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Theory of rebirth?

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

16 August 2021

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Birth and death belong only to the body. This does not affect the Soul at all. It is birth-less and death-less. If the Soul is not born and hence does not die, there is no relevance to rebirth also. When the present birth itself ceases to be true, how can rebirth be thought of? The focus should be to realize the Soul as birth-free and death-free.

Respected Swamiji: 

…I am really overwhelmed by the depth of the theme described in the Dṛg-dṛśya–viveka article in Vicharasethu. I want to study the whole Text in English. Please direct me. Where can I get all the relevant volumes?

Poojya Swamiji, I have two questions burning in my mind –

  1. When we are severely ill or having terrible pain does our ‘Self’ also go through the pain? Can it remain untouched? Similarly, when we are insulted or treated unjustly, does the Self ‘feel’ it?
  1. Is there a poorva-janma? Does our karma determine next birth?

I will be delighted if you can manage some time for me and write a few lines regarding these.

Yours sincerely, seeking blessings, P

* * *

Dear and blessed P: 

Harih Om Tat Sat… I note that Dṛg-dṛśya–viveka has evoked a deep response in you, and you want to study the text in greater detail. Ramakrishna Mission has brought forth a publication of this and you may contact them for the same and also for the other Upanishadic texts that you want.

  1.  Is the Self untouched by pain and other afflictions?

By ‘Self’ you should not understand a personal, formed being or personality. It is the essence of one’s being. All your ‘personal attributes’ vanish when you go beyond the material body and get into the mind-substance.

Mind is an expression of consciousness, as brilliance is of fire. Does fire have any shape? Similarly, what about space? Unlike space and fire, mind-substance or Consciousness not merely exists in the body, but permeates it and extends beyond too. Consciousness is unlike matter and energy. There is nothing like it. You have to understand the comparison with the examples, and also grasp its utter contrast through examples.

Examples are from the object-sphere. But Consciousness is the one Subject, of the subject-sphere. It is different from the objects and is itself. Hence the full contrast with all object illustrations. But all our knowledge is object-based. We can only use this object-knowledge to discuss the Subject and make it known. So, there is a self-falsification in the very process. But still it works well.

This Consciousness is a very subtle substance, though it cannot be called a substance. Being so, it does not get affected by any reaction, action or their outcome. By roaring waves is the sea water affected? By boiling, does water become another matter? Allow the hot water to cool, it becomes the same as it was earlier. Consciousness being far more subtle and also sentient, no bodily, mental or intellectual reaction can affect or afflict it. When body is pained, the pain is felt in and through the body alone. Both in the pain and feeling it, Consciousness is the cause. It is itself, unaffected by pain and pleasure.

  1.  Poorva-karma and its phala are a religious theory. Religion is a psychological science. Its theories are meant to evolve, console and correct the mind. Poorva-karma theory is also one such, aimed at helping, relieving and stabilizing the mind. And it also does so very effectively.

But if you analyze matters more rationally and spiritually, neither birth nor death is a fact for the Soul. Body alone is born, but the Self is not. When the body is seen to have been born, the Self, which is impersonal and like sea and air, nay, like the space itself, is not obviously born. If the first event, namely birth itself is not true of the Self, then how can death be?

Do not seek after the Self, which is impersonal and all-pervading, taking death alone for consideration. The first enquiry must be: if the Self is not born at all, then why should it exist since the body is only to die at the end?

So, dear P., be a good and substantial seeker. Take your thoughts to the first and pre-first entity. Try to grasp first the unborn Self, not the undying alone. If birth is disproved then death also becomes a non-issue for enquiry. Unfortunately, people base their thoughts on death of the body and seek a further birth of the Soul. The first instance of the birth itself is inapplicable to the Self, then why should death be further considered as a separate event?

Our ideas are primarily based on objects, which are gross and which surround our senses. All these perceptions are objective. But the Self is the only Subject of all these. Being the Subject it is quite different from and unlike the objects. The knowledge comparisons and contrasts relating to all these or any of the objects, do not relate to something totally different from them — namely, the Self. Nevertheless, this is the only knowledge we have to relate to and understand. So, the actual relevance is one of total contrast.

When matter dies, it is sure to be reborn; so, it is called transformation. When energy is used, it is just a question of disappearance and reappearance. This is all about external, visible things. But the Self is inward and invisible. Unlike matter, it is neither transformed, nor is it disappearing and reappearing. If the Self too were to transform and disappear, then something else would have to be there beneath it, distinct from it, non transforming to enable the transformations and disappearances.

By Self is meant that non-transforming, non-disappearing substratum. You, a seeker, have to rise in your imagination and understanding, to reach that first, pre-first, pre-time, pre-change factor. That is the Self we talk about. I only know of it. My realization is about that alone. And that, surely, neither is born nor can it ever die. And so there is no question of its rebirth at all.

Birth and rebirth are tentative propositions, one visible and the other invisible, to help man think about continuity of existence. When his sense of enquiry grows and deepens, this continuity will be probed, dissected as it were, to take him to the non-object, the Subject entity, which he will gradually understand to be Impersonal, Absolute, Extremely Subtle. That is the Sentience in the whole creation around us. Everything else is made to be because of this Supreme Sentience. Sentience by its very nature is independent, self-willing and self-doing. It animates matter, activates the processes thereupon, empowers planets and heavenly bodies to be in their trajectories, and brings about the vegetation and the rest.

Till your understanding grows and deepens to catch this subtle and absolute all-pervading sentience, doubts will remain. To help the seekers in this intermediate state, to prevent them from being helpless and weak, the theories of rebirth are offered. They are true inasmuch as their help and need are practical and compulsive. Also, they emphasize continuity of existence, which is a fact and truth, in full.

Contemplate on these lines. You may come here leisurely and have a discussion on the points that need more elucidation.

With love and āśīrvād,
Your own Antarātmā, Swamiji

– From the book–“Dear and Blessed Soul”

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“If you analyze matters more rationally and spiritually, neither birth nor death is a fact for the Soul. ”

“Poorva-karma and its phala are a religious theory. Religion is a psychological science. Its theories are meant to evolve, console and correct the mind. ”

“The first enquiry must be: if the Self is not born at all, then why should it exist since the body is only to die at the end? ”

“Sentience by its very nature is independent, self-willing and self-doing. It animates matter, activates the processes thereupon, empowers planets and heavenly bodies to be in their trajectories, and brings about the vegetation and the rest.”

“By Self is meant that non-transforming, non-disappearing substratum. You, a seeker, have to rise in your imagination and understanding, to reach that first, pre-first, pre-time, pre-change factor. That is the Self we talk about. I only know of it. My realization is about that alone. And that, surely, neither is born nor can it ever die. And so there is no question of its rebirth at all.”

“Take your thoughts to the first and pre-first entity. Try to grasp first the unborn Self, not the undying alone. If birth is disproved then death also becomes a non-issue for enquiry.”

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