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Chapter 28
Reincarnation

A boatload of fishermen in Encinitas had had a bad day. After hours of work and very little to show for it, they were ready to go home. Paramhansa Yogananda happened to be strolling on the beach when they brought their boat in.

“You are giving up?” he inquired.

“Yeah,” they replied, despondently. “No fish.”

“Why don’t you try just once more?” the Master suggested.

Something in the tone of his voice made them heed his advice. Going out once more, they got a large haul.

And thus was added another puzzling item to the growing legend in the local community of Encinitas about the strange, kindly Swami around whom things seemed somehow always to happen for the best.

To me this story, which I heard indirectly from some of the townsfolk there, illustrates a basic truth of human life, one that Master often emphasized: No matter how many times a person fails, he need never accept failure as Destiny’s final judgment on him. We have a right as children of the Infinite, he said, to God’s infinite bounty. Failure is never God’s will for us. It is a merely temporary condition we impose on ourselves through some flaw in our attunement with cosmic law. By repeated efforts to succeed, we gradually refine that attunement. “Try just once more,” Master said. If our basic intentions are spiritually lawful, failure simply means we haven’t yet succeeded. Life, in other words, gives us our failures as steppingstones to success.

In the case of those fishermen, Master’s blessings proved a necessary aid, in the sense that they helped attune those men’s efforts more quickly to what they were already on the way to accomplishing. Had the men themselves not been ready for such a blessing, he would not have given it, which is another way of saying they would not have attracted it. The sensitivity with which one “tries just once more,” rather than the mere act of repetition, is the real key to success. There are some people who succeed quickly, whereas others struggle unsuccessfully for years. Attunement is the secret. Genius depends far more on attunement than on hard work or intellectual brilliance. And of all existing sorts of attunement, the highest is to be aware of God’s power acting through us.

There is another aspect to attunement, however, and it, too, relates to what Master told those fishermen: “Try just once more.”

I had this experience when I tried to give up smoking. It was in Charleston, a year and a half before I came to Master. My attempt recalled Mark Twain’s rueful comment, “Smoking’s the easiest habit in the world to give up: I’ve done it a thousand times!” Often I would quit in the morning, but with my coffee after lunch I’d think, “A smoke, now, would be very pleasant!” And there I’d find myself, back into regular smoking. I had one thing going for me, however: Never did I say despairingly to myself: “I’ve failed.” Always I said, instead, “I haven’t yet succeeded!” Thus, each failure became an affirmation of eventual success.

One evening, after nearly a year of this, I told one of my roommates in Charleston firmly, “I’ve now given up smoking.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure!” he scoffed, then sang a line from a popular song: “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.”

But I knew. The next morning I was just as certain. I kept half a pack of cigarettes in my breast pocket and shared them with friends as long as the cigarettes lasted. Never again, from that day to this, have I ever felt even the slightest desire to smoke. All those affirmations had finally added force to my resolution, making it absolute.

In the episode I related in the last chapter about the famous artist whose portrait of Lahiri Mahasaya failed to win Yogananda’s approval, the Master asked him, “How long did it take you to master your art?”

“Twenty years,” the man replied.

“Twenty years,” Master exclaimed, “to convince yourself you could paint?”

This wasn’t at all the comment the artist had expected. Taken aback, he spluttered angrily, “I’d like to see you do as well in twice that length of time!”

“Give me one week,” the Master replied calmly. The artist, considering himself insulted, left the room.

The Master then, taking a paintbrush in hand, made several false starts, each time attuning himself more sensitively to the Source of all true inspiration. By the end of a week he had completed a portrait which, the artist himself conceded, was better than his own.

The important thing in life is to keep on trying, and never to say, “I have failed.” Rather, after every setback one should tell himself firmly, “I haven’t yet succeeded!” As Master put it in his lessons, “The season of failure is the best time for planting the seeds of success.”

Our ineluctable destiny is, sooner or later, to find God, for He is our only reality. Reincarnation, then, is a reassuring doctrine for those who wonder, “Will I ever make it?” All of us have an infinite number of chances to improve, and to reach perfection.

The story of the fishermen is a symbol of God’s everlasting willingness to give men that “one more” chance they need in order to obtain everything they desire from His ocean of abundance. By extension, this story suggests that God’s forgiveness — call it, rather, His loving expectation of us — is eternal.

The soul has eternity in which to achieve perfection. One ought never to abandon hope, even if failure dogs him all his life. Through repeated incarnations, he can — indeed, must, eventually — succeed. Yogananda put it beautifully, and often emphasized the point: “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.”

