Reincarnation is the belief that after death, one's soul keeps existing and is reborn another person or animal. It keeps reborning until it redeems itself. Then it returns to the temple of god, which the Buddhists call Nirvana - eternal tranquility. Two of the many ancient tribes who believed in reincarnation are the Greeks and the Egyptians. Karma, the belief that our actions determine our future, is one of the foundations of reincarnation. For example, a person who lived a sinful life will return, after death, as an animal, as opposed to a person who lived an honest life, who will return as a person.
Despite the resistance of many Jewish leaders, reincarnation also played a role in Judaism due to the Kabala who developed this idea. Some Jewish philosophers even believed that a soul of a sinner can enter a live man's body and possess him. Special rituals were used in order to cure the man.
T. Gomertz, a famous philosopher, thought of three very good reasons why one should believe in reincarnation.
1. It is believed that dreams are attempts of the soul to live the body. If this is true, then the soul can leave the body and it does so when a person dies. This also means that a soul can exist without a body.
2. If we assume that the soul dies with the body it is connected to, than we will have to assume there are an endless number of souls which is improbable.
3. Matter is enduring and, therefore, so is the soul. If the soul exists after death, hens it had existed before birth.
Gomertz believes the origin of this belief is in India, where it was believed that every action had a hidden reaction, other than the obvious one. This reaction is obscure at first and is only later revealed, sometimes even in the next life.
Reincarnation in Different Cultures and Religions
Judaism : In this religion, it was believed that a sinner soul can possess a living man. This is called an Obsession but it's actually very similar to reincarnation. This belief only exists in Judaism. It appears repeatedly in The Glow which is a book written in the 16th century. This book claims that every soul has its purpose / mission. If this mission isn't completed, the soul returns to earth and possesses someone. It stays in this state until it either completes its mission or is banished by special rituals which are performed by the Rabby. This belief was most popular in the 16th century. At that period, in some parts, every illness was considered an obsession. Buddhism: Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, renewed reincarnation by stating the possibility of redeeming one's self from the endless circle of reincarnation.
Reincarnation is interpreted differently in Buddhism - the Buddhists do not believe there is a soul. They believe that the force which travels from body to body is not an individual self but a stream of energy without a definite personality. This flow of energy which is similar to the continuous stream of a waterfall, is not eternal and at some point it redeems itself and reaches the Nirvana.
Brahmanism : Reincarnation is one of the most important principles of Brahmanism. The Brahmins believe that death is not the end of our life but merely a stop on the long life we live. In this stop our future is determined. For example, a person who lived a sinful life will return to earth as an animal. Unlike someone who lived an honest life who will return as a human.
Christianity : According to the Evangelists, Jesus often spoke about the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the sinners. According to Christianity, the people who believe in Jesus and follow his footsteps will get to live eternal lives while those who are easily tempted by the evils of life will burn in hell eternally.
Different Views on Reincarnation
Plato : He believed that the soul existed before life. However, he only speculated about the form it was in. In his opinion, after death, the soul either enjoyed or suffered from the consequences of its life. However, after a thousand years, the soul can either keep reincarnating or rest forever.
Rudolf Steiner : He is a 20th century philosopher who came up with a new philosophical foundation for reincarnation. He based his new foundation on the theory of heredity which says that there is a significant difference between the part of heredity in man and in animal. Much like the animal, man gets his anatomic structure from his birth parents. However, he gets his spiritually qualities from his prior reincarnations.
Pythagoras : He was a Greek philosopher and mathematician. His belief was that the soul is immortal and that after death, it returns to earth and gets to be reborn. He believed that animals and humans coma from the same origin. Therefore, a person can return after death as an animal too. However, one can avoid rebirth as an animal by living an honest life.