By Patrick Gallivan
The subject of reincarnation has beset those of the Christian faith for centuries. Whereas Eastern cultures and religions, have no problem in accepting this philosophy and making it a part of their lives. As one 13th century Persian mystic once wrote:
"A stone I died and rose again a plant.
A plant I died and rose an animal.
I died an animal and was born a man."
It seems surprising that one can accept the teaching of Life After Death, but find it impossible to accept that we had lives before this life! Reincarnation, when properly understood, will appear as a supplement to the principal of Evolution. Evolution explains the process of life, while Reincarnation explains the purpose of life. It is man's purpose to build his spiritual body, by bringing harmony and balance back into that body. Man, in his seeking is also creating the chaos which is the discord within himself, his variance with those laws, his opposition to those laws, that are guiding him. He is not a victim of circumstances. He is a Divine project, within him the Divine Spark, the manifestation in matter of God.
One of these laws is the Law of Nature, which drives the soul into and out of gross matter like the tide of the ocean, rising and ebbing, back and forth, in harmony and rhythm. Within this Law, this timeless rhythm, we evolve and unless we are willing to go in and out of dense matter we will never learn to transcend matter. When man establishes one life, he is creating the next. As Sai Baba said, we are today the result of the life we created yesterday. The life we live today dictates the shape of life we will live tomorrow.
The Bhagavad Gita stated, for example, "The soul is never born and never dies; it was not born and will not be reborn; without birth, without end, eternal, ancient, it is not killed when the body in which it lives is killed. Just as one casts off old clothes in order to put on new clothes; so the soul casts off bodies in order to take on new ones."
Sathya Sai Baba brings us back to the fundamental reality, when He says: "What is Man's journey? Where is he going? Why is he continuously reborn? In order to seek the right path and knowledge of truth. What road should one seek? You should return whence you have come. That is seeking. You have come from the Divine Essence, from God, and you must return to Him."
Sai Baba also states, "This is the reason why Man is said to be the zenith of creation. This is the purpose for which he has struggled through stone and grass, tree, bird and beast. Hence, man should not fritter away the precious prize he has won; he should not slide back into the beast; he must move forward into Divinity".
He continued, "Each of you has struggled upwards from the stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to man! Do not slide back into the beast; rise higher to Divinity, shining with the new effulgence of Love." Also,"You have earned the human body by accumulated merit of many lives as inferior beings and it is indeed very foolish to fritter away this precious opportunity in activities that are natural only to those inferior beings."
And finally, "Do not expect to find happiness in the other world; that world too is impermanent. Once you have exhausted your merits, you will again be cast out of it. Even in politics, candidates are elected for a term that expires after five years. Each year that passes shortens the right he earned through the election. In the same way, the duration of your 'paradise' will depend upon your merits. When these are used up, you will have to return to the earth."
Man cannot make spiritual growth beyond the growth he has made on earth. It is the lower ego which is chaining you and preventing you from going into pure Spirit. In all the universe there is no other planet which has human life, or a similar life form. Rebirth can never be on other planets or regions of this vast universe, only upon Earth. Rebirth is unique and limited to this Earth. While man is on earth he is always striving for balance, but when man has succeeded in doing this, it will help him go into a higher strata of the Astral planes, when he passes over into Spirit. That is not to say he will not have lost those preconceptions he holds to on earth, for as he builds on earth, so will he build in Spirit, meaning, should he not accept the philosophy of Reincarnation on earth, neither will he accept it when he passes into Spirit. Equally, strongly held religious beliefs are retained by man.
One's re-entry back into earth is determined by the Law of Karma, otherwise known as the Law of Cause and Effect; i.e. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Karma is action, and in effect, the working out of that Law, placing into balance that which had been put out of balance. It is also man's way of transmuting evil (distorted consciousness), into Divine Consciousness.
Since man accrues Karma through experience one cannot call him a sinner, as he cannot acquire Karma in ignorance, but it is when he changes his mind and sees through the eyes of the dawning consciousness within, that the discord comes and Karma is brought into birth. Strictly speaking, Karma is not punishment, but putting the scales back into balance. So, one cannot say that Karma is bad or good, it's really the working out of strengths and weaknesses with which we are born, and which assure success or lead to failure, and are related to the way we lived previous lives.