On the subject of reincarnation, Indian philosophy seems to be at odds with the Christian teachings. In fact, however, this doctrine is denied only in prevailing interpretations of the Bible, and not by the Bible itself. Reincarnation is not an un-Christian teaching. Nor, for that matter, is it an un-Jewish one. It was taught by some of the great early Christian Fathers, including Origen (A.D. 185–254),(1) who claimed he’d received it in an unbroken tradition “from apostolic times.” It was not until five centuries after Christ, in 553 A.D. at the Second Council of Constantinople, that this doctrine was finally removed from Christian dogma. The anathema pronounced against it was delivered owing to certain political maneuverings, and was less an outcome of theological purism. Scholars have recently discovered that Pope Vigilius, though present in Constantinople at that time, took no part in pronouncing the anathema, and in fact boycotted the Council itself altogether.

Numerous Biblical passages support belief in reincarnation.(2) The doctrine of rebirth may be found, subsequent to Biblical times, in Jewish as well as in Christian traditions.

Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel (1604–1657 A.D.), Jewish theologian and statesman, wrote, “The belief or the doctrine of the transmigration of souls is a firm and infallible dogma accepted by the whole assemblage of our church [sic] with one accord, so that there is none to be found who dares to deny it.… The truth of it has been incontestably demonstrated by the Zohar, and all the books of the Kabalists.” And while modern Jews generally reject this doctrine, rabbis familiar with the spiritual traditions of Judaism do not endorse that rejection.

Reincarnation is endorsed in the Shulhan Oruch, which is the major book of laws in the Torah. A student for the rabbinate in Israel once sent me several supportive quotations from this book, including these words from the Sha’ar Hatsiyune, letter 6vav: “That soul will be sent time and time again to this world until he does what God wants him to do.” The student said that his rabbi, after reading this letter, could no longer deny the doctrine of reincarnation.

Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua, a Hasidic master who died in 1825, spoke of ten lives that he had lived previously, concluding, “And so I was sent forth again and again in order to perfect my love. If I succeed this time, I shall never return again.”(3)

Among famous Westerners who have subscribed to this doctrine, the German philosopher Schopenhauer wrote: “Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him: It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life.”(4) Voltaire wrote, “It is not more surprising to be born twice than once.” And the British philosopher Hume stated that reincarnation is “the only system to which Philosophy can so much as hearken.”

According to the doctrine of reincarnation, earth-life is a school, and as such it contains many grades. The ultimate goal of human experience is graduation from bondage to ego into cosmic consciousness. Steppingstones to this unconditioned awareness are the removal, first, of all confining attachments and desires; second, the expansion of love; and third, a growing realization that God is the one underlying Reality of the universe.

The “plot” of the cosmic dream — the drama of Creation — embraces not only biological evolution, but also separate egoic evolution. For the ego to reach ultimate perfection requires many lifetimes.

The evolution of awareness begins at the lowest levels of conscious identity. It moves upward automatically at first, through mineral, plant, insect, and lower animal forms until at last it attains the human level.(5) From this point on, evolution ceases to be automatic. Man’s brain and nervous system, being more highly developed, grant him that specificity of awareness which is called the ego. Man has the ability to exercise intelligent discrimination, and has also a certain amount of free will. From this point on, he can either speed up his spiritual evolution, delay it, or temporarily reverse it, by his own use or misuse of freedom.

The results of self-effort are regulated by the law of karma. (Newton’s well-known law of action and reaction is a material manifestation of this universal spiritual principle.) According to karmic law, every action, even of thought, engenders an opposite reaction. God’s Creation, which is only a dream in the mind of the Creator, maintains its appearance of separateness by the illusion of duality. Brahman, the Supreme Spirit, is in itself one and Indivisible. It manifested Creation by setting a portion of Its consciousness in motion — like waves on the surface of a body of water,(6) or like the tines of a tuning fork which produce sound by movement in opposite directions from a state of rest in the middle. No movement is complete in itself: it is always offset by an equal movement in the opposite direction.

Karma means simply action, or movement. Every action implies movement from a state of rest in the center; it results invariably, sooner or later, in an equal and opposite movement, a reaction in kind. Hatred given results in hatred received. Love given attracts love. Anger, kindness, forgiveness, or help freely given to others results in anger, kindness, forgiveness, or help returned — if not from the same people, then from others, since the “post” to which the action is tied is the originating ego. The response can be delayed indefinitely, however, by what Master called “the thwarting cross-currents of ego.”

