Good Research Paper On Reincarnation
Reincarnation is a religious ideology that explains the destiny of the soul or the spirit of human beings after death. It states that upon death, the soul enters into another form of body and lives another life as a different being, animal or plant, until it is purified. This doctrine forms the foundation for Indian religions and many other societies in the world. There is no solid scientific proof of the existence of reincarnation although there have been stories of young children who possess memory thought to be of past lives. In the Indian perspective, the belief dates back to the times of the Aryan invasion and the start of Hinduism and Buddhism. This creates a need to understand the concept of reincarnation and how such beliefs have shaped the culture and values of Hindus in terms of respect for other beings and the struggle for personal sanctification.
As pointed out by Atkinson, the idea of reincarnation does not include the entry of an individual to a new life as a new creation but is a manifestation of a long process of life that results from the past deeds. The writer states that life is a continuous process that is not only shaped by the past deeds of an individual but also the activities that characterized the ancestors from even the remotest past. In reincarnation, only the inner aspects of the soul and conscious are permanent with all the other aspects of life constantly changing in different lives. For instance, earthly possessions are never transferred into the next life which means beggars could become wealthy in the next life. This explanation tends to give hope to the believers to practice chastity and do good as that is the only constant thing that is passed on to the next life.
The ideology of reincarnation has existed among the population in the world for very many years. It is explained that the doctrine has over the times experienced changes where it diminished for a while only to reappear in the generation that followed. Many cultures in the world believed in the idea of reincarnation but it gradually diminished in the 21st century with only few religions mostly in Asia believing in rebirth. Many communities in the Far East have stuck with the doctrines with Hindus and Buddhist having it as a fundamental aspect of their religion. Despite all this it is difficult to conclude that the practice originated from these countries as many historians and early travelers discovered its practice in very many parts of the world.
According to this theory, the mental development of human beings allowed the creation of the ghosts that explain the idea of life after death. The idea of ghosts found it way in almost every culture in the world where stories of special being beings that were not destroyed by death existed. This is explained as the first stage in the creation of the reincarnation belief. With the ghosts being able to withstand death, it was concluded that they must have lived a series of lives in different bodies. The third stage tried to explain the reason why they lived many lives. The conclusion was that the reason behind this was the fact that there were uncompleted tasks that needed to be done the next life.
Reports of early religious and cultural practices in various parts of the world support the idea of reincarnation. Native people in Africa and the red Indians of America are some of the societies that believed in life after death. They placed their dead children near roads as they believed that their souls would get new bodies from the pregnant women who passed by. Other communities such as the Fiji islanders believed in the existence of the black soul that died and decomposed with the body and the white soul that survived as a ghost wandering in the air until it finds a new body. This fundamental belief in reincarnation has stuck in some religions and cultures up to date and remains as strong foundations to the morality of the societies that believe in them.
Reincarnation in the perspective of the Hindu religion involves the aspects of samsara and moksha which means that it is an idea of a long journey of the soul over more than one lifetime with the ultimate reward being attaining moksha. In the Hindu religion, moksha means liberation which is attained by all living things after they undergo a painful and frustrating process of birth, death and rebirth in a bid to attain the desired perfection. This repetitive process of life presents the believers with the chance to clean or undo their past wrong doings and focus on doing the right thing in order to attain the liberation they seek in the afterlife.
One principle belief of the Hindu religion is that all living things possess a special soul that is lodged in the body and cannot be destroyed by death. They believe that once the body dies, the soul can get into another form of body and start another life as an animal, plant or even human being. This explains the numerous sacrifices, offerings and rituals that characterize the Hindu religion as the believers strive to appease the gods as a way of cleaning their past wrong doings in order to achieve desirable moksha. This concept is quite distinct to the religion and disagrees with the idea in other religions such as Buddhism.
Another aspect that is of paramount importance in reincarnation is the law of karma which focuses on the actions of the people. This law dictates that each person is free to do what pleases them in life but explains that bad things always result to an undesirable outcome in the life to come while on the other hand, the good things always brings a good reward. This therefore guides all the practices of the believers in their bid to attain moksha because they believe that what goes on in the present life is a great determinant of the life to come. However, the Hindu scriptures explain that present life deeds do not guarantee what life will be but just influence the reward. The religion is also characterized by the transmigration of the soul although there is no way the deed of an individual can guarantee the outcome in the future life in terms of the form that the soul will take.
Although the fundamental principles of change in form in reincarnation are constant in all the religions, the idea of reincarnation is quite different in the Buddha religion which does not believe in the idea of life, death and rebirth. Reincarnation to them mainly focuses on consciousness with a series of creative imaginations that explain eternity. The actions of individuals in the present life influence their journey through all aspects of life until they attain redemption that is referred to as nirvana.