Sathya Sai Baba stated in 1981, in a discourse entitled "Vidya Vahini," the following confirmation on Reincarnation: "The inescapable destiny of every living being is the attainment of Fullness. By no means can it be avoided or denied. Our present condition of incompleteness is the consequence of our activities during previous lives. That is to say, the thoughts, feelings, passions and acts of past lives have caused the condition in which we are at present. So too, our future condition is being built on the basis of our present deeds and desires, thoughts and feelings. In other words, we ourselves are the cause of our fortunes and misfortunes. This does not mean that one should not seek and secure assistance from others for promoting the good fortune and avoiding the misfortune. Why? Such assistance is very essential for all, except perhaps for a small minority. When one gets this help, one's powers are heightened to supreme levels, one's Consciousness is purified and sublimated, and one's spiritual progress is accelerated. In the end, one achieves perfection and fullness."
It has been accepted by most authors on the subject of Reincarnation that the early Christian church lived by this principal, as documented in the acts of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, also called the Second Council of Constantinople. It had also been a fundamental concept of the Egyptian Hermatic and Gnostic mystery schools, of Persian Mithraism, of Alexandrian Neoplatonic theology and of the Jewish Kabalists. The Magi, who were the first to see the child Jesus, and were Persian disciples of Zoroaster, considered reincarnation to be the tenet of their faith. All these schools taught the immortality of the soul and the mortality of the physical body.
One may ask if Jesus ever referred to reincarnation, and indeed there have been a number of references to it. "And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, 'Tell no one the vision until the Son of man is risen from the dead.' And the disciples asked Him, 'Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?' He replied, 'Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist." He further said, "This was he of whom I spake, he that cometh after Me is preferred before Me; for he was before Me."
John the Baptist was formerly Elijah, while Jesus was Elisha. When John denied he was Elijah, he meant that he, John, was no longer the great soul, Elijah. "...and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him...The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha". The role was reversed. Jesus twice identified Elijah as John. (It is important to distinguish the names; Elijah and his disciple Elisha is Old Testament spelling, while Elias and Eliseus, is by the Greek translators for the New Testament).
Origen, an Egyptian from Alexandria, and an early Christian theologian of the 3rd century, was a well-known author and one of the principal proponents of Reincarnation, taught that "the soul experiences successive lives until eventually it is fit to enter heaven." He wrote: "Those who need bodies take them on, and when fallen souls have raised themselves to higher things, their bodies are again destroyed. In this way they disappear and reappear continuously."
Around the time of the Second Council, in 553 A.D., the church felt their first priority was to uproot the so-called heresies within church teachings. It is worth noting that while the Pope was staying in Constantinople at the time, he was absent from this Council. The voting was not unanimous, being split in the proportion of 3 to 2. It was at that time that the Emperor Justinian saw himself as head of the church, and being vested with both theological and ecclesiastical learning and authority. He deferred to his wife Theodora for advice and guidance; she had a great influence on his life and decisions, and this resulted in his regular intervention in church affairs.
Theodora's origins are rather shady, having come from a humble family, she became a dancer and was considered a rather free soul! It is suggested, because of her past life, that she wanted the Law of Reincarnation cancelled, thus avoiding its consequences. A word by the Emperor in the Church's ear, was sufficient for it to eradicate all of Origen's teachings and other doctrines of the early Church, including those of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who was bishop of Constantinople in the 4th century A.D. He asserted that those who accepted Reincarnation were in agreement with the doctrine of the Resurrection. He also said that the two were united in their conviction that "the body, whether now or in the future, is composed of the atoms of the universe." It is sad to conclude that such excisions were foisted upon the Church and laity, by those who believed they could avoid the consequences of their actions by simply cancelling the Law!
Let us consider, finally, the words of St. Augustine, who said: "The very thing which is now called the 'Christian' religion, really was known to the ancients, nor was it wanting at any time, from the beginning of the human race, up to the time Christ came in the flesh; from which time the true religion which had previously existed, began to be called 'Christian', and this, in our days, is the Christian religion, nor as having been wanting in former times, but as having, in later times, received that name."
I first heard the name Sathya Sai Baba, back in 1974, and from that date, the next sixteen years were years of inner change. In 1990 I felt it was time that Ireland joined the dozens of other countries, where Sai devotees were dedicated to Swami and His teachings. I established the Sathya Sai organization, Ireland. After my first visit to Prasanthi Nilayam, in 1995, I wrote "HE HAS COME", which was blessed later by Swami. I offer this book to freely download, for all to read and enjoy.
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