In time, as the ego acquires wisdom, it sheds bit by bit its baggage of self-definitions, and lets all further actions flow through it without any personal involvement. At this point, even the fruits of action cease to affect one. There is a reaction, of course, but since the causative act was not tied to ego-consciousness, its resultant reaction has little or no effect on him, personally. Being inwardly free, it is usually to his disciples, tied to him as they are by the bonds of affection, that those benefits revert. The true sage rests unshaken at the calm center of his being, blissful in the realization that he and the ever-free Spirit are One.

Spiritually speaking, karma has different levels of manifestation, depending on how clearly it expresses the divine consciousness. Love, for example, is a more spiritual karma than hatred, since it reinforces the awareness of life’s essential oneness. Hatred increases the delusion of separateness from other people, and from God. To tell a truth is a more spiritual karma than to tell a lie, for truthfulness develops a refined awareness of what really is — of the Divine Reality behind all appearances.

Karma, then, may be described as the system of rewards and punishments which helps the ego ultimately to spurn all personal attachments, and thereby to manifest its innate divinity. Suffering is the karmic result of action performed that is not in tune with a person’s intrinsic divine nature. Fulfillment is the reward for living at least to some degree in harmony with that nature. To learn all one’s lessons thoroughly requires more opportunities for error and self-correction than one gets in a single lifetime. Often, indeed, more than one incarnation is needed to learn even one important lesson.

Reincarnation explains the enormous inequities of health, intelligence, talent, and opportunity one finds in human life. It is, as David Hume stated, “the only system to which Philosophy can hearken.”

People often object, “If everyone reincarnates, why is it that no one remembers having lived before?” The simple answer is, Many do remember! In the West, of course, if it is children who claim to have such memories, they soon learn from the disapproval of their elders to keep those claims to themselves. Yet even so, a number of well-documented cases in the West have received considerable publicity.(7) Because my own interest in such matters is somewhat well-known, a number of people through the years have related to me their own experiences with past-life recall.

One lady told me that she had once played a piece on the piano for a four-year-old boy, a student of hers. Matter-of-factly the child announced, “I know that piece. I used to play it on my violin.” Knowing that he had studied only the piano, she questioned him. The boy demonstrated correctly the difficult finger positions and arm movements for playing the violin. “He’s never seen a violin before,” insisted his mother later. “He’s never even heard violin music!”

One of the most interesting accounts of this nature ever to come to my attention was sent to me many years ago by a friend in Cuba, where it had been reprinted in the newspapers from an article that had first appeared in France. The account tells that a young French girl, the child of devout Catholic parents, had been using recognizably Indian words, such as “rupee,” as soon as she was old enough to speak. Two words that she used repeatedly were, “Wardha,” and “Bapu.” Her parents, intrigued, began reading books on India. Wardha, they learned, was the village where Mahatma Gandhi had established his ashram. And “Bapu” was the familiar name by which he was known to his intimate friends and disciples. The child claimed that in her last life she had lived in Wardha with Bapu.

One day someone presented her parents with a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, in the latter part of which Yogananda describes his 1935 visit to Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha. The moment the child saw Yogananda’s photograph on the jacket, she cried gleefully, “Oh, that’s Yogananda! He came to Wardha. He was very beautiful!”

People who believe they live only once are compelled to compromise their hopes of perfection. Orthodox believers will try to conduct their lives in such a way as to avoid hellfire after death, but most of them, I suspect, are inclined even so to ask themselves pragmatically, “How bad can I be and get away with it?”

Belief in the principle of rebirth helps one to view progress joyously, without fear and self-doubt.

“Is there any end to evolution?” a visitor once asked Paramhansa Yogananda.

“No end,” the Master replied. “Progress goes on until you achieve endlessness.”

At Mt. Washington, reincarnation was normal to our way of thinking. We took it quite in stride if ever Master told us, as he sometimes did, about our own or someone else’s past lives.

Looking one day at Jan Savage, aged nine, he exclaimed laughingly, “Little Jan is no child. He’s still an old man!”

I once told him I had always wanted to live in solitude. His reply was, “That is because you have done it before. Most of those who are with me have lived alone many times in the past.” He made such remarks so casually that it rarely occurred to me to press him for more information. A few others expressed deeper interest, however, and sometimes Master responded to them quite explicitly.

A few years after Dr. Lewis lost his mother, Master, knowing Doctor’s devotion to her, informed him, “She has been reborn. If you go to …” he mentioned some address north of Boston, in New England, “you will find her there.” Dr. Lewis made the journey.

