Why are Westerners fascinated by the Philosophy of Reincarnation? – 1 Dec 11


When I yesterday mentioned that I have stopped believing in reincarnation, I of course did not mean that I now believe in the Christian idea of heaven or hell. In my eyes both philosophies are man-made, created by religion in order to make people do the right thing. I don’t believe in the Hindu idea of reincarnation anymore because it does not fit to my thinking and nor does any other religion’s idea of what comes after death. I know however that many westerners decided to believe in reincarnation. Obviously this means that even though they were brought up as Christians, they rather believe in being reborn again than getting stuck in hell or rejoicing in heaven for eternity. How come? What makes the philosophy of reincarnation so attractive to people in the west?

One reason is that you can feel life is not simply over after death. And it is also not only either heaven or hell. You have some more hope because something will come after it. There are more lives to come. If you miss someone who is dead, it is consoling to think he will be reborn and you might meet him in another incarnation. You yourself don’t need to suffer from too much guilt because you will get another chance in another life. If you have unfinished business, you will be able to finish it next time. It reduces the amount that you suffer and gives more hope than the wide-spread and usual Catholic or Christian idea. Hinduism practically teaches you the art of dying. I did mention this in my diary before, too.

Another factor, which is the one I already mentioned yesterday, is that it serves as an explanation for why things are as they are today. If you are poor and miserable, it is because of your past life and what you did then. If you have a lot of problems with your family, you can find an explanation saying that you still had to learn that lesson from your past life when you made your own family’s life difficult.

The problem with this way of seeing reincarnation is not only that people get stuck in the past instead of living in the presence. They also tend to neglect their own responsibilities. They don’t accept their mistakes in this life and don’t take responsibility for their actions because there is always a very convenient excuse: that happens because of my past life! Then a problem with your ex-husband did not start because you both were egoistic and should have listened to each other more but because he was the one who allegedly killed you in a past life. How easy, now you don’t have to work on your conversation skills but just accept that it was not meant to be. It was Karma, it happened and that’s it.

It is convenient not only for many people as an excuse but for many others a great chance to make money. Hindu gurus and modern western healers claim to know what is going on in past lives and a lot of them even say they can heal any problems resulting from that! I have written a lot about this topic of fake healing and more in my diary before, too:

Fake Business of Healing Past Lives – 14 Feb 09
Healing Past Lives – a Good Business – 9 Jun 09
Storytelling of Past Lives – Something nobody can Prove – 10 Jun 09
Psychics need Psychotherapists – 7 Dec 09

When reading these diary entries, you may find that I mention my belief in reincarnation. As always, I say we humans are changing in an everlasting process. What I believed then, that we have past lives and are reborn, is not what I believe now. Two years ago I just thought it is not important what we experienced in past lives. Today I don’t believe in reincarnation anymore at all. I accept change and whenever I write my entries, I honestly write what I have on my mind.

The foremost reason however for people in the west to believe in reincarnation is in my opinion not really any of the ones above. It is neither that they are very worried about their life after death nor do most of them search for an excuse for what is happening in this life or are very interested in what happened in their past lives. No, I believe for the majority of western people who believe in reincarnation the main reason is that it is ‘in’. It is in fashion to believe, at least a little bit, in Hinduism or Buddhism. A lot of stars claim to have converted to one of these religions and the whole esoteric scene is a big mixture of Asian religious ideas. Some appeal to a greater group of people, so they are accepted by masses and I believe reincarnation is one of those ideas.

Anyway, there is no way to prove whether Christianity is right and there is heaven and hell as your final station, whether Hinduism is right and you have to come again and again to learn and finally reach Nirvana or whether I am right with what I believe, that there is just simply nothing else anymore. You and I will not know it until we are at a point where we won’t be able to tell it to anyone on earth anymore.

So let’s just accept that some people do good in this life because they think they will come in heaven, others do good because they believe they will have a better next incarnation and some do good because they are simply convinced that it is good to do good. If this is the result, I don’t mind a difference of opinion at all.

8 Replies to “Why are Westerners fascinated by the Philosophy of Reincarnation? – 1 Dec 11”

  1. Apart from our different believes in this question the most important sentence comes at the end of todays blog: doing good because you’re convinced that doing good is simply good!But the question remains to me: If we have a soul and a body, will in your belief our soul vanish together with our dead body? If our soul is our connection to god, is our soul then not eternal? Where will our soul go after our bodies have become Earth again? Maybe a question for tomorrow’s blog?! 🙂

  2. Actually Swamiji those very reasons you outline also provide impetus for more positive approach to life. For example whatever your status in life you understand two things: that you can move up the ladder and also that you need to in order to have a better incarnation next time round.

  3. well said Swami Ji Balendu. Would people believe in reincarnation if it were never written? Must we believe in any of the old doctrines that have been passed down through generations? Historical perspectives on religious philosophies are vast and many. My mind tells me they are all man made. As you say, each to their own……

  4. Anj, i have been here before, Hans, why do you ask? and what or who is this God of which you speak? true life, now, needs no afterlife, our life IS, do not question what may lay after or what has been, life is now, here, amongst your fellow man (and woman) if you can help someone then do so, if you can be there for someone, then do so, do not waste your time pontificating about “your last life, or your next life” offer you hand and that will determine whether you have been or will be in the future, give your hand to a brother or sister in need and that will be enough. there is no “each to their own”, that is a fabrication for the weak, we help everyone, we give, we love, in Scotland at least, Altruism exists

  5. ‎’each to their own’ defines personal choices, unfortunately for some, they are rendered helpless by their belief systems. you could say there are no ‘definitive answers’, however, concerning this topic, i agree with you Mark Lloyd Riddell – there ARE definitive answers. im trying not to say too much concerning this topic (ie, all the stuff in between, war, famine, pollution, disease etc…these burning issues in my mind are NOT controlled by karma) as i have very strong views upon the idea of reincarnation and karma, and although the philosophy itself begins with judgement, i do not wish to do so. for many, we are what surrounds us, and certain philosophies are firmly rooted in peoples minds. OOHHH to be free in ones thinking without following written man made laws/inventions….maybe one day! :-)im free today, got the day off after all, woop woop!

  6. I very much appreciate your earlier post concerning reincarnation, and I admire you so much for expressing your views upon this matter.
    I also no longer feel that this philosophy suits my train of thought, it no longer resonates with me. I have thought about it hard and long and still I come to the same thought’s – that the idea of reincarnation is not suited to many feelings and understandings that I now have upon life.

    I did struggle with this realisation, and I also found it hard to express my thoughts upon it to others that feel strongly about it. I felt that I was somehow intruding into their belief/systems.

    The reasons why I dont resonate with the idea of reincarnation any more are long and many, and perhaps I will write them in a further message to you some time.
    I dont wish to control anyone or convince anyone about my own pesonal views, each person is entitled to be in control of themselves, their own minds – that in my mind is freedom.

    I respect you very much for airing your views in the public domain, I find it amazing that you did so. You are a man who many people respect, It is incredible (to me) that you have shared your feelings on this topic. Thank you.

  7. I would like to hope that doing good because it is good to be good is what we are all striving for irrespective of religious belief. The idea of reincarnation appealed to me very much when I was a young child and my grandmother shared her strong belief in reincarnation with me. She used the beautiful life and inevitable death in of plants, birds and animals in her beloved garden as an example of this and i believed what I saw. Perhaps a little idealistic to imagine how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people may come back in an afterlife but maybe that our souls come back in some form to give life again.

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