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Definition of Reincarnation
In this and subsequent chapters, we will learn what reincarnation actually is and its relevance to our lives. Re- = 'again' in = 'into' earn = 'flesh' -ate = 'cause' and -ion = 'process'. 'Reincarnation' literally means "the process of coming into flesh again." This implies that there is something that is separate from the flesh or body that returns after death. The word 'Transmigration' is often used interchangeably with reincarnation. Trans = 'across' migr = 'to go or move' and -ation = 'process of causing or becoming'. Transmigration is "process of moving across, from one to the other."
The Vedic scriptures give us information regarding the nature of matter and spirit. The fundamental knowledge taught is that we are not these bodies; we are souls. The body of the soul is made of sat-cit-ananda (eternity-knowledge-bliss) and it is called the spiritual body. The material body is made up matter: the five gross elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether and the three subtle elements - mind, intelligence and false ego. Originally the soul is a spiritual being, but when he desires to enjoy this material world, he is sent down from the spiritual world. When the soul is sent to this material world, he has to be covered by a material body so that he may get acclimatized to matter, just as one wears winter clothes when one goes abroad, to a cold atmosphere. The soul first accepts a body that is human in form, but gradually, due to his degraded activities, he falls into lower forms of life - into the animal, plant, aquatic forms etc. By the gradual process of evolution, the soul again attains the body of a human being and is given another chance to get out of the process of transmigration. This simple process by which a soul transmigrates from one body to another is known as Reincarnation.
Direct experience, inference, logic, religious faith and empiric observation all concur: some sort of conscious self energy exists within the body. The body is an instrument; the conscious energy, soul is the user of that instrument. Say, I use a bicycle to travel from one place to another. My brain or nervous system is as much different from 'me' as the bicycle I ride. If an instrument is destroyed, the user is not necessarily destroyed as a consequence. Analogically, if my body is destroyed, I am not necessarily destroyed with it. If my cycle is destroyed, I would have to get another one to ride - or I would have to stop using bicycle altogether. But I exist apart from the bicycle, and my longevity does not depend upon the longevity of my instrument. One bicycle may breakdown, but I can get a new one. In the same way, the soul assume millions °f births one after another, to fulfill his unfulfilled desires or can purify himself, escape from the cycle of birth and death and return back to the kingdom of God, from which he originally came here.