“It was uncanny,” he told me later. “The child was only three years old, but in many of her mannerisms she seemed exactly like my mother. I observed, too, that she took an instantaneous liking to me. It was almost as though she recognized me.”

Mrs. Vera Brown visited a theater one evening with Master and a few of the disciples. A little girl in the row ahead of them captured her interest. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” she later told me. “There was something about the child that just fascinated me. I think it was because she looked so old and wise for her age, and at the same time so sad. Afterwards Master said to me, ‘You were fascinated by that little girl, weren’t you?’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ I answered. ‘I don’t know why, but I found myself watching her the whole time we were there.’

“‘In her last life,’ Master said, ‘she died in a German concentration camp. That is why she looks so sad. But her tragic experiences there, and the compassion she developed as a consequence, have made her a saint. That was the wisdom you saw in her that attracted you so.’”

One day Master was given a newborn baby to hold. “I almost dropped it,” he told friends later. “I saw suddenly in that little, innocent-seeming form, the brought-over consciousness of a murderer.”

Discussions on reincarnation sometimes became intensely interesting. One day I asked Master, “Did Judas have any spiritual realization?”

“He had some bad karma, of course,” Master replied, “but all the same, he was a prophet.”

“He was?” This variant on the common theme of that disciple’s villainy astonished me.

“Oh, yes,” Master asserted emphatically. “He had to be, to be one of the twelve. But he had to go through two thousand years of suffering for his treachery. He was liberated finally in this century, in India. Jesus appeared to a certain master there, whom he asked to free him. I knew Judas in this life,” Master added.

“You did!” Eagerly I pursued the matter. “What was he like?”

“Always very quiet and by himself. He still had a little attachment to money. One day another disciple began to poke fun at him for this tendency, but the Master shook his head. ‘Don’t,’ he said quietly. ‘Leave him alone.’”

In 1935 Master visited Stonehenge in England. To his secretary, Richard Wright (Daya Mata’s brother), he remarked quietly, “I lived here myself thirty-five hundred years ago.”

Sometimes he intrigued us with references, always casual, to the past lives of certain well-known public figures. “Winston Churchill,” he told us, “was Napoleon. Napoleon wanted to conquer England. Churchill, as England’s Prime Minister, has fulfilled that ambition. Napoleon wanted to destroy England. As Churchill he has had to preside over the disintegration of the British Empire. Napoleon was sent into exile, then returned again to power. Churchill, similarly, was sent out of politics, then after some time came back to power again.”

It is an interesting fact that Churchill, as a young man, found particularly interesting the military exploits of Napoleon.

“Hitler,” Master continued, “was Alexander the Great.” An interesting point of comparison here is that, in warfare, both Hitler and Alexander employed the strategy of lightning attack — blitzkrieg, as Hitler called it. In the Orient, of course, where Alexander’s conquests were responsible for the destruction of great civilizations, that appellation, “the Great,” is quoted with sarcasm.

Master had hoped to reawaken in Hitler the well-known interest of Alexander in the teachings of India and of yoga, thereby to steer the dictator’s ambitions toward higher ideals. He actually attempted to see Hitler in 1935, but his request for an interview was denied.

Mussolini, Master said, was Mark Antony. Kaiser Wilhelm was Julius Caesar. Stalin was Genghis Khan.

“Who was Franklin Roosevelt?” I inquired.

“I’ve never told anybody,” Master replied with a wry smile. “I was afraid I’d get into trouble!”

Abraham Lincoln, he informed us, had been a yogi in the Himalayas who died with a desire to help bring about racial equality. His birth as Lincoln was for the purpose of fulfilling that desire. “He has come back again in this century,” Master said, “as Charles Lindbergh.”

It is interesting to note that the public acclaim that was denied Lincoln, though so richly deserved, came almost effortlessly to Lindbergh. Interestingly, too, after Lindbergh’s death a Hawaiian friend of his, Joseph Kahaleuahi, exclaimed, “This is not a small man. This man is like a President.”(8) Charles Lindbergh was noted for his interest in Indian philosophy. Perhaps (one wonders), having fulfilled his desire as a yogi to work for racial equality, and having, as Lindbergh, rejected the acclaim that was his karmic reward for Lincoln’s success, he will once again become a yogi in his next life.(9)

Of more saintly people, Master said that Therese Neumann, the Catholic stigmatist of Konnersreuth, Germany, was Mary Magdalene. “That,” he explained to us, “is why she was granted those visions of Christ’s crucifixion.”

