Friday, May 23, 2008

Resurrection V/S Reincarnation

There was a time when the Church would wildly defend the idea that the earth is flat until proven wrong by scientists. There was a time, as well, right in the middle of the 17th century, when a fierce conflict broke, opposing scientists like Galileo and Church representatives, over the question of whether earth was revolving around the sun or not, and the church representatives would publicly state that the idea that the Sun is stationary is "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture..."; while the Earth's movement was also considered as an heretical idea, contrary to theological 'truth'. Up to this day, it is still with the same persistence that they would defend the idea of the resurrection of Jesus and his bodily ascent to heaven, despite the fact that many of the church ministers, priests and bishops themselves have come to doubt the literal meaning of resurrection.

How can we know that Jesus did survive crucifixion and continued to live hereafter? Simply because there are evidences of his presence elsewhere after the time of crucifixion, and even a tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir, which many people believe to be his own. He did not die on the cross, and was probably found in a state of coma when removed from there. I will come to that issue in detail later.

Let me first deal with that question of bodily ascent of Christ. Every living creature dies; human beings, animals, and plants are all subjected to the same law of life and death. The only one in history of mankind to have escaped death, according to the Church, is Jesus! All prophets of the world have eventually died one day: Mohammed, Krishna, Siddharta Gautama, Rama, Mahavir, etc…..For the Church, Jesus is the only one who does not die because he is of divine essence. This gives Jesus divine authority on earth and also a supremacy over all other prophets and saints. Some would also say that this spectacular ‘miracle’ is the confirmation that his message is the one to be listened to among all others.

I will not try to diminish the value of his message by any means. Actually, what I am going to tell you in the rest of this article is not meant to undervalue his message in any way. For me, he is still the enlightened being with a mission to lead others to truth. But I hope you realize that this idea that Jesus rose from the dead can indeed have a negative effect in the mind set of those who share it, the Christians in general, even leading them to believe that other religions inspired by the ‘simple human beings and mortals’ can only be inferior compared to the true religion of Christ.

What I am trying to do here is to show to my readers the universality of world religions. If God, the unique God I believe in, is the inspiration behind the major religions of the world, then, it shouldn’t be a problem to reconcile the messages of their founders to mankind. But in the case of Christianity as it is, the concept of resurrection is a serious obstacle in achieving this. You will find now that Jesus himself has never taught this concept of resurrection to his disciples, that this is an idea that crept in among the early church fathers probably, but it ended up influencing the whole western world through the Christian churches.

Resurrection is a religious theory suggesting the possibility of human beings to rise again from death in their own body and flesh. In other words, dead people simply sleep until they are woken up for final judgement at the end of time. Reincarnation, on the other hand, is the idea that the soul migrates from one body to another, that when any living entity dies, its spirit or soul leaves the dead body and may enter a new body (That of a new-born entity).

With religions that predate Christianity, there is the belief that man is born again several times on earth and goes through the cycle of birth and death until he frees himself from the shackles of his mortal body. Hindus believe in rebirth, Buddhists as well believe in it. If you study the Bible closely, you will find that Jews as well, at the time of Jesus and before the time of Jesus, also believed in rebirth.

In Matthew, chapter 16, Verse 13-14, we can read the following:

Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some [say] John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

(Read here as well)

In other words, they are suggesting that others around them thought that Jesus was Elijah, John the Baptist or Jeremiah born again. Why would they say such a thing if, in their time, around that period, there wasn’t the belief that man could be born again? You will note that Jesus himself doesn’t correct them in saying that.

It is true that the bible contains arguments against reincarnation and rebirth, but most of these arguments come in the writings of people living after crucifixion of Jesus. This belief in resurrection, bodily resurrection, seems to have appeared with the early church fathers, who had to explain to the mass, the disappearance of Jesus after he was raised from the dead, and therefore was born the idea of Jesus’ bodily ascent to heaven. It is very much possible that the close disciples of Jesus themselves had to come up with an explanation, and they simply could not reveal the truth to the rest of his followers because it could endanger the life of their master. It is possible that they themselves invented the idea that God, the Father, took back Jesus, his Son, in Heaven.

