flowering lily pad
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jeremy Burgin

Reincarnation as a concept is something I have struggled intellectually to come to grips with. However experience has taught me that the problem usually isn’t with the spiritual concept but rather with my limited understanding of it.

This has happened before when I’ve read certain texts and the way I’ve understood what I was reading turned out later on in the light of greater experience and learning to not come close to what the text was expressing.

Today I would like to share with you my current understanding of karma and reincarnation. Much like the article on Nirvana I expect many of you will have alternate views on this subject. If you do I would love for you to share them here in the comments so that we can all benefit from an expanded and enriched perspective.

I would love to write a follow up article to both this one and the one on Nirvana to present alternative perspectives on the subjects. For me to successfully achieve that I need your help.

The concepts of karma and reincarnation are closely entwined. The word “karma” simply means action. Unless we’re talking from a Buddhist perspective where it has to do with intention. This is one of the fundamental things the Buddha changed or elaborated on.

If you’ve tried some meditation or if you’ve simply sat and observed and considered the nature of things (who wouldn’t call that meditation?) you will have noticed that all is in the process of change. As little as five or seven years ago your physical body was completely different. Every single cell that made up your body at that time has since died and been replaced. Everything undergoes a continuous transformation.

Our mind undergoes a continuous transformation. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions continuously arise, abide for a time and depart. There is nothing we can point to within the mind/body complex that is the same now as it was just seven years ago. In fact some 2,000,000 red blood cells die and must be replaced every second!

One Moment Conditions the Next
However, what we are now has been conditioned by what we were. Every moment conditions the arising of the next moment. Nothing from the previous moment is carried over but there is a clear relationship between one moment and the next. There is continuity.

Therefore, at the moment of death, the quality of consciousness conditions the arising of the consciousness that is incarnated. The new consciousness depends on the last moment of the old consciousness but nothing as such is carried over.

Interestingly under this understanding death can be seen as no different to what is already happening now moment to moment. There is actually no death as such. Therefore there is nothing to fear. Nor is there birth as such.

Nothing dies if death means to cease to be. Everything simply transforms. Thus what we think and do can continue to play out as future effects. What this means to me is we as powerful human beings can take hold of this moment right now, step out of the reactionary robot like nature of ego, and creatively make this moment a joyful, loving and compassionate moment. In this way we have the power to condition the next moment, the next moment, the rest of our existence in this state and beyond.

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