“Lahiri Mahasaya,” he once told me at Twenty-Nine Palms, “was the greatest saint of his time. In a previous life he was King Janaka.(10) Babaji initiated him in that golden palace in reflection of the fact that he had lived in a palace before.”

According to another disciple, Master told someone that Lahiri Mahasaya had also been the great medieval mystic Kabir.

“Babaji,” Master told us, “is an incarnation of India’s greatest prophet, Krishna.”

Master then revealed to us that he himself had been Krishna’s closest friend and disciple, Arjuna. (“Prince of devotees,” the Bhagavad Gita calls him.) We found it easy to believe that he had been that mighty warrior, for Master’s incredible will power, his innate gift for leadership, and his enormous physical strength (when he chose to exert it), all pointed to someone with the tendencies of a mighty, conquering hero. Speaking of that incarnation, Master told me, “That is why, in this life, I am so close to Babaji.”

Master knew the value of offsetting abstract teachings with these interesting sidelights. The barriers to memory that exist in the average person’s consciousness between this lifetime and his previous ones melt away before the insight of wisdom. But of course Master’s real interest, and ours, lay in our attainment of divine enlightenment. We found that familiarity with the law of reincarnation helped us to deepen our determination to escape the monotonous round of death and rebirth, but this was by no means, in any of our minds, the central focus of our devotion to Master’s teachings.

Belief in reincarnation also provided us with occasional insights into present spiritual difficulties.

Henry Schaufelberger and Ed Harding (another, older, disciple), were distressed for a time to discover a deep-seated, mutual, but apparently irrational animosity between them.

“That is because you were enemies in a former life,” Master explained to Henry, who asked him one day for guidance in the matter. This knowledge helped both men to understand the problem, and to overcome it.

The doctrine of reincarnation is closely related, as I have said, to the law of karma. Sometimes people object, “But what can I learn from suffering, if I don’t remember what I did in the past that brought it upon me?” The answer is that both the act and its karmic consequences reflect a mental tendency that is still carried with him. It is primarily with this tendency that the law deals.

For example, if, out of mercenary greed, I once cheated someone out of his inheritance, and suffer in consequence, in this life, by losing an inheritance, myself, both that first act and my subsequently being cheated will reflect my underlying tendency toward greed. I may have forgotten what I did before, but if I decide now that cheating is something that shouldn’t happen to anybody, and if I resolve never, on my part, to cheat others, I will have untied at least one knot in my tendency to be avaricious. There may remain other kinks in that tendency to be straightened out: a whole series of them, in fact, developed from that single tendency, and each one in its own way reinforcing it.

If I am wise, therefore, the loss of that inheritance will not only make me reflect on the fact that cheating is wrong; it will inspire me also to trace this question of dishonesty back to its root cause: avarice. I’ll conclude that monetary greed is itself a fault, and will try to discover and uproot the seeds of this fault in myself. If I am successful in this effort, a nullifying force-field of non-attachment will be set up that will minimize the karmic consequences of any others of my greedy acts in the past.

The power of karma depends in great measure on the intensity of the thought associated with it.

Suppose I have overcome greed and acquired non-attachment before I lose that inheritance. In this case, the money I lose may come back to me unexpectedly from another source. In any case, I will suffer much less.

Patanjali, the ancient exponent of yoga, states in his Yoga Sutras that when avarice is fully overcome, one attracts everything in life that he needs. As Patanjali quaintly put it, “One will attract jewels in abundance.”(11)

It should be understood that the karmic law is quite impersonal. We can learn from our karma if we’ve a will to. It is quite possible, however, not to will to. An unwise reaction, for example, to a stolen inheritance would be to try to “get even” with the world in turn, by cheating others. One who takes this course will only reinforce the tendency which attracted his misfortune in the first place. Thus, he will sow seeds of even greater suffering in the future.

Dr. Lewis once asked Master why a certain acquaintance had been born with a club foot. “That,” Master replied, “is because in his last life he kicked his mother.”

Having a club foot in this life probably didn’t stir that man to any noble resolution not to kick his mother in this life, but it must have acted on that tendency indirectly. His mother, after all, was the source of his physical existence. She represented in a very special way to him, therefore, the sacredness of life. When he kicked her, he (in effect) expressed contempt for life itself. His club foot in this incarnation may well have made him, at least in his own eyes, an object of contempt. An unwise reaction to such a self-image would be to hate life more than ever — a tendency that might be continued for many lives until, in sheer desperation, he decided to reform. But if he reacted wisely to this self-image, he might tell himself what a blessing it would be to have a perfect body. Automatically, from this reaction, would come respect for life, which in turn would make it very likely that he would never treat any future mother with such contempt.

