Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reincarnation as providing a justification for making your life meaningful

Usually, it's the other way around. Existentialism is based on the idea that there's only one life, only one chance, and so you'd better make it meaningful or else. This is just an extension of the Christian idea of hell and damnation, with the role of human action transferred from leading a virtuous life to get to heaven to leading a meaningful life on earth so that your life will have meant something. Not coincidentally, existentialism was melded with Protestant Christian theology by various thinkers. But this is only one approach to the subject of what you should do with your life.

Look at it a different way, for a second. Take the reality of reincarnation as given. You, who are alive, will be reincarnated in some form. You will either be a human if you lived a good life or you'll get reincarnated as something that embodies your sins, depending on what those are. Taking as given for the moment that you aren't going to seriously mess up and do something horrible you can be assured life after life of birth, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and death, followed by birth, adolescence, old age, and death. You, personally, don't have to do anything for this process to keep happening. It just does.

Think, for a second, about life after life doing the same sorts of things over and over again. You're born into the same type of family, you possibly will have similar social standing. Life will pretty much unfold in the same way, with variations of course. You'll establish a career, you'll have a family that you'll love.

While this might be pleasant, it's like a manifestation of an eternal now, as if what you're doing in this life is all you're going to be doing in all your lives unless you do something to change this life.

Now, how exactly would you act if you realized that inaction wouldn't lead to punishment necessarily but to just more of the same, extending into the future endlessly? Would you act for yourself, doing more of what you want to do but for some reason haven't been willing to try and do? Would you devote your life to a truly good cause, something that you perceived to be a social good more important than a lot of other things? Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, in talking with Arjuna, states that the consciousness that you have now is the same consciousness that you're ever going to have, no matter what form your incarnation takes. If you're reincarnated into something different you'll still have the same basic consciousness looking out at the world, even if what 'you' are is a different species. So there's less reason to be afraid of what comes next and what came before, because what comes next shares the same basic consciousness that you have now, and what came before possessed the same basic consciousness that you're looking out at the world with now.

If your continued existence after death, the very thing that existentialism questions and turns into such a question that your whole live needs to be lived in light of the uncertainty of it all, is assured, then although some real questions about what exactly happens, if it's painful, frightening, etc.. persist it kind of frees you to act more meaningfully in this life.

Why not now? Why not act now to try to fulfill your dreams? Because after you grow old and die you'll eventually be reincarnated and will be asking the same question. Then you'll die again, be reincarnated, and face the same problem, the same issue: do you act on what you can potentially do to fulfill your dreams and lead a meaningful life or do you do just what the trend of your life suggests?

There's no escape.

Better try to break the cycle of monotony now through action and a quest for meaning and through the creation of meaningful change in the world than to face the possibility of lifetimes of unfulfilled hopes and longing.

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