Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Have we lived before? by Vijaya Schartz
In Tibetan Buddhism, when the Dalai lama dies, the monks go in search of their next religious leader, by seeking the children born the closest to the time of the old one's death. As each child grows, he is tested on his memories and knowledge from his previous life, and if recognized as the authentic reincarnation of his predecessor, he is declared the new Dalai Lama.
This ancient idea of reincarnation permeates even the Judeo-Christian culture, as it was still a common belief through the Middle East in biblical times. The scriptures, despite thorough editing, still mention that Jesus told his disciples that John the Baptist was indeed the prophet Elijah, who had died centuries earlier. The doctrine of reincarnation was once recognized as part of the secret teachings of Jesus. In 553 AD, however, at the Second Council of Constantinople, the Roman Church declared this doctrine a heresy. Reincarnation is still a tenet of Orthodox Judaism.
While the body returns to ashes, Christianity still recognizes the soul as eternal, and life as eternal. In the bible edits, the term reincarnated was often replaced by resurrected, like at the end of times, when we shall all return to witness the final battle between good and evil, before the meek can inherit the Earth.
A popular French Christian name is René, which means "reborn." Until the last century, many families named their newborns after their grandfathers, as it was still believed that most likely the grandfather would choose to reincarnate inside the family to continue his work of leading and protecting it.
Modern philosophers are revisiting the theory of reincarnation with new eyes. Many use regression under hypnosis to search for memories of previous lives and claim to have found irrefutable proof. Having studied in India, I find the topic fascinating. I especially like the notion of Karma and Samsara, knowing that justice will prevail in the end, and we are just at different stages in our personal evolution. Assuming that God is just, such a theory would explain all the inequality in this world.
As a novelist, I couldn't resist writing a story based on reincarnation. If you enjoy exotic settings and provocative ideas, try ASHES FOR THE ELEPHANT GOD. It's about two lovers, murdered in a previous life, who meet again in this life, in India, where their murderess awaits...