One benefit of the doctrine of reincarnation is that it helps to keep one humble, concerned rather with attuning himself to God’s all-ruling will than with imposing on the world his own petty desires. A belief in reincarnation helps one to accept more easily that least popular, but most important of ancient injunctions, “Change thyself.”

I once had an interesting dream; indeed, it seemed to me more than a dream. I saw myself in another life, deeply devoted to a particular friend. He took advantage of my love for him, and treated me with an unkindness that fluctuated between condescension and outright contempt. In time, there arose in me a feeling of deep bitterness toward him. As I approached the end of that incarnation, I realized that if I died with this attitude my bitterness would, like a magnet, draw both of us back to similar, but reversed, circumstances. I would have the opportunity to treat him as unkindly as he had treated me. And if I treated him thus, ensuing bitterness on his part might very possibly reverse our positions once again. Perhaps only a succession of such “return engagements,” gradually diminishing in intensity, would enable us at last to work out our love-hate relationship, even as echoes die out gradually in a valley, or as the ripples caused in a pond by a falling stone subside gradually as they pass back and forth over the pond several times.

“Why take so long?” I asked myself. “Isn’t it possible to escape these waves of retribution right now? Whatever the lessons my friend needs to learn, surely I, at least, can free myself.” Then, from the depths of my heart, I cried, “I forgive him!” At that moment, with a feeling of ineffable relief, I awoke. In that simple act of forgiveness I felt that I had actually freed myself of some karmic burden.

All human life, so the Indian scriptures tell us, is a dream. Its ultimate goal is for us to learn our lessons well, to overcome our attachments to material limitations, and to realize that all things, seemingly so separate and real in themselves, are only manifestations of the one light of God. The highest lesson of all is to learn to love God. The best karma of all is to love Him.

“Sir,” Norman said, rather morosely, one day to Master, “I don’t think I have very good karma.”

“Remember this,” Master replied with deep earnestness, “it takes very, very, VERY good karma even to want to know God!”

Through love of God, and only through that love, can one win final release from physical rebirth, and earn the right to advance to higher spheres of existence. Victory comes not by hating this world, but by beholding God’s presence in it everywhere, and by paying reverence to the veriest fool as though to a holy shrine.

“You must be very joyous and happy,” Master said, “because this is God’s dream, and the little man and the big man are all nothing but the Dreamer’s consciousness.”

Next

Chapter 29: Gardens— Mundane and Spiritual

Footnotes

  1. The Encyclopedia Britannica calls Origen “the most prominent of all the Church Fathers with the possible exception of Augustine.” Origen wrote, of reincarnation, “Is it not reasonable that souls should be introduced into bodies in accordance with their merits and previous deeds?”
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  2. An example: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped. And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither [i.e., into another womb].” (Job 1:20,21)

    “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)

    “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:13–15)

    “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision [of his transfiguration, in which he had revealed himself as the Messiah] to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:9–13)

    “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” (Revelation 3:12)

    The above passages present a small selection, only, of many in the Bible that demonstrate support for the doctrine of reincarnation. Christian traditionalists would be wise to question some of the sources for their own traditions. Do those sources derive from great saints, who knew God? Or are they merely the deductions of rationalists, whose theological conclusions were founded on reason, not on actual spiritual experience?
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  3. Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, New York, Schocken Books, 1948, p. 118.
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  4. Parerga and Paralipomena.
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  5. The Hindu scriptures state that to reach the human level requires from five to eight million incarnations in lower life forms.
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  6. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:2,3)
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  7. Books on the subject include Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, by Dr. Ian Stevenson; Many Mansions, by Dr. Gina Cerminara; Here and Hereafter, by Ruth Montgomery; and Reincarnation in the Twentieth Century, edited by Martin Ebon. There are many others.
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  8. Reader’s Digest, December 1974, p. 258.
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  9. For a creative and quite interesting argument that Lincoln reincarnated as Lindbergh, see Richard Salva’s The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln: Historical Evidence of Past Lives. The author unearths hundreds of similarities between the two men.
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  10. Janaka, though a king, was also one of the great masters of ancient India: a rajarishi, or royal sage. Durga Mata in her book about Master says that Rajarshi’s title means, “king of sages.” This is not wholly accurate.
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  11. Yoga Sutras II:37.
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