reincarnation


reincarnation
reincarnationist, n.
/ree'in kahr nay"sheuhn/, n.
1. the belief that the soul, upon death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form.
2. rebirth of the soul in a new body.
3. a new incarnation or embodiment, as of a person.
[1855-60; RE- + INCARNATION]

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or transmigration of souls or metempsychosis

Doctrine of the rebirth of the soul in one or more successive existences, which may be human, animal, or vegetable.

Belief in reincarnation is characteristic of Asian religions, especially Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. All hold to the doctrine of karma, the belief that actions in this life will have their effect in the next. In Hinduism, a person may be freed from the cycle of birth and rebirth only by reaching a state of enlightenment. Likewise in Buddhism, discipline and meditation may enable a seeker to reach nirvana and escape the wheel of birth and rebirth. Manichaeism and Gnosticism accepted the concept of reincarnation, as do such modern spiritual movements as Theosophy.

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▪ religious belief
also called  Transmigration, or Metempsychosis,  

      in religion and philosophy, rebirth of the soul in one or more successive existences, which may be human, animal, or, in some instances, vegetable. While belief in reincarnation is most characteristic of Asian religions and philosophies, it also appears in the religious and philosophical thought of primitive religions, in some ancient Middle Eastern religions (e.g., the Greek Orphic mystery, or salvation, religion), Manichaeism, and Gnosticism, as well as in such modern religious movements as theosophy.

      In primitive religions, belief in multiple souls is common. The soul is frequently viewed as capable of leaving the body through the mouth or nostrils and of being reborn, for example, as a bird, butterfly, or insect. The Venda of southern Africa believe that, when a person dies, the soul stays near the grave for a short time and then seeks a new resting place or another body—human, mammalian, or reptilian.

      Among the ancient Greeks, Orphism (Orphic religion) held that a preexistent soul survives bodily death and is later reincarnated in a human or other mammalian body, eventually receiving release from the cycle of birth and death and regaining its former pure state. Plato, in the 5th–4th century BC, believed in an immortal soul that participates in frequent incarnations.

      The major religions that hold a belief in reincarnation, however, are the Asian religions, especially Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, all of which arose in India. They all hold in common a doctrine of karma (“act”), the law of cause and effect, which states that what one does in this present life will have its effect in the next life. In Hinduism the process of birth and rebirth—i.e., transmigration of souls—is endless until one achieves moksha, or salvation, by realizing the truth that liberates—i.e., that the individual soul (atman) and the absolute soul (Brahman) are one. Thus, one can escape from the wheel of birth and rebirth (samsara).

       Jainism, reflecting a belief in an absolute soul, holds that karma is affected in its density by the deeds that a person does. Thus, the burden of the old karma is added to the new karma that is acquired during the next existence until the soul frees itself by religious disciplines, especially by ahimsa (“nonviolence”), and rises to the place of liberated souls at the top of the universe.

      Although Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging, substantial soul, it holds to a belief in the transmigration of the karma of souls. A complex of psycho-physical elements and states changing from moment to moment, the soul, with its five skandhas (“groups of elements”)—i.e., body, sensations, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness—ceases to exist; but the karma of the deceased survives and becomes a vijñāna (“germ of consciousness”) in the womb of a mother. This vijñāna is that aspect of the soul reincarnated in a new individual. By gaining a state of complete passiveness through discipline and meditation, one can leave the wheel of birth and rebirth and achieve nirvana, the state of the extinction of desires.

       Sikhism teaches a doctrine of reincarnation based on the Hindu view but in addition holds that, after the Last Judgment, souls—which have been reincarnated in several existences—will be absorbed in God.

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Universalium. 2010.

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