Resurrection is a concept that Paul would defend scrupulously in his letters afterwards. In Corinthians, Chapter 15, verses 12-14, he states:

‘Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.’

It should be noted that Paul himself had never known Jesus personally and had never met Jesus himself. He became a follower after having a vision of him on his way to Damascus. And it happened after the crucifixion of Jesus. But nevertheless, it is the Pauline version of the story that has survived up to this day and is considered as the official version. It is the Pauline version of the story which is expressed in the four canonical gospels of the New Testament. If I had to choose in between who to follow, Jesus or Paul, I would choose Jesus!! Not Paul!! The church father, Iranaeus, in his treaty entitled ‘Against heresies’ in 178 AD stated that Christians believe in the resurrection of the Physical body, in the same way that Jesus himself resurrected in his body. Very soon, I will show you that Jesus, in fact, never died on the cross, but regained consciousness inside the tomb. And therefore, that the whole concept of resurrection is, in fact, a false doctrine propagated by the church fathers, when in reality, Jesus taught something else, more in line with the philosophy of the East: Karma and rebirth.

I will now quote a series of sayings attributed to Jesus in one gospel written by the apostle John himself……Yes! A gospel written by one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, and approved by the rest of the apostles…It does exist. It has been called the ‘Gospel of Holy Twelve’ by the translator of the text, the irish Rev. Ouseley. (Look here) I will present the details of the origin of this gospel in another article. For the time being, let me quote the appropriate sayings of Jesus to support this idea I am trying to convey here.

In the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the God-incarnate states the following:

"Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into transmigration, into various demoniac species of life" (16,19). And also: "Those who worship me and surrender all their activities unto me, being devoted to me without hesitation, engaged in devotional service and meditating unto me, I deliver them quickly from the ocean of birth and death" (12,6-7).

In the Gospel as written by John, Jesus is reported as saying:

As ye do unto others, so shall it be done to you. As ye give, so shall it be given unto you. As ye judge others, so shall ye be judged. As ye serve others, so. shall ye be served.
For God is just, and rewardeth every one according to their works. That which they sow they shall also reap
.” Lection 18, verses 11-12

This is the law of Karma as taught by Krishna as well in the Bhagavad Gita. Christians who refute the idea of reincarnation or rebirth generally have no explanation to the fact that babies too can start suffering from their tender age, and they can be born blind or sick from birth. Orthodox Christians might tell us that these babies have not yet sinned themselves but they are suffering for the sins of their parents. Jesus’ statement on the contrary, provides a clear and logical explanation to the cause of suffering of mankind. We can only suffer because of our own deeds, not because of the deeds of our parents, grand-parents, etc….

Lection 24, verse 4, Jesus also states:

And Iesus spake unto them of the law of love and the unity of all life in the one family of God. And he also said, As ye do in this life to your fellow creatures, so shall it be done to you in the life to come.”

Or Lection 34, verse 10,

For as ye have done in this life, so shall it be done unto you in the life to come.’

Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Science is also in line with the theory of Karma and rebirth as taught by Krishna and Jesus. Will the Church follow?

For a more in-depth discussion on the subject, read here

I'd like to quote someone on the same subject here:

"First you have to define the word "religion". If, by religion, you mean the teachings of the original founder of the religion, that is one question. If, by "religion," you mean what the current followers believe, that is a different question.

I'll start with the first question, and this is my opinion and conclusions after 30 years of study.

All of the founders of the world's major religions not only believed in reincarnation, but they could see it directly and had first-hand knowledge. It was not always prominent in their teachings. That depended on the spiritual needs of the people they were helping, on what they needed to understand, and what they could understand. Generally, it was something that was understood by the close followers and by followers who had studied the esoteric side of religion. Every religion has an esoteric side, a mystical branch. In the mystical branch of every religion, you will find reincarnation. It is not usually given great importance *in and of itself*, but it is important as it fits in with the overall scheme of things. Reincarnation is simply birth, life, and death, with the one addition that these things are assumed to be cyclical. So, in the larger picture, birth has its importance, no more. Life has its importance, death has its importance, and the state between lives has its own importance. Reincarnation simply says that these things repeat in cyclical fashion.

