beliefs of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas,[6] and some Indigenous Australians (though most believe in an afterlife or spirit world).[7] A belief in rebirth/metempsychosis was held by Greek historical figures, such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, as well as in various modern religions.[8]


Although the majority of denominations within Christianity and Islam do not believe that individuals reincarnate, particular groups within these religions do refer to reincarnation; these groups include the mainstream historical and contemporary followers of Cathars, Alawites, the Druze,[9] and the Rosicrucians.[10] The historical relations between these sects and the beliefs about reincarnation that were characteristic of Neoplatonism, Orphism, Hermeticism, Manichaenism, and Gnosticism of the Roman era as well as the Indian religions have been the subject of recent scholarly research.[11] In recent decades, many Europeans and North Americans have developed an interest in reincarnation,[12] and many contemporary works mention it.


The word reincarnation derives from a Latin term that literally means 'entering the flesh again'. Reincarnation refers to the belief that an aspect of every human being (or all living beings in some cultures) continues to exist after death. This aspect may be the soul or mind or consciousness or something transcendent which is reborn in an interconnected cycle of existence; the transmigration belief varies by culture, and is envisioned to be in the form of a newly born human being, or animal, or plant, or spirit, or as a being in some other non-human realm of existence.[13][14][15]


The Greek equivalent to reincarnation, metempsychosis (μετεμψύχωσις), derives from meta ('change') and empsykhoun ('to put a soul into'),[18] a term attributed to Pythagoras.[19] Another Greek term sometimes used synonymously is palingenesis, 'being born again'.[20]


These religions believe that this reincarnation is cyclic and an endless Saṃsāra, unless one gains spiritual insights that ends this cycle leading to liberation.[2][3] The reincarnation concept is considered in Indian religions as a step that starts each "cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence,"[2] but one that is an opportunity to seek spiritual liberation through ethical living and a variety of meditative, yogic (marga), or other spiritual practices.[24][25] They consider the release from the cycle of reincarnations as the ultimate spiritual goal, and call the liberation by terms such as moksha, nirvana, mukti and kaivalya.[26][27][28] However, the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain traditions have differed, since ancient times, in their assumptions and in their details on what reincarnates, how reincarnation occurs and what leads to liberation.[29][30]


The origins of the notion of reincarnation are obscure.[31] Discussion of the subject appears in the philosophical traditions of India. The Greek Pre-Socratics discussed reincarnation, and the Celtic druids are also reported to have taught a doctrine of reincarnation.[32]


The idea of reincarnation, Saṁsāra, did not exist in the early Vedic religions.[37][38] The early Vedas do not mention the doctrine of Karma and rebirth but mention the belief in an afterlife.[39][3][40][41] It is in the early Upanishads, which are pre-Buddha and pre-Mahavira, where these ideas are developed and described in a general way.[39][42][43] Detailed descriptions first appear around the mid-1st millennium BCE in diverse traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism and various schools of Hindu philosophy, each of which gave unique expression to the general principle.[3]


The texts of ancient Jainism that have survived into the modern era are post-Mahavira, likely from the last centuries of the first millennium BCE, and extensively mention rebirth and karma doctrines.[44][45] The Jaina philosophy assumes that the soul (jiva in Jainism; atman in Hinduism) exists and is eternal, passing through cycles of transmigration and rebirth.[46] After death, reincarnation into a new body is asserted to be instantaneous in early Jaina texts.[45] Depending upon the accumulated karma, rebirth occurs into a higher or lower bodily form, either in heaven or hell or earthly realm.[47][48] No bodily form is permanent: everyone dies and reincarnates further. Liberation (kevalya) from reincarnation is possible, however, through removing and ending karmic accumulations to one's soul.[49] From the early stages of Jainism on, a human being was considered the highest mortal being, with the potential to achieve liberation, particularly through asceticism.[50][51][52]


The early Buddhist texts discuss rebirth as part of the doctrine of Saṃsāra. This asserts that the nature of existence is a "suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end."[53][54] Also referred to as the wheel of existence (Bhavacakra), it is often mentioned in Buddhist texts with the term punarbhava (rebirth, re-becoming). Liberation from this cycle of existence, Nirvana, is the foundation and the most important purpose of Buddhism.[53][55][56] Buddhist texts also assert that an enlightened person knows his previous births, a knowledge achieved through high levels of meditative concentration.[57] Tibetan Buddhism discusses death, bardo (an intermediate state), and rebirth in texts such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. While Nirvana is taught as the ultimate goal in the Theravadin Buddhism, and is essential to Mahayana Buddhism, the vast majority of contemporary lay Buddhists focus on accumulating good karma and acquiring merit to achieve a better reincarnation in the next life.[58][59]


Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism disagree in their assumptions and theories about rebirth. Hinduism relies on its foundational assumption that 'soul, Self exists' (atman or attā), in contrast to Buddhist assumption that there is 'no soul, no Self' (anatta or anatman).[73][74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81][82] Hindu traditions consider soul to be the unchanging eternal essence of a living being, and what journeys across reincarnations until it attains self-knowledge.[83][84][85] Buddhism, in contrast, asserts a rebirth theory without a Self, and considers realization of non-Self or Emptiness as Nirvana (nibbana). Thus Buddhism and Hinduism have a very different view on whether a self or soul exists, which impacts the details of their respective rebirth theories.[86][87][88] 041b061a72


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