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Réincarnation

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Topic: How reincarnation is perceived in Buddhism and Hinduism?

Reincarnation is like any other religious concept. It is difficult to understand and it has different interpretations. According to Voltaire: “Doctrine of reincarnation is neither absurd nor useless, it is not more surprising to be born twice than once”. In fact, this concept is present in many religions, but not all people believe in it. So, what is the theory and history of reincarnation? And how it is perceived in Buddhism and Hinduism?

Reincarnation is a theme that has been and that is still a subject of many debates. Indeed, It is difficult to demonstrate that the reincarnation is part of the process of our life and especially a part from the evolution of our soul. It is a theory that is shared by one billion people and that is adopted in the Eastern beliefs such as Hinduism and Buddhism. However, in the West, there are few believers or simply few people accepting it.

The doctrine of successive lives or reincarnation is also called ‘Palingenesis’, from two Greek words, ‘Palin’ which means ‘again’, and ‘genesis’ which means ‘birth’. The notion of reincarnation is considered a doctrine in which some immaterial principles (spirit, soul) are accomplished through successive lives in different bodies. It can also be linked to some notions of human’s evolution and progress, which means that it may even be a spiritual explanation for the evolution of the species. An example of that is the human intelligence that has only grown since the first form of human’s life. In addition, there are some observed arguments that try to prove the truthful existence of reincarnation. For example: the existence of phenomenal children such as Mozart shows that he had training before getting to life. There are also some people who assert that they remember their lives before birth. Another argument that is the evolution states in which reincarnation explains the ambiguity behind the injustice that exists in earth. We remark in our daily lives many forms of inequalities: rich and poor, health and sick people. Hinduism state that God represents goodness and caring so he cannot be responsible of these forms of inequalities but rather than this, the person’s Karma is responsible for giving him/her a status in life. Consequently, it is claimed that each person on earth is responsible of its own life and future. Reincarnation gives people the opportunity to reach perfection (Moksha) at a certain point in life. The last argument provided about the existence of reincarnation is that God cannot chastise people eternally in hell but rather than this he gives them each time new opportunities to become united with him.

Since the beginning of all religions, reincarnation has been considered as an alternative to death. In fact, it is in the sixth century that the doctrine of reincarnation and metempsychosis appeared in the Greek world. Metempsychosis means in Greek "transmigration of souls." In this doctrine, the soul continues its evolution of human existence into a new existence (reincarnation), and can optionally be embodied in an animal or plant (metempsychosis).

Although, the origin of reincarnation is not certain since we do not find traces in Homer or Hesiod mythical past. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the belief in reincarnation was first originated in Egypt, because Egyptians were the first to reveal the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. In fact, they believed that after the death of the material body, the soul is incarnated in a new body that is ready to be born. Consequently, others argue that the belief of Egyptians was not about transforming a human body or transmigration of souls, it was only about the transformations of the dead (especially birds) or wandering souls. Moreover, reincarnation was also found in many Eastern religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

Regarding the issue of life after death, Buddhism has no sharp differences with Hinduism, even if these religions are completely different in many other points. First of all, let’s define each religion. The real name of Hinduism is Sanathana Dharma or eternal law. It has no known historical founder, which attests its divine origin and its eternal character. Hinduism is often called "the oldest religion in the world." It is considered the main religion of India since it is practiced by 80% of the population. It is also based on the sacred books, which are the four Vedas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva veda.

Hinduism gave birth to another religion that is also present in the eastern countries known as Buddhism. Buddhism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as follow: ‘Buddhism has no god, and gives a central role to the doctrine of karma. The ‘four noble truths’ of Buddhism state that all existence is suffering, that the cause of suffering is desire, that freedom from suffering is nirvana, and that this is attained through the ‘eightfold path’ of ethical conduct, wisdom, and mental discipline (including meditation). There are two major traditions, Theravada and Mahayana’. This definition presents a summary of what I have learned in class. Indeed, Buddhism is considered one of the major "religions" of the world, and it has no eternal soul, and no God. In addition, Buddhism is nourished from many Hindu concepts.

According to Steven J.Rosen, to properly understand the religion of Hinduism, we should look deeply at three important points: ‘ The nature of the living being as a soul and not a body, karma, the law of action and reaction, and finally reincarnation which means the journey of the soul from body to body’. In Hinduism, the human being is composed of two principles: The first one is the Atman (the soul), which is

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