There are clear references to reincarnation in the version of the Christian New Testament that has come down to us. I think that origially there were more, but they were edited out. Reincarnation as a doctrine was taught by many of the early Church fathers until it, along with the doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, was declared "anathema" by the Fifth General Counsel convened in 553 AD by Emperor Justinian, against the wishes of the Pope who boycotted the meeting. In the 13th century, a group of Christians called the Cathars in France were the first to be persecuted in the Inquisition, partly for their belief in reincarnation.

Meanwhile, the philosopher Plato taught reincarnation, but that portion of his teaching is not taken seriously by most philosophers today, even those who specialize in Plato. Perhaps they feel that he just had a "senior moment" when he taught that idea, and they forgive him for it.

Now, to the second question, what the modern-day followers of the religions believe. This is obviously going to be a matter of percentages. We know that 25% of Americans, for example, believe in reincarnation, but I don't know the statistical breakdown for Christians. However, I do know that some percentage of Christians do believe in reincarnation. Here is a sample web page:

A large percentage of people who consider themselves to be Christians believe that the Bible teaches against reincarnation. First of all the Bible does not speak with one voice, nor is it one homogeneous work. It is a compilation of writings, not all of which agree. Some of it has been edited by well-meaning people trying to clarify something, or by people trying to promote a philosophical or political agenda. So in portions of the New Testament you can find clear indications of reincarnation; and in other portions, you can find clear pronouncements against it. What Christians who do not believe in reincarnation tend to do is to ignore the indications for reincarnation, and quote the sections against it.

However, you will find that most of the portions of the New Testament which teach against reincarnation were written by Paul. And most of the sections which show a clear indication for reincarnation are quoting Jesus or involve a story about the disciples asking Jesus a question.

So I think if there is a discrepancy, I would prefer to trust what Jesus said than what Paul said.

To see an example of the New Testament where reincarnation is clearly referred to, look at John 9:1. There, the disciples are asking Jesus a question. They obviously have been debating amongst themselves, about the reason that a man was born blind. They put to Jesus the two most likely explanations: 1) that the man sinned, or 2) that his parents sinned.

Since the man was born blind, if he sinned to cause the blindness, it would have to have been before he was born. Since we cannot assume that the disciples were so stupid as to believe that a fetus can sin to such a degree as to deserve to be born blind, there is no alternative except that the disciples gave the first explanation as that the man sinned in a previous lifetime.

The second explanation that the disciples gave to Jesus was that the man's parents sinned. This is the traditional explanation. So in these two alternatives, the disciples are giving Jesus the esoteric explanation, and the traditional explanation.

Jesus answers that it was neither, it was for the glory of God to be manifest. This exchange is typical of a spiritual master and his disciples. Jesus was not refuting either answer, but he was taking the question to a higher level, in my opinion. His exact meaning is open to interpretation. Either the man chose to be born blind before he incarnated; or this is a philosophical answer about the nature of suffering, that the end-result is to glorify God when suffering is handled properly. But the answer does not refute either alternative explanation offered.

Therefore, Jesus had the clear opportunity to refute reincarnation, and He didn't do so. This means that reincarnation was taken for granted by the disciples in their intimate conversations with Jesus.

However, we know from the New Testament that Jesus spoke openly with the disciples, but did not speak to the masses without using parables.

Consider this parable, taken from the Gospel of Thomas, which is from the Nag Hammadi documents, paragraph #109:

Jesus said, "The kingdom is like a man who had a hidden treasure in his field without knowing it. And after he died, he left it to his son. The son did not know (about the treasure). He inherited the field and sold it. And the one who bought it went plowing and found the treasure. He began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished." (Thomas O. Lambdin translation)
Here, the treasure is the soul within, and the knowledge of the soul within, which is one with God. The field is the body and the field of experiences in this physical world.