The idea of consciousness is crucial and life is compared to the waves in the sea that rise at times and appears to be powerful and have shape but later subsides leaving the ocean and its waters cool with other waves rising in other area. This explains life in that the ocean is what possesses life with the waves, which represent the individual beings having temporary living which soon takes another form. The believers of Buddhism are therefore encouraged to maintain healthy conscious and always do good in order to attain nirvana.
The doctrine of reincarnation is important to the Hindu religion as it has its foundation cast in this religious development. All the philosophies and practices of the religion revolve around the idea of reincarnation with many Hindus terming it as the only way to achieving liberation. The followers of the religion view life as one of the stages of a journey with their view of life being that of a soul occupying a body other than the common one of a body with a soul. This is crucial as it allows them to avoid clinging onto earthly possessions as it results to the many challenges facing the human race.
The religion’s major schools of philosophy include nyaya which is concerned with logic, vaisheska which is mainly about nature and the universe as well as Sankhya which teaches about the origin of humanity and the universe. Yoga is concerned with the unity of the soul with Brahman and therefore, prevents it from depending on the body through physical exercise. The purvamimansa is about the religious rituals while the Vedanta explains the Upanishads. All these form the foundations of the religion.
According to the Hindu religious observers, reincarnation allows people to experience the fruits of their karma. This is crucial because the principle belief is that the present life is influenced by the previous lives and the present activities determine how future life will look like. Therefore, reincarnation is important in the manifestations of people’s lives. It also helps people who cling to material pleasure to enjoy their possessions in the next life as the strong cravings results in the jiva or the soul assuming new bodies in the visana. The believers assert that there are some tasks known as sadhana that people are supposed to complete in life. However, if a person dies before they complete their sadhana, reincarnation presents them with a chance to do it in the next life.
Attaining moksha is the dream of all followers of the Hindu religion and the only way to realize enlightenment through reincarnation. Believers of both Hindu and Buddhist religions therefore, strive to perform good deeds in order to be reborn as superior beings in terms of the level of enlightenment. Reincarnation is also important because it helps people and souls fulfill their commitments and debts to other humans in the events where death comes before fulfillments of their promises to others. In this case, the new beings are born in the form of relatives, friends and even enemies based on the nature of the debt.
A person can also be reborn in order to undergo sufferings or punishment for their evil deeds in the past life. If a person or jiva in life deeds provoked the wrath of the gods or the rishi, they are given a new form of body to live in the next life as a punishment. The importance of this is to explain to the believers that no person can escape the wrath of the rishi and not even death can prevent a person to complete their tasks in life.
The doctrine of reincarnation has shaped the Indian culture in many ways starting with the caste system which is a basic part of the religion. It determines how a person’s life and their activities in life should be. This system restrain people based on their beliefs and goes to the extent of determining the economic activities that a person can engage in based on their status and class in the society. The caste system is rooted to the Aryans who developed a similar system as a way of limiting contact with the natives. This system later found its way to the Hinduism teachings where four main classes namely the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, vaisyas and the sudras are involved. The sudras include the servants and laborers and form the lowest rank in the society followed by the vaisyas who consists of the professionals and traders. The Kshatriyas are the leaders and the warriors with the highest rank being that of the scholars and priests. Intermingling and marriage between members of different classes was highly discouraged.
Another group that exists in the society though outside the four castes is known as the untouchables. This group is ranked below the sudras and consists of the members who engaged in activities that were forbidden by the Hindu laws. This group was highly discriminated against by the members of the society and other people were forbidden from even interacting with its members. Despite their recognition by the law of the state in 1950, discrimination against the group still exists to date. However, the entire caste system is not as strong as it used to be during the earlier years due to issues of globalization and enlightenment where people engage rational thinking in their association with their neighbors and colleagues at work.
Reincarnation is the belief that there exists another form of life after the death of the body. The Indian community that consists of religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism possess strong beliefs in the doctrines. The six schools of the Hindu religion philosophy are all linked to the belief and have greatly influenced the Indian society. The doctrine has influenced the Indian culture in many ways such as the caste system that groups the members of the society into various social classes that rarely interact. Although there is no scientific proof of it, the issue remains relevant in the lives of many communities in the world.
Atkinson, William. Reincarnation and the Law of Karma: A Study of the Old-New World-Doctrine of Rebirth, and Spiritual Cause and Effect. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society, 2008
Bhaskarananda, Swami. The Essentials of Hinduism: A Comprehensive Overview of the World's Oldest Religion. Toronto: Viveka Press, 2002
Duiker, William and Spielvogel, Jackson. World History, Volume 2. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2007
Gupta, Dipankar. Caste in Question: Identity or Hierarchy? New Delhi: SAGE, 2004
Rodriguez, Hillary. Hinduism: The EBook. State college: JBE online books, 2006
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