Dying and leaving it to his son means, reincarnating. In the next incarnation he also does not know about the soul within. Selling the field means incarnating again.

Finally, in this next incarnation, the man begins "plowing". Plowing means, to search within oneself for the truth, for the answers to one's questions.

This man who plows, finds the treasure, the direct knowledge of the soul within, which he finds is in and one with God, or Existence itself.

Once he has that experiential knowledge, he begins teaching others. "Lending money with interest" means giving others this treasure, and "with interest" means that when these people have gained this knowledge, they in turn teach others.

So in my opinion this is a sample of Jesus's original teachings about reincarnation, put in parable form to prevent people who weren't ready for it from understanding it.

That parable still works, by the way. People who are ready to understand it, get the meaning immediately. People who aren't ready for it never believe my explanation.

Indeed, life is not meaningless, except in our imagination and dulled perception. Life is so full of meaning that it would overwhelm you if you got a glimpse of it. It is so full of meaning that people who are awakened to the presence of God may look at one small object and be absorbed in the deep meaning of just that small thing for hours. Life is also a supreme adventure, a great quest, and that quest has tremendous meaning. Any suffering we experience is a challenge, an opportunity to be courageous and bring out the best in oneself. A study of the reports of people who have had near-death experiences is instructive. They tell us just how meaningful life is, and what is really important.

I hope this helped answer your questions.

Best regards,
Stephen S."

If there is reincarnation, there is reincarnation for everyone. It's not based upon beliefs of people. If it is true for a Hindu or a Buddhist, it is also true for a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. If reincarnation is real, then it is real for everyone. If it is real, then it is not real according to beliefs of people, but it would be a law of the universe. For me, it's just like the Copernicus' theories of heliocentrism being rejected by the Church in the past. One day, eventually, humanity will have to realise that the teachings of the great masters as they know it, have been significantly distorted over time by those who had the power to do it.

1 comment:

Anirudh Kumar Satsangi said...

According to His Holiness Maharaj Sahab (1861-1907), the 3rd Spiritual Head of Radha Soami Faith, “during satyayuga,……… consequence of their greater spirituality and of the high purity of their heart, had no difficulty in getting access at times into the astral planes and holding communion with the departed spirits.” (Source: Discourses on Radhasoami Faith). Greater Spirituality as mentioned above is linked to the size of pineal gland. In Satyauga pineal gland was highly developed but in Kaliyuga the pineal gland is a rudimentary (undeveloped) organ. This is downward evolution of humankind. We should ascertain the period taken from highly developed pineal gland to undeveloped pineal gland. This will determine the Age of Human Existence on this Earth Planet. Other arguments, as I think, will not help much.
In Bhagavad-Gita Lord SriKrishna says to Arjuna:
“I taught this immortal Yoga to Vivasvan (sun-god), Vivasvan conveyed it to Manu(his son), and Manu imparted it to (his son) Iksvaku. Thus transmitted to succession from father to son, Arjuna, this Yoga remained known to the Rajarisis (royal sages). It has however long since disappeared from this earth. The same ancient Yoga has this day been imparted to you by Me, because you are My devotee and friend, and also because this is a supreme secret”.
At this Arjuna said: You are of recent origin while the birth of Vivasvan dates back to remote antiquity. How, then, I am to believe that you taught this Yoga at the beginning of creation? Lord SriKrishna said: Arjuna, you and I have passed through many births. I remember them all, you do not remember.
1. Radha Soami Faith was founded by His Holiness Param Purush Puran Dhani Huzur Soamiji Maharaj on the prayer of His Holiness Huzur Maharaj who later on became second Spiritual Head of Radha Soami Faith. The prime object of the Radha Soami Faith is the emancipation of all Jeevas (Souls) i.e. to take the entire force of consciousness to its original abode. There is a tradition of succession of Gurus or Spiritual Adepts in Radha Soami Faith. I am one of them as is evident from the following facts or ….
“My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state.
HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith.
Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.”